Bouldering in Joshua Tree

Bouldering in Joshua Tree
Ronnie 15 feet off deck on the classic White Rastafarian.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

New Evolv Shoes and First all disabled ascent of El Capitan

My friend Craig Demartino and I met back in 2007 at Extremity Games 2.
Craig lost his leg below the knee after a miscommunication while climbing left him to fall 100 feet. He was lucky to survive, but the accident also left his right foot severely injured and he now has parts of his spine fused. Despite all this Craig is one of the best climbers that I know, climbing stronger after his injury, bouldering V8 and cruising 5.12.

 He is one of the most inspiring people I have ever met and always has a smile on his face even when you can tell he is having the pain which is now part of his life every day. It has been kind of cool because Craig and I are both on the Evolv team and I am missing my left leg and he is missing his right leg. We just both happen to be the same shoe size as well!
I just picked up a pair of the new Evolv Geshidos and Shamans.

 The Geshido is by far the best all around climbing shoe I have ever worn and I am really looking forward to cranking down on some steep terrain with the Shaman. I was over at the Evolv shop right around the time of my Joshua Tree Clinic and managed to get two pairs from the first shipment. I made sure to send Craig my right feet and he was psyched!

Jarem Frye lost his leg above the knee to cancer as a child. Despite that challenge he still kept really active as a kid, focusing mainly on extreme winter and summer sports like skiing and climbing. He was really disappointed at the adaptive equipment that was available at the time for prosthetic knees so he worked at multiple engineering positions over five years and eventually learned enough to create a prosthetic knee called the Symbiotechs USA XT-9. 

 I was lucky enough to meet Jarem at Extremity Games 2 also and we fostered a friendship as well.

Me, Jarem, and Craig the podium winners at Extremity Games 2
 That next spring I got a chance to go learn how to use the knee in Oregon with him and it was a great time. I now climb 90% of my routes using his knee and it has greatly improved my technical climbing ability. The knee is killer and is capable of snowboarding, wakeboarding, rock climbing among other things.

Craig and Jarem are teaming up this summer in Yosemite Valley to do the first all disabled ascent of El Capitan.

Craig, approaching 50, is in the best shape of his life now after learning the benefits of cross training.

 Jarem is getting back into shape after spending most of the past few years running his business and raising his family. I know he is really excited to get back into shape quick and kick some ass on the wall with Craig. It will be really exciting to see both of them accomplish such an astonishing feat.
Big walling scares the crap out of me, so I will just stick to pebble wrestling.

Life is 10% events, 90% your reaction! Live it to the fullest!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Joshua Tree Full Recap!

Climbing has played a pivotal role in my life over the past four years. After I lost my leg above the knee almost six years ago I decided to leave my previous passion, soccer, as a part of my past. By chance I discovered climbing and found a new passion that grew deeper by the day and has helped me push my limits and do things I thought were never possible.

It has always been my belief that climbing is an accessible sport for people with disabilities, so it has been my goal over the past two years to introduce as many people with disabilities to climbing as possible. I have been very successful in this, introducing hundreds of people with disabilities to climbing through various indoor clinics around the country.

Indoor climbing is cool, but the only thing cooler than indoor climbing is outdoor climbing. I wanted this clinic to be in a scenic place where participants could enjoy the beauty of the outdoors and spend a day pushing their limits and making new connections at the same time. 

On April 9th, 2011 we gathered in the southern California desert in Joshua Tree National Park to host the first annual Adaptive Climbing Clinic. We were able to introduce thirteen people with disabilities to their first outdoor climbing experience. Eleven of those persons had amputations of various types, one participant with Trevor’s Disease, and another that was a stroke victim, ages ranging from ages eleven to fifty-six.

Matt Walker and Inner Passage Guiding Service helped us get the event set up and the climbing to a start that morning. We had three different climbs available on pristine pieces of granite slab that were about 50 feet tall. My friend Jeff Erenstone, was able to help get everybody fit with adaptive climbing feet and equipment.

Jeff outfitting some prosthetic climbing feet

The day went off exactly how I had imagined. All of the participants made it to the top of the walls and had a great time making new connections and sharing their stories with one another. The weather was wild throughout the day, ranging from warm, back to cold, with even a small ten minute bout of snow! As I had been told the desert can flip its weather switch at any time.

There were several of our participants who had some really inspiring stories!

Murray used to be an avid climber at Joshua Tree National park on a regular basis before suffering a stroke about five years ago. After seeing the flier for our clinic he decided to come out and try it again, despite not being able to use the left side of his body because of his injury. Although things were clearly more difficult for him this time around, it was awesome to see how he was able to use his previous climbing skills to position his body in different ways to make it to the top of the wall, he gave it his all and found his way at the top!

Rob lost both of his legs below the knee because of an accident several years ago. He has not let any of these challenges stop him over the years and he proved to be quite an adept climber his very first time as well.  

Will, was born with Trevor’s Disease, a deficiency in his growth plates in his left knee and ankle (The same congenital deformity that led to my amputation). He is fourteen years old and although having one leg that is almost a foot shorter than another does not even consider it to be a disability, he is just too busy living his life! He was really excited to get climbing and crushed all three of the climbs that he was faced with. He said after the clinic that he looks forward to joining a local indoor climbing gym!

Another one of our participants, Liz, is missing both of her legs above the knee. We were able to get her legs outfitted stubby style with prosthetic climbing feet made by Evolv and TRS. With this adaptive equipment she surprised herself and made it up the whole 50 foot section of slab! Her husband, Tim, is an above the knee amputee as well and it was cool to see them share the experience together.

I also managed to get some climbing in myself, trying to take down one of my dream boulders, White Rastafarian V3 R, on my flash attempt. I managed to keep it cool at the top twenty feet off deck and make the send.

Crux of White Rastafarian
Jordan, Ben, Me, Damon, Jeff, and Jon hanging out the day after the clinic.

The event went exactly how I imagined and I can’t wait until next year already!  Keep a lookout for a write up in Urban Climber Magazine by Damon Corso and video to be released by Louder Than 11.

Jordan getting the filming done

Thanks to our sponsors Athletes with Disabilities Network, Inner Passage Guiding Service, Evolv, Black Diamond, Sterling Rope, Prana, Sanuk, Mountain Khakis, and TRS Prosthetics. I would also like to send a special thanks to Tracii Haynes, Bill Haynes, Buck Branson, Damon Corso, Ben Hirschfeld, Jordan Shipman, Jon Glassberg, Jeff Erenstone, Mason Daly, and Pete Davis for coming and helping out at the event.

Pete on belay

Life is 10% Events, 90% your reaction. Live it to the fullest!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Getting back into running shape and my recently published residency column

Hey Guys, things have been wild around here lately. I am still working on getting back into the swing of things at home. I am part of a relay team at St. Anthony's Triathlon in two weeks with two other members of the CAF board here in Florida. I will be doing the 6.2 mile run as part of the relay and I need to get back into running shape quick! My focus as of late has been climbing so I have only really been running once or twice a week, and the past two weeks I have not ran at all while I was out in California doing my thing.

Thankfully I have done this before, and I know I could probably run the race with no training but I am the type that likes to be prepared for this kind of thing. I went out for a run tonight and got a good three miles in, but I sure have a lot of work to go until I can crank six out with ease. The race is in two weeks and I will make it across the finish line, just not very fast!

I wanted to share a column that I wrote for the O&P Edge back in March.........Enjoy!

What about the United States?

I just returned from a week-long mission to Haiti with Prosthetic & Orthotic Associates (POA), Orlando, Florida, as part of a team that donated its time to provide prosthetic care for victims of last year's devastating earthquake. Working for five days at the Mission of Hope prosthetics lab just outside Port-au-Prince, we measured, fabricated, and fit seven amputees with prostheses. The experience was rewarding and heart-wrenching; everywhere I looked, I saw so many people in need.
While there is no doubt that many people with amputations around the world need our help, there are many amputees here in the United States who can't afford a prosthesis that would enable them to become active again. So my experience in Haiti got me to wondering, "What about them?"
As an O&P resident at POA, one of the things that has impressed me the most about this company is the work it does with uninsured patients. When Stan Patterson, CP, opened POA in 1999, he vowed never to turn away an amputee due to his or her inability to pay. Fortunately, with the help of POA's patients and other benefactors, he has been able to keep this promise.
Many of the uninsured patients that POA provides care for are between the ages of 18 and 30. Their amputations are often the result of an accident, which leaves them with the unexpected responsibility of having to pay for prosthetic care. Two of these patients are Evan and Drew. While riding a motorcycle near his home in Hawaii, another motorist lost control of her car and hit Evan, severing his leg. He was 16-years-old at the time. Drew, 19, was riding his motorcycle while home from college on Christmas break when he was hit by a car. The driver said she never saw him. He also lost his leg.
Both Evan and Drew were between insurance coverage at the time of their accidents. After their accidents, they were unable to be placed back on their parents' insurance policies because their amputations disqualified them. They now live with the financial burden of obtaining prosthetic care for the rest of their lives.
Evan was able to fund his first prosthesis, but after a few years it no longer fit and needed to be replaced. Today, he owns a small business, but because his amputation is considered a pre-existing condition, the health insurance premiums he has been quoted are unaffordable, and some insurance companies have refused to cover him. POA provided Evan with a new socket, and he was ecstatic to be pain-free and able to resume his active life!
Drew wears a leg we made for him a few months after his accident. He has made a seamless transition back to his active lifestyle and will soon graduate from the University of Florida, Gainesville. Of course, both of these men will need replacement sockets over the years. Because components are a significant part of the cost involved in O&P patient care, POA gets its patients involved and lets them know that their unused components could be put to good use on someone who can't afford them. Then our team donates whatever time and materials are necessary to provide the patient with a well-fitting socket and the components needed to get back to his or her previous activity level.
I asked Stan how POA can afford to do this and still make a profit, and he explained how the process has worked for him: "We put the patient's needs first. We do not set compensation as our main goal. We do what is right, and the compensation follows. Our patients are a tremendous resource. The people who have been helped by POA let others know about us. Word of mouth is a powerful thing. For every amputee we have helped, there are at least two insured patients who have been referred [to us] by someone."
There are several U.S. organizations working to improve the quality and availability of prosthetic care for uninsured or under-insured Americans. Until this aid becomes more widely available, I pledge to do my part to provide mobility, independence, and, most importantly, hope to amputees in need. I encourage you all to do the same. It's possible to do good work and make a profit at the same time. Just think of the impact we could make in the quality of amputees' lives right here in the United States!
Ronald Dickson is a graduate of the bachelor of science in orthotics and prosthetics program at St. Petersburg College, Florida. He is a resident at Prosthetic and Orthotic Associates, Orlando, Florida, and will be sharing his experiences as he completes his residency.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Joshua Tree Recap by Jon Glassberg and Southern California Prosthetics Recap

Whats up! It has been a crazy past week. Last Thursday I flew to California to host my adaptive climbing clinic in Joshua Tree National Park. We spent a wild four days in the desert and battled the wind, cold, and very random fifteen minute bout with snow. I will have a larger recap up later but for the time being here is the link to a post done by my friend Jon Glassberg, of Louder Than 11 with some photos.

I am currently employed by Prosthetic and Orthotic Associates, doing my residency under Stan Patterson CP. I spent the rest of this week in Irvine, Ca working out our sister office, Southern California Prosthetics.

It has been a huge week where we have been working close to twelve hour days to get all the work done. We had a Bilateral Ak, BK, and an AK BK among five other patients. Once again another week filled with success stories.

One of our patients George, the bilateral AK, came to the United States two years ago from Japan to visit his daughter at college. While he was in the United States he was unluckily in a motor vehicle accident, leaving him an amputee. He did not have insurance, and he and his kids emptied all the money out of their savings account to purchase him $80,000 prosthetic legs that he could never walk it. The facility he visited never took the time to get the device right, or do any gait training for that matter. The legs were never comfortable and the patient did not get a good outcome despite the outrageous price, all out of his pocket. Unfortunately in this field there are a lot of bad prosthetists and we get paid to deliver a device, regardless of outcome.

We made sure George was well taken care of, and he was able to ambulate with no assistive devices comfortably. It is a shame that he had to wait a year of his life for this to happen.

Another one of our patients, Roxy, is a unilateral AK. She has been an amputee for three years but has never walked. All of her previous prosthetists said she was a "hard fit" and despite being made TWENTY THREE sockets nobody could get the outcome.

 I still have a lot to learn, and I am by no means gods gift to prosthetics.  I am still a resident, and I am only eight months into my career and with minimal assistance I was able to take the "hard to fit" patient and get her up and walking just as good as some of the best amputee walkers I know. Making good prosthetics takes time, effort, and patience but it is not rocket science by any means. It is just a matter of getting all the details correct. I am just really blessed to have great mentors and be learning at one of the best prosthetic facilities in the country.

My travels are taking me back to Orlando tommorow where I am looking forward to taking it easy for a few days.

I really love traveling as an amputee. I can check bags for free because all I do is tell them that I have prosthetics in the bags and it counts as "medical devices".

Bouldering Crash Pads are notoriously hard to travel with and here is my little secret to checking mine on the plane for free. (Crutches inside)

Being an amputee does come with its perks.

Anyways I am out! Take it easy!

The one who gets to the top is the one who never stops trying!


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

January Column in O&P Edge

Hey Guys, back in the fall I commited to write a residency column in the O&P Edge documenting my journey as a Prosthetic Resident. Here was my first column. Being a part of the field has been my dream job come true!

Check it!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Hit the water running

Hey guys!  Wakeboarding has been awesome lately and the water is starting to warm back up!  Getting back on the water was the natural thing for me to do after my accident.  I remember the doctors saying, no you have wait another week, these stitches aren't healed up.  It was probably three months after the accident when they finally gave me the okay and I met up with Paul Mcdonald at the Ron Scarpa Ski School to do some one foots.   Here's a short clip of my first day back.  Standing up on one foot can be challenging but it felt natural because I got so used to standing on my right foot.

I waited about two more months before I got back on my wakeboard.  I had to get used to putting weight on my stump and also build up my poor atrophied leg.  The last thing I wanted to do was to land hard my first time back and blow out my knee because it was so weak.  As soon as I got back up I knew nothing had changed.  I said I'm just going to take it easy and do a few wake jumps but I felt good so I threw a tantrum (backflip) and on the second try I landed it.  Since then all of my tricks have come back and it I've never blamed a fall on the foot.  All my falls I feel have been from a lack of ride time.  Here are a few pictures from a while back with a bunch of guys I used to ride with-- Chase Sellmyer, Frank Favuzza and Josh Jacobs- 

I'm really looking forward to few competitions I have coming up this summer.  Extremity Games is being held in Texas in June so I'm about to start preparing myself for some stiff competition.  The Extremity Games is also the qualifier for Worlds, which is a huge competition in Indianapolis at the end of the summer.  So things could get really exciting!  I don't have that much video of me wakeaboarding yet but here is a short clip of me doing a cript.  

Also wakesurfing has been easy to get back into.  Brian Green and I used to shred on it all the time because it's slow and a low impact sport, we can't hurt ourselves too badly.  With wakesurfing you start with a short line and drop the rope when you are set in the wave.  We basically weight down the left side of my boat and run at about 9-11 mph.  If it's big enough you can get two people on the wave!  Check it out-

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

studio time

Hey everyone!  School is getting really crazy so I haven't been making videos or posting like I want..  I'm in the ceramic fine arts program at the University of Florida.  As an art major, you have to study all of the areas of art like drawing, painting, sculpture, and digital, but I've decided to pursue ceramic sculpture.  After I graduate I plan on traveling to study with established artists to prepare myself for a graduate program.  I would really like to travel to Japan so I'm taking two Japanese language course over the summer and possibly going to Osaka at the end of the summer.

The semester is coming to a close.  Projects are due.  My sleep schedule is all over the place!  I stayed up all night on Monday and napped through some classes and then stayed in the studio all night last night.  I slept from 9 am - 12 pm ish??  It's rough but you just have to bite the bullet.

There aren't that many challenges being a bk amputee artist.  I think the only problem I've come across so far is spending too many hours in my leg.  It's just like taking off your shoes at the end of a long night, it gives your feet a rest and you might even notice some red spots where there was some excess pressure.  Well same thing with wearing a prosthetic, I have some pressure points that start to bother me, especially after sitting for a long time.

Here's a video that show's some of the work I've been doing for my studio classes.  Check it out!!

Here's some past artwork-

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Tampa Bouldering Series 6 - First Event

Hey guys! Things have been wild since the last post. I am currently gearing up to host an adaptive climbing clinic in Joshua Tree National Park. I am hosting the event in conjunction with Athletes w/ Disabillities Network and Inner Passage Guiding Service. Our goal is to introduce twenty persons with disabilities to their first outdoor climbing experience. We got huge support from the outdoor community with our sponsors being Evolv, Sterling Rope, Black Diamond, Prana, Mountain Khakis, and Sanuk. It is going to be a really rad event. I will also be shooting photos with Damon Corso, who is doing a spread for Urban Climber Magazine. Also joining us for the clinic will be Jordan Shipman and Jon Glassberg taking video for Louder Than 11.

I started climbing at Vertical Ventures climbing gym about four years ago. I have been really lucky to be surrounded by such a great group of individuals. The guys at Vertical Ventures, Chris Brown, Christian Tartaglia, and Hal Thureson have been big supporters of mine since I started climbing and have pushed and help motivate me into the person that I am today.

I started my full time job in Orlando at Prosthetic and Orthotic Associates in August and have not been climbing at Vertical Ventures much at all as of late spending most of my training time at the climbing gym in Orlando. When I heard the Tampa Bouldering Series vol 6 was coming up I got really psyched to compete, go see old friends, and just have a good time at the old stomping grounds.

The boulder problems were great as usual, and despite a frustrating start I kept it together, finished strong and mangaged to nab first place in my division! Having been way more psyched on outdoor climbing lately this was a pleasant suprise and I am looking forward to the rest of the events. Gym climbing is always harder for me because certain movements are created that I am not physically capable of doing, and there are only one or two other options of how to do the movement differently, if any. I find that when I go outdoor climbing I can usually find a method of alternate movement that works for me.

I picked up a sponsorship by Organic Climbing recently and just got my new foam last week! I am really excited to be a part of the team. They make the best crashpads in the industry!

Also I got some new graphics put on my leg. The photos did not turn out great, but here they are to give you an idea. One is of my place of work and leg sponsor - Prosthetic and Orthotic Associates, and the other logo is of my motto "Never Stop".

Thats all for now, I have tons more stuff to post up.

The one who gets to the top is the one who never stops trying!

I'm out!