BikeAble would like to express its thanks and admiration for Joe, Luke, and Sean of Amputees Across America. They were kind enough to allow me to join them on a short stretch of their trip which also happened to end in the town I live in.
After arriving at HealthSouth, we all had some time at a podium to say a few words, toured the facility, and sat down at a luncheon with a number of the HealthSouth staff. As a result, BikeAble has now started research into possibly cycling solutions for a woman in attendance who is a quad amputee.
The local newspaper, the Centre Daily Times, covered the event. Their article follows:
PLEASANT GAP — The seventh annual Amputees Across America coast-to-coast bike tour rode into town Monday, one stop along a 3,500- mile trek across America to raise awareness about maintaining an active lifestyle with prosthetic appendages.
CDT photo/Christopher Weddle
A group of bicyclists from Amputees Across America ride down East College Avenue toward HealthSouth Nittany Valley Rehabilitation Center in Pleasant Gap on Monday.
Tour members arrived at 10 a.m. at HealthSouth Nittany Valley Rehabilitation Hospital in Pleasant Gap and were greeted with applause from upbeat hospital workers and community members.
They also were given a check for $325 to help with expenses, compliments of HealthSouth.
“You are an inspiration to all,” said Kathi Kaber, director of marketing for HealthSouth. “Our admiration and respect for you is unspeakable.”
Joe Sapere, lead rider and coordinator of the tour, lost his left leg during a skydiving accident in 2000.
“Having a physical challenge does not mean you have to give up on life,” said Sapere. He said God helped him through his ordeal, and he has now channeled those energies into helping others.
David “D.J.” Emery, 22, a Bellefonte Marine who lost his legs in a 2007 suicide bomb attack in Iraq, attended the news conference.
Emery, who is undergoing rehabilitation at HealthSouth, said the riders inspired him. When asked if he’d consider someday riding in the tour, he replied: “Yeah, I’d probably do it.”
His mother, Connie Emery, said she wouldn’t be surprised if he did just that. “He’s still very active,” she said, adding that her son can cut the grass from his wheelchair.
Luke Myers, 19, of Colorado Springs, Colo., said riding with the tour has helped him to concentrate less on himself and more on others who need inspiration. “This bike ride is more than just a bike ride,” Myers said. “We’re doing something for other people.”
Myers, a volunteer firefighter, lost his right leg to injuries sustained in a 2002 car accident. Even with his prosthetic leg, he said he fights forest fires and leads a normal lifestyle.
“When I first lost my leg, I thought to myself: ‘I’m a freak show,’ ” he said. That attitude changed after meeting Sapere and other members of the tour at a rehab center in his hometown.
Sean Brame, 12, of York Haven, is the youngest member of the tour. He joined the crew Monday and will go as far as New Jersey. He lost both of his legs, his right hand and three fingers on his left hand after suffering from a rare disorder caused by a broken ankle. The injury led to internal blood poisoning.
It happened during a soccer game in April 2005. After an 11-week stay in an intensive care unit and another 11 weeks in rehab, Sean eventually received his prosthetic legs.
“When this first happened, I didn’t want to go anywhere or do anything,” he said.
Having a good attitude and moving on is key, he said, adding that the biggest thing he’ll miss about losing his legs is not being able to drive at 16.
“You want to get away from your mom sometime,” he said, laughing.
Sapere said losing his leg has actually created many new opportunities for him. Emery said he’s experienced that too.
“I’ve had more people call me with opportunities to do stuff than ever before,” he said. “People call to ask me to go on fishing trips and I have even had someone ask me to drive a NASCAR (vehicle) with hand controls.”