Photo by Matt Wong spinal cord injury rehabPhotos by Matt Wong

After 25 years as a T9-10 para, Joanne Petersen worried that her doctor’s prognosis in 2009 had written her future. At 49, her shoulders were giving out, she could no longer raise her arms above her head, and she couldn’t get her chair in and out of her car anymore. She was in constant pain. Her doctor diagnosed her with spinal stenosis, or narrowing of the spine, and scheduled her for surgery. In the meantime she relied on pain pills and sleep medication, but still was unable to rest horizontally.

“Is this just what happens after 25 years of being in a chair?” she wondered. “Am I going to just stay home and not do anything and live in pain and try to deal with it?”

With only days before her scheduled surgery, a friend suggested she consult with ADAPT Training, a gym near her Portland, Ore., home that specialized in spinal cord injuries. His persistence and her desire to avoid surgery overcame her skepticism, and she scheduled a visit. The lead trainer studied Peterson’s X-rays, discussed her issues, evaluated her physically and concluded ADAPT might be able to help.