Team GoThrive Co-Captain - North Carolina
Sporting the F3 AFO
"My name is Shelby, and I am 27 years old. Little did I know this would be the best and the worst year of my life. At 27 years old, I gave birth to my daughter, Oakley Rae. She is quite the blessing, a blessing that caused me an injury I never knew was a possibility. After delivering Oakley, I was in awe of her and really did not pay much attention to myself or my health, but at 4 am when I went to use the restroom for the first time after delivering her, I realized that I could not feel or move my leg from the knee down on the left side. I am asked constantly if I was scared or angry, but honestly, I was not scared or upset in that moment because I was so consumed by the birth of my daughter. I do not know if it was the birthing of Oakley that caused the nerve damage or if it was the epidural, and I probably will never know. What I do know is that I was not scared in that moment, but boy did the overwhelming fear come later. I was going home with a newborn and was unable to walk. It was a road I had to learn to navigate.
Let me give you a little background information to put things in perspective. I was an All-American collegiate runner. My specialty and love was the 5k. My personal best in the 5k was 18:44, which means I was averaging 5:59 minute miles. This was a time I never expected to reach but continued to work for. When I graduated, I continued running, and that is how I met my husband. We fell in love rapidly and raced together weekly. We competed in 5k's, 10k's and half marathons. We had a goal to run a race in every state. You could imagine when this injury happened, I had no idea how I was going to accomplish this.
Despite drop foot, I was going to run again and complete this goal. 7 months postpartum, I am back running in races weekly. It's different now but so much more rewarding. I run with foot drop, while pushing my 7-month-old baby girl in her stroller. I want to inspire, but ultimately, I want people to LIVE no matter their circumstances. As my dad says, 'There’s no crying in baseball,' so when I found out I had sciatic nerve damage, I made a plan, I pushed myself, and now I am back competing. When I feel like I can’t, I just remember this quote:
'Resilience is accepting your new reality, even if it's less good than the one you had before. You can fight it, you can do nothing but scream about what you've lost, or you can accept that and try to put together something that's good.'
Team GoThrive Captain - Oklahoma
Sporting Bilateral F3 AFOs
"I was a super active kid, what they used to call ‘busy.’ I stopped for little in life, and my mom let me try nearly every sport imaginable to help burn off my energy. Baseball, soccer, track, gymnastics; you name it, I likely participated in it at one point in time.
All that changed in a single moment when, at 20 years old, I was involved in a near death logging accident that yielded a bruised heart, crushed face, mangled wrist, and three crushed vertebrae that left me paralyzed from the waist down. Following multiple surgeries, plus more than three months of recovery, most of my feeling returned, but I was left with footdrop in my left lower leg. For those three months, I laid in my hospital bed dreaming of my return to life and sport. There was one problem. I had to learn to walk and run all over again, all the while suffering through excruciating pain that would remain a constant to this day.
My return to activity started with taking a single step, followed by more then eventually, before I knew it, I was running. All my effort and drive eventually led to me be inspired to complete an Olympic distance triathlon in 1986. It was at this same triathlon that I would make history as the first disabled athlete with a spinal cord injury to complete a triathlon. I did not know it at the time, but I was an unwitting pioneer in the sport that would ultimately become paratriathlon and an official Paralympic sport in 2016. I would also be a pioneer in the sport of paracycling at the same time.
I’ve aged plenty since 1986, but I’m still active, setting records and aiming for more history. Now, perhaps, as the first disabled athlete, with a disease called Arachnoiditis, to compete in endurance sports.
All I’ve ever wanted to do is inspire others to push past their known boundaries regardless of their physical limitations into levels they never thought possible. I’ve always said, “If I can do this, I know you can.”, and I truly believe that anyone can accomplish just as much, if they set their limits, not others. Set goals. Don’t hesitate to try. And always remember, it’s about the effort, not the results."
Sporting the F3 AFO
"My name is Alan and I’m a 57-year young cyclist. My entire life I’ve been obsessed with bicycling, some of my earliest memories are on a bicycle. Throughout my youth, I was always on a bike, hoping I would become a great racer (didn’t happen) and this passion for cycling has never left. In my university years, I discovered mountain biking which is my biggest passion (other than my amazing wife and three dogs). For years after college I didn’t own a car, I’d get everywhere on my bike, even after I bought a car I’d still ride to work almost every day even in snowstorms; then I’d put in a good weekend of hitting the hills. For about twenty years I’d put in about 150 or more miles per week.
That all came to a screeching halt the week before Thanksgiving 2020 as a work injury took out my L4/L5 disc which in turn damaged the sciatic/peroneal nerve resulting in foot drop in my left leg. I was sure my cycling days were done. I spent 10 months off a bike but it felt like an eternity. Once the surgeon gave me the ok to get back out, I found the AFO supplied to me was not acceptable for riding. That’s when I discovered the F3 AFO and I was able to return to cycling - it truly was a godsend.
The road hasn’t been easy but I’ve never been a quitter so I knew that with determination I’d be back to ‘getting after it’ - the workers compensation doctor often told me how she hoped that more of her patients would have the positive outlook I had and said most people in my position she deals with would have given up. No chance of that!
I’m back mountain biking at least a couple times each week and commuting as much as possible - but not in the depths of winter anymore…I’m almost back to where I was pre-injury as far as speed and ability, without the F3 I wouldn’t even be on a bike. I am so happy I found this AFO and have a lot of gratitude for the folks at Thrive."