Dear Athletes Helping Athletes, My name is Matthew. I am 12 years old and I am in the 4th grade. My mom, dad, and sisters love to ride bicycles and that makes me sad. I want to ride a bicycle too. My friend, Austin, has a cool bicycle ans I love it. If I had a bicycle I would ride it to the park and to the pool, and it would make me strong. I could ride my bike with Austin, and we could race. Please can I get a bike?
Matthew July, 2004
My son Matthew, is 12 years old and has been in a wheelchair for almost 2 years. Matthew had meningitis when he was 18 months old. After being in a rehabilitation hospital for 2 months Matthew came home able to walk again. He was left deaf, had balance problems, and a little weakness in his right leg. Matthew got a cochlear implant at age 2 and communicates orally. Matthew has always loved sports and played basketball and soccer on teams at a young age. He fell a lot because he wore a brace on his right leg and had balance problems, but this did not interfere with his love of sports. Three years ago he got a wheelchair so he could practice in sports more competitively. He played wheelchair basketball and soccer through adaptive sports in Atlanta. Matthew learned to ride a bicycle at 5 years old. Three years ago his left leg started coming off the pedal and he began having some neurological problems with that leg. He slowly started declining in his ability to walk. Unfortunately, Matthew could not have a MRI due to the cochlear implant. He had several myelograms performed, but they failed because the dye would not go to the spine. Finally, after a year and a half of procedures we moved to Houston, Texas and the doctors performed a successful myelogram. They discovered that Matthew had a large cyst in his spine at T-4. He also has severe scar tissue in his spine from the spinal meningtis. The cyst was removed in November of this year, but it had already caused permanent nerve damage. Matthew is unable to move his lower extremities at all. Matthew is working very hard to become independent with his daily living skills. He swims twice a week in a regular swim class and he does tae-kwon-do twice a week in his wheelchair. He is trying to get better upper body strength so he will be independent some day. He sees a physical therapist once a week that advises him on his home exercise program. We live in an area that is abundant with trails for biking. Matthew would benfit greatly from a handcycle. It would help build his upper body and we could ride together as a family. At this time we do a lot of walking (Matthew pushes his wheelchair) on the trails, but a handcycle would be better exercise and allow Matthew the experience of riding a bike again. Matthew's goals are to be independent and live a full active life.