When Mike Anderton awoke from being in a coma for five weeks, he was told there was a high probability he would never regain the full use and movement of his legs.

That, he said, was unacceptable.

Less than two years later, he is training for a triathlon.

Chest pains

In January of 2010, Anderton experienced pain in his chest and called a physician friend to see what he should do about it. The friend was adamant - he needed to seek help.

Apprehensive at first, Anderton finally conceded and went to the hospital. He ended up having quintuple bypass surgery on Jan. 4 and was discharged from Desert Banner Medical Center four days later.

But the worst was yet to come.

He was readmitted less than two weeks later in critical condition after experiencing sharp pains in his chest and abdomen due to a staph infection in his breastbone. Four surgeries were performed on him while he was in a five-week coma.

When he woke up, the staff did not have good news.

"One of the rehab physicians looked at me and said you aren't going to live the same lifestyle you had before," Anderton said. "And they said there is a high probability you might not be able to walk again. I said, ‘I'm sorry, that's not an acceptable answer.'"

Anderton started physical therapy at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in April 2010. A month later he was once again discharged, but his physical condition was such that he was barely able to stand. In July, they discovered he had an infection in his hip and had it replaced with a titanium cobalt rod.

"The pain was gone and I had limited movement that night," he said.

The path to recovery was set. Anderton only needed someone to kick his training into gear.

A helping hand

Enter Larry Arnold of PEAK Physical Therapy in Ahwatukee Foothills. Arnold brought a fresh look at Anderton's situation and provided a strategy to tackle all the aspects of rehabilitation.

"The more I talked to Larry the more I realized he had a good plan of action of how we were going to attack this problem," Anderton said. "In this phase, you can find someone who is good in the single aspects of rehab, but it's extremely unique to be able to find somebody who is versatile in all the areas at the same time."

Arnold said he looks at the problems logically, develops a plan and pushes his clients to achieve their goals.

"You don't just stand them up and teach them to run. You never try to skip steps," Arnold said. "My job is to get you from clinical to what you want to do with your body. If you don't have a goal, then what are we striving for?"

Anderton's first goal was to run a 5K, which he did less than six months after meeting Arnold. The training was at times intense and frustrating but Anderton was making strides where no one predicted he would.

"Clinically, I should not be here," he said. "If I am, I should be paralyzed or semi-paralyzed."

Now he has his sights set on a triathlon which he and Arnold are currently training together for. They meet three times per week in what they refer to as a neuro-muscular training program.

"In 15 years of training... I haven't worked with anybody that has come this far," Arnold said. "I didn't expect it this soon."

Despite the doctors' initial outlook, Anderton is enjoying full physical ability. He has regained his strength and his physical condition rivals that of in-shape athletes.

"I basically was paralyzed from the mid-chest down," he said. "To come this far, I really attribute it to my relationship with Larry."

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or troemhild@ahwatukee.com

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