Facing extreme challenges | VailDaily.com

Facing extreme challenges

Cheryl Lindstrom
Special to the DailyA series of medical catastrophes have switched professional trainers Dale Lloyd and Jen Crotzer from care givers to care receivers.

At ProTrain, dozens of local residents and seasonal visitors, each with an individualized training regimen, have watched their weight drop, their strength and cardiovascular fitness increase, and their outlook on life improve.

For Crotzer, it was a return home to the valley where she grew up after both she and her new husband spent several years earning degrees and high levels of certification in order to provide sound physiological exercise regimens to their clients with a high degree of professionalism. Married in 1999, Jen and Dale came to Vail after spending four years on the nutrition and strength conditioning staffs respectively at the University of Nebraska.

But now, after many years of assisting others in attaining their fitness goals, a tragic sequence of events over the past 18 months finds both Crotzer and Lloyd in need of mending their own bodies and souls. Crotzer, 27, is battling a life-threatening heart and stroke condition that required open heart surgery in May. Since her surgery, she has suffered a sequence of trans-ischemic attacks, or mini-strokes, that have left her with speech and memory deficits.

Coincidentally, in June 2001, Lloyd suffered a debilitating back injury that will require surgery.

As a result of their medical misfortunes, Crotzer and Lloyd became unable to serve their clientele, which has forced them to temporarily shutter the business. Medical costs have reached a catastrophic level with no end in sight.

In response to this tragic sequence of events, ProTrain clients are joining with the Vail Valley Charitable Fund to reach out to the community at large to help Crotzer and Lloyd gain a foothold on the path to recovery.

“Many of us have benefited from their training regimens and advice on how to improve our fitness. We’ve sweated, struggled and sacrificed and in the process have come to know Jen and Dale not just as our trainers but as our friends,” said Vicki Crawford, one of the members of the fund-raising committee. “The continuing downward spiral in their health is just devastating, almost beyond comprehension. It’s very tragic to see two very, very healthy people suddenly hanging onto threads of hope.

“As their friends, we want to help them improve physically, financially and emotionally.”

While both have experienced significant medical challenges, it is Crotzer’s condition that is the most dire. Following a severe head and neck trauma at age 22, Crotzer has suffered episodes where she experienced a loss of consciousness, respiratory distress and severe pain. This stroke activity grew in magnitude and frequency in late 2001, but it wasn’t until early May that she was diagnosed as having an atrial septal defect, which consisted of seven holes in her atrium, some measuring over 2.5 centimeters. On May 21 doctors placed a Dacron patch over the entire area during an open-heart procedure.

Initially Crotzer’s recovery moved along at a rapid level due to her exceptional fitness – she is an accomplished triathlete, cyclist and was a collegiate soccer player. In 1991 she climbed to over 20,000 feet while accompanying an expedition to Mt. Everest. Locally, Crotzer led her clients on several climbs of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks. Due to her progress, she contemplated a part-time return to the business in August and occasional visits to the studio were psychologically beneficial for both Crotzer and ProTrain clients.

But August marked the onset of the strokes that have prevented her from leaving home for prolonged periods, the cause of which is baffling her growing battalion of doctors.

Through all of this, Lloyd, 42, is struggling to cope with the effects of lumbar disk damage, which often has left him virtually bedridden and forced him to stop training his clients. He needs disk repair, a procedure he must postpone while he cares for his wife.

“This has completely turned the tables for us and changed our lives forever,” said Lloyd. “Before, Jen and I were always the caregivers, training diligently and helping others. And whether it was a client who wanted to lose some weight or an NFL draft pick, our commitment was always the same. Now we’re the ones who find ourselves in a situation where we are the ones asking for help. We will forever be different, more compassionate and more humble as a result of our issues.”

For each of them, every setback results in another hospital visit, more treatments, more questions, more money owed to medical service providers. And more uncertainty as to how they will fight their way back. Together, Crotzer and Lloyd take life not one day at a time, but one hour at a time.

Donations for Jen Crotzer and Dale Lloyd are being accepted at the Vail Valley Charitable Fund, PO Box 3861, Eagle, CO, 81631. Write “Jen and Dale” in the memo field of your check and make sure a return address is included.

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