Years ago I’d flip through the pages of a workout magazine, admire the models’ perfectly proportioned, muscle-toned bodies and use their physique for inspiration and motivation. But, as we all know, sometimes what you see isn’t exactly what you get, and besides, perfect on the outside doesn’t always equate to perfect on the inside. Today, I judiciously pick my role models and am more impressed with positive attitude and inner drive than with a pair of perfectly sculpted delts.
Which brings me to one of the people I admire most: my brother-in-law Thomas Eddy. Thomas was a Fit Bottomed Dude well before the term was coined. Fifteen years my senior, he could kick my ass on the bike trails, was an avid runner and participated in sports for leisure. He ate well, took care of himself and basically followed all the rules of a healthy lifestyle.
Unfortunately, the deck was stacked against him genetically, and eight years ago he suffered a rare spinal column stroke that left him paralyzed from the waist down. But did that stop him? Heck no! Much like the Energizer bunny, Thomas just kept going and going and going.
He continued to work, declined the offer for a chair lift for his split-level home and instead built a long ramp so that he could access the back of the house unassisted. He also nixed a motorized wheelchair and politely refused any offers for assistance. He promptly purchased a specially-made machine that would allow him to get vertical (a major deal for paraplegics) so that his body would not get accustomed to its new position.
Traditional exercise was a challenge. Most gym equipment was no longer accessible; even the layout of a regular gym proved difficult to maneuver. He researched rehabilitation programs for the disabled and found them lacking. Their main focus was to get you comfortable being confined to a chair; Thomas’ goal was to get stronger, keep up his cardiovascular endurance and get out of the chair in any way possible.
Frustrated with his choices, Thomas founded Project Walk-Kansas City, a state-of-the-art spinal cord injury recovery center. He purchased modified, user-friendly equipment and hired trained specialists to assist clients in a gym-like setting. At Project Walk, clients could not only achieve their optimal level of recovery, but also keep up their active lifestyle.
Diabetes and cardiovascular disease show no mercy for those that are disabled. Besides the many obstacles that a person with a spinal cord injury must face, secondary complications resulting from lack of exercise are the No. 1 problem of people confined to a wheelchair and often result in death.
Our bodies were made to move, and it’s a safe bet that Thomas will be doing that just as long as he is able. He is truly an inspiration.
Who or what inspires you to get up and get moving? —Karen