I ride to give hope to Children's Hospital Colorado patients like Daniel.
Daniel is battling brain cancer. In the last three years, the teenager has had six brain surgeries and 48 days of radiation. That's 48 days and more that cancer has stolen from his childhood. For kids like Daniel, new therapies and the possibility for a cure cannot come soon enough. He courageously rode alongside his family and teammates in the tour last year to raise money for Children's Colorado patients like him.
Daniel will not be the last child to face a life-threatening illness and his family will not be the last to navigate a frightening diagnosis.
I personally know four children who are being treated at Children's Hospital. La La was born with cancer and is now cancer free, but requires follow-up visits for monitoring. Lu Lu has cerebral palsy and requires routine visits for treatment and therapy. Lincoln was born with a severe heart deformity that has required numerous surgeries including one to be completed this summer. His family moved to Tennessee due to oxygen issues from living at high altitudes, but still return to Children's Hospital here in Colorado for the world-class care he receives here. I have dubbed this amazing trio "L cubed". The fourth child is Nolan my next door neighbor who was born with a tethered spine and requires numerous therapies to accomodate his condition. These two girls and two boys are my inspiration for completing the two day 160 mile long course this year. Maria says I should get a t-shirt made that says "2 + 2 = L cubed + N" in honor of this foursome.
I recently learned some fantastic news on June 30th, about my little 4 year old buddy Linc who was born with a serious heart deformation (hyoplastic left heart syndrome HLHS). He underwent his fifth heart surgery two weeks earlier at the Aurora Children's Hospital campus and was expected to be released to go home in mid-July. On June 30th his parents got the news that he is doing much better than expected and they were cleared to take him home to Tennessee a week early. The family moved to Tennessee after Linc was born because he had to be on supplemental oxygen at the high elevation out here and there is no need for that at the lower elevation there. They come back to Colorado Children's Hospital because of the world class treatment he gets here as this news confirms.
The Courage Classic is not only a personal challenge, but also an opportunity to support positive outcomes and healthier futures for children.
I finished the Copper Triangle Saturday July 16th and beat the weather as hoped. The ride began at the Copper Mountain Resort with a chilly temperature of 37 degrees. I started at about 6:15 am and the starting point was at about 9,800 feet elevation. The ride first climbs up to Freemont Pass at 11,318 feet and then comes a descent at speeds of up to 42 mph, which produced windchills in the mid 20s. The middle of the route levels off for a while becoming much more comfortable and includes a couple of shorter climbs including Tennessee Pass at 10,424 ft which is then followed with a drop down to the town of Vail and a low point of about 7,800 ft. Then comes the biggest challenge of the ride climbing nearly 3,000 ft up to Vail Pass at 10,666 ft. The climb is mostly a gentle grade of around 4-5%, but there are steeper sections including one very short section that is a little over 16%. The final stretch is a winding downhill paved trail back to the the start/finish at Copper Mountain. I completed the 79 mile route in 6 hours 22 minutes plus 45 minutes of stops along the way for a total of 7 hours 7 minutes finishing a little before 1:30 pm. My Garmin cycle computer registered a total of 6,433 ft of climbing for the course, which is a respectable day of climbing considering the high altitudes involved.
The scenery was stunning with several of Colorado's 14,000 ft+ peaks in view along the route. Aside from the cold morning the weather was ideal with my finish well ahead of afternoon rainstorms. Some of my teammates I trained with were a little slower and got caught in a rainstorm climbing Vail Pass, but did manage to finish. The slower riders were not so fortunate as thunderstorms producing lightning began around 3 pm and those still riding at that point were evacuated from the course by the "sag wagons" for their safety.
I opted on Sunday for the shorter 42 mile course that was a similarly gorgeous ride with about 3,000 ft of climb. This route went out to the town of Frisco, then out to Keystone and around Dillon Reservoir with a climb up Swan Mountain for some spectacular views. Perhaps next year I will do the 80 mile Ute Pass route, but we had a noon check out from the room and I didn't want to drive home without a shower after the ride.
I spoke to Lincoln's dad a couple of days ago ("Linc" is the 4 year old boy who had his fifth heart surgery at Children's Hospital in June) and they are back in Tennessee where Linc is recovering. His recovery is going exceptionally well and he is off of supplemental oxygen with his blood oxygen level now in the low 90's, which is almost 10% higher than it has ever been before!
Thanks to all of you who donated to Children's Hospital of Colorado and help make all of their important work possible. Donations to Children's Hospital go to support patient treatment, research, and family support for those in need. I have managed to reach 82% of my fund raising goal and the goal for the Courage Classic overall is at $2,776,790 of their $3,000,000 goal. The fundraising goal deadline is Auguat 31st and if you know anyone who might be willing to donate towards reaching these goals below is the link to my fundraising page if you could forward it to anyone who might help.
Below is a brief bio of Lincoln, my 4 year old friend who was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome(HLHS):
Lincoln was born at 38 weeks on a Monday morning. He was quickly stabilized and transferred to the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at Children’s Hospital and at 1 day old had his first heart catheter procedure, at one week old he had his first open heart surgery. Lincoln’s recovery following the first surgery was fraught with many complications and scary moments as he fought every day to heal and stay with us. From an emergency bedside procedure 3 days after surgery and at 5 weeks a 2 day stent on ECMO he had a very difficult road. He was finally released at a little over 2 months old and we were able to take him to our temporary residence at the Aurora Ronald McDonald House. He did well for a month outpatient despite a leaky tricuspid valve that required the next surgery to happen when he was just a little over 3 months old.
The next open heart surgery was yet another battle for our little heart warrior. He experienced one problem after another and the ups and downs were even more trying than the first surgery. We were not sure if we were ever going to get to bring him home. After another surgery and 6 weeks of intubation and repeated emergencies, we were able to move to the step down unit where we discovered that due to the trauma of intubation, Lincoln would no longer take a bottle. When we were finally discharged almost 3 months later, it was to try to continue to wean off of his pain medications and attempt to drink from a bottle. After two weeks, we saw that the best move forward was to place a feeding tube in his stomach so that he could be fed and we could eventually go home to New Mexico. So, he was back in surgery, but unlike the other times, he did well and was released the following day. 2 weeks later we were able to finally take our little boy home!
In New Mexico, we were at a higher elevation than Denver and we soon noticed that Lincoln was struggling and requiring oxygen that he hadn’t needed when we left Denver. Isolated from the great medical care we were used to and after being turned away from several hospitals during a feeding tube issue, we soon realized that where we lived was actually unsafe for our boy with such a special heart. We began to look for a better option and 6 months later we relocated to Knoxville< Tennessee where we were at a lower elevation and close to great medical care. We have been here in Knoxville for 3 plus years and Lincoln has done extremely well.
This past August (2021) we traveled to Denver to make plans for his next surgery and to have a heart cath procedure and a stent placed. We knew that returning to Denver was the best move for Lincoln and for our family as a whole. The community there is such a blessing to special needs families and the healthcare is the best of the best.
In June of this year we returned to Denver for Lincoln’s third staged reconstructive surgery. The surgery went well and despite a few hiccups (i.e. an additional chest tube placement, some irritation from intubation and some breathing concerns) he did wonderfully and within a week were seeing our first smiles from him. His left vocal chord was unfortunately paralyzed during the surgery, so he is a little more raspy than he was in the past but he is feeling good and recovering as expected. We were discharged at just 8 days post surgery (which is typical for this surgery) and within another week we were released to return home. It was quite a journey back with one small overnight stay at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City due to an infection in his sternal incision. He reacted well to the antibiotics and three days later we were back to our home in Tennessee.
Lincoln was able to get off of oxygen within a week of our return and he has been on the move ever since! He has a new heightened energy due to improved oxygen saturation levels from this surgery. He is doing so wonderful and is more active and animated than we ever imagined possible. We hope that his voice will improve with time and we will be following up with all of our specialists here at home. Lincoln is such a fighter and brave beyond his years. When all the medications and formula and care get overwhelming, it is easy to look at those bright blue eyes and that smile and just be encouraged by what an amazing gift we have with us each day.
His journey will never be an easy one and there is no cure to fix his broken heart, but he smiles and he laughs and now he runs around doing both. We feel blessed beyond compare.