Sibling rivalry need not have boundaries or age limits.
An example of this is best illustrated through 83-year-old Oakdale resident Ted Heuring. The longtime resident was recently motivated to start going to the gym after a conversation with his 93-year-old brother-in-law.
“He’s 93 years old and started exercising, for one reason or another,” Heuring said. “When he said he was seeing improvements, I wanted to know how and why.”
The new gym enthusiast stated that he knew his surrogate son-in-law Craig Johnson had been working out at Fitness Plus in Oakdale and thought perhaps he would join him.
While, the image and thought of a 93-year-old man returning to the gym in hopes of renewing his strength is impressive, Ted Heuring trumps that. Heuring had polio and is now restricted to a wheelchair. Through support, strength and determination, he continues to not only live independently but also remains active in community events including the Oakdale Lions Club and a Friday Night Dinner Club. He is also a past Oakdale Citizen of the Year.
First diagnosed with polio in the 1950s, Heuring came to know Bonnie (McLeod) Johnson, who is an Oakdale resident. Her father Bruce McLeod (also afflicted with polio) was in the same ward as Heuring in Phoenix, Arizona.
“They were kind of like combat buddies,” Bonnie recalled. “We’ve stayed in touch through the years. It’s more than a friendship, we are like family … a surrogate family.”
In the early 1990s Heuring retired, and Bonnie and her husband Craig invited him to come live in Oakdale. The couple helped him locate a home to purchase and so retired life began for Heuring.
Around that time, he also lost the freedom of walking with assistance from a cane and had to start using a wheelchair. His home accommodates his restrictions and the Johnsons, along with their family, help Heuring with everyday tasks like grocery shopping and doctors appointments.
According to Bonnie, a setback in Heuring’s health close to four years ago and a heart-to-heart with a physical therapist quickly put his future in perspective.
“She was very upfront and honest with him,” Bonnie said. “She told him if he did not start making improvements (physically) to maintain, he would end up on his back in a hospital bed. He would lose any and all mobility.”
Recognizing the necessity in maintaining muscle strength to prevent atrophy and keeping the swelling down in his ankles and legs from lack of movement, Heuring would do exercises at home … until four months ago.
Not age, nor his wheelchair or his 60-plus year battle with polio was enough to detour him from exploring what his brother-in-law had claimed.
“Craig said he was coming here (to the gym) in the morning, so I thought I’d come along,” Heuring pointed out in a matter of fact manner.
Each week for the past four months the determined senior has a standing appointment three times a week, with Fitness Plus owner and long time Oakdale resident Bryan Ching.
“We work on functional stuff that is going to help him with getting in and out of this chair,” Ching said. “We want to work on his strength to help him maintain his muscle, that is the goal.
“We try to make them more comfortable,” Ching added of the exercises he uses with clients facing obstacles.
“Building his strength and working on his core, is optimal to his longevity and independence,” Ching continued. “His mind is still real sharp and he buys into everything I ask him to do.”
Illustrating this fact, Ching shared that several weeks ago Heuring came for his weekly visit and asked Ching if he thought they might be able to get him to stand again.
“So that’s now the goal,” Ching said, “to get him the strength so he can push up and stand again.”
It has been over a decade since Heuring last stood on his own.
“Bryan has just been a godsend,” Bonnie said of Heuring’s trainer. “He’s like a mother hen. He’s just so caring.
“When Craig started bringing him here, he (Ching) could only make it 10 minutes at a time, three days a week. Now, Bryan is here waiting for him and works with him for 30 minutes each time … sometimes a bit longer.”
Craig Johnson added that every little bit is making a big difference.
“The activity of what Bryan has done with him has lessened the swelling in his legs and ankles,” Craig said. “Having said that, he has improved tremendously since working with Bryan. It’s just been amazing.”
“Your mind can let you do anything,” Ching stated.
“That’s my trophy,” he added, gesturing to Heuring as he completes a sit-up. “If I could work with people with his attitude everyday …”
For Heuring, the mystery presented by his 93-year-old brother-in-law is slowly being solved. He admits to being a bit tired following his half hour workouts, but he feels the improvements.
“I’m more comfortable with what I am doing,” he said.
When posed with the question of standing again, Heuring stated, “I could see, one that I could do it and two, if I don’t push myself, I’m never going to do it.”
Still, with a willingness to continue working hard, it’s a goal that is reachable.
“Standing was part of Bryan’s vision,” Craig shared.
“I never thought it would be possible,” Bonnie stated, her excitement apparent through tear-filled eyes and a high pitch to her tone. “I saw his quality diminishing almost monthly, before this. Now we’re approaching Easter and it’s almost like a resurrection. It’s just all so wonderful.”
Aside from his goal to once again stand, the past Oakdale Citizen of the Year has an additional agenda. While he hopes to inspire others to get healthy regardless of their physical condition, he also has a newfound friendship with Bryan Ching.
“In this tough economy we need to get a bunch of people in here to help Bryan,” Heuring said. “Not just the sick, even the slightly obese or those who just need to get healthy.”
“We are just so grateful to Bryan,” Bonnie concluded. “He truly gives back.”
Fitness Plus is at 1777 S. Yosemite Ave., Oakdale. A list of their hours and services can be found on the company Facebook page or by calling 847-7504.