'To gain that independence back is huge.'
New Edmonton centre aims to offer intensive active-based programs for people who use wheelchairs.
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The first time Bean Gill went to the gym after a getting paralyzed from the waist down, she ensured her make-up was impeccable.
“I wore full make up for a long time while going to the gym because it gave me the confidence that I needed,” Gill said, laughing.
“Even going to the gym as an able-bodied person is intimidating. But when you have a disability? It’s ten fold.”
Bean is working to help others using wheelchairs gain the confidence she's built through working out by opening ReYu Paralysis Recovery Centre in Edmonton next month.
The centre will offer intensive gym-based workouts for people using wheelchairs, which Gill said have become popular in the U.S. and Europe for those using the chairs, but haven't taken off in Canada.
Gill's trainer, Nancy Morrow, is part of the project and said it will offer clients another tool to push their boundaries.
“It’s a shift in thinking,” Morrow said. “With people with spinal cord injuries the previous thought was that you’re not going to get better so just learn to live with what you have.”
Gill agreed, and said she wants to change that stigma. "It’s not 1920. Our life expectancy is just as high as an able-bodied person,” she said.
She and Marrow have also started a Youtube channel for the Centre featuring Gill giving life and fashion tips for “wheelie life,” as she calls it, like how to choose bags that don’t fall off your lap, and trim shirts so they look better when sitting.
These are all lessons Gill has learned in the last few years.
While on vacation in Las Vegas, Gill was in her hotel room when she was hit by, “the most excruciating pain I’d ever felt in my life” — in her lower back.
Ten minutes later she was paralyzed.
Her doctor's diagnosed her with Tranverse Myeliti, an inflammation of the spinal cord her doctors said was most likely caused by a virus.
She said she struggled to feel like herself, and for months “hated everything” about her life.
“In the beginning I couldn’t even transfer myself from my chair to my bed or my shower, my brother and my mom had to transfer me everywhere,” Gill said.
She found herself through getting stronger.
Gill's in the gym most days now, with Morrow, working through planks, push ups and crunches.
“I didn’t consider myself an athlete before,” Gill said. “But I definitely do now.”
“I can unload the dishwasher, I can cook my own food, I can pick things off the ground, I can pick myself up off the ground without worrying about injuring myself,” Gill said.
“To gain that independence back is huge,” she said.