With his black helmet, blue spandex shorts and a $100 scuffed-up bike from eBay, Moise Brutus looks a typical cyclist, ready for a long ride.
Except its his two prosthetic legs that pump the pedals. His sole hand grips the right handlebar. His smile stretches wide. Moise believes anything is possible.
A lot of people would say riding a bike for me would be impossible. I have no legs, he said. But he rides and loves it. Its something where I feel free.
The 22-year-old is studying at Miami Dade College and wants to compete in cycling in the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Brazil. But his biggest challenge: an adaptive vehicle to get to school and practice.
He has transformed his life after a horrific motorcycle accident on Floridas Turnpike nearly killed him and left him a triple amputee.
That night two years ago, on Oct. 10, 2010, Brutus was heading home on his Honda motorcycle and took the University Drive exit. The last thing he remembers was a white wall. When he came to, he realized his left hand was gone. So was a leg. The other was severed. With his right hand, he pulled out his smartphone, called 911 and calmly told Miramar police where he was located.
Police struggled to find him, lying in a dark ditch on the side of the highway.
Officer Carlos Villalona heard the search on the radio as he was driving home. He decided to join: I cant just go home and know that someone needed help and I just drove by.
Three times he patrolled the accident area with no luck. So, he stopped his car and walked. Thats when he saw the motorcycle, crumpled like a plastic bag. About 20 feet away, thats where I found Moise on the ground.
Villalona alerted the others and held Brutus neck as he talked to him, encouraging him to fight. He knew it didnt look good. I didnt want to be a pessimist, I wanted to encourage him as much as I could to fight and stay awake, Villalona said.
Other Miramar officers arrived on the scene Sgt. Cesar Andina, Officer Michael Donaldson and Officer Jason Fox. Andina was the only one with a tourniquet. He tore it in pieces and applied it to stem the blood loss until fire rescue arrived.
Brutus remembers telling the cops: My mom told me not to go out tonight. I should have listened to her.
The next day at the police station, the officers worried if the kid was OK. In a surprising twist, Villalonas wife, Melissa, was assigned as the patient advocate for his family at Memorial Regional Hospital. Brutus told her he wanted to meet the officers who saved him.
They not only met, but Villalona and Andina stayed in touch, calling and texting him and meeting his family.
His life changed forever that night, but he changed our lives also. He has such a big heart and hes a fighter, Andina said.
At first, Brutus struggled to recover. For about eight months, he didnt want to go to rehab. His mood was low, and a slew of medications dragged it lower into a fog. Brutus lost weight. His family and the police officers worried.
His mom would call me, she would call my wife, to let us know Moise didnt want to do rehab, Villalona recounted. Every so often, wed call or hed call us, me and Andina, and we would find ways to motivate him.
A major turning point in Brutus recovery was adopting a dog, an idea Villalona suggested. Villalona had witnessed the healing power of pets at Joe DiMaggio Childrens Hospital. Since his baby daughter, Amanda Arianna, died of cancer at age 2, he volunteered there and saw dogs cheer up children. Andina found a dog Brutus liked and paid the adoption fee.
Its just healing therapy, animals have that type of effect, he explained.
Brutus connected immediately with Dexter, now 2. The white Dogo Argentino, with one blue eye and one brown eye, was a rescue himself. They started walking around the block every day.
Dexter has done so much good stuff for me, said Brutus. Dogs dont say, I know what youre going through. They just look at you and wag their tail and run to you.
Andina and Villalona watched as Brutus has become more enthusiastic. He has goals and a Zen-like drive to accomplish them.
That kid is a superstar man, plain and simple, Andina said. Just when you think you have problems, just when you think things are bad, this kid has a life-changing experience. Thats serious what he went through, and he just pushed forward.
Brutus said once he took rehab seriously, he learned to walk again in about four months. He still goes sometimes to amputee support groups. But he hasnt had a bad day in a long time.
He attends class at Miami Dade College five days a week. He hits the gym on campus. On Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays evenings, he trains on the bike at Brian Piccolo Park and Velodrome in Broward. On the weekends, he goes for a long ride, as much as 40 miles. His new coach, Steve Mlujeak, said they are tailoring a program for him. The first step: getting the right equipment, like a better bike and heart-rate monitor.
Its going to be up to him, Mlujeak said of his dreams of going to the Paralympics in Rio. Just going what hes gone through learning how to walk again hes got some serious determination. Being an athlete is not all on talent, its a lot of sacrifice.
One of Brutus biggest challenges is daily transportation. He doesnt have a suitable vehicle. He relies mostly on his parents, Pierre and Estella, who are from Haiti and both work during the day. His dad works at Lowes in Miami Beach and his mom with an elder care group.
Brutus, a Miami Central High graduate, wants to do more. Cycle 62 miles in a race in Broward in February. Compete in the 2016 Summer Paralympics. Volunteer at an animal shelter. Show other kids nothing is impossible.
They need to see that no matter what happens, no matter your disability, you can still be normal. You can still accomplish everything you set out to accomplish before, Brutus said.
He has a philosophical approach to life: Happiness comes from within, and the only difference between humans and animals is the ability to reason.
Just because I only have one arm, it doesnt make me less human.