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Gym specifically for spinal cord injury clients draws from throughout Northeast Ohio

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Spinal Cord Injury:

Gym is owned by spinal injury victim

VALLEY VIEW, Ohio – The gym had several people working out. The weights were clanking up an down as arm muscles were being pumped up. There was laughter as those working out were pushing each other to continue with the weights or pieces of equipment designed to strengthen bodies.

The owner of Buckeye Wellness Center in Valley View, a suburb of Cleveland, watched intently and offered advice to his clients. Every one of the clients came into the gym either in a wheelchair or on a walker. Each was a client dealing with a spinal cord injury which caused a paralysis or partial paralysis.

The owner of the gym, Chris Wynn, knew what each felt. He, too, suffered a spinal cord injury. Wynn wheeled himself through his gym in his wheelchair.

“I’ve learned quite a lot in the 22 years that I’ve been in a chair,” said Wynn, 44. who was injured in 1993 in a swimming accident during his off-hours while he served in the U.S. Air Force. During the early weeks of his hospitalization, Wynn was on a ventilator and had no use of arms or legs. Doctors told him he would probably spend the rest of his life on the ventilator. He proved them wrong, discarding the ventilator and finding some movement again his arms.

He said when he left the Veterans Administration hospital, he could find no private gym nearby which could provide equipment and help geared specifically to spinal cord injury patients. So in 2011, he started his own. Buckeye Wellness Center is the only such facility outside of hospital walls in this region of the country.

“Once people do come here, i think the biggest thing that they do find is it’s a big peer support center where you feel at home,” said Wynn.

As he spoke from his wheelchair, on a table under the watchful eye of one of the center’s physical trainers, Ed Stitt was working his legs. A motorcycle accident several years ago caused his spinal cord injury. “I came here on a sip and puff,” said Stitt, describing the wheelchair which was guided his his blowing into a tube. “I really couldn’t move my hands and arms well at all,” he said.

Stitt has improved dramatically. He was moving his arms better and with help, working bicycle pedals. Stitt credits Buckeye Wellness Center with his increased physical mobility.

Kewin King was busy on the weight pulldown machine. For years, he had pumped iron in other gyms when he was a personal trainer. However, a spinal cord injury slowed him down. King said after his release from a hospital, he went online to find a place where he could train. Buckeye Wellness Center popped up on his computer screen. He credits the center as greatly improving his mobility.

“When I first got here, I had two braces,” he said. “Now I’m down to one.” King’s biceps bulged as, from his wheelchair, he pumped the iron.

However, what all the clients said they found in the center went beyond equipment. They found inspiration. They sang the praises of Wynn. “The way he gets up and goes and takes care of business every day,” said King.

“He has given me and a lot of others a huge opportunity to give us a better quality of life,” said Stitt.

Wynn’s wife, Susan, to whom he has been married for ten years, said her husband is on a mission. “He does not give up,” she said, as she watched him motor his wheelchair throughout the gym.

Chris Wynn is helping find people who have spinal cord injuries find new pathways of life. Wynn knows the way.

By: Leon Bibb

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