Flip Your Script

John J. Schessler, Wellness Coach/Personal Trainer

Playing Your Cards….

Hello friends! Since beginning this blog a few weeks ago it occurred to me, “Do the people who read my articles and such know WHO I really am?” Of course not because I really haven’t introduced myself in a formal way to y’all. I’m a bit of a storyteller if you haven’t noticed and my life is full of them. So sit, relax and read about my fitness revelation and finding my purpose in life.

In June of 1992, I was a normal ten year old kid, growing up in a small suburb outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I was super excited because school was out for the summer and not having any responsibilities for the next three months was a feeling that everybody could relate to at that time. Anyway, I was walking home one afternoon from the park with some friends and I just felt ‘blah’. I told my mom when I got home, took some Tylenol and laid down for a nap. When I woke up some time later, my temperature had risen to around 105 or 106 degrees. Soon after, I was on my way with my parents to the emergency room at a local hospital. At the emergency room, it was instructed by the medical staff that I was to be transported by helicopter or lifeflighted, as we say in Pittsburgh, to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh for further testing and observation. As the helicopter started its journey, I was about to begin a long one of my own.

En route to the hospital, the next blow to me was delivered and it was a big one. I fell into a coma, where I would remain for around six weeks. I have been asked at times if I remember what it was like being in a coma and my honest answer is it’s like taking a long sleep. Now keep in mind that this happened 30 years ago (?!!!) so my memory isn’t as fresh with the details at this point, lol.

Contrary to what you have seen in the movies and on television, waking up from a coma is not instantaneous. It’s a very gradual thing that can take days up to weeks for the person to be fully awake and aware of his/her surroundings, if at all. This is where the story gets blurry for me….at least for a while so most of what you are about to read is pieced together from family re-tellings, etc. Initially after waking up from the coma, the next couple of weeks were filled with testings, being poked, prodded and stuck with needles, drawing blood and trying to find what was the cause of my full-body paralysis. You read that correctly, I was paralyzed from the neck down. I was unable to walk, talk, eat, breathe, etc. on my own and had mostly machines and people doing everything for me. I was an inpatient at Children’s Hospital for about six weeks. When it came time for the doctor’s to decide what the next steps for me would be, my family told me I was being transferred to another facility. It was called The Rehabilitation Institute of Pittsburgh, or TRI.

Up until this point, no definitive diagnosis was made by medical teams who were treating me due to the wide range of symptoms that I was experiencing. Those symptoms mimicked a number of diseases or disorders and in 1992, medical technology wasn’t as advanced as it is in 2022. Upon coming to TRI, I was placed in isolation for a solid month. What that means is nobody but approved people were to enter my room so that basically meant I was having quality time with Bob, my nurse, my parents, grandparents and some friends but it was minimal. In those alone times in isolation, which was a lot, I either spent my time, watching taped episodes of The Simpsons, which at the time was a relatively new show, lol. I also spent some of the time wondering how the hell I got into this situation and if I ever was going to lead a ‘normal’ life. What if things got worse? What if I die??! It’s a heavy prospect for someone to think about, especially at that young of an age.

After I was out of isolation, I was transferred to a ‘step-down’ unit where I was living with other patients who had varying diagnoses. Some of the patients I still remember to this day because this part of the story, I was fully aware of who I was, where I was and what was going on….for the most part anyway. It was at this point that I started my therapies daily too…..speech/language, physical and occupational therapy every single day. I didn’t know it at the time but exposure to these therapies, especially physical therapy would play a huge role in my professional life as an adult. After about three or four months of attending therapy and going to the day school at the Institute, I was to be discharged around the end of October of the same year.

Something to keep in mind here is that when a person gets discharged from a hospital or medical environment, that doesn’t mean everything about the individual is perfectly normal. All that being discharged means is that the person is physically able to start acclimating themself back in their normal routine or have modifications in place to make things easier. Physically, I had gone from being in a wheelchair, to crutches to walking, and not perfect either. I had braces on my legs and arms that helped widen my gait when I walked and when I tried to use my hands. Mentally, everything had started to slowly fall into place and I mean, S-L-O-W-L-Y. I wasn’t the same kid that I was prior to all of this happening. It was like I stepped through a mirror and came out on the other side a completely different person.

Me with my mentor and friend, Jimmy.

Let’s fast forward to 2009, shall we? I had graduated college with a Social Work degree and was working in education as an instructional assistant at the time in a local school district when I got a call about an interview I went on. I had interviewed to be a teacher’s aide at the Rehabilitation Institute, the same place that I was a patient at all those years prior. For me this was a coming into full circle kind of moment and for the next six years, I went onto to be employed there. It was when I was working at the Institute that I found a new appreciation for my own journey as a patient there with my battle with Guillian-Barre Syndrome. Working alongside both physical and occupational therapists, I was able to pick up and learn how to work with physically disabled children, how to help them use and strengthen there gross and fine motor skills through different kind of activities as well as venturing into the community for life skills development. During my own leisure, I had been a member of a local gym in college where I met my now-mentor and good buddy, Jimmy who was my first personal trainer. I loved every minute of our sessions because I was developing my body in a way that I never though I was going to be able to as a kid.

To sum this whole story up, you never know what cards life is going to hand you but you have to play the ones you’re dealt. My cards that I had to play at first had appeared like the odds were against me but over time, they seemed to have worked out in my favor. Our individual journey’s almost never turn out the way we dream that they will and that’s 100% okay because what we want and what has been already written for us never add up to the same end goal. If i hadn’t gone through this experience as a kid, who knows where I would have ended up or what I would be doing with my life. As I turn 40 this year, I can now look back with pride on a time in my life where literally it was do or die because no one could help me get better, I had to rely on myself to lift me up. I now use this story as motivation with my clients because, and it’s very cliche but if I can get through all of that, there’s nothing that anybody can’t accomplish with assistance.

So that’s the end of my very personal journey on how I became to be the personal trainer, wellness coach and positive influencer on people that I have become and I think I do an awesome job. Keep in mind, no matter what you’re are currently going through, no matter how bad your situation is right now, something great could be coming out of that bad situation. I’m living proof that your story can’t be rewritten at any point. Just grab hold of the pen and begin to write an awesome second edition!

#overcomingtheodds #fitnessjourney #guillianbarresyndrome #survivor #personaltrainer #wellnesscoach #storyteller #actor #podcast #podcastersofinstagram #hope #tenacity #love #motivation #appreciation #development #creativity #fitfam #journey #disease #uplifting #bed10 #GBS #encephalitis #physicaltherapy #education #trending #foryou #fyp #foryourpage

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: