I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when I was five years old. There are different kinds: mild, moderate, severe. Mine is very mild. The only thing that it affected was my balance. I have zero balance, but I learned to walk on crutches.
When I was 10, I had to get corrective surgery on my legs. The doctor said, “Either you’re not gonna walk again, or it will be a long time before you do.”
For a long time, it looked like he was right. The pain in my legs was too much. I was in a wheelchair full time after that. That was 30 years ago.
First Step in 27 Years
In the fall of 2016, I was living with my mom, who helps me, and running a business out of our home selling topical lotions for arthritis and joint pain online. My mom and I sang in the choir at church every Sunday.
I was really depressed. But one day I thought, “Screw this!” and decided to join a gym. I figured it would be a good idea for me to get out and lose some weight.
I thought I’d be doing it in my wheelchair, but then I started working with a personal trainer. He challenged me to use machines I could only operate standing up. That’s how I found out that I could still stand. My muscles were still there.
My trainer helped me work with forearm crutches to start getting back into walking shape. We set a goal. I wanted to surprise my brother Michael, who lives in North Carolina, by walking up to him for the first time ever. And I wanted to be able to do it by Christmas.
Here’s the thing about me: When I set a goal, I always finish early. After working out three to four hours a day, six days a week, I finally took my first steps in 27 years on November 1st, 2017. I was ready.
Michael was so surprised when I got out of the car at the house that Christmas Day and walked to him. My mom and I live-streamed it on Facebook, and you can see the video here. (I start to get out of the car at about 5:15).
Praying to Walk Hands-Free
After that, I started praying very hard that I could someday walk without the crutches. I knew I would never be able to walk without assistance. But I wanted to be able to carry things and shake people’s hands.
I started doing research and discovered the LifeGlider. I mentioned to one of my workout partners at the gym that I was going to save up for it. Well, unbeknownst to me, when he went home that day, he got on the website and ordered it for me. Then he went around and asked the others at the gym to pitch in.
A week before Christmas of 2018, I was on the exercise bike at the gym and had my wheelchair with me. All of a sudden, 15, 20 people start coming toward me. My mom was there. Then my friend kicks my wheelchair away, out into the middle of the floor. I was like, “What the heck? I’m gonna need that to get off of the bike!”
Then he brings up the LifeGlider with a big red bow on it. It was a dream come true!
The first thing I did in my new LifeGlider was to give my mom a hug. I’d never been able to do that before. Sure, she’d been able to hug me. But I had never been able to walk up to her and give her a hug in the standing position. That was amazing.
Feeling Respected in the LifeGlider
I can do so many things now that most people take for granted, like opening doors for myself. I’m doing all the things I wanted to do, like shaking hands and carrying things, all because I’m walking hands-free for the first time in my LifeGlider.
But I’ll tell you something else a lot of people never think about. I feel more respected in my LifeGlider than I did in my wheelchair.
I hated when people would crouch down to talk to me. It made me feel like a kid, which is why I would always tell people to just stand back up. But when I’m in the LifeGlider, I can tell it feels more normal for the person I’m talking to.
They used to see the wheelchair first. But the LifeGlider is behind me. When I’m in it, they see me first. That’s why, when I’m in my LifeGlider, I forget that I’m disabled. I’m just me.
My local CBS station did a news story on me in 2019 about taking my first steps in 27 years. Being interviewed for that was part of how I’ve been trying to inspire people in different ways.
The video of me surprising my brother was the first YouTube video I made. I kept posting workout videos after that to encourage people to get in shape.
But then the pandemic started last year. Along with it, suicides were up, unemployment was up, drugs were up. I wanted to encourage people. So, I decided to turn my YouTube channel into an inspirational website.
On TemTube.com, I post a 30-second video of me reading a Bible verse every day. (By the way, the picture of me in my LifeGlider on the website was taken at my church with the mayor of Knox County, TN, Glenn Jacobs. You might know him as the WWE wrestler, Kane!)
It must be working. People that I don’t know come up to me at the gym all the time and tell me they watch me and when they have a bad day, they think of me and feel better. They see me taking care of myself and think, if he can do this, I can do this.
Maybe the LifeGlider Can Help You, Too
If somebody who was in a wheelchair from the age of 10 to 37 can just stand up and start using the LifeGlider, anybody can do it.
I didn’t have any balance, and I still don’t. But thanks to the LifeGlider, I can just strap in and go every day.
Maybe it could work for you, too.
If you want to ask me about it, I’d be happy to talk with you. You can send me a message through my Facebook page. My phone number is posted there, too, so feel free to give me a call. Hope I can help!