Friday, August 22, 2014

My First Bike Ride and My First Bike Riding Lesson!

"Would you like to learn how to ride a two wheeler or try a three wheeler to start," Nate Berry asked me at the Weingarten Adaptive Sports Center at Spaulding Rehab in Charlestown.

I wasn't anticipating the possibility of trying out a two-wheeler and said that I would go with a three-wheeler for now.

Ali Stoll, DPT, the physical therapist who is the director of the Adaptive Sports Center at Spaulding, greeted me warmly. Everyone greeted everyone warmly. There were maybe a half dozen or so patients and a dedicated, energetic, warm, welcoming staff from AccesSportAmerica Ali went to get me a top of the line recumbent bike while Nate fitted me with a bicycle helmet. While I was anxious about what was in store for me on my first outdoor biking adventure, the staff's confidence, joy and enthusiasm put me at ease.

I did not know that the staff ratio is at least 1:1 for the adaptive sports program. At least a one on one staff ratio for $20 for a 90 minute session and no one is ever turned away because of their inability to pay. I was blessed to have Nate and Ali and two other staffers from AccesSportAmerican accompany me on my inaugural bike ride along the scenic trail with the view of Boston and the Boston Harbor before me.

Yesterday I wrote about my new normal. Well I felt "normal" as we rode bikes (Nate was on a skateboard because there were no bikes left) and talked just as friends do when they go out to enjoy a beautiful late summer's day in Boston. Ali was clear in her use of language that I was not on an adaptive bike; I was using a recumbent bike which people of all abilities use.

I felt exhilaration to feel myself biking and learning how to navigate on a recumbent bike. I surprised myself by how I allowed myself to experience the thrill trusting in my ability to use the brakes if I needed them. I was concerned about whether or not I would have the stamina to bike for almost an hour but the conversation and the support and encouragement from Nate and Ali made it easy for me. They checked in with me from time to time making sure nothing hurt and I was doing okay but other than for those brief moments, I did not feel like a patient or a polio survivor. I was experiencing myself in my body trying out a new sport. And that is the whole point of the Adaptive Sports Program and AccesSportAmerica.

"How is your balance on one leg?" Ali asked as we were heading back to where we began our bike ride.

"Not great. I work on balance and core strength in Aquatics."

"Which leg is stronger right or left?"

"Definitely right."

On our way back there was a steep incline. Nate and Ali told me to push, push. Push with your left leg but I couldn't push any harder even harnessing my core. Nate helped to lift me over the incline. Ali almost got stuck as well and said, "It's harder than it looks." We laughed. And even though I needed to feel the security of having my feet strapped in, needed support when I stood up after riding, I transcended the feelings of awkwardness and any doubts about my ability in my body. This is the way I am and everything is more than okay with how I am.

Throughout the entire bike ride I felt joyful and at ease having total trust and confidence in my body knowing that Nate and Ali were there to guide and support me if I needed assistance.

"We have ten minutes left when we get back. Would you like to try the two wheeler? Ali and I will spot you," Nate said. Ali and Nate have this wonderful ability to encourage my abilities while helping me to feel supported. No time like the present to try something I'd never done before.

A group from AccesSportAmerica gathered around. Nate talked me through the steps to getting on the bike and provided me with basic education about learning how to ride a bike. Ali supported me with the watchful and encouraging eye and heart of a physical therapist. One of the staff members from AccesSportAmerica took this video.

There was a woman with a Spaulding ID badge watching us. She beamed and smiled; her eyes lit up as she nodded acknowledging what I was doing. The wound of being left in the dust while all of my friends ran off and played riding their bikes, and being jeered, teased and taunted was healed. I felt whole and perfect; strong and courageous and beautiful at 60 years old. There is powerful medicine through the eyes of compassion and support and encouragement that come from understanding hearts grounded in knowledge. And there is powerful medicine in bike riding. As an added bonus, my hips are stronger and more open, my quads are stronger and my knees feel amazing. I feel more connections flowing from my spinal cord to my lower body and know that I nourished new neuromuscular connections throughout yesterday's adventure.

Ali and Nate offered to continue working with me, but I could feel my body was fatigued and my neuromuscular system had tapped out from all the wonderful stimulation I provided today with these amazing new experiences. Since I am just back to running and training for Tufts, I am going to use the recumbent bike next week and put off learning how to ride a two wheeler - for now.

But look out world. It's on my bucket list for next year. And speaking of bucket lists which I didn't know I had until now, they have winter adaptive sports where they go skiing on the weekends. Stay tuned.....

On September 21, join Spaulding Rehab Hospital to celebrate and raise money for the Charles Weingarten Adaptive Sports Program at their Annual Set Sail Event. A portion of the money raised will be used to purchase another top of the line recumbent bike to give others the feeling of freedom and ability that I experienced (and will continue to experience) for years to come.

Spaulding has been a part of my healing journey since October of 2006. I am so blessed that with their love, support, skill and care, I have been able to find higher and higher ground in my journey of rehabilitation. Yesterday I soared to new heights with my first bike ride and my first bike riding lesson.

Rarely does the path to recovery follow a straight line
Like a tidal stream, it bends and twists
It surges and trickles
It ebbs and flows.
That is why rehabilitative care must be fluid too.
Spaulding takes an approach to patient care that is flexible, highly personal and informed by a deep understanding that while every patient strives to reach higher ground, no two rehabilitative journeys are ever alike.

"Wait, I have one more goal," Mary McManus told her personal trainer in February of 2008 shortly after coming out of her toe up leg brace. "I want to run the Boston Marathon for Spaulding Rehab Hospital." Mary traded in her polio shoes for running shoes and embarked on the journey of a lifetime. Mary McManus was at the height of her career as a VA social worker when she was told by her team at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital’s International Rehab Center for Polio in December of 2006 that she needed to quit her job if she had any hope of preventing the progression of post polio syndrome, a progressive neuromuscular disease. In “Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility” Mary takes you on her seven year healing odyssey as a survivor of paralytic polio and trauma from her diagnosis, to taking a leap of faith to leave her award winning career at the VA to heal her life and follow her passion as a poet and writer. You’ll experience her trials, tribulations and triumphs as she trains for and crosses the finish line of the 2009 Boston Marathon and discovers the opportunity for healing in the wake of new trauma: the suicide of her nephew in 2011, and the aftermath of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. This is Mary's journey of coming home to her human form free from the influences of the ghastly ghostly invaders who had invaded her sacred earthly home. Her memoir includes journals and blog posts from her seven year healing odyssey. This is her journey of transformation and her message of healing, hope and possibility.

I donate 50% of royalty payments through on line sales to The One Fund to help Boston Marathon survivors and their families. Copies are also available at Brookline Marathon Sports. $5 of each book sold at Marathon Sports is donated to The One Fund.

1 comment:

runwithken said...

How wonderful!

Welcome to the world of cycling, Mary!