Monday, December 22, 2008

Making Miracles Happen: Challenge Center Takes the “Dis” Out of Disabilities

‘When I first had my stroke, I couldn’t speak or move my right side. I couldn’t walk,’ recalled Austin Junkin, 80, of Lemon Grove. ‘Now I can do anything. I lift 100 pounds with ease,’ he said, demonstrating his physical prowess by hoisting weights above his head inside the Challenge Center at Sunset Park in La Mesa. Challenge Center isn’t any ordinary gym. The facility specializes in helping severely disabled patients, including those with spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries, attain dramatic improvements even after other physical therapy programs have failed. ‘We heal people,’ said Bill Bodry, who founded Challenge Center in 1987 after suffering a spinal chord injury from a botched surgical procedure and finding no adequate facility for rehabilitation. ‘We see the miracles of physical therapy. Our total focus is on the disabled. Others only see these patients for 30 or 60 days,’ he noted, adding that many patients can only get insurance to cover six to twelve weeks. Bodry has emerged as a passionate advocate for the disabled and the importance of physical activity. ‘Lack of physical activity is the tenth leading cause of death and disability in the U.S., and the National Institute of Health (NIH) has no department of physical activity’ said Bodry, who has testified at the NIH, piquing the interests of national leaders in healthcare. In May, he will team up with the Old Mission Rotary Club to host a fiesta aimed at raising funds to purchase all new equipment in the aging facility. ‘It will put us on the map,’ he predicted, adding that doctors and therapists would be more apt to refer patients to a facility with state-of-the-art gear. Bodry’s dream is to see the program he founded at the Challenge Center replicated across the country. ‘That is my goal,’ he revealed, then concluded, ‘With the new administration, I am hopeful.’

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