He walked out of the elevator with his wife by his side. Gripping his walker, he willed his weak left leg to move forward. Each step took time. His wife looked as if she had all the time in the world…. Wearing a ball cap, backwards, he looked straight ahead as he walked. There were no emotions visible on his face, just determination…
Probably in his mid-fifties, he thin and muscular, as if he was very active—physically—before his stroke. His hands grip the walker as he moves, his knuckles white from the effort. At last, he reaches his destination: a weight machine that will firm and strengthen his triceps.
Slowly, thoughtfully, he moves as close to the seat of the machine as his walker will let him. Finally satisfied that he can make it, he grabs the machine and plops his rear end in the seat with a thud. Hovering nearby, but not “babying” him, his wife moves the walker out of the way.
She pulls the handgrips up toward him so he can grab them. He moves quickly to place his right hand on the grip, firmly holding the machine. His wife picks up his left hand and places it on the grip, smoothing his fingers around the rubber grip.
He tries to life the weights, but it is too heavy. His wife reaches down and moves the pin, decreasing the resistance on the machine. Again, he tries to lift the handlebars and he is successful. His right arm bicep and triceps are flexed and doing most of the work. His left hand stays in place on the left grip.
His wife walks over to the nearby chairs and sits down, waiting for him to finish with the machine. This is repeated many more times as he works on other machines in the gym. I have seen him at the gym many times, and he uses the machines that strengthen his core and his upper body.
As I watched him, I was awestruck. I have cared for so many stroke patients in my life, but few with this level of determination. Few who have continued to work out after finishing physical therapy. Few who had a wife who would help. Few with a caregiver who could assist without taking his dignity away….
There are many other “tales” at the gym. Tales of overcoming debilitating physical conditions. Tales of triumph after tragedy. Tales of determination, and will, and hope.
Tales that make me smile…..