"In 2004 I was 22 and I had just moved to Chicago from Cleveland with my girlfriend at the time after finishing a 5 year academic scholarship at the Cleveland Institute of Art for Illustration. The entire time I lived in Cleveland I had no car so my bike was my main form of transportation all over East Cleveland and Little Italy where I lived and worked as well as my college campus. I had a Nishiki Manitoba that I really loved riding all over and up and down Mayfield Hill which is huge by the way. Biking was always a major outlet for me and something I really cherished, but this particular bike turned out to be the same bike I would later crash, giving me a Traumatic Brain injury and effectively ending my days of biking on the spot.
After moving to Chicago, we were living with my mother for a couple months in Barrington that summer while I was looking for work and trying to get settled in a new place. One day my girlfriend and I decided to go ride our bikes to visit my mother at work in the middle of the day like we had many times before. We were traveling down Northwest Highway single file with me in the front going at a pretty good cruising speed when I tried to pop my front end up a bit to get up over and onto a tiny curb. As soon as I did that my quick release on the front wheel fell out because it had loosened somehow and the entire wheel started to roll away in another direction. I fell straight forward, split my fork like a banana peel, and struck my forehead directly on the ground and skidded on my face on concrete and gravel until flipped over onto my back. My girlfriend was 100% sure I was dead initially by the way I went down but I luckily came to. She rushed into a store and called my mother who came and took me herself from two blocks away to the Good Shepherd Hospital nearby. From there it was a blur but I was in and out of consciousness, I was observed for some time I couldn't say how long and sent home with a "concussion". Back then things that should have been treated as brain injury sadly were not like they are today. After a couple months I seemed "ok" because I was walking and talking and all that stuff but I wasn't.
I had actually suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury to my frontal lobe and undergone some pretty serious personality changes, anxiety, depression, stress, and social and cognitive deficiencies that only worsened going unchecked and undiagnosed until 2017 when I began having seizures and falling and having lapses in time I could not explain. In hindsight all of those things including having problems getting started in my career of choice should have been signs enough but this was the straw that broke the camel's back. That was when I found out I had a Traumatic Brain Injury and Epilepsy and Spinal Stenosis in my neck among other things. I am 40 now and as I have aged I have had vertigo that I deal with and I have vestibular issues with a gait disorder which prevents me from any kind of real active or physical team sports, but most importantly to me riding regular bikes because of my fear and the dangers of falls and reinjury. I have had ongoing neurological care since diagnosis which has helped me a lot, but recently in February of 2021 I collapsed unexpectedly from a standing position and split my head open on the corner of my table giving me another concussion and had to get my scalp glued shut. I again lost a lot of time recovering staying inside feeling agoraphobic and low on energy which is just terrible for me. It is not the way I want to live.
My doctor has highly encouraged me to get outside and get more cardio exercise specifically because my physical and mental health has suffered a lot from losing the activities I love over all these years. I expressed to him how I wished I could still ride a bike because at least it would be something I could do that would also be fun for me. He was the one who then suggested to me that I CAN bike again with a certain kind of recumbent bike and it really gave me hope that I could one day maybe enjoy something I had given up as a lost part of my life 17 years ago. Having these disabilities and being unable to work now for quite some time I find the cost of the type of bike I would need seems to be constantly outside of my reach. This is why I reached out to Project Mobility for help because I really want to realize my dream of riding bikes again, getting healthy, and feeling independent out on the bike trails with the wind in my face.
I will be eternally grateful for all the support I can get through donations to Project Mobility to make this a reality for not only myself, but all the others in need that are in similar situations.
John Cuchulainn Hayes"