A veteran Los Angeles police officer and spinal cord injury survivor is grateful to those who contributed to his recovery. Not only did he defy all odds, but he's working to help patients just like him.
On the two-year anniversary of his accident, he surprised his supporters with a karaoke comeback.
Throughout Police Sergeant Ruben "Trini" Martinez' home, a caped crusader adorns every corner.
"I've always loved Batman. That may or may not have been part of the reason why I became an LAPD officer," said Martinez.
For 25 years, he called LAPD's 77th division his home. But when Martinez wasn't on patrol, he pursued another passion: karaoke singing.
Even on vacation, Martinez, his wife Carmy Mejia and best friend Jennifer Cortez would find places to sing.
"It's kind of a fantasy of mine to be in a band or be a lead singer, drummer. And it just motivates me. It motivates me to keep going," he said.
But two years ago, the music stopped.
"You know, your life changes in a split second," said Mejia.
In March 2021, Martinez jumped into a pool pool and tragically hit his head on the pool's wall, instantly shattering his C5 vertebrae. That is the area that controls breathing.
"I had no idea if he was going to survive, I didn't know if he was brain dead," his wife said.
"Any injury above the C5 level is potentially fatal," said Dr. Amal Obaid-Schmidt with Huntington Hospital.
Dr Obaid-Schmid treated Martinez in the ICU.
"Not only did he have a spinal cord injury but he had pulmonary edema, which is water in the lungs from the near-drowning," she said.
For one month, doctors warned Mejia that Martinez may never breathe, speak or do anything on his own again. But, she knew how to reach her husband.
"I would make up songs and I would sing to him and I would play his music because I knew that that would help get him through it," Mejia said.
It worked. Martinez couldn't move more than his face, but he found a way to entertain. He moved his eyes and eyebrows to the Bee Gees song "Stayin' Alive."
Friends would sing to him in videos. And when he got strong enough, he would sing back.
"His tenacity, his dedication to getting better and working hard everyday," Mejia said.
Anyone with a spinal cord injury similar to this will find insurance only pays for so much. The couple believes Martinez' amazing recovery is due to the hard work and expertise of daily occupational and physical therapy - but it's expensive.
"My family donated time, money, energy, our friends did as well. Strangers donated money," Mejia said.
Martinez' supporters, affectionately called "Team Batman," raise funds to keep his medical care going. Besides therapy, someone who becomes paraplegic needs special equipment, home renovation and transportation. When Martinez and his wife can, they use funds raised through their GoFundMe to help other spinal cord patients.
"It's important to him to help other people, it's always been," Mejia said.
Two years after his accident on his 48th birthday, Martinez showed off his hard work with an emotional karaoke comeback. Not a dry eye in the room.
"I, of course, cried. But it was tears of joy and tears of happiness. We were able to sing together and it was a monumental moment and it speaks volumes of all the hard work he's put in," said family friend Jennifer Cortez.
"Sharing that moment with the people that we love so much meant a lot to us," Mejia said.
From not being able to breathe on his own to being able to sing. Martinez inspires everyone to be their best.
"Look to your support system. Your friends and family. Just never, never give up," Martinez said.