Steve Hardy leans forward and balances his upper body, pressing his fists into the couch. "So I do it like this?" he asks, on tightened elbows.
"Right, you’ve got it. Now just bring it up here," replies his coach, leaning from his stool to guide Hardy toward a waiting wheelchair.
His coach, physical therapy assistant Brian Mazoyer, helps during the first of four free classes on wheelchair skills at Banner Good Samaritan Rehabilitation Institute in Phoenix.
The skills Hardy gains will change his life, he said. "Or maybe a better way to put it, it’s bringing back my old life."
Hardy, a Phoenix resident, has always been active. The car crash 14 months ago that landed him in his wheelchair would have discouraged many. "I’m alive. I’m not ready to give up," he said.
Hardy had a difficult time adapting to his new life, and he credits the coaches at Banner with helping him adjust.
Mazoyer started the workshops to teach skills many spinal cord patients may not have the opportunity to learn in a hospital setting. This is why the clinic is taught — coached, really — by Mazoyer and wheelchair veterans.
Teachers include Gary Venjohn, coach and executive director of the Banner Wheelchair Suns; and Stephen Lusby, coach of the wheelchair rugby team at Arizona State University. Both men have been in wheelchairs for more than 20 years, and both view the change as a blessing.
A businessman before his accident 27 years ago, Venjohn pursued a psychology degree after the accident — and now coaches the Banner Wheelchair Suns and serves as an advocate for patients with spinal cord injuries.
Lusby, of Gilbert, said his life has been enhanced through his experiences since a trampoline accident 25 years ago left him an incomplete quadriplegic, with only limited use of his arms and legs. He uses his experience to teach others, and is enriched in the process, he said.
The next clinic, which runs 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, will focus on adjusting and maintaining the wheelchair for peak performance. The clinics are offered at the Banner Good Samaritan Rehabilitation Institute, 1012 E. Willetta in Phoenix. Information: (602) 239-5929 or (602) 790-7909.