The Recovery Continues- 1 1/2 years out
And so, as we zero in on the 18 month anniversary, it is time to reflect. Some say, this is about the time you plateau in your recovery, but this team, has just gotten started! Even since Todd began the hard physical work of tread-milling it and dragging weight and pulling people and acting like a pack mule, and as a result, his heart rate was elevated, the communication between his brain and his nerves has accelerated, and hence his recovery has accelerated. We were told it could happen. It is very hard to elevate a SCI heart rate as it is so hard for them to even move their body. Struggling to move is not the same as cardio. Cardio acceleration must occur to make the nerves talk louder to one another and connect. So as a result, of Todd’s increased physical activity, he can now walk 1/2 a mile with a walker and he is cycling 12 miles on his e-assist trike. One of Todd’s stretcher friends, Todd Bauman, set a goal this winter, to walk the 1/3 of a mile RT to South Lookout at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary. Todd practiced for months, picking away at his goal, but never walking those last yards until the day of the Celebration. In honor of the first day of spring, 75 friends and family gathered at the entrance and accompanied Todd to the look out. Afterwards, we had a grand pot luck lunch at the Education Center. At the end of this story, I have attached Ron Devlin’s newspaper article about the event, which appeared in the Pottsville Republican Herald and then the Associated Press.
Todd walks everywhere now- to the doctors, the dentist, restaurants, visiting friends, to rehab, with a walker. As a result, we were able to sell our adaptive van and purchased a Toyota Highlander, which Todd can in and out of quite easily. We have gone down to two days a week in at the Good Shepherd Rehab, and that includes, OT, PT, hand therapy, a personal trainer, weigh machines in the gym, and aquatic therapy. I go into the pool with him in addition to his therapist, and work with him too. Todd is working on getting stronger as he walks and getting better at balancing. Friends are coming on Mondays to work with him (walking on the driveway, etc.). We had a ramp put in the back of the house from a grant that Sierra got for us and Todd uses it as parallel bars to walk and balance. Todd Bauman also set a goal of getting Todd into a canoe, which we enjoyed over at Leaser Lake where they have an adaptive launch.
We still have folks coming in to stretch and work with Todd most days, some that I pay, some are close friends that just want to help. It might seem fast and miraculous to some of you that Todd has progressed this far but believe us, it feels incredibly slow and he has worked for every tiny bit of his recovery. If there is anything miraculous, it is the body’s ability to regenerate and heal and listen to the brain when it says that it WILL get better. That has been the most challenging part of this journey, for Todd to believe and behave as though his thoughts create his future, as well as his level of happiness. He is getting it- very slowly.
I have let go of my old life as an adventure travel writer for now and am focusing on being a caregiver. I do not feel sorry for my loss and 99% of the time, I am happy helping him. With his increased ability to cycle however, my wheels are turning and besides writing a book about his Road to Recovery, I need to do something bigger. I’d like to try an extended cycling trip of a few days by the fall (staying at inns- can’t get him on the ground to camp); do some short trips in 2024. Then in 2025, head out to Washington’s Olympic Peninsula and begin to cycle the Great American Rail Trail. It is about 3,700 miles long and ends in Washington DC. We would cycle the 2,000 miles of bike trail that is already built and hope to have a sag wagon support team. I plan to build visibility of adaptive cycling as we cross the country, inviting the media, adaptive local cyclists, and write for regional magazines as we progress. It will be the last chapter of my book about Todd’s Road to Recovery.
We are working to create more joy in our lives and it is much more attainable with our amazing network of family and friends that come out very often to help mow, weed, fix things, bring food, gift us tickets, talk and laugh and make us happy. I told Todd, life zooms by so quickly, it is so unpredictable, we simply must learn to be happy just where we are, because nothing in the future is guaranteed. One thing that we look forward to is the birth of our first grandchild in July- Sierra and Eben’s first baby. Hard not to be excited and joyful about that.
If we can share any words of wisdom with you folks it is to not put off any dreams in your life, do not put off being happy and giving joy to each other. There is nothing more important than loving each other.
Thank you for your ongoing support. We feel you lifting us up at all times. We love you.
Cindy and Todd
Ron Devlin, Republican & Herald, Pottsville, Pa.
March 19, 2023·5 min read
Mar. 19—HAWK MOUNTAIN — Approaching the South Lookout, renowned hiker Todd Gladfelter gazed upon a vista that it once seemed he would never see again.
About 16 months ago, Gladfelter fell from the roof of his blacksmith shop in rural East Brunswick Twp., not far from Hawk Mountain.
Partial paralysis made it appear he might not walk again, let alone hike.
On Sunday afternoon, in a triumphant gesture, Gladfelter made his way up a winding, 900-foot-long trail to the summit of Hawk Mountain.
“It’s a miracle,” declared Howard Reid, a friend who rang a celebratory bell as Gladfelter reached the lookout accompanied by his wife, author Cindy Ross.
“It’s a reflection of how Todd and Cindy have worked together,” said Reid, a Montgomery County businessman. “Cindy has nursed him, guided him and encouraged him day in and day out. It’s all about love.”
Gladfelter and Ross are holders of the Triple Crown of long-distance hiking — completing the Appalachian Trail, the Continental Divide and the Pacific Crest trails.
Ross’s books “Hiking Toward Peace,” “Journey To The Crest” and “A Woman’s Journey” have chronicled the couple’s hiking experiences.
A well-known chainsaw artist, Gladfelter’s carvings of 30 bears, deer, raptor and other native animals are in the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary.
Braving near freezing temperatures and a biting wind, about 75 family members and friends accompanied Gladfelter on his hike.
Pushing a walker over the compacted gravel trail — itself a feat — Gladfelter rested for a few minutes on benches several times along the way.
He walked unaided, with his son Bryce Gladfelter pushing a wheeled chair behind him, in case it was needed.
On the way up the mountainside, a moderate grade, he passed markers to the eastern imperial eagle and Madagascar fish eagle. People applauded and posed for photos with Gladfelter at rest stops.
The hike took about an hour, a half-hour ascending and descending.
Chuck Wood was among those who accompanied Gladfelter, whom he met in 1984, the year before he hiked the Appalachian Trail in 1985.
Wood, 71, a retired Norristown welder, relied on a walking stick etched with his hiking handle “Woodchuck.”
“Todd and Cindy have played such a big part in my life,” Wood said. “They’re excellent people.”
Sean Grace, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary president, called Gladfelter’s accident an ironic twist of fate for a man who had led such an active life.
“Todd’s a super robust guy,” he said. “And he’s worked incredibly hard to get where he is today.”
Jody Streckler, Gladfelter’s sister, said she was proud of her brother’s determination to walk again. She and her husband Tim were among the group that accompanied him on the hike.
“What Todd is doing is inspirational to so many others,” Tim Streckler said. “It shows that there is hope, if you persevere.”
Aura of inspiration
On March 27, 2021, Walter “Bud” Palmer was riding his bicycle along Route 32 on the way to New Hope, Bucks County, when he hit a pothole filled with water.
He was flown to St. Luke’s University Hospital, Bethlehem, where he was diagnosed quadriplegic.
Palmer, 76, a former football coach at Wilson High School in Easton, joined Gladfelter in the trek up Hawk Mountain. Using only a walker, he was first to reach the summit and received applause and chants of “go, go, go” from the crowd.
Given his condition, Palmer said he understood what Gladfelter was going through and found it inspirational.
David Hughes, an Orwigsburg wildlife artist who lost movement in his right leg about a week ago, also joined Gladfelter.
“It’s fabulous seeing him now compared to what he was,” Hughes said. “He’s come so far. It’s really great.”
Jared Fenstermacher was riding cross-country to raise money for cancer when, on Aug. 11, 2016, he was struck by a pickup truck in Sioux City, Iowa.
Severely incapacitated, he still relies on a walker more than six years after the accident.
Fenstermacher, 38, a Berks County native who lives in Bloomsburg, finished the last leg of his cross-country trek — Sioux City to Ocean City, N.J. — last summer on a hand bike.
Fenstermacher, who posed for a photo with Gladfelter at the South Mountain lookout, said he meets once a year with the driver of the pickup that accidentally ran him down.
Cindy Ross said her husband had intended to clean leaves from the roof of his blacksmith shop when he fell on Nov. 26, 2021.
“I believe he crossed his feet on the ladder,” she recalled. “When he fell, he landed on his neck.”
At the South Lookout, Ross insisted that therapists pose for a photograph with Gladfelter, who was seated on an Ice Age boulder overlooking farmland cultivated by Pennsylvania Dutch families for generations.
Modest about her own role in his recovery, Ross heralded the role played by therapists from Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital in Bethlehem.
“All these people put their hands on my husband and helped mend him in more ways than one,” Ross said of 10 therapists lined up for the photo. “They helped him emotionally, psychologically and physically, and all have become wonderful friends.”
In an impromptu celebration that caught the uplifting spirit of the day, Berks County folk singer Keith Brintzenhoff led hikers in a singalong of the “Happy Wanderer” on the way down Hawk Mountain.
In an ode to the outdoors, hikers sang the refrain “Val-deri, val-dera, ha, ha, ha,” as Brintzenhoff sang, “Oh, may I go a-wandering until the day I die. Oh, may I always laugh and sing beneath God’s clear blue sky.”
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-628-6007
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So inspiring and remarkable Cindy – thank you, and Best Wishes to Both Todd & You and your remarkable family!! Cheers! Barbara