Dr. Michael Kruger was paralyzed and wheelchair-bound for over two years after suffering from an unusual spinal cord injury. After months of physical therapy, gains in strength and movement were minimal. A friend and therapist of Dr. Kruger introduced him to Wes Norris, Exercise Physiologist and President of Rehab Strong. Since working with Wes, Dr. Kruger is driving, swimming and has stood-up several times.
Wes has been working with Dr. Kruger, an Orthopedic Surgeon from Simsbury, twice a week for over two years. Starting with basic stretching and sitting on the floor, Michael can now sit unsupported on his own, pull himself up using his arms and now has incredible control of his trunk muscles. Because of Michael's gains in leg and core strength, a little over a year after working with Wes, they decided to give standing a try.
With the help of his sons, and under the close watch of his wife, Janice, Kruger was pulled up out of his wheelchair, had his feet shifted underneath him, and was standing after two years. A teary-eyed Janice walked up to him, looked at him eye-to-eye and kissed him. Janice took Wes's place helping balance Kruger, while Wes took a picture of the family, standing together in their living room.
"That picture made it all the way down to West Virginia," said Janice, who has family there. "The picture was printed off of the internet and hung up in the church down there where everybody could see Michael standing."
Wes has also gotten Kruger into the pool in his backyard. "I knew that the pool would be a great tool if we could find a way to get Mike in there," Norris explained.
The Krugers had someone come out and install a Hoyer lift into the cement on the pool deck. The lift brings Michael out of the chair and into the pool where he dons a life vest and the "hand fins" Wes created for him. "I slit some regular swim fins that go on your feet and basically duct taped them to his hands so that he could use his arms to help propel himself."
Michael has spent the last 2 summers swimming not only when Wes was with him, but when just he and Janice were together. "The pool has been an excellent way for Mike to get some aerobic exercise and he's gained a lot more arm movement and strength because of swimming."
The next "step" for Mike? "Yeah, we're thinking about trying to take some steps someday. Mike just got a new leg brace, so we're playing around with that a bit." Dr. Kruger is hoping to one day, get back to his practice.
Wes Norris, CSCS, founded Rehab Strong in 2009. Rehab Strong provides fitness and education to individuals with disabilities through one-on-one training, lectures, seminars and health expos.
This article appeared in the Hartford Courant on 2/15/2010 under the title: Personal Trainer Gets Quadriplegic Man Standing