BY BARRY WARNER
Handcycles enable riders with lower-limb mobility impairments to propel a three-wheeled cycle using their arms. While the sport has a value in everyone’s life, it is even more important in the life of a person with a disability because of its rehabilitative influence.
It was in April 2013 when the Vietnam Veterans of America, Rockland County Chapter 333 decided to embrace this way to help out veterans, especially those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and had suffered leg amputations and/or spinal cord injuries.
“Via research, I engaged chapter member Marcus Arroyo, a member of the Purple Heart wounded in Vietnam and a Navy Seal. Together we started our Handcycle Program with the full endorsement of the entire chapter membership and to locate a veteran who wished to own a handcycle and participate in this new activity,” Roy Tschudy, US Army Veteran told the Rockland County Times.
“I first reached out to the VA Hospital in Castle Point, NY, and spoke to the director in the Rehabilitation Department, who stated that hand cycles were indeed the item of choice for most of these wounded veterans,” Tschudy continued. “Owning a handcycle would provide each veteran a new lease on life, both the physical aspects, such as cardio workouts for the heart, along with weight control due to immobility issues. In addition to the physical component, rehabilitation of the mind and spirit fits like a ‘hand-in-glove’ with the new hand cycle owner providing him/her the feeling of freedom and independence that is central for healing.”
The hand cycle provided to the recipients by VVA Chapter 333 is capable of speeds up to 20 mph and features a tall, narrow back for maximum range of motion and increased power transfer. The ergonomic handles, full chain safety guard and flag come standard. Other features include adjustable tension seat upholstery, high-performance spoke wheels with high pressure tires for maximum roll, reflectors, a parking brake, a chest positioning strap for added safety, a lightweight and sturdy aluminum frame plus a steel fork for maximum stiffness and smooth cornering.
According to www.disabled-world.com, The US Department of Veterans Affairs Adaptive Sports programs are dedicated to motivating, encouraging and sustaining participation and competition for disabled veterans and members of the Armed Forces through partnerships with VA hospitals and local adaptive sports programs across the country. Each year, the Department hosts six national sporting events for eligible disabled veterans. Studies show adaptive sports provide numerous benefits including less stress, more independence, higher achievement in education and employment, reduced dependency on pain and depression medication and fewer secondary medical conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.
The following is a segment of a letter of appreciation sent to the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 333 Handcycle Program by Capt. S.B. USMC (Ret): “I would like to express my deepest gratitude for my new handcycle. Although I’ve only had it for a few weeks now, it has improved my life in so many ways. I’m excited for the increased strength and endurance that is sure to come with continued cycling, which will help me to be a better player for my local sled hockey team. The handcycle has given me much needed independence. Instead of being stuck inside my house surrounded by hills, which are hard to navigate in my wheelchair, I now have the choice to enjoy the outdoors and my surrounding community anytime I please. I can bike to friends’ houses, take my young 1.5-year-old son to the park with a tow-behind trailer and ride locally. My newfound freedom is a true blessing. I realize the handcycle is a very expensive item. Please know that to me, it’s so much more than just a handcycle. It’s my new way of life. Thank you all!”
For additional information or to contribute to the Vietnam Veterans Chapter 333 Handcycle Program for Physically Challenged Veterans, visit www.vva333.com.