By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (January 13, 2016) — Jerry Thornton is just sitting in place, pedaling a bike that is taking him nowhere.
But for Thornton, 54, it’s a daily ride that delivers him everywhere he wants to go, because it keeps him in good health to get there.
Thornton was born with cerebral palsy, which makes him spastic, unable to comfortably use muscles and perform routines most don’t give a second thought, such as walking, for instance.
But thanks to a light resistance fly wheel that takes just two pounds of pressure to move, the Psycle inside the Tarleton State University Laboratory for Wellness and Motor Behavior in Wisdom Gym ensures Thornton can get in the same quality cardiovascular workout as the rest of us.
And he’s done it 2,500 times. More than any person with his condition world wide.
Workout No. 2,500 came in the new and improved lab at Tarleton. It’s moved from its old home in a small room just behind the kinesiology offices to a much larger, more lavish room in the east end of Wisdom Gym. Wedensday morning was a festive time in the crowded lab, as everyone gathered to watch the man pedaling to nowhere, showing them all just how far hard work can take them.
“He’s certainly the most healthy person in the world with cerebral palsy today,” says Dr. Joe Priest the director of the lab who has recently been commissioned by the Texas A&M University system to teach lessons through his writing and practice rather than to teach in the classroom. “You can’t touch his cardiovascular health.”
Priest says cerebral palsy patients are normally faced with $16,0000-$18,000 annually in medical costs, but Thornton isn’t a patient at all.
“He takes no drugs, he just takes a vitamin,” says Priest, who quickly points out Thornton’s parents, Roy and Beth Thornton, to verify the fact.
There are three of the light resistant fly-wheel driven Psycles in the world, two at Tarleton and one belonging to NASA.
“Jerry doesn’t have the ability or the opportunity to receive the benefits of regular exercise without a special device and a special team,” said Priest as he pointed around the room at students and instructors there to assist Jerry and others. “That’s why we’re here is to help people with disabilities.”
Stephenville residents see Thornton out and about all the time, even if they haven’t realized it. He’s on his electric buggy, scooting past to watch Stephenville and Tarleton sporting events, attend Tarleton coaches shows and many other public events. He also tries hard not to miss a church service.
“Without this I wouldn’t be able to do much of anything except be stuck at the house on the conch watching TV,” Thornton said. “This keeps me healthy enough to get out and see friends, go to church, go watch games, do all the things I like to do. It reduces spasms, keeps me out of the doctor’s office and lets me meet new people.”
Tarleton President Dr. F. Dominic Dottavio was on hand for workout No. 2,500.
“This is just another example of the way Tarleton touches lives, and to see Jerry’s passion and commitment provides inspiration for students in a remarkable way,” Dottavio said, as he watched Thornton near completion of the milestone. “You look at these students here this morning, the looks on their faces, and you can see they are just as excited as he is because they realize they are helping change lives. What more can you ask for in a university setting?”
Thornton can’t ask for any more.
He’s pedaling a bike that goes nowhere.
And it’s taken him on the journey of a lifetime.