Vester's Story: From Paralysis to Walking More than a Mile
From an article published in Points North Atlanta Magazine:
Take for instance, the story of Vester Lewis. The Murrayville resident and then-children’s minister at Hopewell Baptist Church went for a jog during his lunch break on a Wednesday in May of 2008. Suddenly, a drunk driver in a Pontiac Trans Am hit him.
“It cracked three ribs, destroyed my left knee, knocked a tooth out, punctured my lung – all kinds of good stuff,” Lewis said.
It took three days in the hospital to stabilize him before they could do surgery on his back. He had spinal swelling and when it came time to do post-operation therapy, he was paralyzed from the waist down.
During that time, he started out in an electric wheelchair then went to a wheelchair, then to a point where he could move his toe just a little, then his foot, then pretty much move from the waist down. But due to that spinal swelling, the nerves still weren’t communicating correctly.
“I had to think about it – take a step – and my balance was way off,” Lewis said. After many months, he came home on crutches, but was in and out of The Shepherd Center for therapy as well as met with a specialist for stretching and to monitor his diet. When this woman announced she would be moving, Lewis’ daughter – who previously had trained with Harris – suggested the two men meet.
“[Jim] was gracious enough to come all the way out to Braselton when I was working with this lady just to meet me and see what I was doing, which I thought was really super,” Lewis said. “He told me, ‘I think I can help you.’”
The first time Lewis came to Max Results, Harris had him stretch and find his “limits” — how many times the crash survivor could sit and stand. Eventually, he insisted Lewis use just one cane. Before training with Harris, Lewis had not walked unassisted for 6 years.
“[Over the course of a year,] he made me leave my cane and he had me walk up and down all kinds of terrain outside, with the [40-pound vest] on and with him behind me. He was pushing me to walk without it … and that was amazing. I ended up walking almost a mile and a half.”
Lewis didn’t stop there. At one point, they met three times a week, before tapering off to less frequent sessions.
“Any exercise he had, he said ‘You can do it.’ He and Marian are both just like [that]. They help anybody … I had confidence in him. He’s a big guy and I figured he could pick me up off the ground if he had to. So I tried everything that he asked me to do and there were so many things I ended up doing.”
Today, Lewis has returned to work at the church and still uses a cane, but can take steps around the house without any apparatus, something he said he would never have done without Harris and encouragement from his wife and daughter