Frank Ward had been active his whole life – hockey, football, all sports. Then, in 2008, he had to have surgery on both his knees after a devastating fall. Pushing himself through rehabilitation, he had effectively recovered within a matter of months.
But, in the spring of 2009, Frank was given a drug for an intestinal condition that set off a series of infections and allergic reactions that left him unable to walk without a cane, feel his feet, or exercise at all. For months he underwent tests and appointments until finally, in January 2010, he was given a diagnosis of toxic neuropathy.
Physically weakened from the neurological damage and subsequent months of inactivity and deconditioning, Frank had a real concern that he could end up in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. A consultation with Dr. Ahmet Höke at Johns Hopkins gave Frank encouragement regarding the potential benefits of exercise in treating this condition. Most toxic neuropathies can be reversed within two years of onset; exercise can help to speed up the process.
He learned that while there had been no human trials regarding exercise, lab rats had shown strong indications that regular intense exercise had real potential benefits. He decided that if a lab rat could do it – so could he. He had already lost over 6 months and if anything he was sliding backward rather than striding forward.
Unfortunately, he was now dealing with significant symptoms from his neuropathy, numbness and discomfort in his feet and ankles, coupled with extremely weak and unstable knees. A weakened back had become increasingly susceptible to debilitating and painful back spasms. He did not have the old familiar feeling that his body would respond to his hard work by healing and getting stronger.
Frank feels his turning point came when he began working with Mark Salamon, a Physical Therapist with Coordinated Health in Allentown PA. Together they created a plan that would begin with the basics and advance through the equipment in the clinic. Therabands, light weights, core strengthening, stability ball, foam pads and balance beams, stationary bike to elliptical trainer…they used it all!
With a tolerance for pain that both Frank and Mark understood, and with Frank’s unique personality guiding them, they worked together 2-3 times per week, sometimes for 1 ½ – 2 hours at a time. Their strategy required that Frank push himself to the limit while working with Mark and then commit to the same level of dedication and effort in workouts he did on his own. Frank took his workout gear to the office and walked up and down the stairs there in his free time.
After a year of focused and demanding work, Frank achieved significant success. Twenty-two months after the knee surgery, and ten months after the PN diagnosis, Frank progressed from needing assistance to climb one flight of stairs, to running up and down thirty flights of stairs at a time. Time and again he had called on his inner strength and dedication to keep going.
Frank has made a recovery that at times he had despaired of ever accomplishing. He feels as if he has been given back his life. He is able to travel without limitations. He recently visited Paris, walking miles through the streets and museums, and even climbing the steps in the Eiffel Tower. He is participating in sports again and in late May plans to run in a 5K race.