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On Riding Life

Ana Zaldarriaga
Ana Zaldarriaga

I was channel surfing one night and found myself watching Nitro Circus on MTV. Yes, my husband had the remote control, but in this instance I was thankful in the end. Nitro Circus is an action sports collective that features extreme sports enthusiasts.  It’s a bit out of my comfort zone now that Im entering a different age bracket, but one person on the team really caught my attention beyond the crazy stunts.

It was Nitro Circus member Aaron “Wheelz" Fotheringham who is in a wheelchair.  After I saw him attempt a spin on the loopty loop ramp propelled by just the steep angle of a hill, and then do a straight vertical fall onto the cement midway through the loop, I thought that he had some kind of death wish.  But then i heard him in later interviews talk about how he’s not in a wheelchair, he’s just on a wheelchair, making the distinction between being stuck in a life situation, and finding a vehicle for his life.  Wheelz was born with spina bifida and sees what he does as extreme living versus just an extreme sport.

I was thinking about his message and found myself reflecting on a college friend’s recent Kickstarter campaign to fund a documentary called Who is Lou Gehrig?  In light of the recent ice bucket challenge, he wanted to show the true courage of those actually living with ALS like his friend, sports coach Jeff Fogel. In the past few years, Jeff has found his way into a wheelchair as well.  Yet while he still can, he is out there doing as much as he can to be the best coach to his girls’ basketball team. I find myself so inspired by these two people AND actually so many of the people around me who are facing physical or mental hardships and finding ways to overcome them.

This past October 7 was the 2nd International Trigeminal Neuralgia Awareness Day.  What is TN? Well, it is a nerve disorder that can cause severe pain in the face and head.  I only know that because I apparently have had it for years and thought it was a series of different ailments from TMJ issues to tooth pain. I had an episode last winter that made it excruciating to sometimes even kiss my husband or child, smile, or stand in a slight breeze.

I started to worry about a time when I would be in more pain, and how it could debilitate my life.  With worry came regret for the things I hadn’t done yet like jump out of a plane, or go to the Ice Hotel in Lapland and i fell into a vortex of self-pity and fear. And frankly, that seemed pretty horrible since it was all in anticipation of what had not happened.  I am reminded of how quickly we can all be paralyzed by fear...the hypochondriacs, anxious worriers, and untouchables alike.  I am also reminded of a future solution to my bucket list wishes if a time comes where there might be some physical challenges in my life.  I can always wear an astronaut helmet before i jump out of the plane, right?  I think I can get one on E-bay.  After all, Wheelz does flips without even wearing one.

For general lesson plans for National Health Awareness Week http://www.educationworld.com/a_lesson/lesson207.shtml or http://www.cdc.gov/bam/body/index.html

To check out some of Wheelz’ amazing stunts, watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jCgUOFHXBOw

To find out more on Who is Lou Gehrig?, check out https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/whoislougehrig/who-is-lou-gehrig-an-inspiring-film-about-als

To learn about Trigeminal Neuralgia, take a look at  http://www.tnnme.com/2014-light-up-teal.html

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Ana Zaldarriaga

By Ana Zaldarriaga

Ana Zaldarriaga Pronouns: she/her/hers Sr. Dir. of Employee Development The Leadership Program 535 8th Avenue, Floor 16 New York City, NY 10018 Phone: 212.625.8001 Fax: 212.625.8020 tlpnyc.com “…building strong leaders in classrooms and communities."