Stroke survivor competes in his first Crescent City Classic

Stroke survivor competes in his first Crescent City Classic
Updated: Mar. 30, 2018 at 8:11 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A stroke survivor won't let partial paralysis stop him from making his debut in the Crescent City Classic.

63-year-old Gilmore Wheeler thought he wouldn't be able to walk again after he suffered a stroke in 2013.

"I had a therapist told me you'll never get back right. And I said to myself, she a liar. I said I'm going to do whatever I have to do to get my body back," Wheeler said.

The stroke left Wheeler with a partially paralyzed left arm and leg, along with spasticity, which tightened his muscles.

"People don't realize what you go through when you have a stroke. When you can't use certain parts of your body and you can't do things like you used to do for yourself," Wheeler said.

Until he met Dr. Andrea Toomer, who changed his life.

"The first thing we did was a Baclofen pump, so that's an implanted device that delivers medicine directly into the fluid around his spinal cord. So it helps to relax those really tight, stiff muscles so he can move a lot better," Toomer said.

Now, Wheeler can walk and do basic tasks without pain.

"It's been like a dream. It's been like, I never thought I was going to get this kind of therapy and recognition," Wheeler said.

Wheeler said he walks several miles at least three times a week now when he could barely walk before.

"If I walked a mile, it was hard," Wheeler said.

But now, he's taking on an even bigger challenge with walking 6.2 miles at the Crescent City Classic.

"Something told me 'Man, why don't you go try it? You could do it.' And I did. I went and registered. I'm going to do it from start to finish," Wheeler said.

Crossing that finish line will be one of his greatest milestones.

"The medal is in my heart. That's going to be my medal in my heart knowing I finished the race," Wheeler said.

Wheeler will make the trek with his doctor by his side.

"I said if you're doing it, then I'm going to be there with you to do it. So we just want to be there and cheer him on. We want to be a part of this moment for him,"  Toomer said.

A moment Wheeler hopes will become a powerful message that anyone can beat the odds.

"It's going to mean a lot. Not just for me, other stroke patients. I'm doing this for anybody that had a stroke," Wheeler said.

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