I grew up in in a neighborhood filled with kids that knew how to enjoy an adventure and the outdoors. On any given day you could see us out playing whiffle ball , street hockey, king of the hill in the snow and riding our bikes to unknown places.
If you ask anyone that I know from that time they would say that I was on my bike constantly. I loved that idea of unknown places. My bicycles brought me to so many over the years.
When I was 14 I started working at a local bike shop called Pro Cycles. I started as a gopher. This meant that I cleaned up the shop, got coffee, fix flat tires and did any dirty job that was needed around the shop. And this meant that I got to hang out with people that love bicycles as much as I did. This is where I got hooked on bicycles and mountain biking. I started racing downhill and cross-country biking for them this summer of 1997.
After some amazing experiences with Pro Cycles I moved on to the Cycle Loft in Burlington where I became the service manager and event mechanic. This is where I really honed my skills as a bicycle mechanic and customer service representative.
While working with Cycle Loft, over the years I had the privilege to work as a Road Crew mechanic for some awesome organizations and fundraisers like MS 150, Pan Massachusetts Challenge, Harpoon Brewery B2VT, Climb To The Clouds. I was also a regular event mechanic at mountain bike events such as the Wicked Ride of the East in North Andover, NEMBA Fest, the Middlesex Fells reservation spring kickoff, and the Blue Hills mountain bike Festival.
March of 2010 I got the chance to work for Trek Travel LLC as their Global Logistics Manager. This job brought me abroad to Europe and domestically all over the US. I was part of their Tour of California and Tour de France programs.
I was doing what I loved and living the dream of a bicycle mechanic.
March of 2011, as fate may have it, one year to the day from being hired by Trek Travel I was riding my mountain bike to where I was staying from our warehouse in Girona Spain when I was launched over the handlebars after hitting an unseen object and landed directly on my neck suffering a spinal cord compression at the C4 level. The doctors told me that I would never walk or ride again. During my 3 ½ weeks stay in Spain I gained back a small amount of movement in my right shoulder. When the doctors in Spain cleared me to fly I was med-flighted back to the states and immediately started rehab at Spaulding Rehab Hospital (SRH) in Boston.
During my stay at SRH I began to gain function and feeling back below my injury fairly quickly. It was like a light switch got flicked on. One day I would move my left leg a little bit, the next day I would twitch a toe, and so on. Soon I was standing on my own with a walker and taking assisted steps. I was gaining much of my upper body strength back as well. My Physical Therapist and Occupational Therapist (came to amazing friends) would actually harness me up, hanging me over the bicycle that I got injured on, and help me pedal. All in the hopes that the muscle/nerve memory would return. It turns out it was the right thing to do. Without them the things that I’m doing today would not have been possible.
That was just the beginning to a very long "ride" to recovery.
After a 5 1/2 month stay at SRH I was finally discharged and I decided to live on my own with caregivers full-time. This is when I began to realize I needed to learn how to do things on my own, as much as I could. My focus was then on modifying everything from my clothing, to my wheelchair, to my home so that I could have the maximum amount of independence.
I continued doing Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy at Spaulding outpatient centers and upped my game with intense workouts at Journey Forward in Canton mass. Through an exercise based program that focuses on muscle memory and neuro-recovery for individuals with spinal cord injury.
The 1st year home from the hospital was the most difficult. Finding my identity proved to be the most daunting. I was resolute in just being what and who I was in using therapy as my new passion. I decided to make recreating my identity my new passion in life. When I woke up in the morning it was to work out and recover as much function as I could. But it still wasn’t enough for me.
Towards the end of that 1st year I attended Empower Spinal Cord Injury Inc. Empower SCI opened my eyes to so many possibilities of not only being independent once again, but living a fulfilling life, and finding my self-identity again. They introduced me to sports, school, work, adaptive equipment, traveling and so much more that cultivates a “normal life”. In addition, Empower is a therapy based program that is designed to help you work towards your goals that you weren’t able to work on while in inpatient therapy. All while living with a large group of others in wheelchairs. It was truly a life-changing experience. I attended Empower SCI as a participant for two years and am now attending as a mentor, helping others find their inner strength.
Over the years, I have mentored "unofficially" at Spaulding Rehab Hospital. In 2014, I made it official, and started as a Volunteer Peer Mentor with the non-profit organization, Rise Above Paralysis. This organization is based out of Spaulding Rehab Hospital in Charlestown, MA. There I visit with newly injured patients, and attend the weekly support group held for those with spinal cord injuries. For me, mentoring has been a way to help others, in the same way that I was helped when first injured.
4 Years have passed now since my injury. I am pleased to say that I have gained back much of my body function and feeling. I am living a busy life advocating for spinal cord injury research, for abilities awareness, going back to work, consulting, and mentoring others with spinal cord injury. I enjoy outdoor sports including skiing and surfing! My most recent milestones: walking without assistance (with crutches) and starting to pedal a bike under my own power.
While I am able to pedal a recumbent bicycle for a short distance, it still craved the thrill of riding a mountain bike in the woods. So in November 2014 a couple of my friends threw me into a manual chair that was outfitted with mountain bike tires. We tied ropes to the front of the wheelchair, and they started pulling me around the Middlesex Fells reservation in Medford: very creative maneuvering, and it got me out there! This was the 1st time that I was back into the woods since my injury. It felt so good! But it still wasn’t the same, I still thirsted for more independence on the trails. When I got home that day, after my pseudo ride, I immediately went looking to the Internet for bicycles that I would be able to control myself.
Enter Molten Rock Equipment’s Boma 7. This bike was designed by a like-minded quadriplegic. He realized the need for a bike that drove like a power wheelchair. The Boma 7 is outfitted with a strong battery-operated motor, independent suspension and mountain bike tires. For me, the Boma 7 was the answer I was looking for. I received it in June 2015 and it has opened up the world to me again. Bringing back that original feeling of adventure that I felt as a kid. I have found my passion again. I’ve come full circle.
Now I want to help you find your passion again.