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Rising above

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By Amy Chen

Published Mar 5, 2008 11:39 AM


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Clinical exercise physiologist Taylor-Kevin Isaacs (right) helps clients like former surfer Jesse Billauer overcome physical challenges. Copyright © All photos by Kaye Kittrell, from her book Transforming Lives: The Work of Taylor-Kevin Isaacs.


Taylor-Kevin Isaacs, clinical exercise physiologist, is making miracles happen one life at a time.

Holding to his mantra, "Training. Knowledge. Inspiration," the former professor of kinesiology at California State University, Northridge, has opened a private practice and, with his patients, created C.O.R.E., Inc., a nonprofit corporation committed to changing perceptions regarding the ongoing treatment and management of catastrophic injury and chronic conditions.

Ever since Isaacs graduated summa cum laude from UCLA in 1992 with a premed major (psychobiology/behavioral modification), he has been pursuing his dream to help others through therapeutic exercise. "Thanks to my knowledge base, built on a solid UCLA foundation, I have the enthusiasm, industriousness, education and motivation to help clients with a variety of disabling conditions work toward a goal with unimpeded progress," he says.

Born in England and raised in South Africa, the 6'3" personal trainer is a former professional soccer player whose athletic career ended after an opponent crashed into him and broke his ankle during a game. Doctors believed the injury too severe for Isaacs to walk again, but in time he fought his way to recovery. The 2002 ACE (American Council on Exercise) Personal Trainer of the Year and two-time MET-Rx World’s Best Personal Trainer is proof that ongoing physical therapy can achieve the impossible, and now he is helping his patients reach their goals.

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Isaacs (in baseball cap) encourages Kristina Ripatti across the finish line at the LAPD's 5K memorial run. At left is Tim Pearce, Ripatti's husband; wearing No. 201 is Police Chief William Bratton.

Through C.O.R.E. (Center of Rehabilitative Exercise) and its marketing arm, Rise Above, Isaacs and his patients are raising funds to build state-of-the-art facilities stocked with unique and specialized equipment that will improve function, independence and self-efficacy in paralyzed patients. The corporation's mission echoes Isaacs' desire to build awareness of the continued benefits of therapeutic exercise.

Among Isaacs' clients is Kristina Ripatti, a former Los Angeles Police Department officer who was paralyzed from the chest down in June 2006 when she was shot on duty. The recipient of a beautiful new house, courtesy of the nationally televised "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," Ripatti was determined to participate in the department's 5K run at Dockweiler State Beach in June 2007. She rolled hard in her wheelchair, pulling up just short of the finish line as Isaacs strapped her into a sturdy set of leg braces. Gripping the handles of a walker, she tottered slowly across the finish line, to the surprise and delight of her fellow cops.

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Former professional motocross racer Aaron Baker, a recovering quadriplegic, rides on the back of a tandem bike while Isaacs watches proudly from a distance.

Another client, professional motocross racer Aaron Baker, has united with Isaacs to demonstrate the "power of possibility" through their promotion of the Rise Again Tour. Last summer, Baker and his mother, Laquita Conway, completed the 3,182-mile, cross-country bike tour from San Diego, Calif., to St. Augustine, Fla., with Baker on the back of a tandem bike and his mother in the front. The three-month tour occurred just eight years after a crash left Baker a quadriplegic, with three broken cervical vertebrae.

The years following Baker's May 26, 1999, accident were difficult. One year post-injury, the hospital and insurance company deemed him rehabilitated, but he remained dependent for all basic functions. Looking to continue Baker's rehabilitation, Conway learned of Isaacs from a friend and contacted him for help. She described their first meeting “like meeting hope. I’ve never met an individual more able, more committed to his work, more compassionate with a deep sense of empathy. Taylor Isaacs is a gift to those in situations that seem so dire.”

In June, Baker will again participate in the Rise Above Tour, which will take riders along the “Transamerica Trail” from San Francisco, Calif., to Washington, D.C. This time, however, Baker will be riding under his own power.

“All of my clients are exceptional individuals who have many stories worth telling and many achievements worth applauding,” Isaacs says. “My role as a clinical exercise physiologist is to bridge the gap between sad and glad, dysfunction and function. My enduring personal and professional philosophy is about transforming bodies and, more importantly, transforming lives.”

Isaacs may be contacted by phone at (310) 801-4129, by fax at (310) 966-1175, or by e-mail. To learn more about C.O.R.E., Inc., visit the Web site. Tax-deductible donations can be sent to C.O.R.E., 25233 Avenida Dorena, Santa Clarita, CA 91321, or contact Laquita Conway at (661) 259-7146. To order copies of Transforming Lives: The Work of Taylor-Kevin Isaacs, e-mail Kaye Kittrell.

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