By Batista Gremaud
Muscles Saved My Life!
Pavel Ythjall and his loving wife Kat are the survivors of a terrible car crash that left her paraplegic requiring 24 hrs a day of in-house medical care and Pavel himself fighting for his life. Today he is the number one best-selling author of True Love And Suffering and the producer of Moment of Impact, a documentary scheduled to release in March 2023.
Q: Tell us about yourself and your wife, Kat
My wife Kat was an Airforce Major, Triathlete, IFBB Bikini Pro competitor, and Marathoner. I was the Number One female fitness photographer in America, shooting for the prestigious Muscle and Fitness and other elite fitness magazines. We were both in top physical shape. We were barely married for 1 year, business was doing great, we were deeply in love, living our dream life, looking toward a bright future, and raising a family.
Q: What happened?
It was during Christmas time, on a dark, cold winter night. Kat and I were on our way to visit some friends. The Range Rover I was driving hit something on the road, rolled over 3-4 times, and we landed upside down, my head smashed into the windshield. I remember thinking: "That is going to hurt!" Then I blacked out. I woke up hanging from the seatbelt.
Kat's military training enabled her to stay calm and take over the situation. She screamed: "Go get help; my legs are trapped; I can't move!"
I got up and walked on the 405 Freeway. I waved, but no one stopped. I felt like I was fading away when what seemed to be a vagrant appeared before me. I kept saying: "Call 911! Call 911! Then I passed out.
I woke up in the ICU.
Q: What injuries did you sustain?
I was internally decapitated. I broke my C-1, which controls breathing, and the base of my skull. My head was balancing on a string only supported by ligaments, muscles, and adrenaline. I should be dead!
Kat broke several vertebrates and severed her spinal cord, instantly paralyzed from the neck down. Once the spinal cord is severed, there is no way back. She was given a 10% chance to survive her initial operation.
Q: What went through your mind when you realized Kat would be paralyzed for the rest of her life?
Seeing this beautiful, strong Latina air force major and fitness competitor in this vegetative state was brutal and heartbreaking The only thing I could think of was that I needed to stay strong for her. Because unfortunately, neither one of us had a family to help. So I started fighting for my life and for her at that moment. I don't allow myself to cry, not because I am tough, but because if I start, I don't know when I will stop. So I posted on social media and emptied my soul there and in my writings. People responded, and complete strangers with similar experiences came forward and offered help.
Q: So then, what happened?
They screwed a HALO into my skull to support my neck, and I was forced to keep it on for the following 2 months.
I lost 20 lbs of muscle mass in the first 2 months. I wasn't allowed to use weights; I had to let my neck bones heal. So I used bodyweight exercises to stay active, later biceps curls with 5 lbs dumbbells. When they took off the HALO, I slowly returned to regular weights to regain my strength so I could be there for my wife.
On a side note, I started lifting weights early in life to control my asthma, and it worked beautifully.
Staying strong is the cure for me. The basis of my entire recovery from the accident was strength training.
To this day, I still carry Kat everywhere, to and from bed, to and from her wheelchair, and aboard airplanes, everywhere needed. She is not heavy, but lifting 100 lbs from a deep squatted position with no warm-up requires good overall athleticism.
Q: What does your day look like?
I didn't want to be a full-time caregiver; I was a hot stud driving my Range Rover and wearing my Rolex watch. Life was not supposed to be that way. But it turns out that caring for someone is truly a blessing. It took a while to get to that point, but today I am a better man because of it!
I get up at 4:00 am in the morning, I work, I wake her up at 5:30 am, make coffee, and set her up in bed. She has a computer with a touch screen, an Ipad, and an iPhone. She works for the US Base Force. We talk a little bit, and then she goes on with her meetings. Then the nurse comes at 8:00 am and performs her personal care routine. I have an office upstairs, so I come down and see her throughout the day. We created a good life for ourselves under impossible circumstances.
Q: Would you say that your physicality saved you?
Without a doubt, we survived the accident because of our physical condition. The sheer force of the car rolling and our heads bouncing uncontrollably from the impact ripped our bodies apart, but ligaments and muscles kept our bodies together enough to survive.
My neurosurgeon told me that she had never seen anyone recover as fast as me. I attribute it all to "willing myself" to heal using my mind and body, which goes hand in hand with the mind-muscle connection.
Q: Where do you work out?
No excuses! At the hospital, I did bodyweight squats and brought over 5 lbs dumbbells and bands for biceps curls, then I worked out at home with a barbell. Eventually, I got well enough to build my garage into a complete gym with a squat rack platform and other equipment.
I always travel with resistance bands and often do workouts at airports for layovers etc. I don't ever take my muscles for granted. I need them to live and to help Kat.
Q: Often, people underestimate the importance of having muscles. Why are muscles important?
I see the importance of muscle firsthand. My wife cannot move. Her muscles atrophied fast the first year since she couldn't load the skeleton and muscles. She is basically aged 40 years in 1 year. Her bones are brittle, she has osteoporosis, and she needs injections. She is now skin, bones, and ligaments with very little muscle left. Her bones and joints are loose, and it's not only a tragedy for someone so young but life-threatening.
Q: Do you have any takeaways you want to leave our readers with?
Muscles, via strength training, are one of the pillars of youth and staying agile and capable until you die. The heart is our most important muscle, and while the heart benefits from food choices and cardiovascular activity, the rest of the body needs to lift heavy loads to stay strong.
We admire people with visible muscle for a reason; we innately know it's good for us and want it too. Lean bodies, in particular, evoke this awe, but being too skinny is often counterproductive.
Muscles also give you a feeling of empowerment. You feel able. You can help yourself and others. Q: Tell us about Moment Of Impart, the documentary.
My documentary "Moment Of Impact" is about a love letter to my heroes and the blessings of love from friends and family that I found due to the accident. In retrospect, I see that I was so busy taking care of myself and Kat that I never thanked all these people that came and helped. I wanted to tell the world about them.
Next, we want to do a feature film, a dramatization of the book. The documentary is like a practice run for the next project.
It will be a True Love Story.
Support Kat, buy
TRUE LOVE AND SUFFERING
A Caretaker's Memoir of Trauma, Despair, and Other Blessings https://truelovethebook.com/
Dr Fitness USA THE SHOW aims to create a society of stronger and healthier people. Expanding our exercise vision, we interface it with medicine, bridging the gap between business, fitness, and medical professionals.
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Batista Gremaud is the CEO and president of Dr Fitness International, International Body Designer, Strength Training Expert, No1 Best Selling author of Feminine Body Design, Empowering Fitness For A Pain-Free Life, co-creator of the Feminine Body Design online strength training mentoring system, co-host of the Esoteric Principles of Bodybuilding, Recipient of the most outstanding fitness program 2019 by The Winners Circle, Mastermind at Sea. and producer of the Dr Fitness USA’s THE SHOW.
Heart Of Hollywood Magazine Contributor