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Her name was Lisa V: She had much to do with my meeting Evander and other phenoms. One evening, the Italian lady’s mother wheeled her up to the head of a dinner table. I was seated to her left. On top of never having met either of them before, I had never spoken to anyone in a wheelchair, let alone knew anybody who had their cancer-ridden spine radiated. It took but a moment for me to discreetly witness the consequences of Lisa’s advanced clinical care: her claw-shaped hands, her rigid and powerless torso, her protruding eyes, her emaciated face, and the disfigured mouth that couldn’t mask her gleeful smile. At the opposite end of the table, the hosts invited everyone to raise their wine glasses; of course, Lisa’s mother helped her out as she couldn’t. To offset the guests’ momentary hush, Lisa sparked an off-the-cuff remark that set a warm and joyous tone for the Christmas Supper we were about to share — that was Lisa.

Meeting Lisa V, the funniest, most stylish, determined, and brightest celestial Italian body I ever had the privilege to become friends with, took my brimming collection of luck and coincidences — whatever word you want — over the top. Though her abundantly intriguing and inspiring story was unique, it clearly treaded the themes of life we all touch. Following our gracious supper, I got her consent and enlisted many others to make a 52-minute documentary about her poignant story and the unacceptable circumstances the American medical system dumped her in, like so many others, including my mother. As each moment and person is one-of-a-kind, my Lisa, Frank, and Evander experiences kept me together and inching forward onto the purposeful path I had prayed for one lonesome Saturday afternoon. Their stars helped open my eyes to the inner greatness within us all. Eventually, I understood those unions as just a few of the infinite miracles available to all at all times.

Lisa and her mom at SeaWorld, after swimming with the dolphins

Opening image from the documentary's — 4 Inch Heals — dance scene

Lisa's aquatic therapy program which restored considerable dexterity and hope.

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