(3TV/CBS 5) - "It's like the complete paradox of what it means to have no legs, and it's like you can't climb a mountain," Kainoa Spenser tells us while holding back tears.
"But nowadays even without legs, you still can climb a mountain," he says boldly.
It was a powerful interview in September with 21-year-old Kainoa Spenser, who wanted to prove to himself and the world that the impossible was possible. This young man is an ASU student and a quadruple amputee after contracting the flesh-eating virus one and a half years ago. And getting to know him you will find that he has more drive and determination than anyone you might meet.
[READ MORE: What it means to 'Live Like Kainoa']
Since waking up from a month-long coma to his new reality, he aspired to climb one of the tallest mountains in the world. Saturday, which was yesterday in Australia, he completed his goal and dream. And this morning, his group of #LiveLikeKainoa supporters hiked the McDowell Mountains to join his quest in spirit and send love, support and positive energy to him in the "Land Down Under."
Kainoa's quest and journey has been a tough battle and long road of training and learning to navigate a new life with robotic hands and prosthetic legs.
"I would love to just get up and walk to the bathroom, that is something I would just love, or feel water run through my fingers, that is something I miss a lot," he tells us.
But with his family, and the help and support of the Valley non-profit, the K2 Adventures Foundation, he's learning to take one step at a time.
He left for his journey on Tuesday Dec. 11, packing up six bags and one off-road wheelchair to make the trek. But he didn't do it alone. He was led by expert mountaineer and K2 Adventures Foundation co-founder Kevin Cherilla, who himself has summitted five of the world's Seven Summits, along with his trainer Jesse Holland of EliteU Advanced Performance Center.
The Seven Summits consists of seven of the tallest mountains on all seven continents. Climbing all seven is a mountaineering challenge many take on, but few accomplish. In Australia, that mountain is Mount Kosciusko. The hike is considered by some to be the easiest of the seven, but it is a challenge nonetheless. We're talking about a two-day trek, 22 miles and at least one overnight, in many cases. Winds were high during Kainoa's hike and temperatures were dipping down to 35 to 40 degrees with rain expected on multiple days.
But Kainoa and his team made the journey in record time. And using a satellite telephone, his mom, Jen Spenser, was the first call he made.
"He called when he reached the top, and it was just a pure miracle and just a blessing in every way," she tells us as she holds back tears of joy. "To be able to have this opportunity through the K2 Adventures Foundation, to take him there and have this incredible journey is just absolutely remarkable."
When Kainoa became ill as a student at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, it started out as a pneumonia, which gradually progressed. Necrotizing fasciitis set in on one of his legs, at the site of a simple bruise. He was hospitalized for months, slipped into a coma, and endured 14 surgeries. Doctors gave him a 1 percent chance of survival, and on six occasions the family was told to prepare to say their goodbyes.
"He is just such a warrior," Jen says. And, to see him achieve so much in such a short time, Jen credits his supporters, family, friends and the K2 Adventures Foundation. "His team that is guiding him are just incredible."
Kainoa's biggest fan, his father, Kaipo Spenser, was by his bedside daily and was tasked with helping Kainoa remain positive through his recovery. But, he says much of the positivity comes from the support of the local community.
"This is what it's about right here," he says. "This is why Kainoa is able to do this right now, with the support from everyone here, the K2 Adventures Foundation, family, friends and everyone else, it's been this way from day one," he tells us. "This is how we heal, and how we help him continue his life."
To see him hit milestones and accomplish this feat is impressive to his parents, and others. They say he surprises them all the time with new goals he takes head-on, much like this hiking challenge.
"It's pretty crazy," says Kaipo. "I wish we were there with him, to be there when he did it, but we're just very lucky that he has great people with him, people that are like family to us, and people we trust with our sons life going overseas."
Kainoa's supporters say he has been a pinnacle of inspiration to this community, not only surviving his illness, but thriving and motivating others while raising money and awareness for those with limb loss. It's now become his life's mission.
"It's something he decided early on," says Kaipo.
"It wasn't going to be all about him, he wanted to help others going through tough times with limb loss, those who might need prosthetics, running blades or whatever they may need, he wants to be a part in helping them."
And you can join Kainoa in helping others, and The K2 Adventures Foundation whose motto is, "where others see limitations, we see possibilities," with either donations or volunteerism.
Stay tuned as you are sure to hear more about this young man's future adventures.
For instance, with his parents' full support, Kainoa's next journey includes tackling a mountain in Japan.
For more info: https://k2adventures.org/