Miracle man fights back to fitness

Matt Chivers is a living miracle. Three years ago, after sustaining a devastating head injury in an accident, doctors told Matt's family he was brain dead. Life support was switched off but Matt began breathing on his own and woke up.

Doctors said he would eventually die. But Matt is very much alive and is finding new strength through the work Fit Futures' David Robson is doing with him.

He is looking forward to this year and continuing with his gym programme.

Matt, 19, has been working out at Fit Futures in Hillcrest - believed to be New Zealand's only gym that specialises in expert, one-on-one training for people with physical disabilities.

Hamilton News caught up with Matt at his fifth workout with David. Clearly pleased to be there, Matt gave David the thumbs up as he explained what they'd be working on.

David said when Matt first began attending Fit Futures he didn't have a lot of flexibility as his muscles were very rigid. They've been working on that, along with strength training. Matt beams as he proudly shows off his biceps.

David said, with assistance and when he has the energy and inclination, Matt can take a few steps. There is a real possibility that with more training Matt may be able to take a few steps on his own.

Matt's sister Natalie O'Connor said her brother looked forward to his workouts and watches the clock every Wednesday morning until it's time to head for the gym.

"Matt has a lot more strength, co-ordination and flexibility now, and his change in attitude is great to see," said Natalie. "We've always had faith in Matt. Doctors told us he had less than a 1 per cent chance of surviving."

Before the accident Matt was an active young man, playing rugby and basketball and built and raced off-road cars.

Fit Futures was established in July after David saw a need for specialist training for people like Matt. With 20 years' experience as a personal trainer - some spent working with people with disabilities - David realised there were numerous barriers, including the financial kind, for people with disabilities accessing mainstream gyms.

Fit Futures empowers, enables and inspires people to reach their full potential physically, mentally and emotionally. Working on physical health and strength leads to a boost in emotional and mental wellbeing and increased confidence in themselves and their abilities, says David.

"I make sure every person's programme is safe and productive and that it provides a challenge," said David.

While the gym has a good selection of equipment, David is hoping to expand the apparatus he has available. One gym member with muscular dystrophy is unable to use a regular exercycle so David needs to find funding for an exercise bike where the person's legs sit out front to pedal.

Fit Futures is a charitable trust and relies solely on donations and grants. More about Fit Futures at www.facebook.com/FitFuturesForLife.

- Hamilton News

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