Last place never felt so good for Mike Neu.
As an avid biker, Mike’s competitiveness usually put him at the front of the pack. That changed when he sustained a spinal cord injury while mountain biking in Moab, Utah.
He finished last at Craig Hospital’s Pedal 4 Possible Bike Ride in September. A major victory.
Coming in last meant Mike had met his rehabilitation challenge. Craig’s Therapeutic Recreation (TR) therapist, Kimmy Strat, set the ride as a recovery goal for Mike during his 14 weeks of inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation at Craig.
“Kimmy kept saying it was possible and we kept working towards it,” says Mike.
Mike’s spinal cord injury was deemed incomplete, meaning it could repair itself. Regaining movement and the chance to get back to the sports he loves was part of his motivation to work hard at Craig in physical therapy, occupational therapy and recreational therapy.
“Every day, Trey Downey, my physical therapist, would start our session by saying, ‘Hey Mike, I want you to try this. What do you think?’ I decided I would never say no,” Mike says. “Trey quickly learned he could ask me to do anything.”
That positive, can-do attitude has taken Mike far. While he still feels like he’s living a new normal—recumbent biking and walking with crutches—he is grateful for the movement he has, and for Craig for helping him get there. His goal was to walk out of Craig after his inpatient treatment, and he did.
While at Craig in 2019, Mike took full advantage of the TR program, joining them for adaptive biking, cross country skiing and adaptive scuba diving. This year, he even got his ski legs back after spending 5 days with Craig graduates at the Adaptive Sports Center at Crested Butte.
“Skiing turned out great. I surprised myself by doing it standing up,” Mike adds.
While Mike used to log 2,000 to 3,000 miles on his bike each year, this year he is shooting for 650—a major feat considering the slower speed of his recumbent bike. Some of those miles will be ridden during Craig’s 2020 Pedal 4 Possible on Saturday, September 19. So far, the ride is on despite COVID-19, with fingers crossed it can still take place. If it can’t, a virtual ride will happen, complete with swag items. Mike’s virtual ride will be from his home in the suburbs of Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Lake Michigan.
Wherever the ride is, Mike plans to bring his competitive spirit.
“Last year’s ride was fun, but this year I don’t plan on finishing last,” he says.