Monthly Archives: July 2015

SCI Superstar: Andy Hensel

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“It’s not too bad, it’s just different.” This is how Andy Hensel from Port Pirie, Australia, one of the world’s most accomplished paraplegic motocross racers, now describes what riding is like. A former top 20 freestyle motocross racer, he’s now making records as a paraplegic, discovering the far reaches of what is still possible as a paralyzed motocross racer.

Injured only a few years ago, this 20-something had already had a difficult past. He went to jail for drug charges for 1 year in his late teens. But after his injury, he knew he had to stay on-track. And within a year, he had already figured out how to return to motocross.

Some might think he’s crazy for returning, but that’s why he’s a SCI Superstar in our book. Andy refuses to let his injury win. Read on for his excellent story.

Why he’s fearless

As a boy, Andy fell in love with anything on wheels. Bicycles at Christmas and birthdays quickly got him hooked. Andy first started racing Go-Karts, but by his teens he switched to motocross – FMX – and within eight months of switching over, he was already in the top 20 motocross racers in Australia. He was known for doing his jumps with his flexible legs that’d fly and pose in the air behind him.

But in 2012, while racing at the Australian Underground Freestyle MX, he crashed going 75 mph. He knew the moment he took off he was going to crash, and it was all caught on video, recording the very moment his back broke (he’s now classified as a T7 incomplete paraplegic).

Andy flipped over his handlebars when he landed, his body landing crooked and breaking his back. Since that day, his transition into life as a paraplegic is a work in progress. At the beginning, he did not take the news well, hating doctors were so sure he’d would never walk again. “Tell me I broke my back,” he says, “but don’t tell me I’m not going to walk again.”

Since his injury, he’s been fighting to get as much return as possible, even going to Project Walk in the United States. While there, he was able to walk using a walker. But all the while, he knew he couldn’t stay away from motocross for long. And within 7 months, he was back on the track on a modified 450 motorbike.

What’s next?

But just getting on a bike again was not enough. Andy wanted to prove that even though he was paralyzed, he was more than capable of being as badass as he was before. And in 2014, Andy made history landing the first back-flip on a motorbike by a paraplegic, landing safely in a foam pit (watch). His ultimate goal now that he’s paralyzed – join the Nitro Circus and do crazy stunts for pay (he was likely inspired by our SCI Superstar and Nitro Circus member, Aaron Fotheringham).

Motocross may be different for Andy now that he’s paralyzed, but he’s determined to focus on what he can still do instead of dwelling on a moment he can never take back. This is the attitude all people with spinal cord injuries need to take on to survive. Andy has – that lucky dog – just figured it out a lot sooner than the rest of us.

Would you return to the track as a paraplegic?

– Follow him on FB: Andy Hansel (athlete)

Watch the videos!

Andy Hensel Paraplegic Dirt Bike Backflip GoPro Footage

Paraplegic FMX Rider – Andy Hensel | UNSTOPPABLE NUTRI-GRAIN

Andy Hensel Riding and Recovery (pre-injury footage)

SCI Superstar: Mary-Jo Fetterly

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“If you can breath, you can do yoga.” This is one of the awesome quotes Mary-Jo Fetterly likes to share when she’s teaching yoga. A yoga teacher for over 20 years and an adaptive yoga teach for nearly 10, Mary-Jo, of Vancouver, Canada, came upon the world of spinal cord injuries from a skiing accident 10 years ago.

Since her accident, she’s decided to look at her injury as a project in healing, something her background in natural therapeutics could potentially heal. Initially a C4-6 ASI A complete spinal cord injury, Mary-Jo’s techniques have helped her regain use of her arms and even her hands, when doctors were sure it was impossible. Read on for her incredible story.

Why she’s fearless

Mary-Jo was raised by one of the first yoga teachers in North America. Naturally, she started doing yoga at a young age. When she grew up, she had two daughters and went on to become a lauded vegetarian chef and yoga teacher. But in 2004 when she was 46 years old, Mary-Jo was in a skiing accident, and completely severed her spinal cord.

At first, like we all do, she thought her life was over. With two teenage daughters, Mary-Jo wasn’t sure what was ahead, but she quickly learned yoga techniques could help her through this tough period, realizing right away she didn’t have to stop doing one of the things she loved the most. “Movement is life,” she says.

Even after the moment she was injured, Mary-Jo used pranayama to strengthen her breathing while waiting for medical personnel to arrive. Once she came home, in addition to PT she made sure she was very consistent with her stretching, listening to her body too.

She also used a combination of physiotherapy, acupuncture, Ayurveda medicine, hydro therapy and forgoing traditional medicine as part of her at-home therapy program, in addition to traditional outpatient PT and participating in activity-based restorative therapy, like going on the walking treadmill Locomat whenever possible.

Mary-Jo was so impressed with her body, she wanted to share it with the world. In comes Trinity Yoga, her yoga studio that teaches both able-bodied and disabled students. Her yoga studio has certified hundreds of teachers across Canada. Mary-Jo also works part time as a therapist and a dynamic facilitator.

What’s next?

It’s been almost 10 years since her injury, and Mary-Jo has already blazed an amazing path in the adaptive yoga world. She now has a video channel where she shares her at-home adapted yoga techniques, showing the world adapted yoga can be done anywhere, as long as you have a willing set of hands to help (a caregiver, your SO, family member or friend).

Mary-Jo has become an expert training PCAs how to help with her at-home yoga program, which is one of the best things she shares in her videos. Knowing how important daily stretching is, her “at-home” yoga tips for wheelchair-users can’t be beat. Watch one of her videos

If you’re interested in learning yoga from Mary-Jo, she teaches adaptive yoga at the Blusson Spinal Cord Centre and at ICORD; SCI rehab facilities in Vancouver (private sessions are available too). When she’s not doing yoga, Mary-Jo is either hanging with her daughters, her beloved dogs or horseback riding or swimming. Showing the world her injury hasn’t stopped her one bit is something she lives for, and she does it fabulously.

How has adaptive yoga helped you? Share your story below!

– Her site: Mary-Jo

– Follow her on Facebook: Mary-Jo

– Her adaptive yoga studio: Trinity Yoga

Photo courtesy of Connectra

Watch the videos!

How yoga helped me rehabilitate after a spinal cord injury

Mary-Jo Fetterly : A Day in the Life

Adaptive Yoga Basics-Introduction to the At-Home-Yoga Sessions with Mary-Jo