Laura Browning Grant has been teaching pilates for almost 15 years – but she never imagined she’d have to use the practice to help her husband regain even the most basic of motor functions.
On March 17, Jonathan Neal Grant, who began serving as a Navy SEAL in 2007, was in a horrific car accident as he and a friend rushed to offer medical aid at the site of a fire in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina. Jon – who was serving as a combat medic instructor at Fort Bragg at the time of the accident – suffered a traumatic brain injury called a diffuse axonal injury and fell into a coma.
Jon, 36, has since woken up, but is confined to a wheelchair and hasn’t regained his speech. He’s once again eating on his own, and working toward standing up without aid.
“To this day, I’m still in shock,” Laura, 32, tells PEOPLE exclusively of her husband of five years. “That first day, I kept thinking that I was going to wake up tomorrow and he was going to be awake and everything was going to be okay.”
Jon’s future remains unclear and he’s still “100 percent dependent,” Laura says, noting that he’ll likely be an in-patient at the hospital for a least another year.
Thank you to the wonderful therapists for allowing/inviting me to jump in and be apart of Jon's rehab. #thankful I can't wait to get Jon into the studio for some Pilates. #staystrongjonnygrant WE want to challenge YOU to use The WHOLE system. 🙌🏼Introducing the #Wholesystemchallenge by @cotronepilates and @laurabpilates Each week we will pick a classical Pilates exercise and perform it on one of the many apparatuses. We challenge you to show us where you would most like to perform the exercise and how YOU would teach it. You can post as many times as you like in as many places and ways as you can come up with. Join us and keep your Pilates practice on point. #WholeSystemChallenge N 24 The Roll Down Shown on the Cadillac by @cotronepilates and on a mat by @laurabpilates Apparatus by @Gratzpilates The Roll Down is a wonderful exercise to lengthen your spine and align your body. Having a helping hand, or roll back bar to guide you enhances the feed back you are receiving which in turn helps you execute the exercise more precisely. Even a little help can go a long way ❤️ Pro Tip ✨ If your legs are straight, work to find the 2-way stretch by reaching out through your heels. Simultaneously find your opposing stretch as you lengthen out while rolling down. Don't grip your quads, and avoid lifting your shoulders. If your knees are bent placing the knees closer to your seat will make this super challenging! And further away is a great Intro to finding your Powerhouse and beginning to move be a stiff spine 👍🏻We are super excited to hear about how you all cue your clients and yourself when performing this core exercise! NOW, your turn to share!! Post a photo or video clip of you, a friend, or a client doing this challenge and tag @CotronePilates & @Laurabpilates + #Wholesystemchallenge
But Jon has made some major improvements through physical, speech, occupational and recreational therapies. And, Laura’s been putting her career as a pilates instructor and owner of Laura B Pilates to good use.
“As soon as we got into the ICU I knew that movement was going to heal,” she says. “So just laying there, his body is not going to be able to circulate correctly. So I would massage his feet every night because in pilates we always start from the feet and go up.”
Laura says the “awareness” of her body that she’s learned through pilates has also enabled her to help work with Jon on physical therapy techniques on her own.
The response to the Grants’ story has been powerful, and Laura admits that although she was initially fearful of negative comments, her husband’s military “brotherhood” has come to the forefront.
“I do have my times that I get down,” admits Laura. “Usually I like to go for a run and be with myself at those moments and think through things, I have to remember that God has a plan and that the journey that we’re going on, God has full control of it.”
Laura says part of relinquishing control was telling Jon it was “okay if it is too hard to fight.” She says, “The first day when it happened, I whispered into Jon’s ear, you know, if it’s God’s will for you to live, then fight, but if it’s too painful then I understand, and I’ll be okay.”
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But Jon’s a fighter.
“When he went into the military, he decided he was not just going to be in the military. He was going to be a Navy SEAL,” she explains. “If he was going to do it, he was going to do it all the way. But, that’s the mentality of Jon and that’s why I have no doubts that he’s going to push as hard as he can through this.”