Randy Dilena

Perseverance and determination are only part of what brought Randy back from a near fatal accident in 2007 to near full recovery today.

Randy is one of those rare and fortunate people who survived a plane crash. An accomplished pilot who has learned to fly every form of aircraft available to him, Randy would often use planes as a means to reach his customers in remote locations around the globe. As the highly advanced single-engine aircraft he was piloting from Canberra, Australia approached a suburb on the outskirts of Sydney, it suddenly lost power and Randy was forced to attempt an off-airport landing. To make matters worse, several back-up emergency procedures also failed and the aircraft crashed into hilly terrain close to a major motorway. The plane was destroyed and both Randy and his passenger sustained serious injuries. Randy suffered numerous cuts and bruises, badly crushed ankles, a fractured elbow and knee, permanently damaged eyes, and a brain injury. They were both airlifted to nearby hospitals.

Following two operations and a year of physical therapy Randy has been building his strength, improving his balance, and recovering full functional movement in his right arm and ankles through strength training for the past three years here at the TPC. You can’t tell from seeing him smile so much in the Fitness Center that he still deals with pain transference from his injured extremities to all the joints of his body, trauma induced glaucoma, tension headaches, memory loss and cognitive difficulties.

Fitness Director Brent Rodenbeck has trained Randy for the last three years, experiencing tremendous joy and gratitude in working with such a remarkable client. Brent sat down with Randy, a loyal TPC member since 1995, to discuss some of the challenges Randy has overcome and continues to face.

Q. What has made you want to fight back after the severity of the crash?

A. From the moment I woke up from my coma, I was ready to get moving toward what I planned to be a full recovery. At that initial stage, due to my brain injury and memory loss I really did not know much about how I ended up in a hospital bed. The only thing I could understand was that I was badly injured and I was going to need physical therapy to walk and use my arm again. I understand that I told the medical staff in Sydney I was determined to leave the hospital and start my recovery immediately. Although they strongly discouraged me, I actually left the hospital after only a week, with all five doctors refusing to discharge me! I just couldn’t wait to get out of there and get HOME!

Q. What has strength training and cardiovascular training done to improve your physical health?

A. The customized physical training and professional support I have received during these past three years has been essential and essential to my recovery. Not only do I have the confidence to do many things I did not fully expect to be able to do, but I also find that maintaining my training is crucial to reducing the level of background pain that I live with. I attribute this progress to helping maintain my positive outlook following all I’ve been through.

Q. Can you engage in the activities you did before the accident (like snow skiing)?

A. It has been my intention to challenge my physical limits within safe boundaries. While I knew that I would never be able to run again, I was not initially sure that I would even be able to walk confidently unaided by equipment of some kind. Therefore, learning to walk again was my first priority. I reached that goal after five months. Following that major accomplishment, I set goals such as driving a car again and extending my arm to degrees that weren’t attainable following my accident. Being an avid skier since I was six years old, I hope to begin snow skiing again – and with Brent’s continued guidance, I am quite confident that skiing may be attainable this season.

Q. Did your family have to make changes after you were in the accident?

A. Yes, as you can imagine both the accident and recovery process were extremely traumatic for my wife, Carolyn, and our three children. Since I was unable to immediately do many things I had previously done (e.g. drive a car, etc.), my family naturally had to make adjustments. My wife arranged my U.S. based medical care and looked after me while I was bed-bound at home for several months. It is thanks to my family’s loving care that I have been able to recover to the level I have today, along with the professional support and guidance of people like Brent! Getting better has certainly taken a village and I want to take this opportunity to express my deep appreciation to everyone who contributed to my recovery!