James works out a way forward

For James and YMCA personal trainer Chris, humorously stirring each other is a regular sight at the Macleod Recreation and Fitness Centre where Chris takes James through his weekly personal training sessions.

James Butcher Macleod web

The fact that James is able to walk - let alone workout at the gym - is something of a miracle.

James was a fit, strong 18 year old when a bottle was smashed on his head after he tried to help a friend. He had life-saving brain surgery and spent the next three weeks in a coma, with a 1% chance of surviving. Whilst in the coma, he suffered a stroke.

When he awoke it was to a vastly changed world. He couldn't talk, couldn't walk.

"I remember nothing," he said, of the cruel incident. When he first came to Macleod as part of his rehabilitation James was at a very low ebb, extremely frustrated that his body wouldn't do what his brain wanted him to. He wears a leg brace to help correct his leg gait, and his speech at times sounds slurred.

"He was quite down and negative," recalls Chris, of his first sessions. "There was a lot of frustration and he'd break down at some point pretty much every session."

The turning point in James' workout sessions came when Chris took him out of the gym and played an adaptive game of tennis with him. They had fun. Fun has formed the basis of their workouts ever since, and now James loves the gym. Chris says he's visibly stronger and much more stable on his feet. More importantly, he's happier and always chats with other members on the gym floor.

James made steady and undeniable progress in his rehabilitation with the support of staff at the YMCA and friends Brad and Julie who’d taken him in when his support network fell apart.

"We've tried lots of things for James as part of his rehab but the YMCA is the only thing he's stuck at," said Brad. "At the end of the day the only consistency has been the YMCA. All the staff at Macleod know him, and lots of the members. It's given him a whole new group of friends."

"I have watched him go from a shell of his former self, to becoming a strong, beautiful, young man. It just goes to show that when the community comes together to support people who have been knocked down by life, their full potential can be realised," adds Julie.

"His future's looking pretty bright," said Brad.

James agrees: "There's light at the end of the tunnel now."