Near-term goal is to walk again

Published: December 27, 2006  |  Source: oregonlive.com
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Last year: The Oregon native was in his sophomore year at Oregon State University, working on a business major (finance management) and playing baseball. He weighed 195 pounds with about 6 percent body fat.

This year: Summers is at home with his parents and younger brother, dealing with what he calls “just a little detour.”

Fitness history: He’s always been an athlete, and baseball has always been his No. 1 game. He’s been playing on championship teams since he was 9 years old. He played football, basketball and soccer as well, but it was baseball he saw as a possible professional career. On the evening of July 12 he was in the Hawthorne district, reaching into his car for his workout bag, when a car came flying around the corner. He looked up just in time to see headlights. He woke up in the middle of the street and stayed conscious long enough to drag himself to the side, using his shoulders. He woke up a day later in the hospital.

His left ankle was shattered and his spinal cord was injured. The driver didn’t stop, and all Summers can remember is a small dark sedan. He had surgery on his ankle and had his neck fused. His two months in the hospital included six weeks in the Rehabilitation Institute of Oregon.

Now in a wheelchair, Summers says he’s been hit harder playing football; it’s just that the hit-and-run caused him to land on his neck.

Current workout: He tried a conventional gym but found a better fit at the nonprofit Project Walk Spinal Cord Injury Recovery Center (www.projectwalk.org). He works out with two trainers, three days a week for 21/2 hours. He says he’s “coming back fast” and his doctor is pleased.

His path to re-establishing communication between spinal cord and legs involves a varied workout. He starts out on the floor, warming his shoulders up with pullovers and elbow curls. Trainers have him use visualization as they move his legs in different directions. He uses a Total Gym, works on sitting up and balancing and does sit-ups. Back on the floor, he is now able to get onto his hands and knees unassisted. He does dog pushups, knuckle pushups and leg extensions. Yoga positions also are included. He uses a stationary bike, with assistance, and does 1,000 meters on a rowing machine. (“They like to torture me with that one,” he says.) He recently was able to do a handstand — a huge accomplishment. His workouts leave him exhausted.

Nutrition: Summers was into good nutrition even before his accident. He was used to eating six times a day. His current diet is high-protein; he wants to gain lean muscle mass but not get too bulky. He eats four small meals a day of meat, produce and “good carbs.” He drinks juice and a lot of water.

He’s off all pain medication, including aspirin. He doesn’t want any returning sensation to be dulled. He takes a multi-vitamin plus extra vitamins B,C and E. He takes omega-3 oil, glucosamine and MSM.

In the future? His ultimate goal is to be back on a field playing baseball. His trainers predict that he’ll walk in a matter of months. He’s gained leg muscle and is regaining temperature sensation in his legs.

And the hit-and-run driver? “The only thing I can hope,” says Summers, “is that it was dark and the driver didn’t know they hit a person. This experience is really showing me what matters in life and how much I can overcome.”

If you’d like to share your workout with readers — or know someone whose workout you’d like to read about — send name, age, daytime phone number and workout details to Nancy Dow, My Workout, The Oregonian, 1320 S.W. Broadway, Portland, OR, 97201 or send a fax to 503-294-4039. We encourage submission of one or two recent, high-quality digital photos of you working out, with captions, along with your workout details. Digital images should be at least 3.2 megabytes. Photos should be well-lighted, in focus and with sharp resolution. Indoor photos should be taken with flash.

NANCY DOW / The Oregonian