In the next few articles, I will share with you my YMCA story, along with the stories of others, staff and their families, volunteer board members, our members at the YMCA. Last Valentine’s Day year I shared some love stories that initiated at the YMCA as well.
This month is Military Appreciation Month and I’d like to share with you a story of a very impressive man, Chad Burkey. Chad is a father of three and a member at the JER Chilton YMCA. He joined the Marine Corps at the age of 17 before he graduated high school. He went on to boot camp and trained in infantry, later to be indoctrinated into recon. He was among the rescue swimmers in ocean water missions, being one of a select few people trained in combat water survival. He was able to go on mountain climbing adventures in Alaska and West Pacific tours. He was active in the Marines for four years until he injured his back.
Chad says when you are young and strong you think you are invincible and will heal from anything. You just push through it. But as he returned to civilian life, he had a hard time adjusting to it while dealing with immense pain. He started seeing a physical therapist and receiving cortisone shots. He was having debilitating muscle spasms and constant, severe pain. He kept trying to power through it.
He dealt with the pain until 2005, when his back went out and he felt shut down completely. He ended up in the emergency room and started more intense therapy. In 2010 it just wasn’t working. He was still in pain and his back was getting worse. He saw some of the best doctors in Rockwall and Dallas. They wanted to do surgery to fuse vertebrae in his neck and back.
Finally Chad, wanting to take charge of his own health, he decided to go to the VA. He says it was incredible what they did. They took it seriously and assigned him a team of doctors. He worked with an orthopedic surgeon, a neurologist, therapist, a pain management specialist, pharmacist and a psychologist. He started a brand new program for pain management. They got him into aquatic therapy, using a warm water pool. He attended sessions for four months, two times per week. He received myofascial release acupressure twice a week and says that was the “game changer” for him. He used lumber and cervical traction and his therapist had him use a theracane. He was given injections from his neurologist and his doctors changed his medication geared more toward neuro relief so he was taking less medication that was more effective and non-habit forming.
He went to a psychologist once a week and she helped him to learn techniques for pain management. Using methods such as meditation and guided imagery. Chad learned mantras such as telling himself that he was warm and calm, and doing affirmations to help relieve his pain. He had various other types of therapies to help him heal and manage his pain.
When Chad finished his water therapy at the VA, he came to the JER Chilton YMCA at Rockwall and became a member. Being in the water really had a huge impact on his continuing recovery and helped tremendously. He started taking aquatics classes with Marilyn King as the instructor. He went to join conditioning, at 8:30 in the morning, numerous times per week. For Chad it was one step up from water therapy, challenged him just a bit more to help him continue to improve, and helped him continue taking ownership of his own wellness. He was able to work at his own pace and says everyone was kind, warm, welcoming and friendly. He fell in love with all of the members at the Y. Chad enjoys the feel of the welcoming staff, such as Megan who is usually at the front desk when he comes in. He says, “Everyone makes you feel welcome and you fit right in.”
It has been over a year that Chad has been coming to class and he says he knows if he stopped, he would go downhill. He wants to be a healthy dad for his kids and continues to have improved mobilization and less pain. He continues to do things at home such as acupressure, traction, guided imagery and meditation and continues to go in for checkups, but his time at the YMCA really helps him to be empowered in his health. We are happy to have Chad as a member at our family YMCA.
Thank you to Chad and to all of our veterans for your service to our country.
Liz Jones is a wellness professional and the Membership & Wellness Director at the JER Chilton YMCA at Rockwall, located at 1210 N Goliad in Rockwall. She is a writer, certified yoga instructor, personal trainer and wellness coach. She holds a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership and Strategic Management, with a graduate certificate in Ethics and Leadership. Her undergraduate studies included communication, business, writing, art, fitness, and dance.
She is trained in Reiki, Guided Imagery, and various healing methods. Her background includes non-profit management and working with various at-risk populations, women’s empowerment workshops, and mentoring programs.