The screenshot is from my last exchange with a client on 8/8/2022. I learned he passed away yesterday. I’ve been looking at that shot every hour since.
When I started taking on hard cases and health troubleshooting clients in 2004, I didn’t know it would lead me to troubling times. I saw a need in the industry, that the people who exist between medical-intervention/crippled/health-crisis and athlete weren’t well served. After cardiac event, orthopedic injury, or major health crisis, patients may receive a few weeks of physical therapy. Then what?
What about people who do none? What about people who are heading TOWARD crises? What about gym-aspirants who’ve never played a sport and have all kinds of physical woes?
So there I stood. It didn’t mean I never trained conventional clients or very able-bodied athletes and competitors. I just saw that personal training and professional strength coaches and nutritionists were already serving those groups well.
And each year there I remained, adding more accreditation, more certifications, more specialties, more education, and in 2012 I studied the entire lecture series for US medical school licensing exams. I never stopped learning. I won’t ever.
BUT… as my outreach to the less-served increased, the emotional weight did in kind. If you directly work with 100 clients through a calendar year, and 60 of them have heart disease and/or autoimmune diseases and/or strokes and/or neurological conditions and/or joint/organ replacements, there’s a very good chance that even WHEN you beat all odds you will be juggling about a dozen sad stories any given week, any given day, any given hour.
They’re all heroes, fighting battles many other people will never even imagine. And like all heroes, there will be a last battle from which they don’t return.
It’s routine. It never becomes “normal” though. I’ve seen cases of vast metastatic cancer. I’ve seen people turn around the worst luck. I’ve seen it all. Things get worse before they get better. Things get better before they get worse.
That doesn’t make it easy. It’s heavy.
This young man was hoping to get light enough to get a lung transplant. He’d made at least 60lbs of weight loss progress recently, but we suspect he was down over 100lbs from his peak. At 28, he was hopeful. Not naively, I was hopeful. Not delusional. Just hopeful.
He kept looking for a case study, a role model, someone who had been in his position and “made it,” survived and thrived. I asked him, “but what if you’re the first?” “Perhaps you will be the pioneer, the role model, the first.”
He loved that thought.
So I share this.
This young man was at severe exhaustion constantly. Not normal exhaustion. His organs were ready to give up. He was down to such little lung capacity over the past few years that he was on oxygen constantly. Not part of the time. Not a CPAP. He was hooked up to tanks or clinic-building-plumbed pure O2. His cardiac function could barely support his body while lounging, propped up…
And he KEPT MOVING. He kept trying. He kept hoping. He kept working. He got on the pedal bike or walked every day, despite the protests of his aching muscles and joints and body. Two to three years ago his pulmonologist told him to get his affairs in order, he maybe had a few months, and there’s nothing anyone can do for him.
He came back almost a year and 50lbs lighter, asking if he were a candidate for lung transplant. In awe, his physicians said if he could pierce below the hospital’s BMI metric for organ transplant, consider it done.
Long shot. One in 8 billion long shot. It didn’t happen. But it could’ve. He was closer now than before. And he outstripped all prognoses.
I make it a point to tell people how amazing they are long before the end, just in case, especially with the types of clients I gravitate toward. I leave nothing unsaid. Thus, these last words in a text exchange may seem even trite, everyday, NOT profound.
We were still scheduling. We were still looking forward. Is there any last word more meaningful? I don’t think so.