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Get Active at the RECC, By Nick Sharpe

Jim Field, oxygen tank in tow, a regular at RECC fitness centre

Jim Field works out three times a week at the Rath Eastlink Community Centre.

I was visiting the fitness centre when he first caught my eye. He was in the free weights section working with the dumbbells when I approached him to have a chat. The fact a man was working out in our fitness centre wasn’t unusual; what drew me to learn his story was the oxygen tank he was carrying around with him.

If you’re a regular member at the Rath Eastlink Community Centre (RECC) you may notice Jim Field up in the centre exercising three times a week. If you’ve ever stopped to chat with him you probably know him for his witty sense of humor and his sense of gratefulness to be alive. In 2007 he was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, a chronic illness that limits the ability for oxygen to be absorbed into the lungs.

When Field was first diagnosed he travelled to Alberta for a lung transplant. While on the waiting list he participated in a rehabilitation program, exercising regularly and changing his diet, resulting in a 36-pound weight loss.

“Before I started exercising, I couldn’t even walk to the mail box,” he explained to me while we sat and chatted outside the fitness centre. He was functioning so much better after changing his lifestyle that he was taken off the waiting list for his transplant and came home to Great Village.

As long as Field stays focused on his health, he’ll be able to function and have a high quality of life with the help of his oxygen tank, which he has to switch out every 1.5 hours.

“I have to keep the weight off. If not, I simply wouldn’t be able to breathe,” he explains. “Someday I’ll get the transplant, but the longer I go without it, the longer I’ll have to live after I get it.”

Field says the average person lives 10 years with a lung transplant.

“I have seven years behind me now, since I was diagnosed.”

Field has been regularly coming to the RECC since it opened last March, utilizing the free walking track and later becoming a member of the fitness centre.

“You couldn’t ask for better equipment and it’s always kept clean, which is important to me. Since I have no immune system, germs are one thing I have to be careful around,” he says in answer to my question of why he enjoys the facility so much.

While speaking with him, it was obvious to me this is more than a gym to him.

“All the members and staff all look out for each other; they have helped me since day one. We’re like one big happy family.”

I witnessed this sense of family as he spoke: “Except her,” he joked as a staff member walked by.

Now, when Field isn’t at the RECC working out, he spends his time — like many others — grocery shopping, maintaining his property and caring for his wife, who also battles a chronic illness.

“All I can do is take one day at a time and stay focused.”

I think we all love hearing success stories. There’s something special about hearing somebody accomplish greatness, conquer their fears, or reach their highest goals. But hearing about people like Field — literally extending his life with each and every work out — is something entirely different.

Nick Sharpe is the marketing and major events coordinator at the Rath Eastlink Community Centre in Truro. You can reach him at nsharpe@ratheastlinkcc.ca.

 

Organizations: Rath Eastlink Community Centre

Geographic location: Alberta, Great Village, Truro

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