At the age of 48, Phelan resident Johnny “Ringo” Scharnweber’s life changed in an instant. While participating in a desert motorcycle race, in Johnson Valley, Johnny hit a sand bar and crashed. The impact broke his cervical vertebrae C3, C4, and C5, and resulted in a major spinal cord injury that caused paralysis from the neck down. He met the challenge of rehabilitation with the same courage he has shown, throughout his life. Casa Colina, a rehab facility in Pomona, honored Johnny at their fundraiser, Tribute to Courage, on Saturday, March 10.
Johnny has been a financial wealth coach, and off-road motorcycle coach for more than 20 years. In a video produced for the tribute, Johnny said, “It’s kind of way of life; coaching others is what my life has been about.” The “never give up” attitude that Johnny not only demonstrates, but inspires in others has served him well, as he recovers from the accident that paralyzed him.
After two months at Loma Linda University Medical Center (LLU), Johnny had run out of insurance, and answers, for his rehabilitation. Doctors at LLU told him he would never get out of the wheelchair, and he would have to modify his home, or move to an assisted living facility. He was not willing to accept that this was the final answer, he was not ready to give in. A colleague, and member of the Board of Directors at Casa Colina, Steve Graeber suggested they inquire at the Pomona rehab facility about Johnny’s situation. He discussed his determination to walk again, and the progress he’d already made. “Dr. Laverso said, ‘I’ve heard enough’,” Johnny said in a phone interview. “‘You’re coming here, don’t worry about who’ll pay.’”
Two days later Johnny was at Casa Colina, where he began a 3-month grueling rehabilitation program. The first month and half was about the actual physical therapy itself. Johnny had three to five-hour sessions daily, working on treadmills and learning to teach his body to move again. He was interviewed extensively about his life, and habits, to determine what therapies would work best for him, and which ones wouldn’t. His wife and son were taught the therapy techniques as well, so that they could continue his exercises at home. A psychologist also worked with Johnny’s family, individually and as a group. “It’s (having a family member in this condition) like a death, but with no closure,” Johnny explained. “The staff is there for the family’s grieving process, and to support them as they’ve suddenly become caregivers.”
Johnny then spent next six weeks in the transitional living center. There, he continued his intensive physical therapy while getting accustomed to going home, and using the household modifications and specialized equipment he would need while still in the wheelchair. “I never accepted the idea that I might never walk, I took advantage of every bit of therapy,” Johnny reiterated.
While he recognizes his own strength and perseverance, Johnny gives much credit to the people at Casa Colina. “They were taking me in without any insurance; we got it (coverage), but that was later.” He added, “The doctors at Casa Colina want qualified patients, people determined to improve, fighters who don’t accept failure. They’re focused on treating people, not on money.”
The Tribute to Courage at Casa Colina last weekend honored Johnny and two other patients for their courage battling their way back from life-changing injuries. Each of the three patients spoke, following short, individual videos, chronicling their separate journeys, played to the audience. Actress and comedian Bonnie Hunt served as the emcee for the formal dinner and presentations.
Johnny has been home for six months. With daily therapy and persistence, and the help of his wife and son, he has regained full range of motion in his limbs. He is working, going to the gym, and teaching off-road motorcycle skills again. “I do therapy every day, except weekends. I take weekends off.”
Johnny posts videos of his progress, every Monday on his Facebook page, Johnny Reno.
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