Day 9 & 10 – a belated writing

On Thursday of last week I walked for 30 minutes with robotic assistance. My sister and I also went to a Braves game on a Shepherd field trip. I met a guy named Darren last Thursday. He is currently battling the process of breathing with out the assistance of a ventilator. After talking for only 15 minutes, he asked me if I knew Christ. Here is young guy battling the process of breathing along with a spinal cord injury and here he is, worried about my salvation. If we could only all be as strong as him.

On Friday I learned “new rolling in bed techniques”. I made my very first PB & J post injury. It was off brand peanut butter, so I declined on the sandwich plus I wasn’t feeling it. I ended my Friday with a 42 minute lokomat session. I walked the fastest the machine would allow and with full weight bearing (supported 95% of my own weight). I have been scheduled to walk everyday for the remainder of the week. I leave Friday. Please pray for Jake (a wounded warrior) and Darren for his breathing and his recovery during this hard process. There is a possibility I could get a six month scholarship, but there a limited spaces. I will submit my application in the morning. Peace, love and goodwill. Goodnight. Thank you all for your words and support.

Day 8 – Swimming Moth

Please keep the Barker family in your thoughts and prayers. When someone you love leaves you, it is painful, and I have no idea how your family must feel but I am so sorry for your loss. please pray for them.

My day started with a 30 minute walk on the lokomat. I was able to support 60-70% of my body weight while keeping up with a fast walking pace. Both of my quadriceps were responding to walking as if it were natural for me to walk. This is evidence that my brain has not forgot the motion of walking. The therapist was so excited with my progress that she has suggested for me to walk everyday for the rest of my stay.

After walking, I worked my arms out with three pound weights for an hour. Directly after that, I propped on my elbows and received electric stimulation to my shoulder muscles. I finished up the day in the pool. I did some backstroke and moth style laps. As Lisa put it, “It’s like the butterfly formation but not as pretty.” I’m beyond tired, I start walking tomorrow at 8 am. Thank you all for your kind words, they mean a lot to me. Love, peace and goodwill. Goodnight.

Day 7 – Excitement an Understatement

Today was amazing. God is answering prayers, I truly believe. On Thursday of last week (day 4) pushing a wheelchair seemed very hard, very painful and somewhat out of reach. Today, I pushed up and down the gym corridor three full times. I had good form, the pain was minimal and progress was evident. The motion of pushing goes like this: Elbows in, Push forward, Turn wrist to sky, Float arms back and Repeat. I must learn to keep my shoulders up and back. My triceps are not only working but they are getting stronger. My shoulders are not only getting stronger but they are living up to the hype.

I learned a new task today that will forever change my independence. In my life I have experienced many things that many should not endure at my age. I am not the same I was before my catastrophic injury. I am not the same I was when my mom passed away in high school. I am different, as well as, you are different. I teach you, you teach me. You say I give you inspiration, well, you give me love, strength, hope, determination and peace. Thank you for your support. The look in my Physical Therapist eyes captured the day. When she was informed that my triceps had registered on the muscle activation test, excitement would be an understatement. Today, I rode a bike around the gym using hand cycles. My first bike ride post injury and I loved it. Love, peace and goodwill.

Day 6 – Shoulder Strengthening

The majority of today can be summed up by this: “shoulder strengthening.” I did four 1-hour sessions that revolved around the very idea.

Session 1: Physical Therapy session on self sliding board transfers.

Session 2: Exercise Fitness session on the “terrible threes”

Session 3: Cardio Fitness in Outpatient Gym

Session 4: Exercise Fitness II, arm exercises

Getting better is inevitable if I apply the new techniques Shepherd is teaching me. I must strengthen my shoulders, my diet, my routine, my focus. I must remember, nothing is impossible. All things are possible through God. My PT said today, ‘Leo, you left us two years ago and you got stronger and better (thank you Race to Walk) but you have a lot farther to go.‘

Everyone I roll into here wants me to put on a comedy show. There’s a lot of comedy in this injury, as well as struggle, and sadness, joy, healing, hope, patience as well as love. I’m kind of rusty though and I don’t mean my wheelchair (I need a better writer). I ran into one of the the co-founders of Shepherd today, Mrs. Alana Shepherd. We immediately recognized one another. I can’t help but think she was on the board that granted me a scholarship. I don’t know that though, either way, her life’s work has changed my life and for that I am grateful for her. The Georgia sky is beautiful tonight, purple clouds mixed with a pinkish-orange hue. I have OT at 8am again, I should get some rest. Goodnight, peace, love and goodwill.

Day 5 – Cowboy Friday

I walked for 17 minutes today on machine called the lokomat. It has the ability to detect input that comes from the individual hips and knees. It registered activity from both my knees and hips. I could also feel my foot pressure differentiate from heel to sole as I walked. It was awesome.

I had a chest muscle examination today. My OT’s (Occupational Therapist) felt the muscles and graded them on a scale 1-5 (five being the strongest). Several of my muscles were marked as fives and others were marked as ones. Even if muscles are classified as ones, it means neurons are indeed connecting and have the potential to become much more active. It is always hopeful when it is not a zero. I learned a new way to push myself from surface to surface using a sliding board. I was able to almost completely push myself from a workout mat to my chair. It was pretty difficult but for the first attempt, I  think this way is promising. Both my PT/OT feel confident I can achieve most of the goals I came to accomplish. I am giving it everything I have. God is Good.

It was Jenny’s last day today in Day Program. Jenny, she’s in her mid forties, beautiful smile, great sense of humor, and unfortunately had a spinal cord injury. We worked on our punches (a shoulder workout) together. When she got tired, she said, “I don’t want to hurt the guy too bad.” (her way of copping out on the exercise). I wish I could of told her bye. She also thought it was quite funny to call me cleo.

Another friendly guy I have met here wore a really cool cowboy hat today. When I said to him “cool hat”, he informed me of something called “cowboy friday.” I’ve never heard of it, but I’ll be prepared for next week.

Many of you have written me since I got here to Atlanta. Don’t think because I haven’t written you back or responded to you individually that your words don’t mean very, very much to me. It’s the contrary. I plan to write each one of you back, and soon. I started this blog to inform loved ones about my progress and it has turned into an amazing support board. Thank you so much. I love everyone of you for your kindness. I am not writing over the weekend but I will continue to exercise. Much love, peace and goodwill. Goodnight and have a wonderful weekend.

Day 4 – Painfully Pushing

I got into a manual chair today. I was able to push myself around the gym but it was a lot harder than I remembered. Both of my therapist want me to start working my shoulders out daily, a work out referred to as “the terrible threes.” I have a full day tomorrow and desperately need to grab some rest. Thank you all for your support and kindness. I am trying my best and will continue to. Pushing a manual chair the correct way is painfully difficult. I get to walk tomorrow via lokomat and treadmill, propel myself in a manual chair and get one wheel closer to independence. Much love, peace, and goodwill. Goodnight.

Day 3 – Heavy Rain

Geesh, heavy thoughts float in my mind like big fluffy clouds. Theres a thick, monsoon like rain currently falling from the Georgia sky. Good news, Bogey ate lunch today.

When I awoke this morning, I was greeted by my dad and two occupational therapist at the foot of my bed. They taught me how to put on my own shorts and shoes. I completely underestimated my potential to accomplish these task. I truly thought that doing such a thing was out of my reach. Not only did it not seem hard, but it seemed completely attainable. My occupational therapist said ‘she thought for a first attempt, I showed promise and that I could get it with more practice.’ After OT (occupational therapy) I had literally five minutes to roll to exercise therapy. I chugged a boost-plus energy drink and zoomed. When I got there, they strapped 4 lb weights to my wrist. For an hour, I did five different exercises, 3 sets of each consisting of 25 reps. My exercise trainer holds a special place in my heart. Two years ago she beat me in a game of rummy cube (I think she cheated) and she will not let me live it down. A rematch is already planned to settle our on going fued. After that, I stood for an hour.

My therapist have expressed that they believe I am a good candidate for a major surgery. It is called Bicep Tendon Transfer Surgery. Parts of my bicep muscles would be directly cut out and transferred to my triceps and thumb. It is intended to help someone: propel themselves in a manual chair, self transfer, strengthen grasp, reach out, and weight shift. There is only 10 doctors in the United States that do this operation. Shepherd has one of them on their staff. If I underwent this surgery I could be here until November or even possibly December. It scares me, the idea of physically altering my body, permanently. Other news, Garret started talking today and Joshua started eating yesterday. God is Good. Thank you so much for your support, your prayers, words, and friendship. I’m supposed to get my manual wheelchair tomorrow. I can not wait to wheel around. I’m exited, tired but excited. Goodnight. Peace, love and goodwill.

Day 2 – The Doctors Opinion

My doctor thinks it’s very possible for me to self transfer and operate a manual wheel chair. Another doctor told me today, ‘I’m glad you are not satisfied. That is healthy. You have achieved a lot Leo, and you want more.’ I do want more, for myself, for others, for the sad and for the hopeful.

I weigh a whopping 109 lbs. Lost Weight = Lack of dense muscle mass. I’m currently sitting on the top of the parking deck writing. I love it up here. Up Here – drinking coffee, talking to my sister Erin, dancing alone, wondering, thinking, hoping, sharing, resting, praying, reading, living. My dads dog Bogey is dying. He will have to make an important decision regarding Bogey in the morning unless something miraculous happens. All things are possible through God. I have made fun of my dads dog a lot but that dog sure has a sweet, loving, gentleness to him. Its hard for me to cry over animals, after all the tragedy I have been through and have seen. But I can honestly say, I will miss him if I do not get to hug his neck, attempt to breath louder than him, stare into his deep brown eyes, make chewbakah noises with him. I need to shower, I need to sleep. Two hours of occupational therapy starts at 8 am. Thank you all for your support. It really means a lot. Please pray for Garret, Joshua and that Benjamen’s stay here at Shepherd, gets extended. Goodnight. I moved fingers in my left hand earlier today. Love, Peace, and Good Will.

Day 1 – Evaluation Day

So today was my first official day of “Boot Camp” here at the Shepherd Center. Once I arrived here Saturday, I picked up a package containing rules, apartment keys, ect. The first words that came out of my mouth was, “it feels good to be back.” The security guard had no idea who I was but there was no denying, he could feel my over abundant gratitude. I am now at one of the most amazing places in the world. The drive to get here was rich, full of geo political conversations concerning Russia, China and even a little bit of Vietnam. My father and I listened to pandora on my iphone, the Lisa Loeb radio station. It is sad, I know, I am a part of a limited few who actually have a Lisa Loeb radio station. I do not suggest it, nor will I knock it. I am a fan of the 90’s one hit wonder bands, again I know, this is sad.

I had been away from the Shepherd Experience for two years…….until today. Its amazing how faces, smiles, how impressions never leave you even if you forget about them. There is so many beautiful people here. I am grateful to spend three more weeks of my life with this organization.

Today was Evaluation day, pretty much I am evaluated out. A few of the goals I will be trying to accomplish the next few weeks are: driving a vehicle, using a manual chair, rotating in bed, pillow positioning in bed, self transfers and many others. If your really, really curious, you can email me (   I’ll fill you in on many others. I took my first shower today in almost a full year. The water hit my face, I had to focus on breathing as water would fill my mouth that rushed down from my head. It is the start of an amazing venture. Tomorrow I will undergo the first sessions of physical and occupational task training.  I feel fresh, mentally, physically, spiritually, this is it.

Thank you all for your support. Peace, love and good will.

A Thank You is in order

Just recently I was reading over emails that were sent to me following my accident on March 15th, 2009. I wept on my front porch, sitting there, I could not control the gratitude that flowed from my eyes. I could not contain the awkward cry, as the words I read, became arms that encompassed me. I immediately started responding to the emails. I am so grateful for every person who has taken time out of their life to share with me. These last two years of my life have been difficult but they would have been a lot harder without the support of others. I am truly so thankful to be alive, to be rolling, smiling, laughing, crying, to be breathing, eating, dancing, hurting, to be me. I am currently doing my best to respond to those who emailed me during the days of coma dreaming and tube feeding.

I have been prayed for, visited, called, hugged, read to, kissed, danced with, fundraised for, hit by a dodgeball, deathly sick, laughed with, stared at, cried over, water skied, stood up, beaten in chess, pulled all nighters, broken hearted, embarrassed, infatuated, invented for, lost races, suffered pain, performed, dropped twice, fallen once, yelled at, screamed for help, written journal entrees, cooked for, acted foolishly, prayed continuously and all of this has been with people who have supported me.

Thank you

Atlanta bound – Shepherd Center – 7/16-8/5 -