Tag: life changing

Charlie LeBlanc

By Andy Sharry and Meg Paradis
Worcester Fitness
 
Charles “Charlie” LeBlanc is a long time, valued member of the Worcester Fitness family dating back to 2000. His smiling face is a staple in our evening indoor cycling classes. He rides hard, but does so with good nature, high spirit and positive vibe. When not in the spin room, Charlie, 59, works diligently in the weight room to maintain his broad shoulders, barrel chest and overall imposing stature. “Charlie is an extremely deep caring, gentle giant’, says Worcester FItness Spin Instructor Meg Paradise.
 
“There is a song that I play as a cool down after spin class called "Humble and Kind". Whenever it plays, he lights up and says to everyone "This song is what it is all about."

Spending time around Charlie, you would never guess that his life story includes a very serious accident that nearly ended his life. As you’ll read, this tragic accident never stole away his faith that he would once again return to health and strength.
 
In July of 2002, Charlie and his friend went on a 14 mile bike ride in the late afternoon hours. Before leaving, he spoke with his wife, and left a message on his mother’s answering machine expressing his love for both. “One thing that this experience has taught me is to never leave anything unsaid. I love you could have been my last words my wife and mother heard from me.”

 
Charlie was travelling 40 mph as he rounded a bend in the road coming from a shaded area to bright sunlight area. There he saw a Dodge Ram pickup stopped in the left lane coming up the hill with its left directional on. Unfortunately, he never saw Charlie and accelerated into the turn. Charlie considered going around the back of the truck but there was traffic coming down the hill and didn’t want to get hit broadside, so he tried to make the turn with the truck. He collided with the truck just at the front fender. “My head hit the windshield and shoulders and upper chest took most of the impact.”, said Charlie. To this day, he really doesn’t remember much of the accident just yelling “NO” immediately before the collision occurred.
 
Moments later Charlie was discovered lying face up on top of his bike, covered in blood. The EMT found that his carotid artery on the left side of his neck was cut. Thankfully, the quick thinking EMT placed his fingers into his neck and straightened the artery, packed the wound and placed him in the ambulance
 
In the accident, Charlie cracked the windshield with his head, bent the windshield strut, took off the outside mirror, blew in the passenger window and crushed in the passenger door. Local police commented that the damage to the large pickup truck was very similar to the damage done when a car strikes a moose. Charlie credits his diligent work in the weight room at Worcester Fitness for saving his life, “This is where the strength training played an important role in my survival. At the time of the accident I was 6’ and weighed 230 lbs with about 12% body fat and I’m certain that my size and strength helped absorb the impact”
 
Charlie had broken the odontoid bone in his neck, fractured his jaw in three places, broke his right collarbone, separated his left shoulder, broke all ribs, collapsed both lungs, bruised his heart and cerebellum, and had a stroke to his brain stem. The doctors gave him a less than a 50% chance for survival and he received last rites several times over the next few days and flatlined a few times that first week.
 

Within a few weeks, Charlie was moved to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and was in a coma for more than a month. He and his family were informed that he would most likely be a quadriplegic and might have permanent brain damage. His robust weight went from 230lbs down to 180lbs, but Charlie was rapidly showing vast improvements in his motor skills. He amazed his family and doctors with how quickly he healed and improved. 6 weeks after the accident, he was transported to Fairlawn Rehabilitation in Worcester, MA where he learned how to walk again. In typical Charlie fashion, by the end of the first week he had discarded his walker for a cane and was mobile again. Finally, he was able to eat solid food, and gained back some of the weight that he had lost. Charlie used his time in the rehab hospital to do some deep thinking, “I could sit there and pity myself or thank God for letting me live. I prayed and told God that if this were how I would have to live my life I’d make the best of it.”
 
Eight months following the accident, Charlie’s returned to his pre-accident weight of 230 pounds, was riding the stationary bike and elliptical machine for 1 hour. The nerves in his leg were showing signs of regeneration and he was totally off all medications. Within no time, Charlie was back outside on his bike, riding for fun and for charity in races like the Great Mass Getaway for Multiple Sclerosis . Once again, he was riding 30, 50, 75 mile rides. “I can attribute my amazing recovery to the incredible people and spin classes at Worcester Fitness. I was fit before my accident, and I know that my high level of fitness helped me recover fully and quickly.”

When Charlie looks back over all that has happened in the 15 years since the accident, he says that all his experiences and relationships with friends and family have all been affected positively. “Several people have told me that this must have been the worst year of my life, and my answer to them is "It was the best year of my life". "I'm Still Here! Miracles Do Happen!” When asked about Charlie, Worcester Fitness Personal Trainer and Group Exercise Instructor Denleigh Grniet said, “ Charlie teaches us how important it is to ask if what is bothering us now really makes a difference. If it won’t matter in 5 months, we should just let it go, focusing on staying positive and gracious.”
 
We at Worcester Fitness are thrilled to have played a role in Charlie’s recovery and return to strength. We love having him as part of our family and are inspired by his strength and resiliency he’s shown for the years since his accident. According to Meg, “Charlie is an amazing guy. It's an honor to know him, and hear his incredible story of strength and survival.”