Standing With Tom: One Man's Struggle To Walk Again
Santa Clarita resident Tom Bolewski has seen his life change a lot the last two years.
He used to spend most of his days involved in a variety of athletics and he became a well known parent/coach of his children's sports teams. As of late 2007, Tom was bicycling with the Santa Clarita Velo club over 100 miles per week.
In an instant, however his ability to do all of those things would seemingly vanish.
It was January 20th, 2008, while riding dirt bikes with his children in the desert that Tom was involved in an accident where he flew over the handle bars of his bike and into an embankment head-first. He suffered a broken back, massive injuries to his facial bones and severe trauma to his spinal chord, which caused paralysis.
Doctors offered mixed prognosis, with many saying that he would never again be able to walk on his own.
But Tom and his family had other ideas.
"Just because you pay a doctor to give a prognosis doesn't mean it's the end of the line," said Kim Bolewski, who has been married to Tom since 1984.
Together, Tom and the family made a conscious decision to get better no matter how hard it was.
"I realized that he was getting better, he was healthy and was gaining strength. Once we realized that, there were no questions, there were no problems...it was just another challenge. And I think that if you're willing to put the energy into it and if you have the right frame of mind, I really believe anything is possible."
With much support from his family and the community, specifically the Mountain View area in Saugus, Tom has displayed tremendous progress since the accident.
He is breathing on his own, without the use of a ventilator and can now stand for a few moments during physical therapy. While in a pool, Tom can even walk.
Furthermore, Tom has accepted a challenge from his trainer Taylor Isaacs to participate in the LA Marathon.
Such an idea isn't as far fetched as you might think, as Isaacs has already been by the side of several disabled people who have accomplished just such a feat. He organized an official LA Marathon Group called Team Rise Above, which expects to have 30 members participate in this year's marathon, each of which was told they would never walk again.
To celebrate Tom's success, and to raise money for some equipment, his family and community are holding a BBQ Concert in the Park on May 24th at Mountain View Community Park in Saugus. The event will run from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and it will feature live music, a car show, fire truck rides and "Mountain View Chili Dogs."
Team Rise Above will also be on hand for the celebration and organizers hope the event will serve as their official send-off for the LA Marathon.
Tom will be joining the team at the Marathon and hopes to take his first steps on land that day.
One of the reason's that will be such a big accomplishment is because Tom has to learn to walk all over again, not just physically but mentally as well.
"People always say to us ‘oh, he's getting it back,'" Kim said. "He's not getting back. He's building new neural pathways and building new connections to do what he's doing."
While Tom has come a long way, Kim says that the work is far from done.
"It's a lot of work and a lot of baby steps but what else are we going to do? Are we going to just sit down and not do anything? I don't think so."
The BBQ event is the second of its kind thrown by the family. Last year they were able to raise enough funds to help purchase a wheelchair-accessible van for Tom.
To learn more about how you can participate in the May 24th event, or to donate to Tom's recovery, check out www.tomsrecovery.com.