From St. Joe’s Special Needs Patient to Special Olympian

When 37-year-old special needs patient Everald Nelson came to St. Joe’s in 2020, his diabetes was spiraling out of control and the damage to his kidneys caused him to go into renal failure. 

For patients like Everald, being taken out of their daily routine and dealing with an unfamiliar environment can be especially difficult, so the medical team at St. Joe’s did whatever necessary to ensure Everald felt safe and comfortable as they focused on successfully treating both his renal failure and unmanaged diabetes. Soon enough, although he still needed dialysis three times a week, Everald was eventually stable enough to be released from the hospital.

Unfortunately, his elderly mother, who for years had lovingly been there for her autistic son, passed away while Everald was in the hospital. That meant it was up to St. Joe’s to find a place to provide continuing care for Everald.

After researching dozens of facilities, St. Joe’s finally found the perfect fit for Everald at the Specially Fit Foundation. As their name implies, Specially Fit focuses is on fitness, providing year-round workouts, Special Olympic training, nutrition coaching, and mentorship for individuals with developmental disabilities.

On the day of his discharge, after 288 days in the hospital, St. Joe’s team members treated Everald to a huge going away party and looked forward to hearing about his progress.

As soon as he settled into his new home, Everald started a daily regimen to help build up his strength. In addition to both physical and occupational therapy, Everald followed a special cardio and weightlifting program and was soon dead-lifting over 75 pounds. Most importantly, he enjoyed it.

“When I asked him if he wanted to participate in the Special Olympics, Everald was totally on board,” shares Mark Oliver, owner and fitness trainer of Specially Fit Foundation, who has been personally involved with the organization for many years.

From that point on, Everald’s training kicked into high gear. In addition to building up his strength, his hard work enabled him to completely eliminate his insulin injections and reduce dialysis from three times a week to two.

Everald’s new fitness routine not only brought success in terms of his overall health, it also resulted in a different kind of winning. This past summer, in his first-ever Special Olympics, Everald took home a gold medal in power lifting and is excited to soon be competing in his next power-lifting event.

He is also enjoying life in his new home with five other residents, going on outings and working out daily. Everald continues to have his kidneys monitored by Dr. Jesus Navarro, and his St. Joe’s family loves to hear about his new home and all his accomplishments during those visits.

Seeing the success of patients like Everald reinforces St. Joe’s commitment to initiatives like the BayCare HealthHub partnership which helps others like him get the training and support they need to achieve their goals and get healthier while doing it – because everyone should have the opportunity to be special in as many was as possible.