Getting Out of His Wheelchair After 35 Years

Some of you have heard this story before, but I think it is worth repeating. Here it is:

Once upon a time, there was a man who entered our club via his dirty old well used scratched up wheelchair, wearing his tattered clothing, torn old gloves to protect his hands, long dirty white beard, old baseball cap, smelled like cigarette smoke and had alcohol on his breath. You can imagine the thoughts that went through my head as I saw him enter.

Not to judge, I greeted him just as I would any new visitor and asked him why he came to us. As I listened, he told me his story.

Once a prominent dance instructor, Kevin’s vocation came to a grinding halt as he was tragically maimed in a terrible motor vehicle accident at the young age of 23. He was now 58.

While lying in the hospital in a coma for six days on life support, with a shattered ankle and pelvis, broken ribs, broken neck and a badly broken arm, broken back, punctured lungs and brain damage, the doctors where asking permission from his mother to amputate his arm. She would not allow it.

After waking from the coma and two brain surgeries, Mr. Clarke spent the next six months in hospital, and was able to move only his eyes as he listened to the doctor tell him that he would never walk or talk again. Now, after 35 years, his doctors had pretty much lost interest in him and had given up.

So there he was, sitting in his wheelchair, looking up at me, and these words came out of his mouth: I could barely understand him as he struggled to ask “Can you help me?”

I had only one question to ask him: “Can you stand up out of your wheelchair?” He said “Yes, but I can’t walk around.” That’s all I needed to hear. “Yes”, I said, “I can help you.”

We started very slowly with a few select exercises. Mr. Clarke’s first challenge was to try to keep his muscles from going into spasm. We slowly and gradually worked more exercises into his routine and then as part of his routine, Mr. Clarke was to walk behind and push his wheelchair out the door. He was not allowed to be in his wheelchair on his way out.

He was spent at the end of his workout, but I still made him walk down the hall and out the door. There were times when I didn’t think he would make it to the front door but he did.

Not being on a regular schedule because of his inability to get to the club in inclement weather, we would miss each other sometimes for weeks at a time, but Kevin was determined to get better and would come in on his own without me.

My biggest surprise came when I got back from vacation and ran into Mr. Clarke at the gym. I shook his hand and asked him where he parked his wheelchair. He just shook his head with a grin on his face and said, “There’s no more wheelchair. I got rid of it.”

I must say that this was likely my biggest achievement as a personal trainer and although Mr. Clarke is no longer a member, I hope and pray that he is still well and happy.

This is personal training at its best. This is what we do. This is what you need if you have specific goals in mind that you wish to achieve. Showing up consistently is one thing, but doing what you really need to do when you show up is quite another. Let us help you.