When I was seven, I fell out of a tree I was climbing, on to the
driveway at our house. My arm hit a metal railing
on the edge of the
driveway and caused a compound fracture. The open wound got infected in
the next few days and I had a very high fever that
almost took my life. The doctor I had suggested someone with more
knowledge but by then the damage was to severe to repair. I lost total
use of my fingers and spent 9 months in the hospital having more than a
dozen different surgeries. Skin graphs from various
parts and tendon transplants. I never regained use of my hand, but it was not amputated.
When I was 17 I was diagnosed with a Sarcoma muscle cancer in my knee.
They amputated my right leg, above the knee, the next day and I went
through almost two years of chemotherapy. The cancer has not returned in
the last 33 years.
Loosing the use of my right arm turned me into a lefty overnight, at the
time I was so young I didn't think much of it, but I had to relearn how
to write and everything else. I suppose it was very traumatic, spending
all that tine in a hospital with out my
family. I really can't remember the bad stuff, selective memory, I'm
sure, I did okay little league baseball the next year and did it all
with one Hand. I did get the game winning hit in the championship game
that year, but it's all a little foggy. A few years
later I started playing tennis and I'm sure that took up a portion of my time, and kept me from focusing on my problem.
I think the amputation of my leg was much more difficult to deal with,
at 17 I was unprepared emotionally so I kind of decided that my life
would probably be over soon. Again I ended up missing most of my junior
year and was not at all interested in school
or just about anything. Of course I had support from my family, but
they weren't sure what to do or what I needed. There was very little
talk about college or career, and I wouldn't have given it much thought
anyway. I did learn about amputees that could snow
ski, so I got involved in that almost immediately. I found a whole new
incredible world, where I could feel normal again, skiing, like cycling
is a great equalizer. On the snow or on your bike, you really don't
notice that you're missing anything.
When I decided to go back to school at 28, I moved to Arizona to attend
ASU. I was living off campus, and somehow I decided to ride to my
classes. I bought a bike and quickly figured out a way
to attach my leg to the rear rack, so I could ride with one. I knew I
liked to ride and I enjoyed riding fast, but it was a painful in the
beginning without the custom adapters that I slowly developed over the
first year. I continued to ride to class and around
campus until I graduated, but then life got in the way and I got
involved in other things and my biking ended for the next 16 years.
For some reason I started to notice bicycles again in October of 2009,
and decide it would be nice to ride to the movies on my day off. Within
days i decide it would be nice to ride to work once in awhile, that
decision quickly led to riding to work everyday.
Within a couple of months, I felt like riding everywhere, and I soon would create destinations just to add more miles.
Of course i knew from my previous experience, that i would need to make
modifications to my bike in order to ride any serious distances? I
already had some knowledge about what I needed to make my bike more
comfortable, and the bike parts available today are
much more diverse than they were 16 years ago. I quickly began to
modify my handlebars and after about three months of tinkering I had a
fairly workable system, it took about 6 months to adjust it fully. Since
I've been off the bike for so long, I've had
to slowly work through an incredible amount of various aches and pains.
Every other day I would strain or pull a new muscle, which would cause
me to believe my cycling days were over. Finally after hurting almost
every part of my body, the pain has altogether stopped. It's bizarre that virtually overnight, all of the pain and suffering just vanished.
Developing and modifying the seat has been the most complex and
important part of the puzzle, I discovered, as I had many years ago, the
pain from sitting was abnormally pervasive. Back in college I never
dealt with that part of it sufficiently, I could not
come up with a solution, and that might be why I abandon my bike back
then. This time I've been determined to find something that works, and
with the help of my prosthetist and a couple of guys from a very special
bike shop(Airpark Bikes). I've just recently
found the perfect solution, we've developed a very simple yet slightly
complex system that is easy to put together, will work on any bike and
can benefit every amputee. The system allows me to ride 30, 50, or 100
miles at a time, completely pain free and virtually
without sitting on the seat at all. I rode 80 miles just a couple of
days ago, and when I finished, I could not tell I had been sitting on a
bike seat. Nothing was sore no abrasions my skin was left completely
undamaged, I am now Able to ride with less pain
than anybody with two legs.
To fully comprehend what I'm describing you really need to see the bike,
so at some point soon I will send you some photos, I'm writing this
from my Ipad, and this thing is a pain when it comes to email. I can't
even attach photos, or I don't know how.
My long term goal, that has been slowly developing during this process,
is to make this system available to all the other amputees that ride or
tried to ride or would like to ride. I'm sure there are thousands of
young veterans and countless others that just
don't know the possibilities. Eventually, sharing the knowledge I've accumulated with the right people, will bring a new found freedom to a whole community. I'm at point in my life where I have
found a certain amount of fulfillment and with this happiness, it's
time for me to focus on what I can do to benefit others.
I'm more than happy to share anything else you would like to know, I
hope I've answered most of your questions so far. Please feel free to
contact me whenever you'd like.