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.
No sooner than I 'd pushed off down the street, than my right thumb reflexively reaches for a shifter, since the gear (I don't even know what the gear inches are!) is too low for rolling downhill.
I'm not on my ordinary bike.
I'm on the best prize I've ever won: a custom DeSalvo ('earned' by finishing on the oldest bike at SSWC Napa 2008, ten tiny years ago). I've made a name plate to show the name in big 60's style lettering, in case anyone snaps a picture.
How ever to thank Mike DeS. for such an incredibly generous gesture? Well, I send gratitude missives every now and then. The bike doesn't get enough mud-time, partly because I was waiting for a Type II fork (which will never come, now that C doesn't fabricate) to smooth the jounce.
We saw Free Solo three nights ago, courtesy of Larry Guevarra, one of the very first donor's to Charlies fund--he gave us our first tandem.
Larry was in town for a wedding, and we got to meet him for the first time...hopefully we'll ride with him on one of the grand fondues.
Tonight's dessert is from our gravenstein apple tree, whose giant apples come in tightly packed pairs, like an oxygen atom, or a very green derriere. They were picked, then peeled while still warm from the sun, chopped messily, and then even more messily a gluten-less mishmash of oatmeal, rice and buckwheat flours, oh yeah and almond meal, plus lots of butter. I worked that into granular form, spread onto the thick mess of apples, and realized I'd forgotten to put sugar on it.
Threw on some crunchy brown sugar from Central Milling (always cite your $pon$sor$) and some lemon juice from the Andronico's dumpster--Renu's tree doesn't have lemons til January--and then work on compost in the yard, while Osmanthus fragrans and apple crisp vie for my attention on the evening breeze.
Student Denise was on her brand new Birthday Bike, third time out, which was about 12 inches longer than her old mtn bike...with shocks...and when it became clear her machine was just ...not 'behaving'...I suggested she get on her old-shoe bike. We rode out to her place nearby, and put her onboard ol trusty ...and everything fell into place...
*OK, maybe not a Jaded Pro, but at least a woman at ease with some of her fears, and more accepting of flaws in general. I try to explain that the Time Wasted On Self-Abnegation could be so useful if that habit (the "you idiot!" habit, and the "I'm sorry" habit) could be plucked like an unwanted eyebrow hair (they often don't grow back!! NEVER PLUCK unless you want NO EYEBROWS) and all that self-loafing could be channeled into "God, am I great, or what?"
Face it. We're in the Middle of Life. Wouldn't it be great to have uh...the OPPOSITE OPINION for that wizen'd wrinkly latter half.
The fine art of not giving a fuck...just saw a book by that title, got the first couple of pages in, then the book owner arrived home and we had to blab. And I had to leave it on the coffee table, but believe me, MY how-to is going to embody some of that ethos.
I do think kids should give a fuck,er, that is CARE...about er...uh...the planet. But we, who've already trashed it, have to coast into senility knowing the damage done, and simply accept we knew no better, but now we're bicycling, and surely that causes very little Harm, in the big scheme of things, eh?
As we exited Cramarancho, a small pack of burly guys looked on, smiling broadly. I was sure that it was because they were stoked to see three bats scoot gracefully over the little concrete culvert, over the knotted roots, and onto the nice, gravelly Iron Springs road.
It occurred to me that the map at the entrance is a great meet-up spot.
Mebbe I 'll start my classes from there.
We're having snug, long nights in the treehouse as the season clicks into gear...Much warmth coming from you, our cherished circle of friends.
I dropped the 'r' initially, but thought: is that OK, to joke about something so vital? No, it's not. But it crossed my quirky mind.
This lands me in the confusion zone: I lost the ability to use Flickr and Skype because I never touched it the past three years while I was at “caregiver bootcamp”. So I can’t use them anymore, and maybe because I let 8 days go by since my last update, Gof. is irritable with me.
Nevertheless I have to report that Charlie tandem’d with me and Karen H, my friend with lots of traumatic brain injured spouse experience. We wheeled in perfect weather, round the reservoir of Nicasio counter clockwise, quiet roads through the yellow hills, and yellow leaves all over Sam Taylor’s damp forested floor on the last ten mile stretch homeward.
Tomatoes on every backyard vine.
It was great.
I hope I can share this with you.
It’s the second time I’ve typed, I’m in my second hour in the desk chair, cuz Goaf threw out my first attempt (Which was much much better, of course)
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/