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Weakness Overlooked on Tennis Court

September 20, 2014 11:25 AM

By Ron Cioffi/USTA Southern

Long-time girlfriend Patricia Leitz and Chalres Ward pose at Aston Park.ward_charles_LA_M_30_300

Six months ago, Charles Ward was barely playing tennis. But that was better than two years ago, when he was stuck in the ICU for five days, barely moving.

Ward, who plays on the men’s Louisiana 3.0 team, had never had any health issues until around his 55th birthday in 2012. 

“I was going to the gym every day. I was playing tennis about two times a week. One day I woke up and didn’t feel very well. My left arm was just hanging down and I couldn’t move it. The next day my son had to carry me to the ambulance.”

Patricia Leitz, Ward’s girlfriend, explained that he was in the hospital 10 days with lesions on his spine. “They told Charles he had transverse myelitis and that he probably would not play tennis again.”

The transverse myelitis website defines the disease this way: “TM generally presents with rapidly progressing muscle weakness or paralysis, beginning with the legs and potentially moving to the arms with varying degrees of severity.”

Patricia said Charles has a bit of a stubborn streak, however, and that he was determined to find a way to recover. 

“Right now my serve is about 20 percent. My ground strokes are about 70 percent. My running is 60 percent of what it used to be,” Ward said. “I’ve gotten stronger. I can lift five pounds with my left arm. Still have the shakes and atrophy in left arm and leg.”

About a year ago, he got on the court at the Stone Creek Health Club and Spa in Covington, La. “The pros were real helpful and got me back on court. If the pro hit the ball right at me, then I could hit it back. It wasn’t until about six months ago that I really started to play. But my teammates realized I couldn’t cover the whole court.” He was very grateful to his teammates for inviting him back to play when he was still recuperating.

On Friday, Charles – firmly on the comeback trail – was covering a lot more ground as he and partner Wayne Weidenbacher defeated the Alabama team in a match tiebreak.




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