Monday, February 25, 2008

Meeting the Challenge

I like stories about people with gumption. People who despite adversity get up and do something about it. Dennis Ewert of Florida is that kind of guy.

He is 67, was overweight, and with several physical obstacles to overcome. Among them were worn out knees and two herniated discs in his back. Knee repair surgeries were successful but left his leg muscles atrophied. Back surgery helped, but one disc (L5) was calcified and not repairable.

So standing is tough at times because he tends to lean forward to take pressure off pinched nerves to his legs. Walking any significant distance causes his lower back to cramp up, so he could not "walk off" his excess weight. As an alternative, he decided he would ride a bike.

He tried two wheel bikes but they felt unstable and unsafe. Instead of giving up, he looked into buying a three wheel trike. It turned out good trikes -- ones that would hold his more than 250 pounds -- were two to three thousand dollars. So he gathered some thrown away bikes and got some one inch steel square tubing and welded together a bike of his design. He sawed off the legs to a lawn chair and built a frame to accept it. His cost: a few hundred dollars.

"The recumbent position is very comfortable," he says. "And all the effort is applied to the calves, thighs, and butt muscles. When the weather is bad, I use my wife's indoor recumbent exercise machine, but I much prefer to be outside in the fresh air. People of all ages and genders give me a thumbs-up or yell out 'cool bike' as I ride by."

In addition to bike riding, Dennis works out on a Weider Crossbow exerciser. He has lost 43 pounds, now weighs 243, and is on his way to his goal of 186. "The bike rides have been a great help, "he says.

P.S. Dennis Ewert is retired from the United States Air Force. He flew 164 combat missions as a radar navigator in B-52s during the Vietnam War. And as a navigator in the free world’s fastest four engine bomber – the B58 Hustler – he flew twice the speed of sound on a couple of occasions. Today, he is a software test engineer (civilian contractor) for the U.S. Air Force.

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