When Justin Skeesuck was 16, a car accident triggered a dormant progressive autoimmune disease in his body that eventually took the use of his arms, hands and legs from him.
Fortunately, he has a best friend like Patrick Gray. The pair were born just over 24 hours apart and grew up together – they were the best man in each other’s weddings and continue to be inseparable.
In 2012, Skeesuck was watching television when he saw a program about the 500-mile El Camino de Santiago (“The Way of St. James”) pilgrimage in northern Spain. As he describes it, “When I first learned about it, it was like something deep inside me was calling me to do it. Almost like I had to do it.”
“A few weeks later, I showed Patrick the recorded TV episode and to my amazement his immediate response was ‘I’ll push you.'”
The pair embarked on their journey – with Skeesuck in a specialized off-road, non-powered wheelchair – on June 3. They’re a little over halfway now.
In Gray’s words: “In some ways, each of us (or community or country) have limitations. We can be limited by ailments, circumstances, perceptions or resources. At worst, these limitations can invite despair, stagnation or aggression, even! Justin is like my brother: Even though we are not related by blood, we definitely share a bond and natural kinship.”
You can keep up with Justin and Patrick on their adventure at the Camino blog.