"I Keep on Going, to Keep Walking"
Some of David Kjos' personal journey of pain and struggle to walk again almost sounds unbelievable. But when you witness his determination and dedication to exercising at the Y, you know his story is true. He's been a Y member for over 50 years.
Exercise was part of Dave's life long before its health benefits were widely recognized. In the 50s, Dave would jog along the road, and friends stopped their vehicles to ask him if he needed a ride. As a younger man, he kept in shape to excel at his favorite sport, handball, which he began playing at the original La Crosse YMCA. When the new facility opened in the early 70s, David recalled it was "just like a castle," with its huge gym, swimming pool, and six handball courts.
David first injured his back about 30 years ago while at work, but his spine didn't cause him serious problems until May 2003 when he was exercising at the Y before dawn. He felt a sudden snap in his back during weight lifting. That evening at home, he felt his legs "go numb," and the next morning after biking around Riverside Park, he felt the nerves in his legs "go dead."
Following extensive back surgery, doctors told David's family that he would never walk again. David wouldn't learn this news until after six weeks in the hospital, but it didn't matter. He naturally assumed that he would walk again. He amazed doctors by not only independently standing and walking a few yards, but by using a walker and crutches.
Only days out of the hospital, David began an extensive workout routine at the Y. He continues to exercise seven days a week, at least two to three hours each session. Listening to David recite his rigorous routine of swimming, stretching and biking, may again sound unbelievable, but you have to believe it when you witness his strength at age 67.
A doctor told David, "The only reason you're walking again is because of the Y." In turn, David credits the Y staff for their generous help and support. He walks in and out of the Y with his cane, and he uses a walker during the day. If he didn't maintain his exercise routine, David would need to depend on a wheelchair. "I keep on going, to keep walking," he says.
During the past eight years, David endured two more back surgeries. He always returns to the Y with his optimism. He can do everything he's always done, except handball. He enjoys family time with his wife, Sandy, of 47 years, two children, and three grandchildren.
David tells everyone that he meets, "If you want to feel good and change your life, join the Y."
- By Kim Seidel, Seidel Ink LLC. 2012