A combination of self-care techniques are helping CCPGM patient Michael Culpepper improve his life. 

By Christopher Sardelli

Michael Culpepper remembers the car accident that changed his life forever.

It was 1973 and the Charlotte resident was out driving with a few friends when a truck ran a red light and careened into his car.

“The crash knocked me unconscious. I was in a coma for three days,” Culpepper said. “I remember waking up in the hospital and seeing people praying over me. I have scars on my head and arms.”

The road to recovery was long, he said.

“After that I had a hard time talking and being mobile. It was hard to communicate and hard to get my speech back together. I was in bad shape and pulled through it, but it really cut back on my life,” he said.

Culpepper, now 59, has felt the effects of that crash for most of his life, though he recently found a new way to move past those limitations once he started attending CCPGM’s Gearing Up class at Amara Wellness. The healthy lifestyle group, which meets each month, works with patients on a variety of self-care techniques, from introducing healthier food options to demonstrating meditation and exercises.

“The group class helped me become stronger with myself,” he said. “The class is all about revitalization and it energizes you and helps you to be more active and cooperative. It helps you have a better sense about eating habits and teaches you to be around decent people with good personalities. It’s great.”

Besides the long-lasting effects of the car accident, Culpepper has also battled high cholesterol and high blood pressure for years. The Gearing Up group has helped him choose better food options.

“It’s about eating the right things and doing the right things. I don’t drink alcohol, but I really like coffee and cigarettes, so I have learned to cut down. I bake more now instead of frying to help cut down on cholesterol. They’ve taught me about adding more yellow foods to cut my cholesterol, such as bananas and squash,” he said. “The group helps you keep your weight down, have a better diet and it’s healthy. They give you options and tell you what is better for your metabolism to be able to move better, breathe better, work better, get the right amount of sleep and how it goes with your medication.”

The class also taught him different ways to meditate, such as using 4-7-8 breathing, and exercises.

Culpepper marvels at how the group teaches him to have a healthy mental outlook as well.

“It helps you keep a positive attitude too and improve your communication with other people,” he said.

CCPGM Transitional Care Nurse Barbara Mueske said Culpepper has grown significantly since his first day in her class.

“When the group first met, he was very quiet and didn’t participate, but as the group progressed he was more and more excited about the material. He would contribute wonderful facts about his health, what he was eating and what exercises he was trying,” Mueske said. “The group has really prompted him to be involved with his peers. And when we do activities, such as drawing what it means to eat healthy or poorly, he is very good at putting his thoughts and feelings into the project in a very informative way.”

She lauded Culpepper’s achievements during the last few months.

“I see him as a real leader in the group,” she said. “He’s always there and very enthusiastic and inspiring to everyone.”

For Culpepper, it’s his classmates and nurses who inspire him.

“I just have to work at it. It helps build character a little bit. It teaches you what’s good about people and how to be assertive,” he said. “They help you make better decisions with your lifestyle. It’s all about rehabilitation, recovery and stabilization. It helps us be better human beings.”

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