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Steps toward recovery

A Saugus man, paralyzed from the neck down, works to regain his life

Posted: November 27, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: November 27, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Tom Bolewski crosses the finish line on a trough walker at the Santa Clarita Marathon on Nov. 4. He is assisted by, from left, wife Kim Bolewski, Taylor-Kevin Isaacs and Brittney Barfield of the Center of Restorative Exercise, and son Danny.

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For Saugus resident Tom Bolewski, even getting up in the morning is a workout.

Bolewski is a quadriplegic and has been classified paralyzed from the neck down since a dirt bike accident in January 2008.

After months of therapy and years of training, he can now do some things most quadriplegics can’t.

Every day serves as both another small step on the road to recovery and a reminder of how far he still has to go, Bolewski said Friday.

One such step took place at this year’s Santa Clarita Marathon on Nov. 4, where Bolewski took a step across the finish line for the second time in the last three years.

“It’s a real battle to try and relearn some of the things you need to when coming back from a spinal cord injury,” he said. “But it’s all just a part of recovering.”

The future prospect of being able to walk again means quite a bit of driving.

Bolewski commutes to Northridge three times a week to receive training and use the equipment at the Center of Restorative Exercise, a relatively new establishment that caters to those with limited mobility.

Bolewski is a self-described “gym rat,” but much of the equipment found at a typical gym is not designed for those recovering from spinal cord injuries.

Even those that can help may be difficult to maneuver to and to operate while in a wheelchair.

Much of the specialized equipment and training Bolewski uses is also expensive, even prohibitively so for a local gym.

“It was a real shock from being a successful business owner to living on what basically amounts to a fixed income,” Bolewski said of his life since the accident.

The Bolewski family holds fundraisers at least once a year to help cover the costs associated with his recovery.

And though the training is costly and the commute inconvenient, Bolewski says what he gets out of the exercise is priceless.

“Without the support we receive, I would not be able to afford going to work out,” Bolewski said. “But without going to work out, I also wouldn’t be able to get back on my feet.”




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