Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 19, 2006
Determined therapist devises new treatment
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Janet Greer is a professional exercise therapist and fitness consultant who believes in sharing the gifts God has given her.
For the past three years, Greer, a mother of two, has been volunteering as exercise therapist for Barbara Garnett, a client of Catholic Social Services' independent living program.
Garnett, who has cerebral palsy, works out at Grant MacEwan Wellness Centre and thanks to Greer's assistance, she now has more strength and mobility. Proof of that? She now uses her canes to get around more than her power wheelchair. Never satisfied, Greer is even attempting to modify the cross trainer so persons with limited mobility can use the machine.
In recognition of her efforts, Greer was presented with an outstanding volunteer award before 300 people at Catholic Social Services' 44th annual general meeting at Hotel MacDonald June 9. Five others received similar awards.
"Janet is an example to all of us that one person can make a significant and positive difference in a person's life," said Deanne Waters, her supervisor. "She is caring and giving; we are lucky to have her in our agency."
Greer said she feels honoured by the award but that's not what drives her.
"I am a humble servant and this is an opportunity to use the skills and talents that God's given me for the benefit of others," she said. "Through my life I have on occasion lost the capacity to do physical activity and I know that's challenging. Barb needs help physically and what I know and what I do can help her. My goal is to help Barb improve the quality of her life."
Garnett thinks Greer deserves the award. "She is a wonderful person," she said. "She has helped me in more ways than I can name. She's helped me maintain my mobility."
Greer began working in rehabilitation therapy in 1987 following university. She has her own practice, Advance Fitness Ltd., where she works with people with disabilities or who have been injured at work or in automobile accidents.
Three years ago, her life was in shambles after having been assaulted by her partner and having suffered a stroke. She didn't know what direction her life was going to take. Then she saw a Catholic Social Services' ad seeking a swimming buddy.
"I thought, 'I can do this,'" she recalled.
She answered the ad and on May 9, 2003, she began working as a volunteer swimming therapy support aid for Garnett, 40. At that time, Garnett was in swimming therapy class and needed assistance to do some of the exercises as well as to get in and out of the pool.
When Greer realized swimming wasn't helping Garnett as expected, she started "strength training" with Garnett at Grant MacEwan Wellness Centre, with free passes Garnett's dad had given her.
When the passes ran out, Greer helped Garnett get financial assistance from the Cerebral Palsy Association so she could continue exercising at Grant MacEwan.
As Garnett's strength increases, she is able to move on to more difficult machines. "The biggest part of the success has been Barb's courage and willingness to try," Greer noted. "She has so much courage. She has never said no to any exercise; anything we have suggested she has tried."
Greer and Garnett wanted to try the cross-training machine made by Life Fitness because the movement of this cross trainer simulates the natural patterns of walking. However, due to the balance issues Garnett experiences as a result of cerebral palsy, she is unable to get on or off the machine by herself.
Undeterred, Greer and Garnett decided to invent a device that would lock the platforms into a stable position so Garnett could access the machine independently.
So far the device she and other experts devised hasn't quite met their expectations but Greer has not given up. She firmly believes that the right piece of equipment for people with limited mobility can be created.
Others who received outstanding volunteer awards at the meeting are Melanie Leroux, Gisele Belzil, Lyle Watling, Taro Hashimoto and Karen Zinger.