Charlie Cunningham Medical/Rehab

$144,985 of $200,002 goal

Raised by 2,185 people in 33 months
JP
Jacquie Phelan
on behalf of Jacquie Phelan
 FAIRFAX, CA

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.

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Greetings, friends
Charlie and I just got a visit from Grant Petersen and his friends Doug and Jim two days ago. They have spent the last few months putting together a spectacular, comfy French blue "Hubbahubba" tandem with wide bars, flat easy pedals, artistic handlebar cordwrapping and silver puffy saddles.
We were astonished, and I surprised everyone by practically fainting after touching the bike. Looking up from the ground, I saw a bunch of concerned friendly faces, and hoped that this isn't a new development.
It might have been jet lag. I'd just returned from 10 days in New Hamp Shire and Varmint. Visiting old college friends and longtime pen pal Stephen W. of Farnum Hill Cider, located on Poverty Lane.
It was a dream trip.
Marc Elliott, a longtime fan of Charlie's work, took me in the first night, in Medfield MA, then up to NH, where he took his view camera shots of the apple barn and me, the future apple-doll of the biking set.
Charlie had lots of people coming by to help him pass the time.
His challenge these days is to 'make the time pass interestingly'....his executive function is still not there, but he responds beautifully to visitors, friends.
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Although Charlie can barely read (he can make out simple words in a news headline, given five minutes of careful scrutiny) he has always had the ability to write.
Yes, this means that he often can't read what he wrote. But for these last two years he's gone on solo walks, after carefully inscribing his notebook with a) where he's going b) when he left and when he believes he'll be back and c) if he's tacking on any 'extras'.
The other day he'd filled up his second "walk diary" and I took a picture or two to share with you before I recycle it.
If he's late, I walk down the street to find him (he hasn't any directionality, and truly he himself marvels that as near-blind as he is, and with such imperfect balance, he does these long, solo 2 hr walkabouts.
a fat diary by Charlie
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May 19, 2018
Charlie (for the first time ever) suggested we take out the tandem. This is "huge" (forgive the shopworn cliche)
because normally he's not initiating stuff.
But he's heard me on the phone with the folks at RAGBRAI (yes, we're going to ride the biggest bike ride across a deceptively hilly "flat state": Iowa, this summer. To see we can survive such a challenge, especially since Charlie 1.0 never ever traveled with me.
It happened to be a cool, half-sunny spring day. Wind defined it. The Nicasio Reservoir loop probably climbs a total of 1,200 ft, most of it right out of town up White's Hill.
As we twiddled in the tiny gear, motor traffic boomed past like a string of bomber airplanes one after the other. Then, a spell of 3, 5, maybe even 7 seconds of silence blessed us as we rode. Must be because of the traffic lights down in town, sending up pulses of noisemaking machines.
Around the reservoir, we cut through the wind like a dull knife cuts through a five-lb block of Tillamook medium cheddar. The blackish-green reservoir's surface had long white stretch marks running the length of the lake. Usually you see little transverse waves, but these 'corduroy' wavelets must be a result of strong wind...meanwhile, up on the farmland that curves high above the road, stripes of green alfalfa and gold chaff lay just like they do in England. We really do have it all here.
The long green grass was being tousled by the wind in gorgeous waves. Sometimes the wind took a breather, and the grass would come to a halt.
We twiddled on.
We're experimenting with gel saddle covers on TOP of gooshy gel saddles to relieve Charlie's crotchly pain.
I have been soldiering on, ignoring my whimpering pubic bones, and finally realized that a "Flite" saddle is not anything like the superb, very old and out-of-print saddles on each of my bikes (brand name not forthcoming).
Our friend Tasshi D. dropped by and I had him put my 'good' saddle on the Red Rover tandem, and I can't wait to try it out.
We've been on a roughly once a week riding routine, but since RAGBRAI is ahem seven straight days of about 60 miles (our loop is..ulp..32 miles) I figure I'll have to up it, and hope CC doesn't howl. He enthused about flowers ("is that a convolvulus?" he'd ask, as we whizzed past a little patch of pinkish white trumpets that were in fact convolvulus.
Baby steps
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Urban/Wildlife interface

Today, when Charlie was on his walk, I saw a little wren tit or some wren-y (tipped up tail) bird flitting around the living room, smashing into the plastic sheeting that gives us 4 inches of dead air and keeps the house so cool in summer. I opened the doors, and within minutes the frantic thing, beak agape, made it safely into the cedar of lebanon outside.
When I went to type up a story, I saw a familiar long white-and-brown streak dribbling down my computer screen.
Oh, shit.
Harmless birdie do.
An hour later Charlie came home, his face aglow. As he struggled (fumble fingers is his New Normal) to undo the push button hat cord, he announced he'd spied a mountain lion on the fire road (Concrete Pipeline, his afternoon stroll).
"It seemed to hear me but not see me, so it trotted a bit, then slowed down and I just followed it for a couple of minutes. It was five-o-four o'clock or so. I forgot to look at my watch until ten minutes after it went downhill to the right, into the canyon where the horse stable is".
I gave him a big hug.
For the rest of the evening, he'd repeat: today I saw a lion!!
And we know how lucky we are to have 'em hereabouts.
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Read a Previous Update
Matthew McKibben
33 months ago

As a home builder, what can I build for you? Ramps? Let's do a build party day and get it sorted out before he's out of the ER.

+ Read More
Grant Petersen
33 months ago

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.

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Lennard Zinn
32 months ago

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!

+ Read More
Paula Mara
33 months ago
6
6

Thank you Caroline, I am very grateful to you for making it possible to help our resourceful and generous friend THE Charlie Cunningham. Best wishes to all...XOXO

+ Read More
Alan Steinbach
31 months ago
3
3

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.

+ Read More
Ben Schultz
25 months ago
2
2

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...

+ Read More
Lisa Sebastian
28 months ago
2
2

I have had friends use this site to coordinate care/meals, etc: http://lotsahelpinghands.com. Wishing continual recovery for Charlie and some sleep for Jacquie. ♥

+ Read More
Mary James
29 months ago
2
2

Hi Jacquie, I love reading about Charlie's progress. Each small step being made gets him that much closer his goal! Keep the faith : )

+ Read More
Victor R. Hanson
32 months ago
2
2

Grant Cellini unicantor - just like Cinelli Bars in the early eighties because they had greater wall thickness to bend the bars. Here is to a speedy recovery Charlie - we want to see you on trails soon!

+ Read More
Pete Simpson
32 months ago
2
2

Great news Caroline! Thank you for the updates. Get well Charlie!!

+ Read More
Rob Wickens
33 months ago
2
2

Great info https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlie_Cunningham I had seen his bike at the hall of fame in Fairfax. Speedy recovery Charlie!

+ Read More
SS
Simon Sollberger
11 months ago
1
1

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

+ Read More
Mariann Jelinek
23 months ago
1
1

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.

+ Read More
Richard Dahlgren
24 months ago
1
1

Don't look back, Jacquie! Look forward - there are still a lot of good things, and will be more to come! Think about the progress Charlie has made to date.

+ Read More
Bevin Barber-Campbell
26 months ago
1
1

Ah, that photo brings back great old memories. Mountain biking would be so much less without the contributions from both of you!

+ Read More
Ben Schultz
26 months ago
1
1

From the Rock-Shox shoot! Fantastic style and attitude!

+ Read More
Maryann Pearson
26 months ago
1
1

Jacquie this post makes me smile. Seems your spirits are lifting! Walking Bon Tempe and thinking of mud baths - all good. Wishing you and Charlie more lake walks and soft landings.

+ Read More
George McLaird
27 months ago
1
1

Thanks for this update. I'm no expert but I have heard wonderful things about crawling to help the brain to function better. But I've also heard it doesn't help. So, give it a try and see for yourself. My a 1000 unexpected blessings come your way

+ Read More
Lisa Sebastian
28 months ago
1
1

The link I posted earlier about MCIL was a typo when it was originally posted. The person meant Marin Center for Inpendent Living, not Memphis. I thought that was confusing! Here is the correct link: http://www.marincil.org/

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Lisa Sebastian
28 months ago
1
1

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/

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$144,985 of $200,002 goal

Raised by 2,185 people in 33 months
Created October 5, 2015
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$75
Anonymous
10 days ago
LB
$100
Lynne Benson-Colbert
19 days ago

Once upon a time kids, Jacquie and I both raced road bikes and often trained together. She always accused me of repeatedly half- wheeling her, even on fun rides, and I always professed innocence. Well twenty-eight years later I’m here to confess that YES I WAS HALF-WHEELING YOU! Constantly. Thank you for putting up with me.

$1,000
Anonymous
24 days ago
RF
$125
Raymond Foss
28 days ago

I'm not sure why this site stopped taking my donation. I just found out!

JF
$25
Juliann Falcey
29 days ago

Thank you for your updates. Beautiful, real and funny.

PA
$25
Paul Ahart
1 month ago

So wonderful Charlie's recovery is, slowly, continuing. Best wishes!

$50
Mariann Jelinek
1 month ago

Keep on pushing, enjoying, and hoping: living is the very best cure ...

Matthew McKibben
33 months ago

As a home builder, what can I build for you? Ramps? Let's do a build party day and get it sorted out before he's out of the ER.

+ Read More
Grant Petersen
33 months ago

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.

+ Read More
Lennard Zinn
32 months ago

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!

+ Read More
Paula Mara
33 months ago
6
6

Thank you Caroline, I am very grateful to you for making it possible to help our resourceful and generous friend THE Charlie Cunningham. Best wishes to all...XOXO

+ Read More
Alan Steinbach
31 months ago
3
3

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.

+ Read More
Ben Schultz
25 months ago
2
2

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...

+ Read More
Lisa Sebastian
28 months ago
2
2

I have had friends use this site to coordinate care/meals, etc: http://lotsahelpinghands.com. Wishing continual recovery for Charlie and some sleep for Jacquie. ♥

+ Read More
Mary James
29 months ago
2
2

Hi Jacquie, I love reading about Charlie's progress. Each small step being made gets him that much closer his goal! Keep the faith : )

+ Read More
Victor R. Hanson
32 months ago
2
2

Grant Cellini unicantor - just like Cinelli Bars in the early eighties because they had greater wall thickness to bend the bars. Here is to a speedy recovery Charlie - we want to see you on trails soon!

+ Read More
Pete Simpson
32 months ago
2
2

Great news Caroline! Thank you for the updates. Get well Charlie!!

+ Read More
Rob Wickens
33 months ago
2
2

Great info https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlie_Cunningham I had seen his bike at the hall of fame in Fairfax. Speedy recovery Charlie!

+ Read More
SS
Simon Sollberger
11 months ago
1
1

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

+ Read More
Mariann Jelinek
23 months ago
1
1

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.

+ Read More
Richard Dahlgren
24 months ago
1
1

Don't look back, Jacquie! Look forward - there are still a lot of good things, and will be more to come! Think about the progress Charlie has made to date.

+ Read More
Bevin Barber-Campbell
26 months ago
1
1

Ah, that photo brings back great old memories. Mountain biking would be so much less without the contributions from both of you!

+ Read More
Ben Schultz
26 months ago
1
1

From the Rock-Shox shoot! Fantastic style and attitude!

+ Read More
Maryann Pearson
26 months ago
1
1

Jacquie this post makes me smile. Seems your spirits are lifting! Walking Bon Tempe and thinking of mud baths - all good. Wishing you and Charlie more lake walks and soft landings.

+ Read More
George McLaird
27 months ago
1
1

Thanks for this update. I'm no expert but I have heard wonderful things about crawling to help the brain to function better. But I've also heard it doesn't help. So, give it a try and see for yourself. My a 1000 unexpected blessings come your way

+ Read More
Lisa Sebastian
28 months ago
1
1

The link I posted earlier about MCIL was a typo when it was originally posted. The person meant Marin Center for Inpendent Living, not Memphis. I thought that was confusing! Here is the correct link: http://www.marincil.org/

+ Read More
Lisa Sebastian
28 months ago
1
1

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/

+ Read More
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