Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Fight Against MS: Motion Without Limits

Check out our sponsored Bike MS rider's letter from the 2011 event this past weekend, August 6th and 7th. As one of his corporate sponsors, we followed his journey with our cameras and will be posting a video very soon! You can check out photographs from the big weekend on our Flickr page. We hope you enjoy his inspirational letter! We are honored he and his sister have shared their personal experience with us.

1, 2, 3, GO! by Chris Crawford
The 2011 MS Bike Ride

"This year’s MS bike ride was a big year for us.  This is our 12th year riding and raising money, and this year Bonnie and I will crest $250,000 in total fundraising!  That is amazing to us.  It represents so much support from so many people.  Thank you for being there for us.

Bonnie’s disease is progressing.  There is no doubt of that.  She had been on the rebound since before last year’s ride as she successfully recovered from a knee replacement surgery that apparently was not needed.  Doctor’s error, they say.  But Bonnie decided to move past that, to her credit, and work like crazy to get back in shape.  Bonnie was committed to riding in this year’s ride, despite the progression of her disease.  Then, three weeks before the ride, disaster.  Bonnie was involved in a car accident where her vehicle was totaled and she had to be extracted from the vehicle with the Jaws of Life.

Her injuries were, miraculously, minor.  However, with her existing MS being what it is, the banging and bruising took away whatever chance we thought we had of riding this year.  That was a total bummer for us because Bonnie had been unable to ride in 2009 and 2010, after riding with me on the tandem bike in 2007 and 2008.  Each year is harder and harder but Bonnie made the commitment to ride this year in celebration of us crossing the $250K threshold.

The ride was not to be.  But… there is more to this story. 

Bonnie started rehab about a week ago and after a few sessions, the therapist told her that he would not tell her she couldn’t ride, that it was up to her.  Well, that put things in motion.  With the help of the Oregon MS Society and its president, Lisa Roth, we got a tandem bike to use (literally at the last hour).  Then “Team Bonnie” mobilized in full force.  Team Bonnie also included four additional family members, two vehicles and ten hands all working feverishly at the same time, or so it seemed.  We knew Bonnie couldn’t ride the bike far and we knew it would be extremely painful and challenging.  And, we knew it would actually be dangerous.  Bonnie cannot get on or off the bike without assistance.  She cannot put her feet on the pedals without someone picking up her leg and putting her foot down on the pedal.  Often her foot would slide off or move and have to be adjusted.  The only way to adjust it is to stop the bike, hold it unsteadily and have someone move her foot for her.  Then, when the bike is in motion, there are a few seconds of extreme wobbling that take your breath away.  The worst thing in the world would be for Bonnie to fall.  And no matter how you cut it, when Bonnie is on the back of a tandem, the risk of falling is high.  But there is something awe-inspiring about Bonnie crossing that finish line.  We took the risk.  We had to succeed.  We could not fall.

We knew Bonnie couldn’t ride far, so we decided to rendezvous at the 60-mile mark of the 65-mile route.  I decided after two years of doing the “Century” I’d go the shorter distance to be stronger for these last 5 miles.  And it was a good thing I did.  We met at the 60-mile mark along with Lisa from the MS Society, and this year’s special guest Elizabeth Allen (who works at Bishop-Wisecarver, one of my corporate sponsors).  Elizabeth was filming the event so her company can help promote the cause.  Very cool! So, we met at the 60-mile mark and started trying to figure out how to get Bonnie on the bike.  Team Crawford went into action!

My 18-year-old nephew Ryan and our brother Tony helped Bonnie put her feet on the rest-bar that Bonnie’s husband Trini had welded to a bracket for a tandem.  That way, Bonnie didn’t have to pedal.  Then, my 12-year-old daughter Sarah and our sister Barbara helped keep Bonnie stable as I held up the bike.  After ten hands moving frantically to make sure Bonnie was up on the bike, off we went.  Immediately the wind brought a smile to Bonnie’s face.  There is something magical about gliding on a bike that cannot be fully appreciated until you can’t do it anymore.  Bonnie was back!  But then, another problem struck.

Only one mile in, with four miles to go, we encountered a hill that was just too long for me to pull us up.  Tandem bikes are super heavy, especially with Bonnie on the back not pedaling.  But, Team Bonnie was prepared.  We scrambled to help Bonnie off the bike and nephew Ryan jumped on.  With fresh 18-year-old legs, we powered up the hill, pulled over and got Bonnie back on the bike.   This was to be a short-lived victory however as right away, there was another hill – short but too steep.  Again, we pulled over and got Bonnie off the bike.  This time, my daughter Sarah took a turn in the saddle and we easily made it to the top.  The problem was, though, Bonnie was done – both physically and emotionally.  She had been trying to ride the bike with her feet on the rest bar and they kept slipping off.  It hurt, and it was a very frustrating reminder of how the disease had progressed.  Bonnie couldn’t keep her foot from sliding.  She physically couldn’t stop it – she simply didn’t have the strength.  She was done.  Team Crawford threw in the towel.  Bonnie was not going to cross the finish line after all.  Despite the preparation and the fact that 100 people were at the finish line ready to cheer her across – it was not going to happen.

Sarah stayed on the bike with me and we started riding the rest of the way to the finish on our own.  Bonnie rode with our brother Tony who tried to encourage her as she cried.  Our caravan got closer to the finish, with both pacer cars following.  With just three blocks to go, I turned down a side street and the cars followed.  I pulled up to a curb and looked at Bonnie.  She looked at me.  Then, with a look of grim determination, she opened the car door.  I told Sarah to get off. She handed the bike helmet to Bonnie, and as she strapped it on, she said, “Let’s do this.”  Again, Team Bonnie went to work.

This time, we tied her feet to the pedals.  No more rest bar.  We decided to go for broke.  Bonnie asked for the pacer cars to leave and go ahead.  We were alone – just the two of us.  Just how we started this 12 years ago.

We waited about five minutes and just talked.  Bonnie strapped to the bike and me holding it up.  Finally, I asked her if she was ready and Bonnie said, “Yes.”

“OK,” I said, “1, 2, 3, go!”  And off we went.  Wobbling our way until we got enough speed to get stable.  We rode a ways and turned a corner where up ahead, we could see it – the finish line was within sight!  People could see us coming.  Bells were ringing, people were clapping and cheering.  We kept pedaling as Bonnie excitedly talked in my ear.  We made it!  Bonnie crossed the finish line for the third time and the first since 2008!

That was an awesome display of Bonnie’s will and the combined efforts of Team Bonnie and our friend Lisa.  It would have been super easy for Bonnie to quit before finishing.  She was tired, frustrated and in pain.  And it would have been a smart decision for all of us to let that happen.  It was not safe for Bonnie to be on that bike.  But she hung in there as Bonnie does and she did it!  

And God was watching over us too.

This year, our friend Michael was not able to ride.  I was disappointed.  He is our greatest inspiration.  He’s the guy with MS who saw Bonnie cross the finish line for the first time back in 2007 and said, “If Bonnie can ride, maybe I can ride too.”  And then he did ride in 2009 and again in 2010.  But not this year.  It just didn’t work out.  But Michael said he is committed to getting back on the bike next year.  That will be our highlight!  I can’t wait.

Thanks to all of you!  We are amazed at the support we have received throughout the 12 years we have been a part of this event.  Long ago we said, let’s do this ride one time, and now we have roots.  The riders, the volunteers, the event itself and the feeling we get that we are helping a wonderful group of people see a brighter future, filled with hope for better days – that brings us back every year.  Please take a second to realize how much of a difference you have made.  Your support pushed our fundraising more than $250,000 in 12 years – an amazing amount of money!  Your support motivates me to keep pushing those pedals.  And your support creates hope for hundreds of people with MS who attend this annual event and look us in the eye to say thank you.  What they mean to say, is thank YOU.

If you haven’t already donated and you want to, please go to my participant site. We have until September 15th for all donations: National MS Society Donations (Chris and Bonnie) Thanks again!"