Today I did something that several years ago I would have thought impossible. The thought of it was totally terrifying and yet so gratifying at the same time, but once executed, it was like I was fearless, like Superman when he leapt a tall building in a single bound.
For many, such a feat may have seemed simple, but for someone whose balance is compromised by cerebral palsy, such a task was far from easy.
I shook the battle ropes at the Workout Anytime gym with all my might and stood there holding nothing but the ropes; and I didn’t fall on my face.
I’ve been holding onto a wheeled-walker for nearly nine years now, but this time I let go and didn’t second guess myself.
I did four 30-second stints with the heavy ropes. That was HUGE!!!
My long journey to this point began almost three years ago when I walked into Advanced Physical Therapy (APT), now PIVOT, and met Dr. Adam Sutphin, DPT.
I had been falling quite a bit — mostly on my backside — even though I was using my walker. I knew I had to do something drastic to take back control of my body in an effort to stay vertical.
Adam began teaching me a wide array of core strengthening exercises over a period of three months that propelled me to the gym where I began a weight training program.
I was able to incorporate the techniques he gave me while under his professional care to keep my core strong and build on that solid foundation.
Adam encouraged me. He said, “you gotta take risks, that’s the only way you excel in life.”
During my time at APT, Adam had me doing so many things to help me regain the strength in my legs to improve my balance. For someone that was told after two separate leg surgeries as a youngster, that they would never have good balance, what I was doing was tremendous, amazing really.
I did things like walk up and down the long floor of the therapy clinic while using modified ski poles with large rubbery bands around my ankles. To some, that may sound silly. But it meant the world to me. Not only did it help to strengthen my ankles and legs, but it did wonders for my self-confidence and conquering my intense fear of falling.
Since I’ve been working out for over two years now, I’ve recently discovered another benefit to pumping iron beyond the physical aspects of my disability.
People with cerebral palsy have a problem with their epiglottis closing all the way, causing all sorts of issues with fluid in the lungs, which unfortunately, can lead to an early death if left untreated.
A fully functional epiglottis automatically closes when food or drink is swallowed thereby directing it down the esophagus to the stomach. However, five years ago, I swallowed food or drink into my windpipe; and it went into my lungs. I was sick with bacterial pneumonia for four months due to aspiration.
I went back and forth to the doctor eight times during that period, receiving eight different antibiotics. I felt fine while taking the medication. But after finishing each dose, I was deathly sick again.
My family physician finally sent me to a pulmonary specialist, who spotted the problem immediately upon looking at the X-ray that had been taken three months earlier.
I was then sent to see the speech therapist at the local hospital for a modified barium swallow test. That’s when they discovered my epiglottis would only close all the way while tucking my chin toward my chest when swallowing food or drink.
Fast-forward four years, to last summer. My new allergy doctor in Wilmington wanted me to have the modified barium swallow test again. I had a fully functional epiglottis. Miraculous!
Through answering a series of questions and discussing it with the speech therapist at Sampson Regional Medical Center,it was discovered that my nearly two years of weight training was responsible.
Adam was not only my physical therapist, he has since become a close personal friend, and more recently a workout partner, which has meant the world to me.
Our common interest in weight training was the springboard for the relationship we have cultivated since I last left his office over two years ago.
Randomly working through weight training exercises when I first began going to the gym, Adam has since developed a program for me that targets individual muscle groups, which have already given me positive results.
So, with two very good reasons — improved balance that was never supposed to be and normal swallowing once again — there is no going back. Weight training is a must-have lifestyle choice for me.
Although weight training has been beneficial for the aforementioned reasons, it has also given me more energy as well as a new swagger in my step. But most of all, it has given me a new lease on life!!!
Mark S. Price is a former city government/county education reporter for The Sampson Independent. He currently resides in Clinton.