IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Man to compete in Special Olympics 21 years after doctors said he wouldn't live

Matthew Hernandez is set to compete in kayaking at the Special Olympics World Games, 21 years after it looked like there was no hope for his life.
/ Source: TODAY

Matthew Hernandez is living proof that you can overcome situations that look impossible. He's set to compete in kayaking at the Special Olympics World Games, 21 years after it looked like there was no hope for his life.

Three months after he was born, doctors diagnosed him with Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome, a rare genetic condition.

Kathy Green

They said he'd never walk, eat on his own or be able to speak. His grandparents, Jack and Kathy Green, were told he wouldn't live to see his 11th birthday.

Kathy Green

"We were just in shock," Jack Green told "Everybody told us there is nothing you can do."

Kathy Green

Doctors wanted to hook Matthew up to a feeding tube, but Jack and Kathy refused. They were determined their grandson would eventually be able to eat on his own.

Kathy Green

"My wife and I started feeding him like a puppy with an eye dropper and a little hose on it," he said. "Matthew wouldn’t open his mouth. We would take that eye dropper and stick it down the side of his mouth and start feeding him."

Kathy Green

It took five hours to feed him one meal, but the long hours and constant care eventually paid off. Matthew started eating on his own. Physical therapy helped him get stronger.

"It's just a miracle!" Jack said. "If you hadn’t seen it, then you wouldn’t have believed it."

Matthew became more independent and with his grandparent's help and motivation, he was active in school by playing sports, getting involved with the ROTC and volunteering whenever he could.

"They say I can do anything and just keep pushing," Matthew told

Fast forward to today, and the Dallas resident has a steady job, drives his own car and he's a Special Olympics athlete set to compete in kayaking at the World Games in Los Angeles.

Kathy Green

"I am very excited!" Matthew, who plays nine sports, said. "I am ready to go."

This will be his first time competing in the World Games, and he has his sights set on bringing home the gold. Matthew can't wait to represent his family, country and other Special Olympics athletes.

Kathy Green

It's always been a dream to compete at the Games and ever since he found out he qualified, Matthew spends five to six days a week training at White Rock Lake in northeast Dallas with his teammate Travis Smith.

Kathy Green

As he prepares to face tough competition, Matthew leans on his favorite Bible verse to stay encouraged.

"I can do all things though Christ who strengthens me," Matthew proclaimed referring to Philippians 4:13.

Follow TODAY digital dude and Hope Dealer Kyle Michael Miller on Twitter.