Charlie Cunningham Medical/Rehab
In early August, 2015, Charlie Cunningham, bicycle builder, inventor and all around amazing person, fell off his bike and sustained several serious injuries.
Charlie suffered broken bones, bruises, and trauma to his head. At the time, he didn't feel his head injury was significant. Unfortunately, seven weeks later, the head injury manifested into a subdural hematoma, a life threatening condition that resulted in emergency brain surgery. Having been about two minutes from death or complete vegetative state, he endured a hell period of about six months, beginning with two months in intensive care, followed by months of doctor's visits and rehabiliitation. His days of getting around by bike were over, or so we thought.
Currently, Charlie is at the "plateau" level. He has no sense of direction, nor much vision (his brain was affected, leaving the upper half of his visual field empty, as well as the periphery). But he is walking, speaking normally, with very little aphasia, and still working on learning the alphabet. he can read a simple news headline after about five minutes of careful study of each letter. We move about Marin on a gorgeous tandem, which will soon get a motor so we can go offroad, away from traffic.
His 'genius' resides now in his efforts to recover what most of us take for granted: balance, literacy and agency, the will to do things and make things, which seems to have disappeared when the brain bleed happened. Your donations will help to offset the costs of his rehabilitation and the visits to UC Berkeley Eye Clinic, and the weekly respite care visits. Thank you for your generosity.
A bit about the fund: it was dreamed up by Caroline James, a good friend of Charlie and Jacquie's since the 1987. She's an artist, web designer and was an early Wombat. Since the end of the first year of the fund, I have taken over most of the administration. Grant Petersen of Rivendell renown, and 1,200 donors like you have helped move us along, for which we're ever grateful.
Luckily neither Charlie nor I seem to have sore throats, but neighbors complain of rawness. We are hunkered down, and in no way in danger.
This time last week we attended a meet and greet session of the US Bicycling Hall of Fame, in Davis. The entire town seemed to be shut down, though businesses were open, the streets were empty of traffic.
Charlie and I got to borrow a tandem and with the help of two great local guides, Alec Winters and Dan Kehew (who singlehandedly finessed the transfer of the 'hall' from New Jersey, where it suddenly became homeless a decade ago, to Davis, where cycling is how nearly everyone gets around. Also, academic interest in bicycle history is high, spurring public funding (which dried up in a very short time) to kick it into gear.
Anyway, we got to see where the campus police clamped the heads of student protesters and swabbed tear gas fluid into their eyes, and noticed dozens of Robert Arneson cue-ball heads rolling about the place. And also checked out the cool bee garden, and learned about the water table cuz that's Alex's 'wheelhouse'.
We didn't stick around for the Hall's induction ceremony--it was too bleak in town, and we didn't really have anyone we needed to see. The highlight of the trip was the tandem tour, followed by a visit to the Artery, a community art gallery where Alec's neighbor Chris DeWees, fisheries biologist turned artist had a show. Gyotaku is the Japanese way of honoring a fresh-caught fish: Lay some sort of water-soluble, bio-acceptable paint on the fish, rub it with paper that takes up every miniscule detail of the scales, fins, etc. Then, the artist cooks up the fish and eats it, the ultimate form of honoring it.
Though, nowadays we'd be wise to 'honor' fish by letting them live, and try not to trash their oceans and rivers.
I digress, huh?
Fire, fish, and wishing you all a happy Thanksgiving whatever is on your plate.
For the last 3 yrs I've been on high alert, and my body has lived up to the challenge of staying healthy (when I raced, I got sick at least 2x a year for about a week each, usually flu or some respiratory thing). Never once have I gotten bed ridden.
So imagine my surprise yesterday, after my Tuesday yoga session at Fairfax Hell Club (I love this place, make no mistake, but it's so tempting to mollify the name of it, just like the overused term "health and wellness" which in Marin is commonly spoonerized to : wealth and hellness. This is another story, but the essence of it is even the very wealthy have awful luck sometimes, despite frequent 'first world problem' whining.
But yah, so my surprise. Sorry. I digress so much that I forget to put my second hearing aid in, and then spend the rest of the day convinced I've lost it, when it sits safely in its little case at home...I'd spaced out, in the middle of jamming the first one in...
But my surprise! Six men in dark blue uniforms all around me, giving orders while one of the yoga teachers (thank you Deb!) swabs my sweaty face .
I had not felt so great in the class, and when unlocking my bike I needed to sit down, fast. But after sitting i fainted, and as the guys around me got to work I learned my pulse was 32 bpm, and my blood pressure was super low.
I got better instantly and declined the ambulance trip, but they overruled me somehow and in heavy morning commute I watched Fairfax go slowly by from the double rear windows of the ambulance.
Then a few hours in Kaiser's emergency room, where I was hooked up to all kinds of circuitry to track my heart's rhythms. Moron this later? Or just cut to the chase.
But spend that 5 hrs in hosp thinking about the people i needed to mobilize for C. got me thinking of back up plans, etc.
A. Must not pre-decease Charlie
B. Must have plan in the event of it
C. Because in the last month three or four people have been killed on their bikes around here....
Wish us luck.
I keep hearing the word "senseless", but since the killer was probably DUI, it makes perfect sense that we will keep having murderist/bike deaths because...the 24 yr old was allowed to go home...pending the six week long time it takes to analyze test results.
And most of you know: if she had no alcohol in her, then it was just another...'accident', with minimal repercussion for the poor killer, whose ease surely must be disrupted... Sigh
We met a woman last night at the Thursday jam, who'd survived a car wreck with TBI (dramatic brain injury), and her guitar playing was perfect.
She was in town to help a dying brother get his affairs in order, staying with my musical muses, Judy and John.
She told me she does a bicycle tour each year, all over the country and sometimes even abroad. To hear her speech, one notices a kind of pressure, and a slightly higher than usual volume for indoor speaking.
She engaged Charlie completely, while I went outside looking for a past-full moon over the ridges that keep us from having a horizon here in our valley.
I loved hearing him laughing and talking, and realized I might not be doing my very best when we engage, since it's mostly information transfer rather than ....badinage.
Though I realize Dorothy (that's her name) was probably transferring info, but as most of us who are with longtime partners know, sometimes a different person is more listenable than Old Shoe Spouse.
I hadn't intended to start this way; it's just the pun on headway dropped in and I began typing.
What I'd wanted to share is how my reading in late teens subtly informed my 'working' life, as I re-read people like H. Marcuse and M. Heidegger, who I barely SKIMMED as an eager liberal arts show-off kid.
But then, re-digging, I stumbled on Richard Rorty who made huge inroads in recent times on the role of philosophy--as a way of directing people out of hopelessness and incorporating radical individual values into ordinary, daily life.
As a three year veteran of What The Fuck am I doing? and given seemingly endless time to think about it, in between caring, cleaning and cooking, I realize that what has truly stuck in my head since the start of the post-college, quasi-adult work-life was the notion of resisting actively the forces to conform and submit. The Great Refusal is how Marcuse termed it. He clarified how saying "no!" to what is wrong, and dysfunctional, is worthy behaviour in a sick system.
To what? you may ask.
Look around. It seems like more than ever, we're having to be strong and take action to prevent the erosion of hard-won social gains like freedom from harrassment, and freedom of expression.
Aren't we expected to grow up and be contributing citizens?
But don't we want to be part of a solution rather than than other option? Actually there are myriad other options, we are so diverse, so crowded and so very
distracted, it's a miracle anyone has a chance to slow down, look up, ahead, or better yet, within, be still and think even the simplest thing through.
Rather than ponder the difficult stuff, we mostly find our way in order to put food on the table etc, though obviously some of us have a huge leg up (I did: I got a free college education, and lived in a suburban ranch house, and didn't go to bed hungry) and can decide how and where we'll put food on the table.
I'm hoping I will put some of my 'free' time to work, sharing how the most superficial gleanings of a teenybopper rebel steered me onto the 35 year adventure with Charlie, and well away from the entrapment and engagement of corporations.
It wasn't easy and I failed to understand that my defiant, sloppy presentation and posture (on top of an irritable feminist demeanor) would pretty much assurek I'd remain sponsorproof. Lucikly individual women were not turned off. Quite the contrary.
Back to my 'project'. Wish me luck.
Charlie is one of half-a-handful of modern bicycle geniuses and personal heroes of mine (and I am basically "anti-hero"). Everything I know about him, I love. Everything he's ever designed or made or innovated on his own personal bike, I admire and wished I was that smart. I'm so sorry to hear of this accident. Of course we all want him back on his superlight plastic saddle, held by the seat post that also holds a pump. Go, Charlie.
This is a tragedy and a wake-up call about head injuries and getting them checked out and monitored for a long time afterward. I was just thinking about Charlie last week; I was riding on Mt. Tam since 1981 at Thanksgiving when I rode it with Charlie and a number of other friends. He is creative genius, and a great human being to boot; I hope he gets his full faculties back soon. Get better soon, Charlie, and hang in there, Jacquie!
OMG! I am kinda the Cunningham FP, having provided care for Bruce, Charlie's fighter pilot and custom home builder dad, and his tiny book and social antiquarian mom Carol. As a late comer to the world of off road biking, and having been privileged to visit Charlie's shop, I just wanted to confirm the need for this kind of funding effort. For all the closed head injuries that our lifestyle generates, we have a very unsupportive neuro-rehab environment here in the US and A. Maybe the rising tide of reality about football injuries will help, but not in time for Charlie. Any contribution you can make will really make a difference in his recovery.
Jacquie, while I absolutely love his thoughts on greeting age, something many of us are currently doing, my favorite thing is when he talks about the "milky silver finish". This finish is what I always thought was SO beautiful about Campy (you should excuse the expression!) equipment. As far as your personal struggle with responsibility, most of us have been there...we travel a path that is comfortable for us, where we can make the most of our abilities, and then when the situation changes, radically in your case, the flexibility we all develop allows us to change directions. You can do it. You have your friends in your area, and hundreds outside of that. We are all breaking as much wind for you both as is possible. Actually, that's maybe not the best choice of words...
i can NOT wait to see that footage!!! I think of charlie every time i ride up Tam - and the other day i saw a gentleman with a cunningham racer - WALKING!! - i should have taken it away from him ; ) - still my holy grail of bikes - until then my 88 merlin will have to do - sending you love & strength
Yep. And "death-grip somersault " can be a lovely metaphor for how stuck we get in our own heads and fears, sometimes. Make that time to meditate, soak in a tub, walk in the woods, breathe, even write for 15 minutes or an hour: you've got to take care of YOU to be able to carry on. Peace and strength, Jacquie.
I shared the link to Deer Park's Nextdoor.com community to let people know what's going on in case they want to contribute/help. Some suggestions came back that you may already have heard of: Marin Villages: http://www.marinvillages.org/content.aspx?page_id=0&club_id=134956 Brain Injury Network: http://www.binba.org Memphis Center for Independent Living (not sure what their national outreach is, but they were recommended): https://sites.google.com/site/mcilaction/