By Marcy Stamper
Four cyclists and the driver of a support van passed through town on the Fourth of July weekend, just one week into a 5,200-mile bike ride to build awareness of the potential for cycling to aid in recovery—and provide independence and mobility—for survivors of strokes and of other brain injuries.
When Dan Zimmerman, who will celebrate his 50th birthday on the bike ride this month, suffered a stroke almost nine years ago, doctors said he would never walk or talk again. Six years ago, Zimmerman began using a recumbent tricycle, which has restored not only his mobility but has also helped with balance and other medical issues connected with the stroke and with the hereditary blood condition that caused the stroke.
“It worked for me—I want to teach stroke survivors how to get up and go,” said Zimmerman.
Zimmerman started riding with Bill and Dana Brown several years ago on local rides and on weekend excursions near Phoenix, where they all live. Their group expanded after Zimmerman had a chance meeting with Catherine Brubaker on a Phoenix bike path.
Less than a year ago, Brubaker, who had suffered two traumatic brain injuries, went into a local bike shop—still relying on a walker—to see if they could outfit her with a bicycle. She ended up with the same trike that Zimmerman uses and, despite their different medical conditions, found that they deal with many similar issues involving balance and mobility.
“If you can learn to walk and talk, you can get your ass over the Cascades,” said Brubaker.
The four—plus another friend (he and the Browns trade days cycling and driving the support vehicle)—have embarked on a diagonal trip across the U.S. They expect to reach Key West, Florida (specifically Margaritaville, since Zimmerman is a huge fan of Jimmy Buffett, who famously sang about being “wastin’ away again” there), at the end of November.
Along the way, they are speaking to groups about strokes, the blood disease (called hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia, or HHT, which causes abnormalities in blood vessels and affects one in 5,000, with varying degrees of severity), and about the role of cycling in rehab and prevention. Other riders will join the group to show how cycling has helped them cope with a range of movement-related conditions including Parkinson’s Disease.
For more information about their ride and on cycling as a part of rehabilitation and building mobility, visit www.spokesfightingstrokes.org.