BRENTWOOD, Long Island (WABC) -- Two and a half years ago, Donovan Maldonado, 16, nearly died. Now, he's showing everyone how to live - beating the odds, and running for, what feels like, the very first time.
"My lungs are not ready for this," Donovan joked during a practice run around the track at Brentwood High School, as he prepares to take part in the 5K portion of the Suffolk County Marathon on October 28th.
Maldonado was joined Thursday by the Suffolk County Executive, Steve Bellone, and his parents, as they explained how Donovan has made an extraordinary recovery from his internal injuries, after he was hit by a car on his way home from school back in January of 2016. He also suffered traumatic brain injury after the accident - and he is brutally honest about his struggles.
"I'm terrified, yet amazed," he explained.
"He was in a coma for a month. So, he had to re-learn how to use the bathroom, how to walk, how to talk, how to eat," said his mom, Laura Garces.
His father is just amazed he's come this far.
"From getting the news that he wasn't gonna make it, to seeing him back in school, to seeing him back, running around with the family, acting silly," said Matthew Maldonado.
The marathon includes the 5K, a half marathon, and a marathon relay. Proceeds will go to help veterans. This year, service members from the NY Air National Guard's 106th Rescue Wing will also be honored at the race. Seven of them died in a helicopter crash back in March, in Iraq.
As for Donovan, he still struggles with expressing emotions, due to his traumatic brain injury.
"I just wish I was able to cry," he said.
Still, Donovan was busy on the track, surprising his friends with the sudden spring in his step, and reminding people of his mantra.
"What you see that gets you down, just keep on going, and tell it, 'NO!'"
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