Surname: Audrey Wick
hometown: La Grange, Texas
Occupation: college professor
Time Cycling: A little over a year
Reason for Cycling: After surviving a brain aneurysm, my physical therapist suggested cycling as a way to help with lingering pain and the trauma of the injury itself.
My brain aneurysm brought my personal and professional life to a halt. Before my rupture, I was a 39-year-old woman in good health. I enjoyed neighborhood walks, light running, traveling, and reading. I worked a day job as a college English professor at Blinn College.
Then my whole life changed—I had a brain aneurysm in November 2019. I awoke from sleep on an early Monday morning with the worst headache of my life. Dizzying nausea and vomiting followed. Aside from this swift onset of symptoms, I had no prior indicators that something was wrong. I wasn’t even prone to headaches, and there was no history of brain aneurysms in my family. My neurosurgeon said that my subarachnoid hemorrhage was simply bad luck.
I was diagnosed with a brain bleed at my local hospital where they airlifted me to St. David’s Medical Center in Austin, Texas, for emergency surgery and additional procedures. When the brain bleeds, it short circuits everything for months. Between hospital discharge and returning weakness to work, I was sent to physical therapy to help handle muscle and lingering nerve pain.
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My physical therapist Jeffrey Cowen, DPT, suggested that cycling might help my muscles. Nine months into my recovery, I got on a bicycle after not having used one in almost two decades. I started small by pedaling on my driveway until I got steady enough for one neighborhood cul-de-sac. Then I lengthened to a street, a mile, and more, until my stamina increased enough for long-distance rides. Earlier in the summer, I participated in a benefit ride for the local school where I pedaled 18 miles—one mile for each month of my recovery.
Cycling makes me feel strong. I used a walker after hospital discharge, and I couldn’t drive. Balance and strength had to be recovered slowly over time. Sitting on a bicycle for the first time was a complete test of stamina. It was so hard to do! I had a particular weakness in my right thigh that typical physical therapy wasn’t alleviating, but the challenge of a bicycle worked to fix it. I didn’t recover immediately, but felt empowering to take charge of my long-term recovery and push my body toward new goals. I was so amazed at my brain’s ability to heal.
Now, I ride whenever I have the energy, and I don’t get mad at myself when I don’t. Usually, I get on the bike a few times a week. I especially like two 10-mile routes near my home that take me over hills, near rolling farmland, and alongside livestock.
Watching the Tour de France and Olympic cycling events this summer were so inspiring to me. I enjoy traveling internationally, but haven’t had the opportunity to do so since my surgeries. I hope to one day be able to ride in another country. Until then, though, I’ll participate annually in the Good Old Summertime Classic and continue my local routes.
It also helps to have a wonderful cheerleader in recovery. Brian, my husband, (whose name, coincidentally, is quite like “brain!”) is my biggest supporter and was my caretaker in recovery. Even though he doesn’t cycle, it’s fun to share my cycling adventures with him.
The neurology of cycling works for me. Pedaling helps flood my brain with oxygen, which benefited my cognitive recovery as well as my physical recovery. This forward momentum aided in my long-term recovery, which is why I advocate cycling for people at any fitness level. Spending time outdoors is an added benefit which I really enjoy.
Organizations like The Brain Aneurysm Foundation, The Bee Foundationand The Lisa Foundation work to raise awareness and increase funding for research. Because people came before me and paved the way in the surgery process, I was able to be saved after my rupture. These are fantastic organizations to support.
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