It is my hope that readers were able to check out the lead-in article to the Amp’d Rider Project from the last issue. This project has given me more insight and education than I could have imagined when I first started. What was a heartfelt cause to share and enlighten others has become an extraordinary endeavor. I have interviewed over ten amputees that resumed their passion for riding motorcycles after losing their limbs, and many more interviews in the pipeline. In addition, several professionals have joined the mission of the Amp’d Rider Project. The YouTube series has received a great many subscribers and social media followers are intrigued with the information they are receiving. The stories of amputation range from illnesses to accidents and the amputees are very diverse in professions.
Kendall Hill was on a Boy Scout excursion, watching his son repels for the first time. Like most parents, he wanted that perfect picture. He took just one too many steps and the ledge gave way sending Kendall down a deep cliff. Being that the troop was in a somewhat remote location, it took over two hours for Kendall to get flown off to a hospital. A combination of injuries and time created the need to amputate part of his leg. He climbed out of that tragedy to not only be here for his children but to ride again. (YouTube: Amp’d Rider Project – Episode 002 – with Kendall Hill)
Roger Chan has served in many professional and political roles during his life. He was a man that had earned a good living and had life in order so to speak, with a retirement and college fund for his kids. On his birthday, which was also Thanksgiving, he was attending a local giving project to help feed less fortunate folks. A motorist hit Roger and as he slid, trapped under his Indian, he felt his leg being ground off. He say, “…like putting your leg in a pencil sharpener.” Rather quickly, Roger and his family discovered just how costly such a tragedy can be. Blowing through nearly all the funds he had worked so hard to preserve for his family, Roger found himself starting over in more ways than just walking. He now Rolling Thunder Roadhouse in Texas and naturally, he rides again. (YouTube: Amp’d Rider Project – Episode 003 – with Roger Chan)
Erik Peterson of C. H. Martin Company is my current leg man in Georgia. I find Erik to be a very attentive prosthetist that truly listens to the patient and goes well beyond common professional courtesy to ensure that I have all I need for the best quality of life. Interesting to me is that southern boy Erik graduated from Northwestern University in Chicago; where I lived for 21 years. Erik was born premature and his femur was not fully developed at birth. His knee is only a few inches from his hip and his foot is smaller than it should be naturally. Though he is not an amputee, this birth defect means that Erik has been wearing prosthetics his whole life. As such, Erik can personally relate to the difficulties and trials that go with limb challenges. I have heard time and again from amputees that their prosthetist doesn’t understand them and often times they feel as if they are in ill-fitted prosthetics. Erik does not let a patient leave in pain or with a prosthetic that is less than a phenomenal fit. (YouTube: Amp’d Rider Project – Episode 004 – with Erik Peterson)
Dave and Becka were on a date in their fairly new relationship and enjoying a beautiful day of riding. In a flash, as many of us have heard before, a deer jumped into their path of travel. The destruction was devastating. Dave suffered many injuries including a partial leg amputation. Becka suffered pretty severe traumatic brain injury. For many months these two went through surgeries and recovery, all the while remaining together as a couple. They will both say that together is the only way they could have made it through the ordeal. Each of them helped the other with their weaknesses and built up each other’s strengths. They agree that going through that tragedy and recovery together grew their bond. And now, Mr. and Mrs. Bledsoe ride again and help extensively with the Patriot Guard in their area. (YouTube: Amp’d Rider Project – Episode 005 – with Dave & Becka Bledsoe)
Vicki Bishop straddled her motorcycle and headed to work one morning like a thousand mornings before. She is a well-seasoned rider and really doesn’t remember exactly what went wrong. She only remembers watching her motorcycle cross the center line directly in front of a semi-truck. Though she was able to talk to first responders her memory of the incident is vague and she had no idea that her leg was severed at the scene. Vicki had just been dating a fellow for a few weeks when her crash occurred but with family sensitivity to her circumstances, the fellow became estranged. It wasn’t until Vicki got back to living on her own that she was able to reunite with her friend. It was he that helped Vicki back into her passion for riding. He took Vicki to a rally, put her on the back of his bike, and helped her regain her confidence. As she grew in confidence, she grew in determination. Her fellow and another friend helped Vicki modify a trike so that she could get her knee back in the breeze. Yep, just one knee – she is an above knee amputee and thus a two wheeled bike was not conducive to her situation. She says she still rides everywhere she possibly can. (YouTube: Amp’d Rider Project – Episode 006 – with Vicki Bishop)
Steve Chamberland, former pro-wrestler and leg amputee is a man for whom I am ever so thankful to have in my life. On a Memorial Day motorcycle ride, Steve lost part of his leg when a motorist hit him and his passenger. Steve is a far-out kind of guy and even with no prosthetic he took a buddy’s bike for a spin just a few weeks following the loss of his leg. As the years passed Steve wrestled professionally and started a construction company. But it wasn’t until a personal appearance with some of wrestling’s biggest names that he truly found his calling. Hearing of a young girl that lost her leg, Steve gathered his buddies together to try and raise money for the girl. As Jimmy Hart “Mouth of the South” tells it, “… you lit up when you gave that little girl her leg.” From that gesture of caring and the work it took to raise those funds, Steve formed 50Legs.org. The charity, 50Legs.org is based purely on donations and has very little overhead. While I still lay in the hospital in Minnesota a friend of mine from Illinois connected with Steve and explained my crash and lack of medical coverage. Steve reached out to me and offered help from 50Legs.org so that I could get a prosthetic when the time came. I nearly choke on tears every time I think about what my life would be today if I had not received helped from 50Legs.org. I would not have walked so soon, I would not have been able to travel in my truck and trailer through the country just 8 months after losing my leg, and I certainly would not have been able to ride a motorcycle again so soon. I could have done it all “eventually” but thanks to Steve, his supporters, and 50Legs.org; I was able to get back to my passion which made me feel whole again. (YouTube: Amp’d Rider Project – Episode 007 – with Steve Chamberland)
Ryan Hutchinson was a truck driver and making his scheduled route when something went terribly wrong with the truck. Ryan’s arm was pinned and despite rescue and surgical efforts he became a left arm amputee. He is a man of many talents and amazing determination. Ryan began almost immediately to modify his motorcycle because he wasn’t going to give up his passion. He regained his strength and fortitude to continue playing hockey, golf, and of course riding and working on motorcycles. I have heard many amputees say that their family and friends were distraught or even outright forbidding when they spoke of riding again. Ryan has no hesitation in saying that his family and friends were a huge driving force in helping him recover and get on with living life to the fullest. His friends helped him with bike modifications and his family supported him in all his endeavors. Ryan now has a motorcycle related product in production that I cannot disclose but I will say that it is innovative and I for one anxiously await its release. (YouTube: Amp’d Rider Project – Episode 008 – with Ryan Hutchinson)
Scott Shephard enlisted in the US Navy at the age of 18. The day before he was to report to basic training he and some buddies had one last gathering. In the minds of young men, consequence does not always take precedence. After several alcohol beverages Scott climbed on the back seat of a motorcycle while his buddy prepared to drive them for a ‘short ride’. That ride was indeed short and with a guard-rail winning the battle, Scott’s left arm is now short as well. Scott is a man that today will say honestly he went through hell time and again through the years trying to cope with his circumstances. The self-destruction that took his arm continued until he was 27. It was then that he found faith and began a college education. Though he rode a motorcycle throughout that time, it wasn’t until he had healed himself on the inside did he truly regain his passion for the ride. Scott is an accomplished golfer and an intriguing philosopher with whom I personally enjoy speaking and debating. The only problem I can find wrong with Scott is that he hasn’t taken that new motorcycle out of the state of Florida. I say that in jest because I already know that he is planning a great many new adventures somewhat similar to what I did with my truck, trailer, and bike. I certainly look forward to following his journey. (YouTube: Amp’d Rider Project – Episode 009 – with Scott Shephard)
Donnie Huffman of Huffman Performance and Restoration in Florida shared with me his lifelong involvement with motorcycles. His Dad had always been a rider and Donnie and his sister followed in that path. He says that his poor Mom went through the ringer with all of them, from long hours in the garage to crashes and broken bones. In a strange twist of fate, Donnie’s Dad suffered tremendously in one particular crash and through the settlement of that case was able to buy his first Harley Davidson dealership. Though his Mom is gone now, his Dad still rides and own the dealership. Donnie has gone on to start his own shop and is a Harley drag racer. Scott Shephard (above) has known Donnie many years and it is Donnie that has done modifications on several of Scott’s bike to accommodate his missing arm. All in good fun, Donnie says of Scott, “…he’s a pain in the ass but I like being able to help him ride.” Donnie is one of those guys that born to be an engineer / mechanic. He simply looks at a problem and sees a solution manifest. With the different bikes that Scott has had over the years, each presents a different scenario for making the controls all fit the right side. As I learned from Scott’s story and talking to Donnie, there is no hurdle you cannot overcome if you just put your mind and heart to it.
The interviews I have conducted thus far have been nothing short of spectacular. From the amputees that never gave up on themselves, I have learned a great deal and shared a lot of laughs. From the professionals that modify motorcycles and make their living in the medical world, I have learned what dedication it takes to serve others. And from the online followers, I have seen that folks really do care, they just don’t always understand a particular situation because it has not affected them directly. I have received a plethora of messages ranging from, “… thank you for doing this…” to “…you and your project has given me the courage to try riding again…”
It is my hope that this project will affect all types of people. Whether you are an amputee or a whole body person, this message will educate and inform. If you know or care for an amputee or other type of disabled person, you will understand better how to help. For those that are professionals, you will hear varied stories about how much we appreciate what you do.
The introductory episode of the Amp’d Rider Project was publicized on January 26, 2015. The interviews continue and are publicized weekly on Monday. Should you desire to subscribe to The B.R.O.A.D. ™ YouTube channel you can find the full length interviews in the playlist entitled: Amp’d Rider Project. I cannot say how long this project will continue but as long as there is interest, I will do my best to keep putting my best foot forward for all of you.
Wishing you all,
Peace, Hugs, and Pipes that Rumble ™
Ursula aka The B.R.O.A.D. ™