Laura Browning Grant opens up about some of the challenges she’s facing on a daily basis, helping further her husband Jonny’s rehab journey from a serious car accident, and how the Pilates method can help heal in more ways than one.

When Pilates Style approached me about participating in the relaunch of their blog, I was honored and excited to accept their invitation. As I pondered what topic I would like to address, my mind kept returning to how I am using the strength, knowledge, experience and principles of the Pilates method in my journey in this chapter of my life. In the next six months, my goal is to share how the Pilates principles work their magic on healing the body and also provide me strength in both mind and body to meet the day-to-day challenges I am currently facing.

Let’s begin by reviewing the history of the Pilates method. As you probably know, Joseph Pilates worked as a nurse while being held as a German enemy alien internee on the Isle of Man at the outbreak of WW1. During his interment, Pilates began attaching springs to hospital beds in an effort to rehabilitate soldiers’ muscles even while they were bedridden. Thus, the Pilates method was born. Now at this point in my life, I find myself returning to the roots of Pilates as I help nurse my husband, a Navy seal, back to health as he lies in a hospital bed.

Jonathan (Jonny, Jon) Grant was a passenger in a horrific car accident on March 17, 2017, in Raleigh, North Carolina. Jon suffered a severe brain injury called diffuse axonal injury (DAI), forcing him into a coma. SO1 Grant earned his Navy SEAL trident in 2007 and served his country on three oversea deployments. At the time of the accident, Jon was serving as a combat medic instructor at Fort Bragg.

After two months of healing, it is clear that we have a long road to recovery ahead of us. Many professionals remind me that we are running a marathon and not a sprint. The progression toward recovery is slow with very small signs of improvement along the path. Even so, I have no doubt that Jon’s determination and strong will, the application of the Pilates method and our strong faith will lead us toward complete healing.

Now, let’s look back to the beginning of our journey. Upon arrival at the hospital, Jon scored a 3 on the Glasgow Coma Scale. According to Wikipedia, “The Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) is a neurological scale which aims to give a reliable and objective way of recording the conscious state of a person for initial as well as subsequent assessment.” The patients are assessed according to their response to stimuli on a scale ranging from the lowest score of 3, indicating severe brain injury, to the highest score of 15, indicating a minor brain injury. I was reminded many times a day that Jon’s brain injury is categorized as the most severe form of TBI. The degree of damage to the brain and his future abilities were impossible to determine until he emerges from unconsciousness. The scariest fact of all is that a large majority of those that suffer this form of brain injury never regain consciousness.

The impact of his injury overwhelmed me but I knew I had to stay strong and positive for Jon. After stabilizing Jon in the ER, he was moved to the Neuro ICU. The first five days were the most critical. There are secondary injuries in the brain that occur after the initial trauma. Therefore, it was really important that the brain pressure be carefully monitored, and there be minimal stimuli so the brain could focus on healing. At this point, I was running on shock and adrenaline. My body was numb. I never wanted to leave his side. But there was nothing I could do to help him. The nurses and doctors kept stressing the importance of self-care so that I would be physically and mentally strong enough to be there for him when he really needed my support. Everything I had ever learned in Pilates had taught me the importance of mind/body strength, and it was now time to draw on my knowledge to care for myself in a time of crisis. I began focusing on all I had learned about the Pilates method’s ability to build a strong mind and body, and made a commitment to myself and Jon that I would move my body every day in order to be the best I can be no matter where the road leads us in the future.

“Change happens through movement and movement heals.” —Joseph Pilates

This quote not only applies to my well-being, but also to Jon’s health as he lays in a hospital bed fighting for complete healing. Jon’s body needs movement even though he is unable to move on his own. So, I make sure he is repositioned every two hours. Even though this is normal protocol in the ICU, circumstances often prolong the adjustment, and I had to advocate for my husband and gently remind the nurses that it was time to move him to a different position.

After the critical first week, I am given permission to start using my magic tricks on Jon.

“Breathing is the first act of life and the last. Our very life depends on it.” —Joseph Pilates

Jon was admitted to the ER in respiratory failure. He was immediately placed on a ventilator. After the five days of minimal stimulation, I began telling him to take deep full breaths. I was confident he could hear me, and if he could do so, he would try to do what I said. Soon thereafter, the monitors showed that Jon was breathing over the ventilator. He was breathing so well that the doctors took him off the ventilator and inserted a tracheostomy during the second week. (I will cover more about breathing in future posts.)

Joseph Pilates always emphasized the importance of foot health as it relates to the well-being of the body. Foot reflexology, based on Chinese medicine, is founded on the notion that the foot has reflex points that correspond to all parts of the body. The tips of the big, second and third toes are the reflex point for the brain. The pad of the big toes contain the reflex points for the hypothalamus, the pineal gland and the pituitary gland, all important for brain function. Everyday I used this knowledge to help Jon recover. At least three times a day I massaged his toes and feet with frankincense oil. I also spent a lot of time stretching, and rotating his ankles. My goal was to prevent dropped foot, which could alter his ability to walk in the future.

A side effect of a brain injury is posturing. According to Wikipedia, “Abnormal posturing is an involuntary flexion or extension of the arms and legs, indicating severe brain injury.” Pilates teaches the importance of using both flexion and extension movements to create healthy muscles and joints. When the limbs are constantly in one or the other position, the muscles become extremely toned or, as I say rigid, and lose flexibility. Jon was posturing. In an effort to prevent permanent positioning of the arms, legs and feet, I performed stretches in an effort to release the muscles, and moved the limbs by rotating, flexing and extending the muscles. Remember, movement heals.

Pilates also teaches us the importance of alignment throughout the body and how it can heal problem areas. I watched Jon in his bed unable to move. I couldn’t tell whether he was comfortable, but knew his body was not in proper alignment and it could cause problems down the road. So I took it upon myself to make sure his body was properly aligned. Every time the nurses positioned his body, I was very particular about the alignment of his neck in relation to the rest of his body. I know I was a pain in the neck for the nurses, but I was determined to make Jon as comfortable as possible to possibly prevent alignment problems down the road.

The Pilates method is more than an exercise, it is a lifestyle. You develop a deeper understanding of yourself as a person and learn how to be present in the moment. My body is a temple for my soul, and I must keep it healthy, especially under the challenges I am facing. I want to apologize in advance for too much info, but I feel this chapter of my life has a purpose and God has prepared me for this journey. I look forward to sharing this journey with you, and how I believe The Pilates method has set me up for success. I look forward to the day I can get Jon into my studio. So much more to come that I can barely stop writing this entry. Stay tuned.



Laura Browning Grant is the owner of Laurabpilates, LLC, in Raleigh, NC. She is recognized as a Lolita San Miguel Disciple Educator and PMA®-CPT. She received her degree in sport management from North Carolina State University and has shared her passion for the Pilates method for more 15 years, teaching to clients and instructors through workshops, continuing-education classes and teacher-training courses.

May 15, 2017 at 11:41 am
Category: Articles, Laura Browning Grant, Pilates Blog, Videos