Paralyzed Police Officer A Portrait In Perseverance as presented by: Los Angeles Times

A career criminal shot Kristina Ripatti just below her armpit. The bullet slid behind her bulletproof vest and severed her spinal cord, leaving her paralyzed from the chest down. But Ripatti, an LAPD gang officer, retained the use of her arms, and that has made all the difference. With those well-muscled arms, she has continued to surf, camp and fish, not to mention drive, keep house and look after her two young children. She has completed the Boston and Los Angeles marathons on a hand cycle and is preparing for a cross-country bicycle race. Sports and fitness were a big part of her life before her spinal injury. After it, they became her keys to survival. Ripatti works with locomotor training rehabilitation specialists at NextStep Fitness, an all-handicap-accessible gym. The goal of this particular regimen is to get the nerves in Ripatti's spinal cord to remember the movements the trainers help her achieve. Ripatti works out at Gold's Gym with personal trainer Lou Sidella, who has been working with her for more than two years. "You just don't give up; giving up is not an option," Ripatti said. Ripatti, center, graduates from the Los Angeles Police Department Academy in September 1997. At left is her mother, Margaret McConnell, and at right is her grandmother, Margaret Rowe.

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