Did you know the month of May is National Stroke Awareness Month? On that topic, we were fascinated to hear how one man in Colorado is advocating to help raise awareness about the increased risk of stroke that people with diabetes (PWDs) face.
A stroke victim himself who has many ties to diabetes, he is using his own experience to make a difference through a new fundraising campaign for an upcoming Tour de Cure ride in August. He hopes to connect with a PWD who’s experienced a stroke and has an interest in participating in that upcoming ride this summer.
Our newest correspondent Amanda Cedrone talked to him recently about what he’s personally gone through and what he now hopes to accomplish, and we’re excited to share that story today. We introduced Amanda earlier this year — she’s a 20-something PWD who was diagnosed with type 1 in May 1990 and is now finishing off her graduate degree in journalism from Columbia University in New York City. We are proud to announce that Amanda’s going to be a more regular part of our team here at the ‘Mine, working with us in the coming months as an intern.
With that, here’s Amanda’s latest story on raising awareness about diabetes and strokes…
Special to the ‘Mine by Amanda Cedrone
Chris Sauthoff, 44, of Denver, CO, is no stranger to diabetes. While Chris isn’t a PWD himself, he does consider himself a type 3 (a.k.a. Type Awesome) because so many of his loved ones are living with diabetes. He remembers both his father and aunt getting amputations because of the disease, and he also has several PWD friends.
As a way to get into shape, and to support the many PWDs in his life, Chris rode the 100-mile Tour de Cure in Colorado in August 2011.
But a few months after completing that bike ride, Chris suffered a health scare that has now led him to take on a new advocacy role in raising money for diabetes and also educate people about the potential risks for strokes that PWDs face.
“Even though I don’t have diabetes, it affects my life, it affects my loved ones,” he says. “It’s one of those invisible things where you can walk around on the street and nobody knows you have it, but it’s huge.”
At the time of his stroke, Chris was 43. Luckily, he wasn’t paralyzed and can still talk, although he did lose sensation in his right arm. Chris says he was terrified that it meant he would never be able to ride a bike again.
Determined to not lose that part of his life, Chris got on his single-speed bike as soon as he got home from the hospital. He started by riding down a block or two, and steering with his left hand.
Slowly but surely, a few blocks turned into several miles. Eventually, Chris made the switch from his single-gear bike to a road bike. It was difficult because Chris was able to brake using his feet on his single-gear bike. He didn’t need the use of both of his hands. On his road bike, however, he needed both his hands to brake and switch gears, and while he could move his right arm, he still couldn’t feel it.
“It was terrifying to be honest,” he said. “I would have to look at my [right hand] and ease off the road.”
Chris has regained some feeling in his right hand, and he was able to ride the 62-mile Tour de Cure in 2012.
This year, Chris plans to complete the 100-mile ride and also bring more attention to diabetic strokes. While he was in the hospital, Chris was struck by one of the first questions that every medical professional asked him, “Are you diabetic?”
Through some personal research, he quickly realized that diabetics are at increased risk for stroke. That is something that’s stuck with him.
“I don’t want to have another stroke, and I don’t want anyone to have one,” he said.
While he has an inspiring story in getting back to his biking, Chris acknowledges still struggling with the aftermath of his stroke every day. He has trouble with fatigue, and also suffers from aphasia ( ) that makes it difficult for him to communicate the way he wants to sometimes.
For PWDs, he wants us to know that a little prevention can go a long way. The National Stroke Association has information online about what PWDs can do to help reduce their risks for having a stroke, as does the American Diabetes Association.
But if someone has had a stroke, Chris doesn’t want that person to feel the way he did in fearing he might never be able to ride a bike or do other favorite activities again.
That’s where he is trying to “reach out and help someone” now.
After some searching, Chris located the 2003 Bilenky Deluxe Road ViewPoint bike that would allow him to directly make a difference in the life of a PWD who’s suffered a stroke and wants to participate in a Tour de Cure ride. Know as a “tandem bike” (not like the Tandem t:slim!), the bike allows the passenger to help power the bike if they are physically able to, or just enjoy the ride if they can’t help pedal along.
Chris has started a fundraising campaign for that bike, and he hopes to get enough to buy it so that he can take a passenger with him for the Tour de Cure on Aug. 17, 2013. He’s also trying to find a PWD who’s suffered a stroke and could be his passenger in that ride this summer.
“It’s a way to get it out there that this stuff happens,” Chris said. “But you can still live your life.”
This is where Chris hopes the Diabetes Online Community (DOC) can help, in not only spreading word about the fundraising campaign but also helping him find someone who might be interested in becoming a Red Rider and joining him in August. He’s also interested in hearing the stories of other PWDs who’ve suffered a stroke, and help share their experiences about what the recovery has been like.
Sounds like a great way to not only raise awareness about this stroke risk but also actually touch someone’s life! We are happy to help spread the word. Wishing you good luck, Chris!