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Young son gives his mother the strength to walk again

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    Amber Maynard was confined to a wheelchair for a year and a half after losing feeling in her left leg. She got back on her feet thanks to months of physical therapy and determination, and now even the leg brace she received does not get regular use.

When a medical emergency left Amber Maynard confined to a wheelchair, she quickly learned to be grateful for things that are commonly taken for granted.

"When you don’t have the use of your legs, you start to appreciate the importance of keeping the body strong," she said.

After being wheelchair-bound for six months, Maynard fought her way back onto her feet and she’s now grateful for every step she takes.

“I still have a bad hip and my foot sometimes turns outward,” she said. “My leg still gets really tired if I walk or run a lot, but I tend to forget about these things. They’re not as big as the issues that I’ve dealt with … I can live with a bad hip, so long as I can walk.”

The trouble began during her last trimester of pregnancy. The 24-year-old Ho­no­lulu resident was rushed to the hospital after losing her vision. Doctors ran test after test, unable to discern the cause of her ailment.

Maynard’s vision returned but during testing, she developed a severe headache. After three spinal tap procedures and a blood patch, a procedure in which a small amount of her blood was injected into the epidural space, she was diagnosed with spinal meningitis, she said.

After the third spinal tap, she lost feeling down her left side from her hip to her toes, except for excruciating shooting pains.

"They had to burn the nerves that send pain signals. I was in so much pain," she said.

Soon after Maynard’s monthlong stay in the hospital, despite a difficult labor that was complicated by her continuing paralysis, she gave birth to a healthy baby boy in December 2010.

After she gave birth, unable to care for herself or her newborn and told by doctors that she wouldn’t walk for at least three years, if ever, Maynard fell into depression.

But her baby boy gave her the inner strength necessary to move forward with physical therapy.

"I was worried that my son was wondering why only his dad was carrying him. That gave me motivation to get better," she said.

She retired medically from the Navy. Fueled by the determination to walk again, Maynard went to physical therapy sessions at Tripler Army Medical Center three times a week for eight months. After six long months, some feeling began to return to her leg.

While in the wheelchair, Maynard was required to wear a brace that kept her knee locked in place. Once out of the chair, she was given a leg brace that she was to wear while walking, shopping or doing other activities that kept her on her feet for long periods of time.

She’s been told to use the brace indefinitely to help keep her hip and knee aligned, but she is trying to put the episode behind her.

"I don’t normally use it now. It’s really heavy and makes my leg feel achy," Maynard said.

By May 2011, she started to walk with the assistance of a walker, later graduating to a crutch.

When she first tried to walk on her own, she fell down after one step. "It was so theatrical, like in the movies," Maynard said.

But that didn’t stop her from trying.

About a year and a half later, after a spinal/lumbar medical procedure first left her wheelchair-bound, Maynard was walking unassisted again.

She began a regimen of cardio-based exercises, like walking or running. After gaining some strength about three months later, she added weight training with free weights and began using resistance bands.

"Hard work and determination led me to become a fitness enthusiast and certified personal trainer," she said. "Once the feeling came back, I figured I may as well be using my legs."

Maynard, who now works as a personal trainer at 24-Hour Fitness in Pearl City, has made helping others find their strength her mission.

"Whenever I hear lots of complaining or excuses, I share my story," Maynard added. "If I can come back from this, they can get off the couch and work out."


“Be Well” features inspiring stories of people dealing with health challenges. Reach Nancy Arcayna at or call 529-4808.

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