How the Founder of Clark’s Botanicals Spends His Sundays

How the Founder of Clark’s Botanicals Spends His Sundays

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In May of 2002, Francesco Clark’s life radically changed when he dove into the shallow end of a stranger’s pool. His neurosurgeon at the time said he had a permanent spinal cord injury, rendering Mr. Clark paralyzed and unable to speak.

Soon, he had moved back in with his parents in Westchester County. When I saw the hospital bed in my parent’s home where I used to play the piano, I burst into tears.”

But after years of rigorous physical therapy, Mr. Clark has proved much of the original prognosis to be wrong, while also starting a successful skin care business called Clark’s Botanicals. A national ambassador for the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, Mr. Clark, 41, lives with his father, mother and an aide, Silvia Golle, in Bronxville.

TALK TO ME Alexa wakes me at 8 a.m. Voice-activated software has made my life easier. I talk to her 50 times a day. Over the past 17 years I’ve regained my ability to speak and breathe on my own and use my arms. Sleeping is less painful since I got a special mattress that gently turns me while I’m sleeping. I also sleep with splints on my hands and feet.

TEAM WORK My mother makes me a triple cappuccino and gets my concoction of 30 different vitamins and supplements organized. I have three aides and two different nurses who help me. Silvia has been with us for 11 years. She’s part of the family. She helps me shave and gets my workout clothing from the closet. Then a Hoyer lift and net get me out of bed and into a waterproof wheelchair.

LAB RAT After the accident, I felt like my life was on pause while everyone was moving light years ahead of me. Aside from being paralyzed, my body didn’t sweat. My skin looked terrible and became clogged and I broke out. The last thing I wanted to do was look in the mirror. My father and I started Clark’s from a hospital bed. I’m the lab rat. I test a lot of the products we make in the morning. I have a roll-in shower so after testing I wash everything off.

PROGRESS My workout uniform is Uniqlo pants, Lacoste shirt, navy blue Adidas sneakers. For the first three years I didn’t go out. I shaved my head. I wore the same paper hospital pants everyday until Christopher Reeve passed away. That’s when I realized I needed to take responsibility for my life. By 10 I’m in my manual wheelchair and can use my arms to groom myself. At my desk I’ll read emails. In the last five years my fine-motor movements have come back.

BODY WORK The garage used to be a horse stable before we turned it into my workout and work space. I have a standing frame that looks like an elliptical machine, and my assistant and aide get me in it. It’s nice to be standing again and to defy what people said I’d never be able to do. This moves my hands and legs and prevents osteoporosis, relieves pain and stretches my muscles. My iPhone is tied to the handle bar. During the week this is how I make a lot of my business calls.

ENDORPHINS For the next hour I do bike rotations on my back for muscle and spine stimulation that allows for aerobic activity. I used to run seven miles a day and was on the crew team, so this is a stress release. I’m up to 3,000 rotations, which is 6,000 steps. Then I return emails and review my day and the week.

TRIP TO THE CITY My mother and aide get the van ready. Buying the first van was a way to re-establish my independence. It was a huge step in my recovery and gave me a sense of self. I recently started looking at townhouses on the Upper West Side. I’m ready to move out on my own again. I like being near Lincoln Center for the opera and the Museum of Natural History.

The biggest challenge will be finding a property where I can add an elevator and build a ramp. If I’m not doing that, we’ll all go to the Met. I grew up in Italy, so I love looking at historical work, especially from Van Gogh.

FAMILY DINNER My brother and sister and their families all live nearby. They come over for our Thanksgiving-like Sunday meal. I text everyone what to bring and when to show. My brother grills steak, my mom makes gnocchi and tagliatelle, my niece does dessert, my nephew makes and serves the cappuccino. Someone is setting the table. Someone else is picking the wine. There’s a sense of intention to all of this; that’s what’s changed in my life.

THERAPY My physical therapist comes over. I’m relearning how to crawl. I do planks and moving around on my elbows. I love it. I’m listening to music — Abba, Erasure, Lady Gaga, Donna Summer, anything pop and upbeat.

THE CLASSICS By 11:15 I’ve been helped back into bed and will watch a movie. I love old ones, especially Hitchcock, like “Dial M for Murder.” I like the elegance, and can catch something different every time I watch it. It’s not just Grace or Tippi, there’s this element of suspense.

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