On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 26-year-old Victor Sandoval takes the bus from Orange, California, to Dr. Craig “Doc” Dossman’s office in downtown Long Beach, switching buses multiple times for an average commute of two hours.
When he arrives at his destination, he knows he’ll be putting in eight hours of grueling physical activity—physical activity that will leave him sore for days afterward. But he’s willing to put in the time.
Because what he’s after isn’t just any ordinary dream. Sandoval, who has been in a wheelchair since the age of 12, is fixated on an all-consuming desire: to learn to walk again.
“I’ve never seen someone so determined to do something,” said Jose Cordon, a Long Beach resident and friend of Sandoval. “He has physical challenges far beyond what I’ve ever had, and he comes in three times a week to work on it. It was that that captured me.”
Sandoval was diagnosed with Spastic Cerebral Palsy as a child, the most common type of Cerebral Palsy. Individuals with Spastic Cerebral Palsy experience stiffness in their movements. They have hypertonia, or increased muscle tone. Often, the wrong muscle groups are engaged or multiple groups are engaged at once, making movement difficult or impossible. Medical journals attribute spasticity to damage in the motor cortex of the brain, often at birth, as is the case for Sandoval.
The intensity of each case runs the gamut, but for Sandoval, this has meant crawling or using a wheelchair for most of his life.
“I was raised by my grandparents, and they made me feel very positive about my disability,” Sandoval told the Post. Still, life with Cerebral Palsy did not leave him unaffected, mentally.
“I’ve never used my wheelchair inside,” said Sandoval. He said last year, he was crawling throughout the house, even after his five-year-old son was walking around full-time. “It’s just frustrating, you know? A 25-year-old man trying to crawl.”
That was how his dream started: with the desire to stand and hold his son.
Born and raised in Michigan, Sandoval moved to his uncle’s house in California last fall in search of greater opportunity. He was living off of disability and figuring out what to do next, when he met Doc Dossman through a church friend during a trip to see a movie at a local theater. Dossman works with college, Olympic and professional athletes in sports medicine out of his office at Elm and Linden in Long Beach.
“He thought I was paralyzed,” Sandoval said. “I said I’m not—I can move my legs and stuff, I’m just weak.”
“I was joking lightly, ‘what can I do for you?’” Dossman said. “Then he wiggled his legs. I was like, ‘you can move your legs?’”
Dossman took an interest in helping Sandoval, proposing they meet three times a week to work on walking. Dossman said he’d help him, pro-bono.
“I’m at a point in my career where I’ve seen it all, done it all,” said Dossman. “I thought I’d try something new.”
To walk, Sandoval says, the main goal is to straighten his legs and strengthen them. He works on walking, with crutches or a brace, every day. Sandoval’s progress since November has inspired Dossman’s elite athlete clientele. They’ve dubbed him their “office mascot” and have been impressed by his transformation and journey.
“I couldn’t get through my first lap without dying, you know what I mean,” Sandoval said.
Dossman said Sandoval has re-worked his diet and put an end to his smoking habit in pursuit of his dream. He’s now able to walk around the office and use crutches for short distances. However, for his long, daily commute, he continues to use a wheelchair.
“It’s all about his heart and he’s got it,” said Dossman.
But Sandoval is now at a critical juncture where funding is needed to continue his progress. Up until this point, Dossman has been able to find podiatrists, acupuncturists, and other medical professionals willing to donate their time to see Sandoval’s dreams come to fruition. However, to truly stretch Sandoval’s leg muscles, medical treatment in the form of botox injections is required.
With numerous treatments necessary, each costing $800 to $1,500, Sandoval and his supporters have created a GoFundMe page aimed at raising $20,000 for Sandoval’s treatment. The multiple botox rounds will provide Sandoval with time to truly strengthen his muscles while his legs are stretched out, improving his chances of walking again.
“The effects of botox last six weeks. This gives me six weeks to focus,” said Sandoval.
A total of $770 has been raised so far for Sandoval’s treatment. Family and friends are also hosting a fundraiser on August 22 from 6:00PM to 10:00PM at the Lafayette building in downtown Long Beach.
“For a lot of us out here—a lot of stuff out there is just a story. But Victor is real, not just a story,” said Cordon. “He’s putting in the necessary work. How often do we get to meet the story?”
Sandoval said his ultimate goal is to walk without crutches, stand while holding his son, throw a football and play without crawling. But he also wants to help others.
“I want to reach out to other people who are in the same situation and share my story,” he said. “I want to give them hope, that’s my main objective. They can overcome that obstacle. Anything is possible.”