The Aymeric Riandet story
You’re all of 16 years of age, and everyone from New Caledonia to Marseille, France is whispering in your ear, “You’re a can’t miss National Judo Champion soon to be World Champion. Dude, you’ve beaten everybody in your weight class and age bracket.”
Then, in an instant, your whole world crumbles. It’s all taken away. You’re suddenly a quadriplegic and told you may never walk again. This is what happened when Aymeric Riandet took a tumble in a Judo match in November, 2004. He suffered a fractured vertebrae when driven head-first into the ground. The top of his spinal column had been fractured and an emergency anterior cervical fusion and discectomy at the C4-C5 level was done. A metal plate was inserted.
For a month he just laid there in traction with a tube in his mouth. Unable to speak or assist himself in anyway, the nurses applied ice and electrical stimulation treatments to help control his pain and inflammation. With 93% of his body paralyzed, his existence had become a nightmare.
Little by little his pain lessoned as the fracture healed. However, the fracture had changed the way his spine operated and some lingering soreness in the muscles and joints remained.
After six weeks, doctors had him begin a period of physical therapy to combat the loss in muscle tone. Treatments to improve his posture were a combination of flexibility and strength exercises. A therapist showed his parents how to use massage and other hands-on treatments to ease the pain and muscle spasms.
Therapists began to work with his body mechanics. The training helped him keep his back in safe positions and avoid extra strain near the fracture as he went about his limited activities. Training included positions he’d have to use when sitting, lying or possibly standing, the safe body mechanics to use while lifting, pushing, or pulling.
The reason for spending so much time talking about Aymeric’s rehabilitation is my way of illustrating the tenacity it must have taken, especially when each day felt like a week, a week seemed like a month and a month like a year.
Inch by inch, with the help of his loving parents and friends, Aymeric progressed to the point where he had reversed that 93% paralysis to a 93% normalcy.
Fast forward to October 26, 2013, eight years and 11 months since the dreaded accident, and there he was in the fighters’ dressing area making ready for his first Octagon Fight Club fight in Belgium. He had done his stretching and hit the mitts. All that was left was that long walk to the Octagon for his first fight as a MMA professional.
As he climbed the steps to enter the cage, you know his heart must have been thumping and in the recesses of his mind were the misgivings. How could he be 100% certain he was ready, especially when there was still a ligament here and a muscle there that had yet to respond to the therapy. Looking across at his fit opponent, it all registered, ‘this guy has been preparing for many moons, perhaps years, with the intent of hurting someone and that someone is me. I’ve been a victim once and now I’m right back here to face the same unpredictable and dangerous circumstances that befell me nine years ago.’
Aymeric went the distance against Louis Sanna who was also making his first professional start. Sanna earned a split decision victory. The video from that fight is below.
The following Monday he was right back in the gym working hard on what he perceived to be his deficiencies.
Through his coach/interpreter Ferrid “The Hurricane” Kheder, Riandet reflected on his life thus far: “While facing some of life’s biggest fears, you must learn to embrace them and accept any and all adversity. You see my miscues along the way are only stepping stones in my progression.”
When an opportunity to travel to the United States presented itself, Riandet was gung-ho. It wasn’t your normal sightseeing vacation, he came with three of his countrymen to train for three months at The Arena MMA gym in Point Loma, and while in the U. S. he would get to see his first, live Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) show in Las Vegas.
During training he worked tirelessly on his boxing, Muaythai and MMA skills and even competed in the boxing portion of the gym’s 5th Anniversary show held March 8.
Thursday, March 14, he finished his final day of two-a-day classes. The following day, Aymeric and his coach/good friend Ferrid “Hurricane” Kheder headed to LAX for their flight to Belgium where Riandet’s girlfriend awaited their arrival and he will once again compete for Team Duca in the local OFC MMA shows. Instead of being a victim for a lifetime, Riandet faced his challenge and in his own way conquered it.
A similar tale reached me through Facebook, a second young man with incredible resilience
Detroit’s Ross Capicchioni – Part 1
Part 2 of Ross Capicchioni’s amazing tale