A “superhuman” former soldier living with spinal cord injury, who was told he would never walk again after a horrific road collision, is defying all expectations by competing against the best disabled athletes in the world at the WheelWod Games 2022.
Tom Green was left paralysed from the waist down after his spinal cord was severed when he was hit by an articulated truck during a 100-mile charity cycle ride in summer 2020.
But far from accepting the devastating prognosis, Tom – a physical training instructor (PTI) in the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers – resolved to prove his medical team wrong and has spent the past two years dedicating himself fully to intensive rehabilitation.
Building on his background in elite fitness and the military, Tom has been unrelenting in his focus to regain movement in his lower body, and his ambition to walk again one day is undiminished, inspired to push boundaries and by his commitment to being the best father and role model for his four-year-old son.
The progress he has made towards achieving his goals has been described as almost “impossible” by members of his rehabilitation team, with remarkable results in his physical strength and functional ability.
Despite the severity of his injuries, Tom is now able to take steps independently using the support of parallel bars and continues to augment his rehabilitation with regular walking in his Indego exoskeleton.
Spending hours every day working on his strength training, Tom can benchpress weights of 118kg, and has been supported by Breakthrough Case Management in devising a bespoke training regime to continue to exceed all expectations – with his therapists, case manager and rehabilitation assistant all being overjoyed and astonished at the gains he has made.
Now, keen to put himself to the test against other adaptive athletes on a global stage, Tom – who was discharged from the Army in January this year – has qualified as a finalist in the WheelWod Games, and will compete in the event in North Carolina, in the United States, from December 2nd to 4th.
The Games – hailed as the pinnacle event for adaptive fitness – bring together the best athletes worldwide who use a wheelchair and live with a mobility-limiting disability, to compete in 11 categories of functional fitness, Strongman, gymnastics, endurance and weightlifting.
Although he has minimal hip function, Tom is competing in the category for people who do have such physical capability – again challenging himself beyond what many think is possible.
Speaking to NR Times, Tom said of his hopes for the WheelWod Games: “I’ve changed categories to one that is more physically demanding – the athletes I am competing against can stand, they use a wheelchair but are still able to stand, so it’s going to be a lot tougher in this category.
“But I don’t shy away from a challenge. The only thing I have aimed for since the day I was told I’d never walk again is to walk. When the doctor said to me in hospital ‘I’m sorry to tell you Mr Green, but you won’t be able to walk again’. I thanked him for his honesty but said ‘Just watch me’.
“Looking back on the past year and in particular, when we really increased the intensity of the training, I can see how far I’ve come and the things I’ve achieved, but I don’t tend to focus on multiple small rehabilitation goals along the way – the main goal and my programme in general is designed to maximise my chances of walking again.
“But I always say I’ve only been able to make the progress I have because of the people around me – family and my partner Fran; my friends; my rehab therapists; Tom, my rehab assistant; Annabelle Lofthouse, my case manager and Rose Gibson, my personal injury lawyer. They’ve been with me all the way on the journey so far, and I’ll always keep going.”
Annabelle Lofthouse, co-founder and director of Breakthrough and Tom’s case manager, describes him as “absolutely remarkable”.
“Tom is a powerhouse, his committed approach to every challenge and natural inclination to achieve success is truly inspirational. From the first moment I met him in hospital following his accident, two things were clear to me,” she says.
“One was that he was incredibly determined, he knew exactly what he wanted, and secondly that his son was the most important thing in his life and everything he wanted to achieve was for him. That was a very powerful combination and one which even then I knew would drive him forward.
“We put a rehabilitation programme in place for Tom which is like no other we’ve done. For a lot of people, this kind of thing, using this kind of equipment, just wouldn’t work. But because Tom has been so devoted to his rehab and gives it ‘100 per cent plus’, we have seen progress beyond anything we could have imagined.
“Tom’s disciplined military background and career as a PTI meant he had higher levels of personal fitness at the time of his accident, and he has been absolutely unwavering in maintaining and operating at elite athlete level from the very start.
“A lot of what Tom has achieved might reasonably be deemed pretty much impossible, it does seem superhuman and Tom is a very unique individual, but his triumphs do help demonstrate what is possible. He has defied every expectation along the way, and it shows what can be done.
“There will always be limitations because of his injuries and life is of course very different for Tom now, however he continues to blaze a motivated trail for pursuing one’s ambitions. Tom had a goal before his accident to become a world CrossFit champion (number one of course!), he is still pursuing that now as a para-athlete.
“It’s an immense achievement that Tom is going to the WheelWod Games, and knowing him as I do, I am confident that he will again exceed all expectations of what he can do and what he will achieve, even in a category in which he is at a disadvantage from the start.
“We are so excited for him; his Breakthrough rehabilitation assistant is flying out with Tom to assist and support him as he competes, and we all wish we could be there cheering him on too! The Breakthrough team will be cheering him on from the UK and I’m looking forward to celebrating with him upon his return.”
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