Team of Stroke Survivors and Supporters Completes 100 Day Trek

Special to Patriot Bridge

On Friday, August 26, a 4,500 mile, 100 day ocean to ocean cycling journey was completed in Boston. This was no ordinary cycling trip but one that focused on the mission to raise awareness about stroke, aphasia, and the emotional recovery after suffering from these and similar traumas.  The ride was led by Debra Meyerson and Steven Zuckerman, co-founders of Stroke Onward, a nonprofit committed to ensuring stroke survivors and their supporters have the resources needed to rebuild identities and rewarding lives. Steve and Debra were inspired to create this trip as part of rebuilding their lives after a severe stroke in 2010 left Debra with aphasia and other disabilities. They were joined by Michael Obel-Omia, a stroke survivor living with aphasia, and Whitney Hardy, a survivor of a life-threatening traumatic brain injury due to a car accident.  The team’s journey this summer has been a success thanks to the 16 events they’ve participated along their cross-country route. Boston was selected as the end of the ride as each rider has special connections to the city. Last weekend in Boston, this journey came full circle as riders paid homage their homecoming with two major celebrations.  On Friday afternoon, after a stop at Revere Beach to dip their front wheels in the Atlantic Ocean, a cycling tradition on ocean-to-ocean rides, the team cycled to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital to complete a different type of journey. They were welcomed across the finish line by a cheering crowd of Spaulding Hospital leadership and staff along with close family and friends of the riders. It was an especially sweet homecoming for Hardy and Obel-Omia who both received significant care at the facility and among those welcoming the riders to Boston were some of their care providers from Spaulding and MGH Institute of Health Professions.  “While the ride was a journey – literally and figuratively, it taught me what I was capable of,” Obel-Omia said. “I showed people that even if they’re down, they can get back up.” Obel-Omia was able to get back up thanks to the therapy, support, and encouragement of the students, faculty, and professionals at the Spaulding-Institute of Health Profession’s Comprehensive Aphasia Program, affectionately known as S-IHP’s CAP.  Before his stroke, he had long been a lover of literature and the English language, both in his career as an educator and in his personal life. Following his stroke, he became one of the 5.3 million Americans living with a permanent brain injury related disability, like those resulting from a stroke. After a five-week rehabilitative stay at Spaulding, Obel-Omia came to the IHP because he was suffering from Aphasia, a disorder that makes communication and comprehension challenging.  The S-IHP’s CAP program helped him regain the speaking and comprehension skills and, in turn, reignited these passions that fed his purpose. The intensive five-week program integrates 1-on-1 therapy sessions, group therapy sessions, music therapy, swim group, wellness program, and adaptive sports programs into an individual’s Aphasia recovery.  “At the program, they respected his areas of strength,” said Carolyn, Obel-Omia’s wife and primary caregiver. “They helped him become more like himself again, especially given that he couldn’t teach anymore, as he had most of his adult life. At S-IHP’s CAP, they laughed and joked, and by the end of the program he was able to give a lecture connecting his personal experience to Hamlet.”  But another key part of Obel-Omia’s life prior to his stroke was cycling – in fact, the trip he finished Friday wasn’t his first-time cross-country ride. But for a variety of reasons, this ride was different. Not only was it a defining moment in his stroke recovery, it was also representative of his personal drive to reach the goals he sets for himself.   Marjorie Nicholas, Interim Co-Dean, Chair, Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders, and founder of the IHP’s onsite Aphasia Center, shared her congratulations at the event Friday.  “This journey required more physical, mental, and emotional grit and stamina than most of us ever have to muster in our entire lifetimes,” Nicholas said. “Congratulations on getting here and thank you for showing us over and over just how powerful teamwork, love, and dedication can be in making our dreams come true.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.