Strength has a vastly different definition and connotation for different people.
It’s all relative.
For Lee Jackson, strength is defined simply by walking.
“As long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be strong,” Jackson said. “There are pictures of me at age 4 and 5 flexing and showing people my muscles. My favorite comic book character has been the Hulk for as long as I could read. I was drawn to the weight room in high school and would lift whenever I got the chance. I actually got an award in the 8th grade for deadlifting 345 pounds.”
That all changed in 2012, however.
At the age of 22, Jackson was working two jobs and going to school full-time. While driving home from work one evening, his feet randomly stopped working.
Literally. He couldn’t move them.
Hours later, he was paralyzed from the waist down.
“They diagnosed me with Guillain-Barré Syndrome,” Jackson said. “It’s a rare neurological disorder in which your body's immune system attacks your nerves. Weakness and tingling in your extremities are usually the first symptoms. It can spread quickly and paralyze your whole body.”
Jackson spent the next few months in a wheelchair and learning to walk again.
But in 2014, the condition flared up again.
“For the second time in two years, I was left without the use of my legs,” he said. “This time I was told that I might never walk without assistance again. I got better and proved them wrong. While I was healthy, I started lifting again. In 2017, I had just gotten into powerlifting when, for the third time in five years, I couldn’t use my legs. That’s when doctors started telling me to think about quitting my job and going on disability, and that ‘if’ I ever got better, I would never be the same. My neurological system was shot. A specialist said it was like my nerves were ‘frayed wires’ that could short out at any time.”
Jackson felt like he was robbed. Why was this happening to him over and over again?
Rather than focus on things he couldn’t control, he decided he wasn’t finished. He had been through too much to give up now.
“I worked at it and for the third time, walked out of physical therapy unassisted with my head held high in August of 2017,” Jackson said. “I do still have symptoms and may not ever be as physically strong as I could have been without my condition, but it hasn't stopped me. I competed in my first powerlifting competition on March 3, 2018, and totaled 1,250 pounds while winning my weight class. I plan to wear my APEMAN shirt under my singlet at every meet.”
If Lee Jackson doesn’t define the APEMAN spirit, we’re not sure what does.