Burchette, of Millsap, was an average guy with a wife and a son. He was in the construction business – an electrician – and a sports fanatic.
Then tragedy struck.
Burchette was involved in a car accident that fractured the T-7 and T-8 vertebrae. These fractures caused injury to his spinal cord, leaving Burchette paralyzed from the waist down.
A tragedy such as this could make many people simply give up on life, but not Burchette. On any given conversation with Burchette, one would think he was king of the world, having an extremely positive mental attitude and outlook on life.
“This (paraplegia) is not going to get me down – I’m set back, but I’m not dead,” he said.
After the accident Burchette spent time in physical therapy in Weatherford. However, after about three months of therapy he was “cut loose.”
“I didn’t accept that,” he said. “Now I focus all my time to getting better – no matter how long it take me.”
Burchette religiously travels to Stephenville three times a week to attend physiotherapy at the Tarleton State University Laboratory for Wellness and Motor Behavior. The therapy lab offers specialized training for individuals with quadriplegia, paraplegia, hemiplegia, spina bifida, multiple sclerosis, and other mobility impairments.
Burchette has been participating in the program since August, and he said he has seen drastic improvements.
“The medical field doesn’t think you can do anything for paraplegia,” he said. “But I’ve seen progress from day one (at TSU) for sure. This is proof there are other things out there. It doesn’t come from doctors, it comes from you. If you don’t put forth the effort, you’re not going to improve.”
During a typical workout, Burchette lifts weights, uses the standing machine and rides the Psycle™.
Psycle training allows individuals with spinal cord injuries to pedal their legs, like on a regular bike. However, participants use their arms to help their legs to move the pedals. This is called “assisted revolutions.” But amazingly, after hard work on the Psycle, many participants are able to perform “unassisted revolutions,” which is when only legs move the pedals. Burchette, although his legs are paralyzed, performs as many as 50 unassisted revolutions at the end of each workout session.
“(The unassisted revolutions) are like what you or anyone else can do – I can’t do as many as you, but it’s coming,” Burchette said smiling.
Being in the construction business since high school, Burchette said he has a strong work ethic, which helps him in his workouts. However, a strong work ethic isn’t the only thing that keeps him going.
“I’ve got so many things that motivate me, “ he said. My son motivates me like crazy. I’m a sport fanatic, and I want to be able to go out and play ball with him. Also, for anyone to give up on me and tell me I can’t do it – that’s a huge motivator. You just watch me – it will happen.”
Dr. Priest, professor of health and of physical education and director of the program, said not only does Burchette know how to motivate himself but the entire staff at the lab as well.
”We think we have to provide motivation (to the participants), but Brady motivates us,” Priest said laughing. “Brady is rather new to our program and has given us a fresh outlook on things. He has a tremendous work ethic and because of his tenacity he has probably a better chance of showing improvements.”
Priest said around 117 people are currently participating in the program. The training is provided free of charge, to people who need it, want it and would otherwise go unserved.
“I intend to make this training available to people who need it. If thousands of people show up, we’re in trouble,” Priest recently said to Dr. Dennis McCabe, president of TSU. “He (McCabe) said, ‘You cause the problem and we’ll fix it.’”
There are currently only three of the unique Psycle machines in the world; two of them are at TSU and the third in Dallas. Because of the rarity of the cycles, few people know about the program offered by TSU.