Hammad and Zainab Connect and Compete Through Lakeshore Tennis

Dr. Hammad Aslam has always been a goal-oriented person. In May 2009, shortly after his college graduation he had his sights set on medical school but was involved in a car accident that caused a spinal cord injury and paralysis from the chest down.

But with the help of his family and friends and a year of intensive rehabilitation, Hammad was able to get himself to a place where he could live independently and resume his plan to attend medical school at the Medical College of Georgia. He graduated in 2014 with an MD and is now specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation.

In 2015, when he began his residency at University of Alabama at Birmingham, the young doctor turned to Lakeshore for ways to help support his healthy, active lifestyle – including finding ways to share activities with his wife, Zainab Alwan, a lawyer for the Solano Law Firm, LLC

“Lakeshore is helping us enjoy our time together independently,” says Zainab. For example, when the couple went on their honeymoon in 2016, Lakeshore helped them make their dream of hiking one of Hawaii’s famed waterfalls a reality. “We’ve always been super active.” says Zainab. They found out that they could go hiking together on trails with the help of a FreeWheel – an apparatus that attaches to the front of Hammad’s manual wheelchair, stabilizing it and enabling him to traverse rougher terrain.

As another way to stay active together, Hammad and Zainab signed up for Lakeshore’s Run/Roll Tennis, a doubles tennis league where one player on each team uses a wheelchair. The rules are the same as any other doubles tennis league, with the exception that the player who uses the wheelchair is allowed two bounces to return the ball. Learn more about upcoming spring and summer tennis programs.

“When we discovered run/roll tennis, it was amazing. We’re now able to play on the same court with couples like us,” says Zainab, who had played tennis in the past but never on the same court with her husband. Hammad, who has participated in other adapted sports, was enthusiastic to try something new: “I didn’t have to be great at tennis to start playing – I might have even been horrible at first,” he laughs, “but it’s been fun to learn, and it’s something that Zainab and I can do together.”

Hammad says he’s gotten a feel for the faster wheelchairs that are used on the court, and that he’s learned to work with a racket and keep his momentum going so he has time to maneuver and get to the ball. “Plus,” he points out, “playing alongside someone who’s not using a wheelchair makes it even more fun.”

Zainab says Hammad’s disability has had an impact on his life, but it hasn’t kept him from living. Hammad acknowledges, “but there are also a lot of things I can do.” So when he’s not making rounds at the hospital, Hammad takes advantage of the exercise facilities at Lakeshore. “Staying physically fit as a wheelchair user is incredibly important, since we’re prone to shoulder and overuse injuries,” the doctor says. “I do a lot of stabilization and strengthening exercises now. I feel like my shoulders are healthier now than they were before my injury.” View our adult aquatics, fitness and recreation schedules.

The couple also shares their gratitude for Lakeshore’s community. “Before coming to Lakeshore, I had known only a few other people who were like me,” says Hammad. “But now I know lots of other people who use wheelchairs – and also their spouses. And we benefit from their experiences and advice, like the best way to lift yourself into your chair from the floor. Watch the NCHPAD How To video series featuring tips and tricks for wheelchair users.

“Being able to see other folks who have injuries and use wheelchairs who aren’t just surviving, they’re thriving – that’s huge mentally. It gives me something to look forward to,” says Hammad.  “I don’t think I could get that anywhere else. This is a unique community.”