Friday, September 30, 2011

Ricky James move over there is a quadriplegic motorcross racer!

Every day I get more and more surprised at how much I have allowed myself to miss because I'm in this nursing home and feeling sorry for myself. On my old blog a couple of years ago I found out about paraplegic motorcross racer named Ricky James.

Well I just watched a video about a quadriplegic motorcross racer. His name is Drew Durrence, and he is fantastic. This is the first video I've seen in him and it's his first time on a bike in seven years.

C-2 quadriplegic independently flying a stunt kite!

In my 5+ years of blogging I have never seen someone with such a high level of injury doing something so complicated. Please check out this video it's absolutely amazing

Botox injections for spasms from spinal cord injury

 I have an appointment with an orthopedist in Ocoee, Florida to get injections of botulinum toxin in my legs to see if I can finally get these muscle spasms under control. Because of this extended period of time that I've been in bed with this pressure sore I have also developed muscle tone, spasms and contractions that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.

Here's a quick video from a YouTube channel, check it out and if you like look at some of my other videos and of course rate, comment and subscribe.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Finally getting botox for my spasms

 After 5 or 6 phone calls and a physical appt. Dr. Jay Wright in Ocooe, Fl is going to perform Medicare approved Botox injections in my legs to help control some, hopefully all of the problems I have been having with my muscle tone contractions and get these spasms under controll

Dieter from Europe - Wheelchair Hangliding too? Yes

I have seen alot of people who were paralyzed do more things than I ever thought possible.
Here's a new one for us, Hang Gliding! Just watch the video, fantastic.  

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Youtube video of a C5-6 Quadriplegic exercising triceps

I have never seen a tricep exercise for quadriplegics of our level (C5-C6) done quite this way. It is definitely something I'm going to try. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Behind the American poverty numbers

By DAVID CRARY - AP National Writer | AP – Mon, Sep 19, 2011

I found this article on Yahoo News and just had to repost some excerpts;

"She is trapped like so many others, destitute in the midst of America's abundance. Last week, the Census Bureau released new figures showing that nearly one in six Americans lives in poverty — a record 46.2 million people. The poverty rate, pegged at 15.1 percent, is the highest of any major industrialized nation, and many experts believe it could get worse before it abates."


"Overall, though, the figures seemed to be greeted with resignation, and political leaders in Washington pressed ahead with efforts to cut federal spending. The Pew Research Center said its recent polling shows that a majority of Americans — for the first time in 15 years of being surveyed on the question — oppose more government spending to help the poor."

             David Crary and many other AP writers went all over the country for this article that just motivates me more to conquer my wound problems, go back through therapy and get my wheels under me again.

The Florida Living Nursing Center protocols for my current state

Today has been just like the other 22 out of 24 hours in my day to day life here... At this very moment, while I am writing this post I am lying down because of my 3x4x5 inch wound. My entire body aches because I have been lying down like this, 22 hours a day for the past 6 months on a air mattress with no support for my joints.

Even though I get 100 mg's of Methadone, 4 mg;s of Xanax, 1,800 mg's of Neurontin AND 80 mg's of Baclofen I'm still in pain, mostly because Medicare has stopped paying for T AND OT for me. I get 3-30 minute sessions per week where I get range of motion for my legs and strength training for my arms, out of 40 hours in a work week I get 90 minutes of time. How am I supposed to regain my independence like that?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

New HAL 5 Exoskeleton for spinal cord injuries

Have you heard about the HAL 5 in Japan? 

When a person attempts to move, nerve signals are sent from the brain to the muscles via motoneuron, moving the musculoskeletal system as a consequence. At this moment, very weak biosignals can be detected on the surface of the skin. "HAL" catches these signals through a sensor attached on the skin of the wearer. Based on the signals obtained, the power unit is controlled to move the joint unitedly with the wearer's muscle movement, enabling to support the wearer's daily activities. This is what we call a 'voluntary control system' that provides movement interpreting the wearer's intention from the biosignals in advance of the actual movement. Not only a 'voluntary control system' "HAL" has, but also a 'robotic autonomous control system' that provides human-like movement based on a robotic system which integrally work together with the 'autonomous control system'. "HAL" is the world's first cyborg-type robot controlled by this unique Hybrid System.

Active Facebook groups for Spinal Cord Injuries

I thought a page with ACTIVE SCI link's would be good, so I am crawling FB today, while being trussed up in the 5 Dyna Splints I have on at the same time, kindof feel like a Thanksgiving turkey! The work is keeping from thinking about the pain of all of my limbs, muscles and tendons being mechanically stretched. 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

I have to get here!

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Drug Testing for welfare recipients

Here… let me tick some people off… Did you get drug tested today? Thank you Florida, Kentucky, and Missouri, which are the first states that will require drug testing when applying for welfare. Some people are crying and calling this unconstitutional. How is this unconstitutional? It’s OK to drug test people who work for their money but not those who don’t? … Re-post this if you’d like to see this done in all 50 states

Friday, September 16, 2011

Still getting the bugs worked out

I have this great adaptive technology program that dictates for me automatically. The problem was there was a conflict with Adobe reader and Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 so I had to delete the new version of Adobe and reinstalled the old version. Everything is working fine now


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Started a new Youtube channel

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Contacting your state senator

In order for any changes to happen. We as a people must do our civic duty and be represented by people that have our best interests in mind. To accomplish that goal, we must speak with the people who represent us, and continue speaking with them until they get the point. It is our tax dollars that feed their families, pay their checks, and their bills. They must represent us in government. Finding your State Sen. is very easy, in fact, I will provide you the link right here.

Find your Sen. from the webpage below and write him/her a letter with your grievances or compliments, let them know you exist and that you intend to participate in the government that our forefathers intended us to have. This is the only way change will happen

Monday, September 12, 2011

it's rough, but I had to post it

In the past year and a half. I Have Gone from being in a coma to having to stage for pressure ulcers, I've had acinetobacter, MR SA, Proteus infections, multiple times. This is because after my coma. I have three different nursing homes. I believe I have scoliosis secondary to laying in bed for months at a time, day after day after day the pressure mattress contributing to pelvic subluxation and either hyper kyphosis or lordosis in my spine. I also have severe intestinal hypo-motility in my bowels because of irregularities with getting up on my shower chair. I my mom even evacuating my bowels for me, usually digitally. One of my stage for pressure sores the acute one is now closed but the chronic sore is staying at a steady 6+ centimeter depth. I have severe tone and contractions in all four of my limbs, including elbows, knees, and ankles. My muscles and tendons are contracted. I have a splint system from dyna splint but I cannot get the staff to put them on me with any regularity because they have no training and are uncomfortable, don't have the time, are overworked, underpaid, understaffed, and so I suffer with my health continuing to degrade. I had my wound care. Dr. prescribe an anabolic steroid, but Medicare discontinued payment.

2011 U.S. Open Wheelchair final's

Esther returning serve at the '11 US Open/Photo: Philip Hall-USTA
Yesterday was like any other final, or match for that matter, for the indomitable, unbeatable Esther Vergeer who won her 19th Major singles title! Shingo Kunieda, the Japanese juggernaut took his 4th consecutive U.S. Open and his 16th consecutive major, going back to 2007 
Shingo Kunieda '11 US Open/Photo:Andrew Ong USTA

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Started a Facebook group

I am absolutely serious about the Medicare and SSI budget cuts being turned around and then spent on foreign economic and military aid. I started a Facebook group and I hope to not only make people aware of what's really going on but to get them involved.

People wake up. If things are going to change WE have to change it. And here is my new Facebook group

Friday, September 9, 2011

Stop the budget cut's and increase taxes on the rich

My current experience; I am a quadriplegic and I have been in a nursing home for amost a year, and this place, this experiene has completely changed me, it's almost like the people in here are the "sight unseen, unheard and forgotten." Many of them have no visitors, and they lie in bed or sit in the hallways by themselves for hours. These are our grandmothers and grandfathers, aunts and uncles, sisters and brothers, World War II and Vietnam veterans and many have just been left to die.  

There is no electronic monitoring for bed-bound patents. The ratio of nurses and CNA's is 15 to 1, and that's exactly 4 min. per patient per hour.
In a 8 hour shift the 7 to 3 staff have to bathe, dress, and feed many total care patients, and those 4 minutes are assuming the staff is moving non-stop, teleporting from patient to patient.

It's next to  impossible for the staff to provide a decent quality of care when all they have is 4 min. to give it and Medicare wants to cut back MORE! I'm sorry but all people suffering deserve care, and I know there are people in Africa, Haiti and Japan and they need help, but we as a Nation need to take care of our own people first. Where are the commercials, Documentaries, and newspaper articles about the unbathed, dirty, hungry and lonely US citizens in nursing homes and how much they need help?

I'm only 35 but I'm being refused medication that I need by Medicare, medication that will help get me better and heal my Stage 4 pressure sore, but $500 a month is too much they told me in their denial letter.

"MY"  federal government can feed other countries and help other people. But they cannot, or will-not help me. Whatever happened to the saying on the Statue of Liberty "give  us your poor, your tired, your huddled masses longing to be free." It's sad that right now my government can't  or won't even take care of it's own, our own sick, tired, huddled masses and just to add insult to injury I am in a facility owned by the Seventh-day Adventists and I can't get better here.

Just so you know I'm not some bitter welfare recipient that's crying because I can't get my medication, I just got finished reading the United States Census on foreign aid. From 2001 to 2007. We gave out roughly $80 billion in foreign aid, both economic and military, then in 2008 we gave our roughly $50 billion to the same major recipients.(1.) At the same time budget cuts to Medicare and Social Security in 2012 will be roughly $50 billion. It's interesting that they give out  almost exactly the same amount that they want to cut from their own citizens. You and I.

The saddest truth of all of this is that we the people of the united states of America lives in a representative democracy, and we do not represent ourselves, the only way change will happen is when WE put our foot down and demand what WE  want.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Slow......and steady, DOES WIN

If I ever thought 16 months of coma aaaaaand 2 stage 4 wound would happen,well,it has. I am still a long way from healthy.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Tyler Dieth - Paraplegic "wheel"boarder

Some of you may remember my posting about "chair skating," or "wheelchair skateboarding. I don't really know how to define or explain either term, I guess it is best left up to Tyler Deith himself in an interview he gave me over the weekend. Cool huh?

Ralph: It says on your site you have been wheeling around for three
years now. How did you get in the chair? (I broke my neck in a diving
acident seven years ago b/t/w.)

Tyler: Motorcycle accident. October 1st 2001. I was 21, went off the road on my way to work. I used to work at the airport as an airplane mechanic.I broke my spine at T-6.

Ralph: It's obvious from your videos you live a VERY active, some would say crazy life for a person in a chair. What drives you, motivates you to drop in on a ramp?

Tyler: I get restless mostly, I think its just a good thing to do. It lets me feel normal.

Ralph: Have you had any serious injuries from your activities? In the "Bails Section" on your video page you have had some wicked looking crashes.

Tyler: Nothing to serious I've had a broken arm, broken toe, sprained wrist, a torn out shoulder, few cuts and bruises.

Ralph: I do photography as my hobby/part time job. How involved are you with the filming and production of your videos?

Tyler: My website was put together by a friend of mine Dave. I've been at it for about the past year or so and I enjoy it.

Ralph: What plans do you have for the future of your site and sports hobbies? I see you going a long way.

Tyler: I just got back from California two weeks ago. I had a good time. Bought a new wheelchair called a Colours. Its a much nicer ride. I have about a foot of snow outside, so just taking it easy and relaxing. I do a bit of construction work on my house, and working on an ultralight airplane. Planning a trip somewhere in the new year, Florida would be nice.

Ralph: Is there any message you have for people in chairs, or for people who percieve people in chairs as "less able"?

Tyler: Life rolls on.
Ralph:Thanks for this interview. It's damn cold in Ontario, if you want to come to Florida again, I have the hook up, thanks again and talk to you soon.
Tyler: OK

Friday, September 2, 2011

Mike Rowney - Paraplegic Long Distance Sailor

I have been waiting for weeks to get this interview. If you read my blog than you know who Mike Rowney is. If not he is a paraplegic attemptig to be be the first para to single-hand sail around Australia...for Charity.All pictures come from his website and were either taken by him or for him. (read more)
Here is the interview he did for me via e-mail.

Ralph: Hi there Mike, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. What's the news with the "Challenge?"

Mike: Hi Ralph, not a prob. What's new? It's a waiting game at present, but I am using the break constructively, did some repair work on a local Sailability boat. Training as in swimming everyday and doing a little weight work, as I wasn't very fit when I left due to the work load building my boat, had to give the pool and gym away 6 months before I took off, and the fitter and lighter you are as a para the easier it is. As of lately working ahead of myself, again a task I had to forgo before I left.

Ralph: What is it about sailing that you love most, and how did you get started?

Mike: I began with a sheet of corrugated iron, used for roofing, bent in two. I joined each end with wood and nails and tar that I scrounged off the road workers back in South Africa in the 60's. We flattened out the bottom, put a wooden beam down the middle and made a mast out of bamboo, sails out of wheat bags from the local bakery and painted with enamel paint...Real Huck Finn stuff.

My next step was watching "The Dove," Robin Lee Graham, a 16 year old American boy that sailed around the world. From there I progressed to "South Sea Adventures," which was a book in the school library. In 1987 I progressed from dreaming to reality. I was stuck on the Greek island of Rhodes waitin for a ferry to Haifa, Israel, where I was planning to work on a kibbutz and escaping the European cold

We as kids had great fun every weekend, sailing up and down the localabout river. We constanly had to hide the boat from our elder brothers and bigger boys
I got the chance to work for a delivery skipper, sailing and delivering bareboat yachts around the med. It was a trial by fire. I was green and we sailed in all weather. My skipper was good and I was keen to learn. At the end of the charter season, I got pushed into skippering my first delivery with my girlfriend at the time as my "deck hand." Very nerve wracking but it was the best thing. After that, I got my first license and the next year I was back in the Mediterranean doing my own boat deliveries.

What turns me on? The freedom, the test and the chance to live out my childhood dreams.

Ralph: Sailing around Australia is a huge undertaking, ther is 25,760 kms (15,000 plus miles) of coastline alone. What got your sails full with this idea?

Mike: It's hard to get an exact distance around due to the coastline - best estimate so far is 11,500 sea miles. Doing that sail in 2002 up to Darwin as crew got my head going, but I would say it was a combination of paraplegic Vinny Louwers (who comes from Melbourne, Austrailia) and the fact that in 2002 he circumnavigated the world (non stop).
I was in my first year of paraplegia and full of desire to regain my pride and prove to myself that I could. I must say now, over three years into the project, my main motivation is the kids, not too fussy about proving anything.

Ralph: Tell me about your boat and the modifications you have made to allow you to sail independently. How long did that take?

Mike: After a year of looking, I found my boat. I knew because of my prior sailing life exactly what vessel I wanted and I finally found it. During this search I decided to get the Harrington rods removed from my spine - reason being was that I felt if I took a bad spill backwards on the trip, I could diplace them and be in big trouble. Painful, but worth it.
I am glad I did it because my back gained more mobility and was much more comfortable. I found Gypsy Rose sitting lonely on a mooring in the Swan River in Perth, Australia which was where I live so I was lucky all round. Australia is huge and it would have cost me to ship the boat.3

The Gypsy Rose is a 26 foot international folk boat, a Swedish design with a long history. First designed in 1939; first big acclaim was coming in second in the first Trans Atlantic race in 1967. For a small craft it has alot of histroy and is well proven. She is a long keel design with an encapsulated keel - cast iron placed within the vessel and glassed in. This means no bolts and for me, takes away the worry of lowering my keel.

Along the west coast of Australia, lobster fishing is a big industry. There are lots of ropes and floats and my idea was that they would flow under and out the back instead of catching my keel and prop. My estimate was spot on. Many a time I listened to the bump, bump of floats against my hull and watched with relief as they popped out the back.

Money was a big factor. I used some cash that the yatching community in Rhode Island, along with a wealthy Greek friend, had donated to me after my fall - to be used, as they stated, "to buy a car and furniture and a good telly" - as they realized I was broke after my fall having "like a fool" taken out no insurance when I went back to Greece in 2000.

I figured that buying a boat was better than a car and a telly. I think they expected that anyhow when they sent it. As I couldn't afford a large vessel and knowing that I wouldn't want to do it in any other boat as space is an issue. Being a para, the smaller the area to move in the better. "It's only the meek that think so" quite wrongly, that you need a large vessel at sea to be safe - the difference is comfort, storage space, a real toilet and a shower. When trying to make windward, a bigger engine. With long distance cruising, if you haven't got horse power at times when you heading into the wind it will drain you if you only have your sails to depend on.

What I have to do is duck and weave if I am sailing to windward and I don't have horsepower so I sharpen my act up and watch the weather windows like a hawk, moving as soon as I get a break and sitting on anchor or on a jetty if I can in bad weather. Hence the slowness of my trip. I can't, and don't want to "muck up". I have no shore crew as such and apart from good people I meet along the way who help out, I really am on my own.
The main adaptations were making the outside cockpit area all on level by putting foam covered panels over the walkway. To get below I made up a chair, foam covered and a bar that I placed across the companion way leading down into the boat. Down below I again with foam covered panels created one level. To get up I reach up grab the bar, lift into the intermediate chair, and then again a lift up to the cockpit area outside and vice versa.

I use the "kiss theory" (keep it simple stupid) trying to get technical means more hassle in the long run. This, of course, works better while you are sitting in port and harder when you are on your ear. I drag myself inside with teak bars I put into the roof. My toilet in good weather, is my climbing harness suspended over the side (the low side) by a halyard from the mast. A real bidet - as a para this is not easy but in good weather it's nice and clear and ther is no rush in bad weather. It's down below, right up front with a cut down commode and a bucket - Primitive, but it works.

Under the panels inside in the walkway, I have a 200 litre water bladder and I used a simple manual pump to get the water out. In the back locker I have two 50 litre fuel bladders. My max fuel carrying capacity is 150 litres. Sounds like a lot, but on one leg I had to account for 800 miles of no fuel stops in tidal country, 12 meter tides - very savage and my little 8 horsepower inboard engine was working very hard keeping my out of trouble.

At times your totally under the mercy of the current. The best edition I made was my fighter pilot cockpit bubble. The picture you put on my side shows me working the begginigs of it. This gives me pretty much all round visibility, and most of all dry. This sits over the companionway (entrance into the boat) and all my ropes and lines are fed into this area, enabling me to drive the boat in relevant shelter and comfort.

What you must realize is that in a 26 foot boat I have about 3 feet of freeboard. This is the distance between the water and the deck. In bad weather I can sit down below and on my low side watch the water sliding past my window. In short it's a wet board and my bubble keeps me dry and sane. The big adaptations were running all of the gear back to the cockpit so I could raise, lower and/or reduce, and increase my sails from the cockpit area. I also with the help of a friend, designed a system whereby I can drop and or raise my anchor from my cockpit (no electric, all manual).

All these changes and the strengthening of many areas of the boat took me 15 months of non-stop work, with lots of help from good people who pitched in and/or sponsored me with equipment and of course the local Royal Perth Yacht Club who made me an honorary member for the duration on my trip and helped out with cranes and berthing space and cradles. You will see from my website that I have over 30 sponsors and am constantly adding more. I started this on a shoe string and depended on people believing in what I am doing and supporting me in that endeavor.

Ralph: Have you had any mechanical problems while sailing that you could't fix, any problems at all?

Mike: Engine problems: Lost my starter motor going into a very tidal 13 mile passage to get to a town and the Yacht Club Commodore came out to get me - towed me in with his boat. Lots of oil problems until I got up into the Kimberley region of W.A. - very wild place, where I pulled into Sygnet Bay Pearl Farm.
I worked there as a skipper for a number of years before my accident. They kindly rebuilt my engine and the whole crew worked for a day without pay and donated that to Wheelchairs - 30 people created 45 chairs - That's the Kimberley people for you. During a real bad section, 450 miles in bad weather, my two self steering systems - one being electric and one mechanical (on the Fleming a vane broke and the weather didn't allow me to get up and fix it as I was taking waves over the backend where the vane was situated).

The electrical backup auto pilot also decided to die. The way I have the boat set up, I need to be able to use a self steer in order to be free to operate all the control lines. There is no option with this, except to take a crew on. In big winds I found myself stuck on the helm by myself. I tried to lash the helm and ease the sheets, as I did this my lashing came away and the boat Gibed in 30+ knots, got tossed like a salad, but mainly had a heart stop due to how close I came to maybe losing my mast from the gibe, or breaking some gear
I finally resolved this situation by creating a self steer with a combination of ropes and blocks. I steered for two days with two lines I had run into my nest down below, so I stayed dry and could adjust my control lines.......and SLEEP.

Ralph: Have you done any competitive sailing since the "chair"? The technology really allows us a equal competitiveness now.

Mike: To be honest Ralph I am a "passage maker" not a racer. I have done a little racing, but I prefer the challenge of the open sea. I am a cranky bugger and not a very good team player. Better I sail alone, only the seagulls have to listen to listen to my bitching. It's a comparison that's similar to an indoor rock climber and a mountaineer.In saying all that I admire and respect the sailing skill involved in competition sailing.

Ralph: What are your plans with the charity you are helping? Do you have others you are working with?

Mike: I am stuck on this one, firstly it's a completely volunteer set up. All donations go directly into buying the materials to build the chairs, all the costs such as rent for the workshop and admin are covered by the Rotary Club and Christian Brothers, over 70 volunteers go through the workshop 4 times per week. They are producing 250 chairs per month. The chairs are designed for children and get distributed in 52 countries free of charge, and given to kids who have no chair and no way of accessing one.

My plans? Finish this trip, get as many kids a chair as I can, and I well may get sponsorship from an airline and distribute some chairs myself. Recently I made contact with some disabled Phillipinoes making handsicrafts to make ends meet. So maybe I will head there after my sail. I need to get on with my own life, and find something to bring some cash in, this trip has cleared me out.

Ralph: What are your other interests?
Mike: Freedom and the ocean. I used to fish, commercially for a number of years, now I just look. I swim and free dive alot.

Ralph: What would you say to a disabled person that wanted to do something like what you are doing?

Mike: Make sure you are genuinely passionate about doing it, don't even try otherwise. It has to be a passion. Don't do it for anything else. Or anybody else, because way out to sea all alone and Mother Nature turns it on, it's only passion that will see you through.

Don't think it's easy, or that you won't be scared. Realise before you let those ropes off the dock and your way off shore that you can't just say "I have had enough." and get off the bus. You must be sure you can keep your cool at least till you reach port, or a safe anchorage.
If you feel you may lose it don't let the ropes go. If you love the ocean, the freedom, the fear and the adrenalin rush,love that feeling of "yes I made it," and look back at the miles and the experience with pride...then why not. Skeptics will be lurking, waiting for a chance to shoot you down, especially because your disabled. Don't even waste a second on these people, they are just voicing their own fears.
Ralph: Thanks again for doing this, and keep me updated. I look forward to the finish.
Mike: No worries Ralph. Don't leave yourself out of the equation brother, your out there doing it, and I admire you for that. It's all relevant. Do what you can, and use what ability we have been left with to the max. There are alot of disabled people out there all smashed up just waiting. THEY NEED HOPE
I am so proud of this interview, and Mike and if you like it leave a comment, and please check out the AroundAustraliaChallenge website.

Jennifer French - Paraplegic Sailor

 Jen French is a woman that words can't do justice, and who just happens to have a spinal cord injury.I had an appointment to meet up with her last Friday at the St. Petersburg Sailing Center. Our appointment fell through because of some things in my life, (bad shoulder wound) but she graciously filled out this interview and returned it via e-mail. 

Ralph: It's very nice of you to meet with me today, thank you and thanks for doing this interview.

Jen: Thank you. It’s my pleasure.

Ralph: So tell me about sailing...When did you start sailing and how did you get involved in it competitively?

Jen: Unlike many of these sailors, I was introduced to sailing by my (now) husband. He taught me how to windsurf on our second date, several years ago. From then, we enjoyed the sport of sailing various craft but did not get into racing until we moved to Florida about five years ago.

Ralph: What are the high and low points of your competitve years sailing.

Jen: Well, it really depends on the aspect. Just he ability to get out there sometime is a high in itself, especially if the breeze is up and you have a good team together. I enjoy sailing in bigger fleets rather than just a few boats, which also means competing against mostly able-bodied sailors. Probably one of my favorite moments was crossing the finish line in third place against a competitive fleet of 41 Sonars up in Marblehead, MA. Looking back and seeing all those spinnakers behind us. That was fun.

I guess low points are really what you make of them. I, personally, get frustrated with the politics of a sports admin. One of the more frustrating is when the medical classifiers determined that my blind teammate was no longer eligible to sail with under "disabled sailing". His condition did not change, but they changed the rules.

Ralph: What is it about sailing instead of any other competitive sport
that drives you.

Jen: There are several aspects of the sport that are attractive. Sailing is not only a physical sport but very much a mental sport as well. There is a lot of science involved.

Sailing is also a sport where the "disabled" can easily compete with the "able-bodied". We leave our wheelchairs, prosthetics, crutches, etc. on the docks and go compete on the water. No special privileges are given to us. Once we are on the water, we everyone is equal and every one is free game.

Ralph:I have looked at your website and it's great that your exposing more disabled people to sailing, however your last results from competion are from 2004! I googled for days to get those...Seriously though tell me how sailing alternatives came about.

Jen: Actually, I’m not involved with Sailing Alternatives anymore. Sailing Alternatives was founded in Sarasota by John Jorgensen. I’m not sure what they are doing these days.

Ralph: I also learned you are the Exec. Director of "
The Society To Increase Mobility". I had never heard of it until I started researching for this interview. I have 2 questions about this.
1. What are your functions as director
2. How do you find the time to do all this?

Jen: The Society To Increase Mobility changed it’s operational name to Neurotech Network about a year ago. About three years ago, I co-founded the organization with another Board member. We found a lack of awareness epidemic regarding neurotechnology devices, which are medical devices that interact with the human nervous system to improve or restore function.

The non-profit was created for unbiased information dissemination and the assist the development of the industry. As President, I over see the operations and growth of the organization.

How do I find time? For something where you see a direct impact on people’s lives, it’s worth the extra time. I worked a lot before the injury and somethings just don’t change. I guess, if you want something done, give it to a busy person.

Ralph: I "Googled" you and there are thousands of entries, what are your other web based organizational involvements?

Jen: I don’t know if I can name everything off the top of my head. Recently, Triple Knot productions released a documentary film on our story. It won awards at the Houston film festival and is making its way around to others. It’s now being distributed by Aquarious Health Care Videos.

Ralph: You were one of the first people to have an FES implant for standing. How helpful is it for you and who in our community is it appropriate for?

Jen: The standing system is extremely helpful, however still experimental. It allows me to stand and move around using a walker. Functionally, it gives an alternative to the wheelchair. It also helps to combat secondary conditions associated with spinal cord injury such as muscle atrophy, osteoporosis, urinary tract infections, and contractures.
The system is appropriate for persons with SCI that have their peripheral nerves intact. The team at the Cleveland FES Center have implants persons as high as a C5 and down to a T12 level. It is a definite time commitment, of which I have found worth it. However, it is also a clinical study so everything is not perfect. I work with the research team to help them develop and better device.

Ralph: Tell me a little bit about your life outside of all this. Do you have children? What do you for fun?

Jen: No kids, but I have thirteen nieces and nephews. My husband, Tim, and I are pretty active. We also scuba dive, fly fish, canoe, bike. We enjoy the outdoors.

Ralph: It is obvious that having a SCI hasn't held you back from much, but what is it that you miss most about being able bodied?

Jen: Hiking mountains. I know it’s possible, but it’s just not the same.

Ralph: Is there any advice you would like to give on achieving goals that might seem impossible for a newly injured SCI?

Jen: Don’t give up. Small progress is better than no progress at all. Your attitude is everything.

Ralph: It's been a pleasure meeting you and thank you again for answering my questions.

Jen: Thanks, Ralph. I truly appreciate your coverage of so many sports.

Carol Hollfelder -Paraplegic Car Racer

Ralph: Hi Carol - Thanks for taking the time for this interview. Racing cars is a huge undertaking and I think what you and your team do is amazing.

Carol: Thank you and thank you for asking me. I do need to apologize (again) for the delay in getting back to you. You've been very patient.

Ralph: There are alot of sports available for people like us in chairs. What is it about racing that you love, and how did you get started? Do you participate recreationally in any other chair sports or activities?

Carol: The only sports I've ever really been remotely interested in involved horses and horsepower. I was a competitive equestrian before my accident. I rode hunters and jumpers. That was what I was going to do with my life, but it wasn't the same after I got hurt so, with my father's encouragement, my focus shifted to racing cars. The two things I love most about motorsport are power and control. Learning to direct these machines and make them go where you want them to is an incredible rush. I've always loved cars; the way they look, the way they sound… They're functional works of art and racing them is putting them to good use.

Ralph: Your car is a technological wonder. The hand control system is obviously one of a kind. How long did it take to develop and who all assisted you?

Carol: My father is an engineer. He has a background in both electrical and mechanical engineering and spent a number of years looking for hand controls for a manual transmission that he thought would allow me to be competitive. He didn't want me to be handicapped by the equipment and thought that racing in an automatic wouldn't be as much fun. In 1998, when Ferrari introduced their F1 paddle shifter system on their 355, my dad asked me if I wanted to race one. Like I might say no! Anyway, the semi-automatic transmission in the 355F1 incorporates paddles behind the wheel that you use to shift the gears. Up on the right side and down on the left. We moved the paddles from behind the wheel to thumb switches in front of the steering wheel. Just by clicking the switch with my thumb the car will actuate the clutch, choose the gear and blip the throttle to match the revs on a downshift. With all of that taken care of, all my dad had to figure out was brake and throttle.

The actual mechanics of it are a bit more complicated than they sound, but using the system is incredibly simple. There is a ring mounted behind the steering wheel that you pull forward with your fingertips for throttle and for braking, you push the steering wheel away from you. The steering column telescopes down towards the floor, where the original brake pedal was mounted. So all of the controls are directly on the steering wheel. I never have to take a hand off the wheel while I'm driving. It's a very intuitive system that is pretty easily learned. My husband says it's like playing a video game, only better.

Carol Hollfelder hand control saystem.

Ralph: There is one other para racer I know of named Ray Paprota. Are you familiar with him? He has a NASCAR Touring Series license. What racing circuit do you compete on and how difficult was it to prove you could do it?

Carol: I know of Ray, but we haven't met face to face. I also know quite a few other people with disabilities that race in a number of different series. Everything from rally cars to dragsters. It's becoming fairly common for there to be another driver who uses a wheelchair at most of the club races I go to. I started out in Ferrari Challenge, which was a lot more competitive than we expected and not the easiest place to start. I did a season of club racing after that and then made another huge leap up to SCCA Pro Racing's World Challenge Series. That's an amazing series that doesn't get nearly enough coverage. Some of the best road racers in the world, driving some of the coolest cars you'll ever see. Ferraris, Porsches, Mustangs, Vipers and BMWs going flat out, wheel-to-wheel for 50 minutes around some of the best circuits in the country. Very exciting. I hope to return to that series eventually, but the current level of competition and car preparation has outpaced what our small team could keep up with in the past couple of years. So we've been running in NASA's Super Unlimited class. We plan on competing for the Regional Championship here in California and then heading to Mid-Ohio in September for the National Champsionship race.

There are some great guys running in this series as well. Overall, though, one of the things I've loved about racing is the community. Motorsport is a small world and there are some really good people involved. I've made a lot of good friends. I'm happy to say it's been like this from the beginning for me. I've never had any trouble with people discouraging me or putting up road blocks to my getting a racing license in any of the series I've wanted to race in. I've even qualified for and received an FIA license which would allow me to race at the highest level of GT racing, from the 24 Hrs of Daytona to Le Mans.

Ralph: I read that you like F1, it's one of my favorite passions as well. Who's your favorite driver, and have you ever driven on a track used by F1? What do you think about Juan Pablo joining NASCAR with Toyota?

Carol: I'm tifosa. I've loved Ferraris since I first learned what a car was. I watch Formula 1 to see Ferrari win and whoever can make that happen is who I'm cheering for. I have no idea what to expect for next season, but I'm very sorry that I never had the chance to see Michael Schumacher race in person. I also don't think I've ever had the opportunity to race on a track that is currently used by Formula 1. I've raced at some of the greatest tracks in North America though. Laguna Seca, Road America, Sears Pt., Road Atlanta… I even took a couple of driving schools at Riverside before it closed. As for Montoya and NASCAR… I can't say much. I have absolutely no interest in stock car racing. The technology and style of cars do nothing for me and the racing in circles is only exciting for the first and last 5 minutes of the races. I'm not knocking the guys who do it or saying it's easy, I just don't enjoy watching.

Carol Hollfelder on track pass.

I do want to add that I recently lost a friend, one of the great drivers from Formula 1, Clay Regazzoni. He was killed in a street car accident in December. He was a wonderful, charming man and a great racer. I was honoured to have known him and it's a tragic loss to the world of motorsport.

Ralph: What have been the highest and lowest points in your racing career? Have you ever been in an accident. and what safety measures are in place if you are?

Carol: I don't know that I've had any real low points. I had a couple of seasons in World Challenge where it seemed that every other time we took the car out we were beset by gremlins, but even so, I enjoyed being at the track and around the racing. As for high points, well, being able to say that I've raced a Ferrari is pretty cool. Most people will never have the opportunity to drive one, let alone race one. And competing in World Challenge has been a blast overall. The level of competition is outstanding and I've learned a lot racing against some of the best road racers in the world. I look forward to getting back to it eventually.

As for accidents, everybody has them. I've had a couple of fairly hard crashes and my car caught fire once. (Well, twice, but only once seriously.) Safety is our highest priority. If you know that my father and my husband are the two guys that have done most of the work on my race car, then you know that nobody else is going to worry more about my health and nobody is going to do more to ensure that if things go wrong, I've got the best safety equipment available. The cage in my car is stronger than most, I always wear a head and neck restraint and 3-layer Nomex suit and there are two fire systems in the car. Risk is a part of racing. You do everything you can to minimize that risk and then you accept it if you want to be involved in this sport.

Ralph: Have you faced any criticism from your fellow racers or the racing bodies. Do you have any message for people in chairs or for that matter people who think 'dis' abled people shouldn't do what you do.

Carol: All of the sanctioning bodies that we have approached have been wonderful. Their only concern is that my hand controls and race car are safely designed and constructed and that I have the same level of training as any other racer. I have faced no obstacles to my racing based on other people's perceptions of my disability. Even at the professional level the guys I've raced against have been incredibly welcoming and supportive. I even met my husband at my first pro race. He and his team were some of the nicest guys I'd ever met and we became friends, started working together on my car and eventually fell in love.

My message to people with disabilities is the same as it is for those without, figure out what you want to do in life and then just do it. There are ways for people with all manner of disabilities to be involved in motorsport whether it be driving, wrenching or managing. I'm not the most optimistic person in the world, but if there is something I want to do, I just assume that I'll be able to and work from there. Obstacles may arise, but I don't go looking for them.

There will always be naysayers and they can be a pain, but most people are happy to give you a hand if they can. I've found that to be true in general and even more so in motorsport. It's not a huge industry, but there are a lot of really great people involved.

Ralph: What do you have planned for '07? If Sebring is on your schedule let me know please, it's only 45 minutes from my house, I'll come and take some photos for you.

Carol: I wish I could say that we'll be back at Sebring this season, but right now it doesn't look like that will be happening. We do plan on running a full season in NASA's Super Unlimited class here in the Southern California region and then returning to Mid-Ohio for the National race. I won 2nd in class last year and I hope to have another podium finish next September. We've also started working with an organization called United Spinal. They are a disability awareness and advocacy group. Our involvement is focused on motorsport and motor safety.

We're working to encourage more people with disabilities to get involved in racing and also educating young people about being safe on the street and in competition, whether it's in cars, on motorcycles, boats or snow mobiles. Oh! And we just finished work on a public service announcement regarding handicapped parking. They used our '05 Mustang show car in a PSA that will start appearing on mainstream channels, including MTV. It's pretty funny, but it gets the message across.

Ralph: If you could choose between having stem cell therapy or being modified with robotics which would you pick? I wrote an article about it and I ask all the SCI'S I know. Personally I would choose the robotics.

Carol: As they both currently stand? I wouldn't risk either option. In the future I would probably choose a course of stem cell therapy just because I think there is less chance of something going seriously wrong with an organic cure than with implanted electronics. I wouldn't be racing today if it weren't for all the hi tech gizmos in my car, but there are just too many things that can go wrong with them and I'd hate to have something like that turn against me within my own body.

Ralph: Thanks again for your time and for everything you do. Stereotypes stink and I think you shatter them for everyone that has been exposed to you.

Karen Darke - Amazing T3 Para - Amazing Expeditions!

Karen Darke is a super adventurer, with more trips under her belt than some of the world's most famous travellers. She has climbed El Capitan, crossed the Tien Shan and Karakoram mountains of Central Asia on a handcycle, sea kayaked a 1,200 mile length of the Alaska-Canada coastline, and handcycled the length of Japanese archipelago and the Indian Himalaya, and she is getting ready to sit-ski to the South Pole. She was also recently awarded British Cosmo's "Fearless Woman of the year" award.

Karen your list of adventures read like those of the most able (and mental) adventurers of all time, tell me which was the most challenging trip, and which did you enjoy most?

I can’t answer that question as they’ve all been challenging in different ways, and enjoyable in different ways. Physically though, skiing across the Greenland icecap was probably the hardest. It was relentless effort, and in the mornings my hands / tendons in my hands were seized and it took half an hour to get moving again each day. No lasting bad effects though!

Mentally, leaving my wheelchair behind for 3 months when kayaking from Canada to Alaska was tough – I thought I would go mad without it in the first week, but I adapted. It just meant doing jobs and helping the team in ways that I could – like cooking and brewing cups of tea for everyone the whole time!

Climbing again – El Capitan in Yosemite – was really tough emotionally, as it must have stirred up a lot of hidden / subconscious memories, fear of heights, of climbing / falling. I broke my leg at the end of it and I’m not surprised – I pushed myself to the limit emotionally and I think a little too far.

You broke your back in 1993, 16 years and 6 almost unbelievable adventures later you have accomplished more than most able bodied people do in their entire lives. What drives you to keep up this kind of pace?

No idea. My genetics. Just the way I am. My mum and dad never sit still, so I’m sure I got some of it from them! Many people ask if its because / a reaction to being paralysed but I don’t think so. I’ve always had a lot of energy and just love getting out and doing stuff, and having adventures. It doesn’t feel like I need motivation for it most of the time – its just what I get out of bed for!

How did your injury happen? I read it was a climbing accident.

Yes I fell off a cliff when I was rock climbing. I was leading the climb ie. First one up. The rock was too steep, and I reached the point I couldn’t hold on anymore. Unfortunatley the gear I’d put in the rock (the last bit) ripped out and I hit the rock beneath, breaking my back at T3, my neck (lucky not to damage my cord there), arms, ribs, punctured lung, skull etc.

Have you had any accidents since you got in the chair?

Yes, Broken my hip across the femur (playing party games), my neck of femur (doing yoga) and my leg (going climbing again).

How do you go about organizing expiditons like this? Do you have sponsors, what kind of support do you need?

Its hard. Previous expeditions have been relatively cheap, so have been either self-funded, or with the help of one or two small sponsors. Greenland was more expensive and we applied for ‘expedition grants’ from places like the Royal Geographical Society, and also got sponsorship for gear and equipment from outdoor companies, and discounted rates / free excess baggage from Iceland Air and Air Greenland. The South Pole is a different kettle of fish. We will need a very major sponsor, or collection of sponsors to help it become a reality.

Your really planning to "sit-ski" to the south pole. I'm familiar with skiing down mountains but isn't Antarctica relatively flat? What are your biggest concerns logistically?

A cross-country sit-ski is different to a downhill sit-ski. You double pole along with your arms (see pictures on the website) and flat is good, as you have no ability to stop and its also hard to turn. The biggest challenge will be the cold –keeping warm, and also the friction that the cold creates for the sit-ski, as it relies heavily on the ability of the skis to glide along. This is easier when the snow or ice is a little warmer i.e. a thin layer of water between the skis and the surface.

Tell me more about the ski. Did you design it? I can't imagine it being off the rack.

The current sit-ski I have is ‘off the rack’ but with the seat from a downhill sit-ski, to give it extra warmth, insulation and support for my bum, hips and torso. Being paralysed from the chest down means that I need a good level of back support and abdominal support, so the seat is kind of customized for me, but essentially is just the seat from a downhill sit-ski plonked on a cross-country sit ski frame. For Antarctica, we are still looking at what might need to be changed / improved etc. to cope with the harsher conditions.

How long of a trip will this be and what are your most major concerns? I'm sure frost bite is a huge worry.

Yes, frost bite, and also the physical aspect of staying healthy, injury free, and not having catheter / toilet problems! There are only so many clean clothes we can carry, and no where to wash, so having any accidents is that department is obviously a big no-no. In Greenland I duct taped my catheter tubes etc. together to make sure they couldn’t work themselves apart, stayed very well hydrated, peed even when I didn’t need to etc. just to make sure everything went as smoothly as possible.

Frost bite in legs / feet is a worry, as I can’t feel them.I’ll no doubt be wearing at least 5 pairs of insulated trousers / layers the whole time, as was the case in Greenland. I’ll also use heat pads and drinking bottles as hot water bottles to ensure everything stays as warm as poss.

What kind of team are you bringing with you and how much do you expect it to cost?

So far there are only three of us – myself, my partner and a friend. The cost is a big issue, and we would like to keep it to a minimum, but with the maximum chance of success. We are still debating whether to have a team size of 4 or 6, and have various people we’re considering for this. The cost is between $40,000 and £60,000 per person depending on the route we choose, and if we have any re-stock points. The time it will take is anything from 5 weeks to 10 weeks, depending also on the route we take. WE’d like to go all the way from the sea (Hercules Inlet) to the Pole, but cost may become prohibitive.

Your trying to raise nearly $200,000 for charity. What's the charity and who do they help?

We’re actually trying to raise £1 million. The first £100,000K is for The Back-Up Trust, a charity that help peole with spinal cord injury lead active / fulfilling lives. Google it or follow the link on our website for more info.

How much have you raised so far and how do people donate?

None raised for the expedition itself so far (though have 3 companies interested, and all of the exped costs will be met through our own pockets and company sponsorship). The charity money so far we’ve raised (not much) £240, and people can donate to the charity online at the website,

What do you do for work and do they support your trips at all?

I am self-employed as a training and development consultant. Coaching, facilitating courses, working with social enterprise, etc. I fund bits of my own trips where I can!

Are you familiar with any other disabled adventurers and their accomplishments

Yes, many. In the US, Eric Weihenmayer, Mark Wellman, the team at ‘No Barriers USA’ (check out ‘no barriers’ in Google. There are disabled adventurers all over the world doing great stuff. A Russian guy (paraplegic) skied across Greenland a year or two before we did. It’s great that people are getting out there and doing stuff!

Greg Mallory - '07 Team USA Nordic Ski Captain

I was really stoked to get the second interview with Greg Malory after his historic, successful navigation of the Mangde Chu river in the Himalayan Mountain ranges of Tibet.

If you didn't get a chance to read his recounting of being the first paraplegic to run this "never before run" stretch of whitewater you can find it here

Ralph - Hi Greg! How's it going? I have been working on this new article, hoping to sell it to a publication and add to my funds for the winter sports travel fund. Please answer my questions and if there is anything want to add I would appreciate it!

Ralph - I just saw on the Paralympics website that you made the team... Congratulations! I know you are incredibly busy with handling your job as a lawyer and training hard in this winters snow season. Where and how have you been training? Is your health good?

Greg - It's been a tough summer - I came down with a bacterial infection the start of July and was basically sidelined until mid-September. I'm feeling good now so hopefully I can make up for lost time. I've been doing a lot of strength training (core and weights), roller skiing along the river in Portland and handcycling.It's starting to rain in Oregon so I've been getting some good kayaking in as well.

Ralph - I know that back in May you and the team attended a Sports Science Center for monitoring. Has this been benificial to your team? I know that you trained hard all summer and your anxious to put it to the snow.

Greg - We just did another testing camp a couple of weeks ago. It was good to see the results compared against our May graphs. However, they changed the protocol a little bit so the comparison may be a little flawed. I think this stuff is definitely going to help us but there is a learning curve to go up for all involved.

Ralph - In our previous interview back in March fresh on the heels of your amazing Tibetan Expedition you mentioned that that you were the Captain of the Nordic Team. On the Paralympics website it says Jon Kreamelmeyer is the head coach is that the same as Captain? Did you step down? Or is he the Coach and your the Captain of your teammates? What are the differences between your job and his?

Greg - JK is the head coach. I'm just the team captain - basically an informal liaison between the athletes and the coaching staff.

Ralph - I read that you won the middle distance opener at the U.S. Nationals '07 with a 23.02 over Andy Soule. Is that your best event? Are you confident that given your off season training, mental preparation and your experience in Torino that you are in a position to bring a medal home?

Greg -I've been racing with all the current team members for a while now. Chris definitely puts in the most training and gets time on snow in New Zealand and Finland over the summer/fall. Bob is a long-timer who took a year off last year because of triplets. Andy and Sean are relatively new to the team. The results from nationals don't really mean much - we're just racing amongst ourselves and sometimes not everybody is in the race (Chris was not in the middle distance race last year). My favorite race is the 15K (long distance) but I had my best result ever (1st) in the sprint at the final World Cup race last year.

Ralph - The season opener, a season of 13 events starts New Years Day in Park City, Utah. Which venues and events will you be competing in. The event that has the highest profile is the X Games in Colorado, it's not your nordic event but mono-skier X. Will you be participating in that?
Greg - We don't start racing until the first week of January in Houghton, Michigan. We then have World Cups scheduled in Germany, Finland and Norway. Unfortunately, our on-snow camp in Canmore, Canada scheduled for Thanksgiving week had to be cancelled for lack of snow. We'll try to make it up in December but things don't look too promising. I won't make the X Games because my schedule is pretty tight as it is but it would be fun to go one year - I do downhill ski but doubt I could keep up with those guys.

Keep it up Greg! I'll be rooting for you and the team to bring home the gold bacon.

Hilary Lister Interview

Hilary Lister is a "dis"abled woman from the United Kingdom, she has "reflex sympathetic dystrophy" a proggresive disease that has paralysed her from the neck down. She just took up sailing a few years ago, and using "sip and puff" technology was able to become the first quadriplegic to sail across the English Channel. Here is the interview I wrote her.

Ralph:Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, and congratulations on your award "Helen Rollason Award for Inspiration." That must have been very cool.

Hilary: I was the last person I expected to be nominated for, let alonereceive, the award. I really do feel very humbled. All I did was go for asail with some mates for a day. I couldn't have been more surprised,especially as my Mum had pointed out that there were steps up onto the stage(she got it wrong, she just couldn't see the ramp!) It was an amazing night.

Ralph:What is it you like most about most about sailing?

Hilary: Like most sailors, I think that it's the freedom. On the water I'm my own person, and I love the wind and water. It feels like flying!

Ralph:Do you follow the careers of any of the "pro" disabled female sailors like Jennifer French of the U.S?

Hilary: A little, but I have only been sailing for a very short period of time, and all my sailor mates are able-bodied, so I tend to spend most of my time following them
Ralph: Do you have any plans for competition? The paralympic trials and the IFDS disabled sailing championships are just around the corner.

Hilary: I enjoy sailing on the sea, and my preference is for long-distance sailing. I haven't done much racing, but it gets crowded, and I like the solitude you get on the ocean.

Ralph: What would you say to a young woman that wanted to get into sailing?

Hilary: Just go for it! There is bound to be a club relatively near you,even if you live far inland there are reservoirs and rivers.

Ralph: On your website you talk about sailing around the British Isles, goodluck with that and keep me informed, you really deserve that award. Till next time!

To find out more about Hilary check out ChannelChallenge

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Greg Mallory - Extreme ParaAthlete

Photos courtesy of Greg Mallory
Greg Mallory is, among other thing, a lawyer, L1 Paraplegic, white water kayaker and Captain of the U.S.Disabled Nordic Ski Team, a post that he was nominated for by the other members of the team. He has been in the chair 13 years, kayaking 12 of those, and is the 1st disabled person, in a group of 1st people, to conquer the remote Mangde Chu river in the
Himalayan region of Bhutan.

These 1st peoples trip was broadcast on the Discovery Channel and was aptly named "Adventure Bhutan," I had no idea about Greg's involvement, but I did have every intent of watching the program anyway. I like those kind of shows, so imagine my surprise when the expeditions leader and trip organizer announced "paralympic and paraplegic athlete Greg Mallory."

If my neck wasn't already fused I probably would have needed it after my head snapped around to face the television. The documentary was awesome, As I said in the last paragraph, he was the first para to navigate the Mangde Chu, and after a few emails to find him I got a short telephone conference. It was really cool that I was able to ask him some questions, one person in a chair to another.

Ralph: How did you get involved with "Adventure Bhutan?"

Greg: Two of my teammates were friends of mine, Brooke and rookie Will Hovey. I met Gerry Moffatt, the expedition's leader, a few years back and when I got his email asking if I wanted to be involved..... well the answer is obvious.

Ralph: Bhutan has some ridicilous topography, seeing you getting dragged in your kayak to the put in was kind of cool. Your position on the team was alot of responsibility. Safety Kayaker, being responsible for others, that's a big deal.
Greg: The Himalaya's aren't an easy place to travel, and it is certainly a sense of accomplishment.

Ralph: Getting back to the river.... There were a few places on the trip when the river wasn't run, places that one of your teammates described as "50-50 at best." The documentary completley leaves you out at these points. They are called "Portage" and required lots of climbing and walking. That oviously isn't happening, and how much dragging was done?

Greg: It definitely doesn't come across on the show how difficult it was. It felt like they made less out of the logistics than there was. There was a point, I was on a horse, a small himalayan style horse, and the horse's leader didn't seem concerned. We were going up a steep trail, I was hanging on for dear life.

Ralph: I bet some of the people of Bhutan had never seen a person in a chair. In the documentary some of your teammates went into this amazing Buddhist temple, the temple had some crucial stairs and ladders, and again there was no mention of your experience. Did you get a chance to go in any of those temples?

Greg: Yeah it was obvious that some of the people of Bhutan had never seen a wheelchair, it is an immensely isolated country. Bhutan's culture and their people are very humble so there wasn't any feeling I was a "freak show", and yes I went inside the temples, some of the boys (my teammates) carried me up the stairs.

Ralph: Towards the end of the documentary there was a class 5 rapid, and it was pretty obvious nerves were playing a part in your decision to run it or not.

Greg: Not many people in a chair boat, and I was the 3rd person, and the 1st para to ever do that section of river. It wasn't the hardest section of river I have done, but it was humbling and very fulfiling to be the 1st disabled person.

Ralph: What's the deal with your position and the responsibilities as Captain of the U.S Disabled Nordic Ski Team?

Greg: Not too much right now. It's the off season for skiing and I'm just training cardiovascular and strength. The World Cup is in the beginning of 2008 and as that gets closer my training will be more ski specific. Mostly it is just communicating with the coaches and team members.

Ralph: How about some of our options in the future to get up and walk again. I mean "stem cells or cyborgs." If you had your choice which would you pick?

Greg: Stem Cells definitely. I don't know alot about cyborg technology, it's not something I look into regularly.

Ralph: I understand that. Cyborg technology and robitics is kindof an obsession of mine. Did you know there is an exoskeleton built in Japan that nearly summitted the Matterhorn with a quadriplegic? It's based on bio-feedback sleeves that the user puts their limbs in and then a computer interprets their muscle signatures, amplifying them with batteries and outputting the amplified signal to motors built into the joints of the exoskeletons frame. Maybe it's a little crazy but that's the route I would go.

Greg: No I had no idea about that. I went to the Miami Project shortly after my injury for therapy and bio-feedback so it's definitely interesting.

Ralph: When you dream are you in or out of the chair? For me even if I'm out of the chair it's always present, somewhere in my field of vision.

Greg: For me, in my dreams I'm either in or out of the chair. It's one way or another.
Ralph: Any plans for other adventures coming up?

Greg: I'm probably going to Idaho for a kayaking trip. Other than that just lots of kayaking, multi day training and staying in shape.

Ralph: Thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me.

Greg: It was my pleasure, take care.