Friday, April 13, 2012

An Inspiration: Mark Stephan

Mark Stephan, a Chicagoan and quadriplegic, is just days away from embarking on the "Stephan Challenge," a 3,129-mile bike ride across the United States to support the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago's (RIC) new Research Hospital slated to open in 2016. The Challenge kicks off on Sunday, April 15, 2012 at 8:30 am from San Diego, California, and will finish in St. Augustine, Florida, in which all proceeds will go toward helping to provide advanced care fueled by scientific research to future patients with spinal cord injuries. The Stephan Challenge will be documented every step on the journey at

MARK’S STORY -- On August 11, 2007, Mark Stephan was bicycling with his friends in the Chicago suburbs, just like he did every Saturday morning. But that morning, something went terribly wrong with Mark’s bike. After riding for several miles, his front wheel unexpectedly disengaged from the bicycle. This malfunction catapulted Mark over his handlebars onto the ground, where his head hit the pavement at full force. His neck snapped.

The horrific accident fractured the C2 and C3 vertebrae of his spinal cord, paralyzing him from the neck down. At age 49, Mark was lucky to be alive. The accident left him a quadriplegic, and doctors were blunt: life in a wheelchair was the best he could expect. Mark refused to accept his grim prognosis. Thanks to the extraordinary therapy he received at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC), Mark shattered all expectations by leaving the hospital less than five months after his accident—walking under his own power. After his emotional departure, Mark continued his progress by combining intensive therapy, work with personal trainers and clinical studies at RIC. Pushing beyond what anyone thought possible, his months of grueling training culminated in an unbelievable achievement—climbing 103 floors to the top of the tallest building in North America as a fundraiser for RIC.

"If I can climb one flight of stairs, I can do 103. If I can pedal one rotation on a bike, I can do 3,129 miles." -- Mark Stephan

Truly an inspiration.

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  1. That's amazing. Very inspiring. How many people who've never never been seriously injured would consider the possibility of such a ride?

    It's also terrifying. At LBL, my quick release on my front wheel disengaged in a pretty sketchy stretch of singletrack. Thankfully the wheel stayed in place and I heard it rattling and stopped. Seeing Mark's story makes it real how bad that could've been.

  2. Wow. I love stories like that. Amazing guy--I hope he has a fantastic ride!

  3. and now i stop all my whining for the week

    thank you for sharing this

  4. That is amazing! Good luck to him and his adventure!

  5. Dang,
    Makes my trying to get into Kona by using age as the handicap seem petty....
    (but I am old....)


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