Oxford resident John Paton learned to walk again after a serious spinal injury and his story made him a finalist in GoodLife Fitness Transformation Challenge

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John Paton remembers hearing that he only had a five to ten per cent chance of walking again.

The prognosis was bleak after a serious collision on Hwy. 401 left Paton with a spinal injury and confined to a wheelchair back in March 2014.

“I broke my back. I had to learn how to walk (again),” Paton said. “I had nerve damage, which I still have, in my left leg.”

He says his doctor basically glued him together – it took two rods and ten screws in his back – after the collision.

He spent two months in the hospital, and then another three months in physiotherapy.

Paton was determined to get on his feet again – literally.

“I went from a wheelchair to the walker to a cane,” Paton said. “That was my biggest goal, just to get out of that wheelchair.”

Eventually it was time for next steps.

“After physio up in Parkwood, they had done all they could do in terms of my advancement. They asked me to go around and check out some gyms…I said ‘let’s give it a whirl,” Paton said.

After some research, he picked GoodLife.

“When I first got here, I couldn’t step up on steps,” Paton said. “It seems silly, but that’s what it was. To bend over and pick something up off the floor, I couldn’t do that.”

Before the collision, Paton, who farms near Mount Elgin, never set foot in the gym. Now he’s hitting GoodLife five days a week – no excuses.

“I don’t have a choice now, I have to come,” he said. “This is just a part of life now.”

And the journey was nothing if not transformational.

When he first started at GoodLife, Paton was parking in the handicapped spot and his wife carried his gym bag inside.

Now he parks where he pleases and person trainer Jeremy Cocchetto puts him through the paces.

Upper and lower body strength training, building up strength in that left leg – still numb thanks to the nerve damage – and walking on the treadmill, all with the goal to improve Paton’s quality of life.

“We try to incorporate activities that are going to help with John’s everyday movements, to make sure he can get through a regular day and not have difficulty doing some of those things that we take for granted, such as walking or bending down to pick something up, taking stairs,” said Cocchetto.

The pair also focuses on education, learning the best exercises to target Paton’s areas of weakness.

“A lot of them John can do just fine, and some others we have to make modifications to make sure it works for him,” Cocchetto said.

“That’s really what it comes down to, just making sure it’s safe for John, and effective.”

Paton didn’t jump into action when he heard about GoodLife’s Transformation Challenge.

“I said, ‘yeah, I’ll think about it,’” Paton said with a chuckle.

But he warmed up to the idea, Cochetto said.

Now, he’s one of the top eight finalists from across the country.

“I’m very proud of where he’s been able to get himself,” Cocchetto said. “This was never part of his lifestyle prior to the accident.”

But Paton’s not done yet.

He wants to continue strengthening his left leg, and bumping up the time on the treadmill.

Looking back to his level of movement and mobility just a few years ago after the collision, even the humble Paton can admit that the progress is something special.

“It’s unbelievable.”




Voting runs until Dec. 9.

Go to www.transformationchallenge.ca and vote for “John P.”

The winner receives $1,000 cash prize, and $500 for their trainer.





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