By Sarrah Peters, News Editor
An area resident received a national award last week. Gay Rogers, of Centre, was awarded the 2016 SilverSneakers Fitness Richard L. Swanson Inspiration Award. The award is meant to honor older adults whose healthy behavior has made a difference in their own life and has inspired others.
Rogers inspiring story began two years ago, when she lost a foot and her leg below the knee to Charcot, a syndrome in patients who have neuropathy in the foot and ankle. The disease causes fractures and dislocations without any or only a little trauma.
Rogers received a prosthetic for her missing leg, but was unable to walk very much. Her remaining foot rolled to the side. The foot was injured and became infected. With antibiotics the infection was successfully treated, but it returned. Twice Rogers came close to dying, and was saved by the fast actions of her son’s friends, who were also her nurses at Floyd Medical Center. Rogers called them her guardian angels.
“I was blessed that they were both there,” said Rogers.
Rogers’ doctors had wanted to save her foot, despite her objections, but the medical issues made that impossible. In three seperate operations, Rogers’ other foot and leg below the knee were removed. She left the hospital on December 18, 2015. Ten days later and with only one prosthetic, she joined Odyssey Health Spa and Fitness through the SilverSneakers Fitness program.
The SilverSneakers Fitness program is an wellness plan for older adults that offers membership at fitness centers at a free or reduced rate by working through health insurance plans, including Medicare and some Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama plans. Several fitness centers in Etowah County participate, including the YMCA of Coosa Valley, Planet Fitness in Gadsden, Gold’s Gym in Rainbow City, Absolute Fitness of Etowah County in Rainbow City and Snap Fitness in Attalla.
At Odyssey, Rogers met physical trainer Eva Jane Garner, who helped her strengthen her legs through exercise. Rogers exercised three times a week.
Although going to the gym ended up helping Rogers slim down, she began exercising for mental benefits.
“It was hard,” Rogers said of her close calls in the hospital. “Physical training helped me mentally.”
Rogers’ goal was to walk again, a feat that had been difficult or impossible for her for two years. Walking became her inspiration.
“I want to walk,” said Rogers. “I want to do what my grandchildren do. I want to do things. I want to travel.”
Rogers didn’t just meet her goals, she passed them. The day the second prosthetic arrived, Rogers went to the gym and even managed to exercise on the elliptical the same day. She is planning on traveling to visit her son in New York later this year.
Garner, inspired by Rogers’ hard work and determination, secretly nominated her for the 2016 SilverSneakers Fitness Richard L. Swanson Inspiration Award. When her story was shared with the public, Rogers received more than a third of over 34,000 votes.
Rogers said that the ceremony was so pretty that “it almost felt like the prom.” Over 200 people attended the award ceremony.
“It was a touching day for me,” said Rogers.
Rogers said that it was amazing to be in “a room full of people I loved, who loved me.”
She also seems amazed that she is considered an inspiration.
“If I can inspire one person, it’s worth it,” she said.