Like Thelma and Irvin, I’ve seen John around for a while. His dedication to getting out had already inspired me. I finally had a moment when I could pull over and talk to him. I hadn’t met him before, but knew that he had a story that was going to make a difference. He was very gracious and heard me out as I explained my blog and gave him one of my cards. I hoped that he would contact me when he had gotten home and checked out what I do. He did! We set up an appointment to meet up at our neighborhood coffee house.
I think the biggest thing I walked away with from my conversation with John is sincerity. I think sometimes our assumptions of people get in the way of our opportunity to know them and appreciate them. John was sincere in his answers and interest in what I’m doing here on Carrot Bowl. He is sincere in his relationships. He is sincere in his job and dedication to staying active. He talked about how others have treated him or approached him or even attempted to push his wheelchair without asking. If we want to show sincerity like John, we have to love each other more. We have to believe and trust in each other more.
John is a Dynamo because of his dedication to getting out, even when it’s not ideal – whether that’s weather related or overcoming a physical challenge. You are Dynamo too, like John. You are inspiring more people than you know. We are all moving at different speeds, distances, and with different equipment, but we’re all going together. These interviews are meant to capture the journey, where ever that is right now, and inspire each of us to continue in our own unique journeys.
Are you an original Portlander?
Yes. I grew up here my whole life. When I was in my car accident I was actually living in Canada. I was doing a contract up there. I moved back here, my whole family is from here. I like being around my family, too.
What do you do for a living?
I graduated in ‘94, then I started an internship, then I got a contract position for TechStar Development for power companies. So I was actually doing contracts all over…Pennsylvania, I was up in Edmonton, and Saskatoon. I did this before my car accident, so it was easy to get back into it. I work as a programmer for the city.
What do enjoy doing?
Hanging out with friends. My favorite tv shows are Family Guy and Simpson, simple stuff. Exercise.
Have you been in a wheelchair your whole life?
I was up in Edmonton for a 6 month contract. I was doing maintenance software for power companies. On Mother’s day weekend it was a 4-day weekend, so I flew back here. Then I had my car accident. I was actually the passenger in the car that was wrecked. My friend was driving, he was drunk. He rolled off the road and hit a big cement pipe on my side. I was paralyzed from mid-chest down. I was knocked out. I actually tore my aorta which is why my voice sounds kinda funny. Which is actually what killed Princess Diana, an aortic aneurysm. Sometimes they don’t bust all the way through, because if it does, you’re kinda screwed. So this one didn’t, obviously. It was pretty lucky, but I didn’t realize it. I was conscious in a day or two. I was in the hospital from April to September. This was 15 years ago, right before I turned 30.
It’s always a lot more scary when you’re telling or looking at it than when you actually get out and do it. I’ve noticed that about a lot of things. You’re sitting in the hospital worrying about how am I going to do all this stuff. And then you get out and do it. You figure it out. I was worried about living by myself. I’ve only been doing it for about the last year because my wife passed away. She had cancer.
How long did you know she had cancer?
Three years. She was actually on hospice for 2 ½ years in our home. Which is another thing about exercise, it really fights depression. Just something I really noticed during that time. When things get really intense, you can just go run it out.
What is one of the hardest things you’ve had to do?
Probably decide to quite treatment for Paula, my wife. It was tough. She made the decision. She was on hospice for 2 ½ years, hospice is supposed to be the last 6 months, but she made it for quite a while. She had the kind of cancer that wasn’t going to fix it anyway, they still wanted to do treatment. She had liver cancer
It was tough.
And then just taking care of her when she got sick was…tough. You think being a wheelchair being tougher but that was tougher.
What was one of the biggest lessons you learned from her?
That I’m normal.
What does a workout look like for you?
I used to go up to Hawthorne Farms. I had a friend that would go work out with me. Right now it’s just jogging. I’ll go around here up to Costco or there. If I go to a gym there’s a lot of things I need help with. We were doing that for a long time, but he got married. So, you know how that goes. He can’t do it anymore. Right now it’s just jogging. I’d like to find another person to work out with. I go further right now since I’m not working out.
My wife was really healthy. We used to go jogging around all the time. She had a marathon 3 years before she died, so she was healthy and always running up and down the road here. Right before she was diagnosed she ran the marathon. Then is was the chemo. They try to kill the cancer just slightly faster than the chemo kills you. That stuff is nasty. The people that put it in you have to wear bunny suits because they can’t spill it on them.
Where you a runner before your accident?
Yah, I was a runner before that too. Since college. I took some circuit weight training classes in college…easy A. Haha! I love that and I always belonged to a gym. I was going to PCC and it was cheaper to do a weight training class than it was to belong to a gym.
After the accident, what was hard about exercise?
Just getting over your self pity. Just going to do it. When I first started doing it I could only go to the end of the block and it was really disappointing. I just kept going a little further and a little further. I still don’t go as far as you do or as quick, but it’s just to do it.
Where you ever angry?
You have to get over not being able to do what you used to do. Yah, I think so. But never at the guy that was driving the car, I know he didn’t do it on purpose.
What are your fitness goals?
Every day to try and finish one lap and to keep my weight down, that helps all sorts of things, like transferring. It’s tough because when you’re in the chair, you don’t move that much.
I don’t consider myself athletic or even very healthy. Usually it’s just the endorphin rush when you’re done. And it really fights depression. It’s natural. I don’t eat healthy. I kinda want to, but it’s so much easier not to.
The older you get the more healthy you get, I stopped drinking pop. I get more health conscious the older I get.
What did Paula give you?
I met Paula after I was already in a chair for a while. That I’m able to do more than I thought I could. In a way, because when she got really sick, I had to take care of her which was really different. Usually people had to take care of me. Just to realize that I could actually do it was…I have a lot more confidence. Just knowing that someone like that would marry someone like me. She’s a really great person. More confidence. That I’m normal, whatever that is.
What is your greatest fitness achievement?
I try to go out once a day. My achievement is that I actually do it. Regardless of rain or shine, I’ll still go. It could be pouring down rain and I’ll still go.