TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Pedaling Into the Future – Triking Across America (diagonally)

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

Catherine (Cat) Brubaker

Catherine (Cat) Brubaker

Catherine (Cat) Brubaker, a 43-year-old perky, young woman, is on the ride of her life. She is getting a second – no – third chance at life.

Catherine’s life changed in an instant in 2010, when she was assaulted. The assault resulted in a traumatic brain injury and the implantation of a heart pacemaker. A year after her first TBI, Catherine was in a head-on collision, which caused her to have a second TBI. The result of both injuries took away Catherine’s freedom. She lost her independence in the world.Cat Brubaker wheelchair pose

In an article, Catherine said, “ … I lost everything – my ability to work, drive, talk and function independently.” But what Catherine did not lose was her drive – her ambition to take back the reins of her life. But, it wasn’t easy, and it didn’t happen all at once.

Catherine not only lost her independence, she also lost her partner of 14 years when they parted ways. This, along with the increasingly difficult life she now faced as the result of her disabilities, sent Catherine into a deep slump. When her mother passed, Cat almost went over the edge. She found it difficult to understand why she was here on this earth. She contemplated ending her life. To Cat, it seemed that everything had been stripped away.

Catherine (Cat) Brubaker - Triking Across America (diagonally)

Catherine (Cat) Brubaker – Triking Across America (diagonally)

It was around that time that Cat bought a recumbent trike and found that the trike allowed her the freedom to get out of her house. Because Cat has issues with balance as the result of her brain injury, it was difficult for her to walk unassisted. Also, she was not able to drive a car because of the many issues related to her TBI. Her recumbent trike gave her the independence that she so missed and so greatly desired. It made her world bigger. Cat rode her trike in the parks near her home. There she met Dan Zimmerman, a stroke survivor, on his recumbent trike – the very same model that Cat was riding (Catrike 700). (Cat said she was attracted to that trike not only for its performance, but also because of its name.) Dan and Cat began to ride together, and Dan shared his plan of pedaling his recumbent trike across America to raise awareness for stroke survivors. He also hoped to spread the word of the benefits of cycling. Cat thought this a great idea, and soon she was in training to accompany Dan.

Initially Cat rode her trike to escape the four walls that seemed to hold her prisoner, but she soon realized that she was riding for others too – for those who can’t ride and those who may follow her lead and discover the joys and freedom of the recumbent trike. But most of all, Cat rides to offer hope to her fellow traumatic brain injury survivors.

From Anacortes, Washington to Key West, Florida (5,200 miles)

From Anacortes, Washington to Key West, Florida (5,200 miles)

On June 29th, the pair – with their riding team of Bill and Dana Brown (owners of Sign Me Up Tours,) and David Babcock (photo-journalist, driver, and all-around “chief cook and bottle washer”) – set off from the northwestern corner of the United States at Anacortes, Washington, on their way to Key West on the tip of Florida at the southeastern part of the USA. Cat and Dan will ride a total of 5,200 miles on their ocean-to-ocean trip. They plan to finish in late November.

Check back often to see photo updates of Cat’s (and Dan’s) progress.

(Photos compliments of Cat Brubaker.)

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