Transformation of Bobby Richards

Bobby Richards
Age 45
Height 5-11- 1/2  Weight (178)
BMI - 5% to 8%
Biceps 15" when flexed
Waist 31"  Neck 14 1/2"  Chest- 40"

In the Blink of an Eye – a Journey from the Top to Rock Bottom and Back Again
By Bobby Richards as told to Cathy Marley

The last thing I remember of that crisp February morning in 2001 was polishing off a couple of early morning beers, climbing on my ATV and heading out into the Arizona desert behind my home. To this day, I don’t remember the accident that almost killed me nor can I recall how I got out of the desert. Apparently the ATV had rolled and ended up on top of me. Fortunately someone found me there. I believe that person was more than just a Good Samaritan; they were an angel sent by God. Without their help, I would surely have died from my injuries. In the years that followed, there were many days I wished I had.

When I finally woke up from a coma 10 days later, I was in the ICU at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center in Phoenix. My injuries were substantial. I was completely immobile, with severe damage to my left elbow, wrist and hand. By far the worst damage, however, was the head injury that left me comatose and unresponsive. If only I had taken the care to wear a helmet! For the next month, ICU and that bed were my home. While I was there, the surgeons repaired the damage to my left arm, but little could be done to repair the damage to my poor bruised brain. Slowly, with my brain lagging behind, my body began healing.

Still immobilized and in pain, I was eventually moved to the hospital room that became my world for the next six months. Recovery was measured in tiny, tiny steps. Being able to breathe room air without a ventilator. Sitting up. Standing without falling. Attempting to feed myself and walk. Gradually, I improved until the doctors felt I was stable enough to move to the Bryan Center for physical and mental therapy. There, surrounded by some of the most depressing cases of mental illness in the state, another three months passed as I struggled to learn how to walk and talk again.

Still slurring my speech and unable to walk properly, I was finally released just two weeks short of a year after that that fateful ATV outing. But my life would never be the same. Before the accident, I was living the American dream. Married to the woman I believed to be my life mate, I lived in a spacious new home in one of the more affluent neighborhoods of Phoenix, Arizona. A natural salesman, I had worked my way up to a lucrative position as an advertising sales manager. And I had all the toys, including that ATV.

But in the blink of an eye, the confident, successful, almost arrogant man who roared out into the desert that February morning was gone. In his place were a broken body and an equally broken spirit. I was 40 years old. I no longer had a home. It was lost along with the job and the wife whose commitment flew away with the rest of the dream. To make things worse, I had no family and no real friends in Arizona. I entered the hospital as a successful professional, living the American dream. A year later, I left rehab as a homeless person with multiple physical and mental problems. I had joined the ranks of the permanently disabled.

Living on my own in my condition was out of the question. My only choice was to move into a group home where I stayed for three months as I grew healthy and strong enough to live alone. I began learning what it was going to take to live with the lifetime consequences of my accident. You see, bouts of dizziness, instability, depression and muddled thinking are legacies of irreversible brain damage¬ and my new elbow and wrist are permanently fused. Thankfully, small disability checks were enough to pay rent for a tiny, one bedroom apartment. In time, I even regained enough balance to be able to drive a car again.

Over the next year, my only human contact was a nurse who came each day to administer my IV. Other than the nurse’s visits, I was alone. As I became more depressed, I began eating everything in sight, with Ben & Jerry’s ice cream topping the list. That “Ben & Jerry’s Year” ballooned me into an obese body with an extremely depressed human being inside. But the true me was still there. The focused person I once was still lived somewhere inside that damaged body and brain. At 280 pounds and sporting a hefty 40% body fat, I woke up one day and realized I was killing myself as surely as if I had stayed out there on the desert. I decided to turn my life around.

Under the guidance of a friend who is a personal trainer, I started exercising. When he told me to do something, I did it – 100%. I ate what he told me to eat and nothing more. No cheating. When he said do cardio work for an hour a day, I did two. When he gave me an exercise regimen to follow, I did it with no questions asked. And it has paid off. In two years, I eliminated 100 pounds of my Ben and Jerry’s Year and now have my body fat under 10%.

I still can’t walk without risking losing my balance. That’s permanent. I live every day with pain, dizziness and nausea. I’m pretty sure that’s permanent too. My new plastic elbow is virtually useless, leaving me with severely limited range of motion in that arm. Taken as a whole, my injuries make it difficult to exercise correctly by working every muscle group, but I have adapted and have somehow managed to do it anyway. Despite the physical limitations, I have even obtained certification as a personal trainer.

I would like to believe I can be an inspiration for those who are battling their own demons, whether they are physical, mental, or financial. I know I survived my accident for a reason. Going from the pinnacle of success to complete ruin has been incredibly humbling. But I will survive this and I know I will be a stronger, better person for having conquered the obstacles that jumped into my life the day I rolled that ATV. My path changed, literally in the blink of an eye. There is no question the accident was life altering. I can only hope my experience will change more lives than just my own. I’m living proof that with God’s help and perseverance, people can overcome huge obstacles if they set their mind to it. That is a priceless gift.

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