From Wheelchair to Walking: One Volunteer’s Inspiring Journey to Recovery

Meet Wes Varda. He’s a 32-year-old account manager for a waste management company. One morning back in December, Wes woke up and entered into a “locked-in” state where he couldn’t move or communicate.

Wes“I leaned over to hit the snooze button on my alarm clock, and the next thing I know, I can’t move or speak. I could hear, feel and see everything around me, but I couldn’t react,” described Wes.

Wes goes on to describe how upon the paramedics’ arrival, they began performing a sternal rub on him, which is a painful stimulus to detect a patient’s brain function. He could physically feel the pain of what they were doing, but he could not verbally or physically respond to their actions. He was completely paralyzed.

Wes had suffered a brainstem stroke, which severely injured his brain. As part of his therapy program with Shepherd Center Pathways, Wes has been volunteering at MedShare every Wednesday for the past three months.

Today, Wes celebrated a recovery milestone, as it was his last day volunteering at MedShare under the Shepherd Center Pathways program. Wes has come a long way since his first sorting session. That first week, he was bound to a wheelchair and was exhausted just from sorting and folding donated hospital gowns and surgical drapes.

“I almost gave up in the middle of the session, because I was so tired. I thought I’d never be able to do it again,” said Wes.

But the next week, he showed up at MedShare able to do more than just fold gowns. With someone guiding him using a gait belt around his waist, Wes was able to sort medical supplies into the specified barrels. For the next month, he got around using the gait belt, gradually improving each week.

Now, Wes can sort and walk around with no assistance. He has learned to identify some of the common medical supplies and move around the sort room with relative ease. In just three short months, he went from a wheelchair to walking!

Wes says he enjoyed his time at MedShare, and will continue to volunteer at the Shepherd Center and also plans to volunteer at a camp for children with spina bifida.

“I’ve been so blessed in the speed of my recovery that I hope to use my experience to encourage and give hope to other brain injury patients,” says Wes.

Today, we celebrate with Wes.  We are grateful for his service to MedShare, and are inspired by his astounding progress.  Way to go Wes!