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Miami Quadriplegic Competes In Triathlons To Inspire

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – She has no use of her legs and limited use of her arms, but that isn’t stopping Kerry Gruson from competing in the South Beach Triathlon this weekend.

“Despite physical impairment, you can do what you want to,” said 66-year-old Gruson. “It’s what you can do that matters. You can do more than you think you can. Everybody can.”

Gruson spoke to CBS4 News with the help of voice box. Her voice is so soft, it’s hard to hear her without it. Her head is permanently titled to the left side. These are consequences of an attack that nearly took her life. In the 1970s, Gruson was reporter. She was interviewing a solider suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

“He was a green beret, special forces, that had to kill using his hands,” recalled Gruson. “I was on my way to Vietnam.”

He snapped and attacked her, thinking she was an enemy combatant. Although she doesn’t remember very much about the attack, she later learned he strangled her and thought he killed her.

She believes she was spared to inspire others.

“I clearly had a lot left to do with my life. That was one chapter. That chapter has continued to be with me but it has not defined the quality of my life,” Gruson said. “I deal with (my impairment) every day, but it does not define me in anyway.”

Gruson says she has tried to live her life to the fullest. She lived in Puerto Rico for a time, where she married. She is also a competitive sailor.

For the triathlon, Gruson will compete with Cristina Ramirez.

“For the swim, Kerry goes on a kayak, and she’s tethered to me by rope that goes around my waist,” said Ramirez.

Gruson’s triathlon partner will also pull her on a special carrier for the 20-mile bike ride through South Beach and push her for the four-mile run.

The two became triathlon partners after Ramirez competed in a different race alone.

“While I was doing it, there was a visually impaired woman that was racing and she was tethered with a friend with a rope, and I saw them and I thought it was so unbelievable that they were doing this,” said Ramirez. “I said, ‘I need to do this for somebody else.’”

Ramirez immediately began looking for a partner she could compete with. Since being paired with Gruson, the two have already overcome several obstacles, like getting sponsorship for the race. Ramirez said Gruson’s positive attitude has been the main solution to most problems, like when Kerry’s triathlon carrier broke this week.

“I said, ‘It’s just not fair, that this would happen the week of the race. What if we can’t race,’” said Ramirez. “Then I looked at Kerry and I’m like, ‘It wasn’t fair what happened to her either, but that doesn’t define her.’ If she has the spirit and the will and the joy of life, because it’s not like she lives. She enjoys her life. If she has that, how can I possibly complain?”

On Sunday, the duo will compete with “thumbs up” t-shirts. It’s part of Gruson’s positive attitude message she hopes more people adopt. Gruson is also setting her sights on future triathlon. She hopes she and Ramirez can one day compete in the Iron-Man race, the mother of all triathlons.

“One of my favorite lines is that I make mountains into mole hills,” said Gruson.

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