Bent But Not Broken.

“Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get” – Forrest Gump

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned, it’s that everyone has a story. It’s important for us to share our stories because no matter how insignificant we may think they are, someone, somewhere can benefit from our life journey. Janine Kirby is a very blessed woman. Janine and I have been friends since 2006. She was part of a restaurant crew that I used to hang with in the Old City section of Philadelphia. We lost contact over the years like some friends do, but we always knew that we were just a phone call away. I’m sure many of you have friends that you haven’t spoken with in some time. The responsibilities of life seem to distract you from simply reaching out to get “caught up” and before you realize it, years have passed by. Earlier this year Janine sent me a message on Instagram which I didn’t see for 2 months. When I finally read the message I was shocked to discover that in 2012 Janine had suffered a traumatic brain injury from an accident on her job that almost killed her. In an instant, her life’s path was drastically altered. Janine is a normal human being just like you, just like me. Something like this could happen to any one of us. Life is so fragile. When I read Janine’s story I had to ask myself am I truly living my life’s purpose or am I caught up in just making a living? Am I wasting time on things that don’t really matter in the big picture? Friends, take a minute to slow down from the rat race and enjoy the little things in life. Let go of drama with friends and family. Tell your loved ones how much you love them today, not tomorrow. Your life could change in an instant. Although her capacity for processing information may have changed, Janine is still an intelligent, beautiful, warm & caring member of society. She still refers to herself as a “wealth of useless knowledge” as she told me that there are 108 stitches on a baseball. Something that I did not know. Here is Janine in her own words as she lives her new normal as a traumatic brain injury survivor: Continue reading

Walking Challenge

Hey everybody. I hope you’re all having a blessed day as you read this.
To coincide with the airing of the new National Geographic Channel series “Mygrations” of which I am a cast member, I wanted to start an online social media campaign. A walking challenge. A simple walking challenge.

IMG_8520

If you watch the show Mygrations which airs Monday May 23, 9/8c on the National Geographic Channel, you’ll see a human “Herd” of twenty people attempt to walk the migratory path of the African Wildebeests.

MYG1_HERD33

This 200 mile journey starts in the Serengeti Plains and ends at the Maasai Mara River. 1.3 million Wildebeest attempt this trek annually. Tens of thousands won’t make it. Some get injured and die off, others are eaten by apex predators that roam the Serengeti. How will we as a human herd do? You’re going to have to tune in and watch the show to see how we made out. One of the positive by-products of all that walking I did was, I lost weight. I lost almost 20 lbs. My blood pressure dropped, I felt better about myself spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally. I fit into clothes that I hadn’t worn since the 1990’s so that was kind of cool to bring those styles back. I wanted to use my experience with all that walking as motivation to get some people moving. Motion is medicine. I have a FitBit step counter and I am vowing to walk 200 miles starting May 23rd which is the first airing of the show until June 27 which is the final show. That’s 35 days and about 5.7 miles per day. I’m not asking you to walk 5 miles per day, but to do what you can. If you can’t walk, roll. To all of my friends in wheel chairs I will be supporting you on select days as I use a wheel chair to get my miles in. If I can do this, there’s no reason why you can’t do this. Continue reading

Flying Etiquette

Flying Etiquette

IMG_7520

Flying in an airplane was once an experience reserved for the select few who could afford to travel via them. It was a luxurious, almost regal experience. I remember air travel as a little boy. During my summer vacation in the 1970’s, my father and I would travel from Philadelphia PA to San Antonio Texas on Eastern Airlines to visit family. I remember having to get dressed up, sometimes with a suit and tie before we flew. That was a sign of the times. Every passenger was fed breakfast, lunch or dinner depending on the flight. I also remember the smoking sections! Can you believe they actually allowed people to smoke onboard an aircraft? Back then flying was definitely an experience to remember. That has all changed. Nowadays, flying can feel more like being herded like cattle. Too many people cramped and jammed into those aluminum tubes. They fill em, they fly em, they land em, then they fill em again. The inside of an airplane can be a nasty environment because let’s face it, people can be nasty. In the haste of getting the plane back into the air, sometimes the cabin isn’t properly cleaned.

In 2015 I flew on 55 different airplanes. This year I look to better that number. The more I fly the more experienced I become. I know how to pack my bags, how to navigate airports, I know my place during the boarding process and how to help others who are not as experienced to find their way. I try hard to be courteous and respect the general “space” of passengers who are flying with me. You could say that I have developed a certain “etiquette” about air travel. If only everyone had proper flying “etiquette!” Continue reading

Mygrations

Mygrations

The advertisement read:

Adventure TV Show. Could you go back to basics and take on one of the world’s toughest terrains, east Africa?
Me: “Yes!”
Are you willing to go toe to toe with nature, animals, and fellow competitors for a life changing challenge?
Me: “Yes!”
This is not for the faint hearted, so if you’ve got what it takes, if you can run with the pack and are truly fearless, then this could be the opportunity for you! Contact us for a chance to do something extraordinary.

Wow. I can’t explain the feeling that came over me when I read the words in that ad. All I remember saying to myself was “I’m doing that!” I just knew deep in my heart, no deeper than that, in my soul I knew I was going to Africa for this adventure. It’s like it was part of my life’s purpose. It was calling out to me. I guess it’s that same gut feeling when a man finds his soulmate and he says “I’m going to marry her.” Continue reading

“Handing Back” by Jason Koger

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 12.47.24 PM

Jason Koger is a gift to the Universe. He is by far the best and most capable bilateral upper extremity amputee I have ever seen. There is nothing that he can’t do. He just does things differently. He looks at a situation, he says this is what I have to work with, and he does it. Just like I do. Jason has a remarkable life story of perseverance & adaptation. In 2008 while riding an atv on his family’s farm, he came in contact with a downed power wire. Jason was electrocuted with 7000 volts of electricity. His injuries were so severe that doctors had to amputate both of his arms below the elbows. After just 2 weeks of recovery in the hospital, Jason came home and started the next chapter of his life, as an amputee. He first taught himself to drive a car. He then taught himself to shoot a gun and a bow. Before long, the Owensboro KY native was back in the woods enjoying his favorite pastime, hunting.Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 12.44.44 PM Continue reading

Challenged Athletes Foundation 2015 San Diego Triathlon

For amputees like myself back in the late 1970’s, all the focus was on just being able to walk. Just plain old walking. Being able to ambulate from point A to point B (safely) was the most that one could expect from those heavy clunky prosthetic legs. They were basically wooden sticks carved into the shape of a human leg. I hated them. There was nothing cool about them other than the fact that I could stand in the freezing cold snow longer than my friends. Then came the advent of the Flex Foot. With its carbon fiber  design and energy returning properties, amputees discovered a world of activities that they never knew were possible. Now they could run faster and jump higher. More and more prosthetic foot companies began developing feet which were even more dynamic and springier than the Flex Foot, allowing the user to perform at world record levels. Also with the new feet came new prosthetic socket designs, suspension systems, shock absorbers and components that would create a new classification of amputee; the high performance amputee athlete. Continue reading

2016 Roger Pepper Adventure Camp

 

My good friend Kep Keoppe told me about this amazing woman named Allison Massari who back in 1999 started a camp for teen burn survivors. She called it the Roger Pepper Adventure Camp, named after the man who pulled her from a burning car and saved her life. Intrigued, I started following Allison on social media and watching her TED talks. She is a phenomenal speaker. I then sent her an email and started a dialog, gathering information about her foundation. Each year Allison raises money so that these amazing camps can take place at the Adaptive Sports Center in Crested Butte Colorado. There is a summer camp and a winter camp. Continue reading