Emory University has a program called the Volunteer Emory Alternative Break Program, which sends students on trips to various communities in the country and even abroad to work on service projects and learn about social justice issue. Recently, a group of students from that program “Our Alternative Fall Break” made a trip to Savannah to focus on the topic of health inequity and the sociological construction of diseases. Their study was performed during one of the Spinal Cord Injury sessions held at the Habersham St. YMCA .
“We were fortunate to have a discussion and assist the members of the Spinal Cord Injury Program on their exercise routines. It was truly an incredible experience to hear their stories about disabilities services and the struggle they faced to seek for affordable physical therapy,” said Chi Le, a student from the program.
In March of 2005, the Habersham YMCA, a branch of the YMCA of Coastal Georgia, met Johnny Bryant. Johnny, now 51, became a quadriplegic in 1997 after slipping on some ice in his kitchen. After exhausting all of his available insurance and physical therapy options, Johnny spent nine years completely immobile from the shoulders down. Today, after much hard work and rigorous physical training, Johnny is walking with the aide of a walker and enjoying a much more independent life. Much of Johnny’s therapy at the YMCA was subsidized by the YMCA’s financial assistance program which guarantees that no one will be turned away to the inability to pay for program or membership fees. Johnny Bryant was just the first person living as a quadriplegic that the Y has been able to help. When Michael Mahany, a C3 quadriplegic came to the YMCA to begin his physical training he had been told he would spend the rest of his lift in a wheelchair with no use of his arms and in need of 24/7 assistance. Today he too is walking with assistance and enjoys the ability to do things like, “reach up and scratch his nose when it itches.”
The participants are coached by Michael Jackson, YMCA Trainer. The YMCA of Coastal Georgia’s Habersham YMCA recognized a strong need to expand the physical training program that has already given both Johnny and Michael so much hope. The Y, along with the help of both Michael and Johnny, has put together a Spinal Cord Injury/Stroke Personal Training program (SPIS) that will provide programming for people living with quadriplegia, paraplegia, and people recovering from a stroke but whose spinal cord as not been severed. There are approximately 2,360 individuals living in and around the Savannah, Georgia are who are living with paralysis-causing conditions and could possibly benefit from the program.
The Y recognizes that many of the people who need this program the most might not have easy access to transportation or the means to contribute towards their physical training. With the help of the financial assistance program at the YMCA, and fundraising efforts for the project, the Y will be able to provide assistance to those with financial constraints. The Y is also seeking out volunteers who will be willing to help with transportation.
For further information on this program contact Habersham YMCA, 354-6223.