Man over­comes se­vere nerve dis­or­der to walk, bike, kayak, jug­gle again

Star-Telegram (Sunday) - - Local&texas - BY NI­CHOLAS SAKELARIS Spe­cial to the Star-Tele­gram

Three years ago, Bob Neu­man started to lose feel­ing in his feet be­cause of a nerve dis­or­der.

As the id­io­pathic neu­ropa­thy took hold, sim­ple things like get­ting dressed be­came dif­fi­cult or even dan­ger­ous.

“My feet have gone to­tally dead, no feel­ing at all for the rest of my life,” Neu­man said.

The con­di­tion wors­ened when his big toe got in­fected al­most all the way to the bone. The treat­ment, which in­cluded skin trans­plants, left him bed bound for months on end.

The man who ran marathons, worked un­der­cover as a Dal­las nar­cotics of­fi­cer and taught him­self how to be a pro­fes­sional jug­gler could barely walk for a year and a half.

Mus­cle at­ro­phy made things even worse as he re­signed him­self to this fate in his mid-60s.

This was go­ing to be his re­tire­ment.

Per­haps the most frus­trat­ing part was not be­ing able to keep up with his grand­chil­dren or even feel safe car­ry­ing them up­stairs.

“I just thought I’d have to get used to hav­ing a lim­ited lifestyle,” he said. “I used to walk 2 or 3 miles a cou­ple times a week but the walk­ing be­came very un­com­fort­able be­cause I re­ally had to con­cen­trate on lift­ing my foot up.”

His life changed when he met Ch­eryl Till, a geri­atric-cer­ti­fied phys­i­cal ther­a­pist at Texas Health Ar­ling­ton Memorial. Till was host­ing a sem­i­nar on bal­ance one day but Neu­man asked her af­ter­wards if she could help him with his nerve dam­age.

She as­sured him that they could get his mus­cles back up to strength with the proper ex­er­cises. Neu­man got the re­fer­ral from his doc­tor and started the

re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion process in Jan­uary.

Till doesn’t take no for an an­swer — in­stead she finds some­thing that will mo­ti­vate the pa­tient, a goal she can use as a car­rot.

“They say, ‘I’m a geri­atric pa­tient.’ No. No. No. You can get that back at any age but more im­por­tantly as a per­son ages you have to push it harder,” she said.

Neu­man’s goal was to get his ac­tive lifestyle back.

He started with a yel­low re­sis­tance belt, the eas­i­est, do­ing sim­ple ex­er­cises to bring strength back to his toes and an­kles. Over a mat­ter of months he moved up to black belt, the strong­est belt.

“We started with high reps and low loads to give in­put to the mus­cles but not cause di­min­ished over­all func­tion,” Till said. “I didn’t want to work him so hard that he then had to be off his feet for two days.”

When he used to walk, he’d feel like he was on un­sta­ble ground but it was be­cause his an­kles were rolling over without him know­ing it. He started wear­ing skate­board­ing shoes to slowly help him re­gain his bal­ance.

He did learn to walk again, even without be­ing able to feel his feet. Till had him prac­tice stand­ing flat with his eyes closed so he could teach him­self how to bal­ance, the key to jug­gling.

“Our body is able to coun­ter­act for some­thing be­low the knees,” Till said. “If he can up­train the in­ner ear, he can up­train his joints so he’s con­cen­trat­ing on that, you can com­pen­sate for that.”

It’s sim­i­lar to how a blind per­son height­ens the other senses.

Now 11 months later, Neu­man is back to bi­cy­cling, kayak­ing and jug­gling. He’s teach­ing a jug­gling class to spe­cial­needs stu­dents at Spe­cial Con­nex­ion 2, an adult day camp run by Ad­vo­cates for Spe­cial Peo­ple.

“I never thought I’d be able to jug­gle again,” he said. “I was very dis­cour­aged. I used to go to sev­eral jug­gling events around the coun­try ev­ery year. That was a big part of my life.”

Now, his only re­gret is not do­ing phys­i­cal ther­apy sooner.

For Till, these suc­cess sto­ries are a tes­ta­ment to the hu­man body and spirit.

“Ev­ery day it’s amaz­ing,” she said.

NI­CHOLAS SAKELARIS Spe­cial to the Star-Tel­gram

Bob Neu­man, right, who suf­fered from a nerve dis­or­der, has re­gained his ac­tive lifestyle with the help of Ch­eryl Till, a geri­atric-cer­ti­fied phys­i­cal ther­a­pist at Texas Health Ar­ling­ton Memorial.

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