Client Name: Susan D.
Hometown: West Orange, NJ
Start Date: 3/5/2014
“Push to Walk is great. It’s fun,” says Susan, whose condition is described as C6-C7 incomplete quadriplegia. “Everyone is like family. The trainers are very funny. I get to know the other clients. It’s very warm.”
Susan uses the facility twice a week, for sessions lasting one and a half hours. She is diligent, arriving 30 minutes early to get a cardio workout at the standing frame before beginning her official regimen, which is decided together with the trainers. After the guided exercise, Susan lingers at the facility to use the other equipment on offer. Among her current favorites are the “RT 200” and “RT 300” bikes, with electric stimulation to the arms and legs to trigger movement – which also gives what she reports as “needling sensations.”
Susan places high priority on staying flexible and healthy. One summer twelve years ago, a car accident left Susan with a cervical spine injury resulting in a form of quadriplegia. She returned home in time for Thanksgiving after several months of recovery and rehab, with some ability to move her legs but a total reliance on the wheelchair.
Living in Connecticut at the time of the accident, Susan underwent physical therapy and occupational therapy at home, and later, at Gaylord Hospital. A memorable experience for Susan was the heated pool at Gaylord. “It was phenomenal. The physical therapists taught me lots of exercises. I did guided therapy for one year and was able to swim on my own, with floats. I did that twice a week for several years.”
Susan gave up swimming when her husband was offered a job outside of Connecticut – in New Jersey. Settling in West Orange, she began a fitness regimen at the Kessler Rehabilitation Center near her new home, where she learned to use the locomotor treadmill.
At this time, Susan had been taking a muscle relaxant to control the discomfort from her injury. “To stay on the locomotor, I had to be weaned from the medication. Unfortunately it became too uncomfortable, and I decided to give up the locomotor.”
It was around this time that she discovered Push to Walk. “We are fortunate to have Push to Walk. There are very few facilities like this in the country. It’s the best thing for people with spinal cord injuries, brain injuries or who’ve had strokes. I’m constantly trying to get my massage therapist to send her father here, who’s a paraplegic.” She commends the organization for the good attention to clients, with two training staff members (trainer and gym aide) per client compared to one trainer for every two clients, such as in Connecticut, where she used to live.
Susan adds that cost should not be a deterrent. Push to Walk offers a scholarship program for those looking for financial aid, and “it’s not like insurance, where they can tell you stop if you’re not showing progress.”
Making friends and being social are high on Susan’s list of musts. After moving to New Jersey, she joined a faith-based study circle and has been going regularly every Thursday morning for five years. She takes night classes at the local Jewish Community Center, where she learned how to play Mahjongg and is now studying Hebrew. However, accessibility issues – like restaurants, airlines or hotels that are not wheelchair-friendly, or even the poorly functioning chairlift at the JCC – has her wishing that society was more aware of the needs of persons living with disabilities. She often speaks up and writes letters, and hopes to be heard with changes made as a result.
Reflecting on her progress, Susan said, “After my first 10 years, I began to care less about whether I can walk again. I’m living my life.”