This week on Barbell Shrugged we are honored to be joined by Kevin Ogar. Just in case you aren’t aware, Kevin became well-known after fracturing his spine at a competition in January 2014.
It’s only been six months since that devastating, notorious injury, but Kevin seems remarkably recovered, at least spiritually and emotionally. You should have seen him smile wide when he was telling us about the bright white Stacie Tovar shorts he was wearing underneath his pants. “Yeah, I’m actually wearing them underneath here. I heard she was going to be over at the Barbells for Boobs tent…I thought I would challenge her to a booty-shortshowdown.”
That group has been so supportive and caring for Kevin and his family these past few months, causing a bit of a stir at their Crossfit Games tent would be the least he could do in return. Also, it would just be a good time. That’s one of the lesson’s that Kevin has taken away from the injury. “Now that I’m in a wheelchair I really like to push the limits of what I can get away with.”
It’s hard not to love that attitude. I must admit, I’m not sure I could keep that perspective, especially after such a freak accident. That’s really all it was, a freak thing on an otherwise routine set of snatches. An off catch with a modest load. A dumped repetition that changed a life forever. The question has been begged over and over by now, “Is Crossfit dangerous?” But Kevin flatly denies that. It was more about the angle, the odd timing, the one in a million shot that did the breaking. In truth, he’s one of the rarest of patients. Most injuries of this sort are attributed to skiing accidents, vehicle crashes, and other sorts of routine activities where the risk is more widely known and accepted. But this is different. In fact, it’s hard to identify another case like Kevin’s at all. The injury was anything but an inevitability.
Our conversation started to turn visceral and raw when Kevin began to describe how the injury felt. At the moment of fracture his nervous system went into extreme shock and alarm. His whole body burned with pain and sharp electricity. I just sat there as he spoke, quivering a bit, growing more and more queasy by the second. I couldn’t imagine the feeling, and I couldn't respect the guy more for what he has endured.
Eight Dilaudid fueled, motionless days followed the injury. At first the doctors didn’t want to lose Kevin to shock and blood loss. Next up was the intense spinal surgery that would place his back into alignment. The approach was from the side. The ribs were split and dislocated. His organs had to be removed and his entire core reassembled. “That surgery has a 35% survival rate.” That only made the weight of this injury all the more heavy. I could hardly stand the thought.
Despite the dangers and risks, Kevin couldn’t have had a better surgical outcome. Still, he know’s he has a battle ahead. “They say the chances of me walking again all on my own are less than 1%, but I’m the king of small percentages. I'm 3% of the world's population as a Ginger 3%. I have blue eyes, which means I’m 1% of that population…So, I like small numbers.”
Kevin began his rehab by facing his first big physical challenge, getting upright in a wheel-chair. “I know it sounds easy, but it’s so hard. It feels like you’re sitting on top of a balance ball, only imagine if your leg’s didn’t work.” Still, he did it, and he’s still at work. What remains of his core musculature has begun to adapt. His nervous system is reinervating and adjusting in astonishing ways. Hell, the guy still manages to have a six-pack, despite the damage.
No, there are no guarantee’s here for the recovery effort, but there’s cause for optimism. Who know’s what technology will come in the coming years. For paraplegics and spinal cord patients who are able to keep their bodies strong and fit, anything could be possible. If you can remain resilient, tough, and hard to kill, then you should feel optimistic. Kevin’s got that written all over his face. His happiness and positive outlook are true.
Kevin is training as hard now as he ever has, but the goals and outlook have obviously changed immensely. It’s no longer about maximizing strength and fitness, it’s more about not sucking so bad at life in general. It’s about attacking weaknesses, which now include showering, going to the bathroom, and getting back up into his chair after a fall. Sled pulling, prowler pushing, dumbbell work, gymnastic drills, it all has a place in his regimen.
That’s where the biggest lesson of Kevin’s story shines through, I think. Progress on the small things is incredibly rewarding. Consider going back and working on the basics. It might be your posture, your foot position, your timing, whatever. Remastering it will be one of the most rewarding things you can do. If you get injured, do not stop. There’s always something you can still do. So do it! Something is better than nothing, always. And who know’s, this enforced change might just be the best thing for you. For once, you might be forced into doing something new, something necessary. You’ll have to develop and utilize new tools. That’s always a good thing.
I don’t think there’s a limit to what Kevin can achieve. He might walk again, I hope. But he’s definitely not going anywhere. He will keep finding new ways to train and compete as an adaptive Crossfit athlete. He’ll keep working to share the message of fitness with other patients, bringing the support and community that have made such a difference in his life since January.
Revelry, revelry, you have our full support, Kevin. There’s no limit to what you will achieve.
To learn more about the cause and support Kevin’s efforts, make sure to check out KevinOgar.com. You can also follow him on Instagram and Facebook in order to stay up to date on all the latest developments.
Thanks, Kevin. It was truly an honor to meet and chat with you.