Cathal’s Story

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Hello my name is Cathal Sean O’Neill. I am 14 years of age. I live in Cork. I have one brother, two sisters and my mom and dad.

I attend the School of the Divine Child. I am in the senior cycle in school. My best friend is Ryan. He is very funny and makes me laugh.

I love Power Rangers, YouTube, v-logging and going to the gym.

I was born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus. I use an electric wheelchair called a Permobil. It has light indicators and tilts and most importantly it rises up to eye level, which is handy when you are talking to very tall people like my uncle Emmet.

Tell me more about the gym?

The gym is called Elite Gym in Cork and I’ve been going there for seven weeks now. It has people of all abilities and ages and is just a 5-minute drive from my school. My mom collects me and we go together. A bonus is I get out of school for a while! I would like my mom to join too so she can get fit as well.

What do you do at the gym?

When I arrive at the gym I start my warmups – that usually last 15 minutes. Every week is different. I do weights, boxing and cross-training. My coach, Colin, has even adapted the cross-trainer so I can reach it with my wheelchair. A cross-trainer is a bike with two arms that I move back and forth. They are very hard to push, but the exercise is rewarding.

This week I did a different exercise called a power pull, which is a machine with a handle and a rope that is attached to weights. It will help me to get strong enough so I can do independent transfers. In the coming weeks, Colin is going to work on my pulling and pushing muscles.

Boxing is my favourite gym activity as I like to show who's the boss! I'd like to put a picture of my dad on the punch bag so I can pretend he's my worthy opponent.

What do you find the easiest thing to do at the gym?

The weights are the easiest things for me to do because I am very strong already. Colin tries to give me heavier weights and I have had no problems with them so far. Colin tries to make it harder by getting me to lift the weights slowly however when he isn’t looking I do a sneaky quick one!

The cross-trainer is very hard. I roar like a gorilla to get me through it! When it hurts I roar and that helps me to keep going. Also I get to roar back at Colin for all the times he shouts and says push push push!!

Are you the only person in a wheelchair at the gym?

No, there are a few people in chairs at the gym. Last week I saw a guy walking with an exoskeleton. I was very impressed. I would love to be strong enough someday and give the exoskeleton a go.

Do you feel better and more confident since you started training?

I feel way happier since I started and already I am way stronger. Everyone says I’m like a new person since I started exercising there.

Tell me about your personal trainer?

My personal trainer is Colin. He’s very tough and makes me work hard. He’s like a sergeant in the army! I told him that the only things that hurt were my fingers. I had two bent fingers that wouldn’t straighten so Colin tried maneuvering them back into place. Now one is perfect and the other one will need a bit more work still.

My mom asked Colin if there’s anything he couldn’t fix. Then my mom lied down on the floor to get help with her sciatica, which is an irritation of the sciatic nerve running from a person’s hip to feet. Colin cracked her back all the way up her spine! I laughed so much I was crying, but it was wonderful to see my mom getting help too.

Do you like working hard?

Yes, because I would like to be stronger than my dad. I want to be the strongest person in the house!

I would like to do a lot more things for myself. I want to get fit and flexible so I can push a manual chair again. That would make a big difference to getting around and I would be able to visit more people’s houses, especially my cousins’.

Would you recommend the gym to other people?

Yes, I love getting out of school to go to the gym and I get to meet more people. Also, I love how strong I am getting, which is a great accomplishment. Additionally, being at the gym is fun!

Last weekend there was a fundraiser to buy special equipment for the gym. It was a wheelchair event. Our team was called Power Rangers. Next year we are going to wear Power Ranger morph suits. It was so funny watching my family trying to push a wheelchair for the first time. There was a hill part and it was hilarious to watch especially when the chairs rolled back down the ramp.

Colin should be working in a hospital—he makes people better than the hospital ever could.

I hope more people join the gym and get strong like me. I am getting so strong that I’m now able to sit independently while having a shower. It was tough but I was able to do this for the first time in at least four years.
Before I went to the gym I would just collapse and my mom would support me. Now I can be in the shower on my own. That is a big start in my gaining independence. My mom was so impressed she nearly cried. Now I practice independent sitting every day.

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