I'm humbled every time we go to therapy as I have the privilege of watching all the other SCI (spinal cord injury) patients during their workouts. I see the same faces each week...all putting an incredible amount of effort into their workouts, desperately trying to get their bodies to move and behave as they used to before each one of them suffered an unimaginable, catastrophic accident.
Based on my observations, most of the clients are young and athletic. Although there are some females in the program, most of the clients are male. Some fell victim doing something they enjoyed or doing best: snow boarding, body surfing, climbing, swimming, diving, cheer-leading, or riding bicycles, motorcycles, and ATV s. Others are victims of car accidents (one by a drunk driver), slipping on ice, gun violence, or slip-n-slide mishaps. A few suffered a stroke, have cerebral palsy, or suffer from some form of spinal cord malady. Others were injured on the job...faulty cherry pickers collapsing, or having ones legs cut off by machinery in the workplace.
Some come to therapy in electric wheelchairs, some in manual chairs; some with walkers, others with canes. Some can operate their chair on their own, others with the the help of an assistant or family member.
Some come in mobility vans, others in cars, and I've even seen one client drive his electric wheelchair several miles across town to get to therapy.
Some live close-within miles of Sci Fit, others several hours away. Some even have two residences-one near Rehab, and their permanent residence which may be as far away as Redding or Fresno.
Most have the majority of their movements in their arms. Others (as is the case with my husband) have the majority of their movements in their legs. Some have movements in all four limbs, some only two, and some none at all.
Some are driven to therapy with their assistant or hired caregiver; others with a friend, spouse, parent,child, or other family member. Some even have the ability to drive themselves with cars that have been refitted with adaptive devices. There are a few who's only accompanying companion is their dog.
Some patients come two days a week, most three, some four. Some come for one hour, most two, some three, and rarely four.
Most patients are young-usually in their twenties. The oldest is around 70, and the youngest is a young boy with cerebral palsy who comes to rehab after school.
Yet even with all the variation and differences among the clients, there is one common thread...these patients and their family members are committed. They are committed to recovery, they are committed to regaining muscle movement, and are committed to returning to the activities that they so love and miss. They are committed to some level of normalcy in a world that is often lonely, and that which has been stripped of movement, convenience, spontaneity, and fitting-in.
The effort I have seen put forth by these patients is out of this world. If everyone invested the same amount of time and dedication into their work-outs as the patients at Sci Fit, we would all look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Yet these patients are lucky if, with all the time they put into their rehabilitation, amounts to anything more than feeling a new tingle in their leg. Recovery is painfully slow, and time put in never equates to the gain going out.
I only get to see these folks for a few short moments before or after their sessions, but one thing I've noticed over and over are the smiles and warmth that glows from their faces when I speak to them. It is genuine. I get more satisfaction talking with them than I do most people. They could have a lot to complain about, but they don't. They are grateful for the time allotted to them, and for the time you spend getting to know who they are and what they are all about. They are kind, gentile, and they have taught me a lot about the human spirit. They make me happy!
I feel blessed to be a part of the SCI community. They are my peeps, and I hope and pray that each one of them will achieve the goals that they have set up for themselves. They absolutely deserve it.
My last thoughts...if you ever see someone in a wheelchair....be kind to them, smile at them, reach out and get to know them. Assist them when they need you, talk to them when you have questions (and not the person standing next to them), and pray for them. They are all human beings, they have feelings, goals, desires and they all deserve to be treated with respect. They have been dealt a lousy hand of cards, but I hope and believe that in their lifetime they will be standing tall and running like the wind!!