The Inspiring Story of How Ebikes Allowed Mark to Ride Again
September 10, 2021
Mark, 64, was helping his friend move on a rainy Floridian day in December 2019. Carrying a heavy box out of the house, he slipped off the concrete step and into the mulch bed next to it. Instantly, he knew something was wrong, very wrong. He’d broken his foot and after further inspection down at the local hospital, it turned out to be what can only be described as a worst-case scenario.
On that day in December 2019, Mark suffered what is known in the medical world as a Lisfranc fracture, where one or more -in Mark’s case all- of the metatarsal bones in the foot move over into the socket next to them. For Mark every single one of his toes shuffled down in their stations along his foot; yes, OUCH!!
At UF Health Shands Hospital the doctor told him that he had three choices: surgery, amputation, or just deal with it (if you can deal with the pain). Amputation would’ve meant losing the foot, not anyone’s first choice, surgery would have been highly invasive, complicated, and there was a high chance it could become septic during the 6-8 month healing process; resulting in amputation. So, Mark, a get-up and goer, and eternal optimist chose the least invasive option of deal-with-it-if-you-can-deal-with-the-pain. He and his wife went out and managed to find extra extra wide shoes for his newly shaped foot and they started to work, and walk through it.
2 weeks down the road Mark was finding himself exceptionally tired, running a high fever, and just wanting nothing except to lie down. They went into the hospital and it was immediately apparent to the doctors that he was suffering from sepsis and his organs were beginning to shut down as a result. This meant amputating Mark's leg, from below the knee down, was the only way of saving his life.
They made sure that he knew what was going to happen and what he was going in for before putting him under for the procedure at AdventHealth Ormond Beach. Waking up Mark started protesting to the doctors; he’s come in for a tummy tuck and a facelift, not to lose weight by losing half a leg! The joker as ever, Mark had to spend 4 weeks in hospital after the operation. His wife, Debbie, was with him everyday, and then, after two weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic was declared a national emergency, a national lockdown was put in place, and hospitals banned all visitors.
Mark spent two weeks alone in AdventHealth Ormond Beach, where he got quite friendly with the staff there, his upbeat attitude probably being a welcome reprieve from the outside world and the hospital that were just beginning to grapple with the first global pandemic of modern times.
After these two weeks, he had to go through two weeks of intense, in-house, i.e. still staying in hospital, rehab. He left the hospital in a wheelchair and was able to be back home with his family. His son and his wife moved in with Mark and Debbie and the focus on rehab continued. Over the next 4 months, Mark visited Prosthetic and Orthotic Associates in Orlando 2-4 times every week to get to grips with how to use the prosthetic leg they were fitting him with. He had to learn to walk again and was still intermittently rolling around in his wheelchair after these 4 months.
Mark, now 65, has always been a healthy, active human being. He still works, now from home as a result of the pandemic, and has a few children and multiple grandchildren, all of whom call him G-Daddy (no he doesn’t rap). He would do everything with his grandkids, from games on the beach to long bike rides and walks in the park. Now out of his wheelchair, he was determined to get back out there and be as much a part of his grandkids' lives as he was before; even if that meant he couldn’t do all the things he previously could. The freedom of biking with them, however, was not something Mark was going to give up. He attempted to get on his old bike a few times, however, he wasn’t yet strong enough to lift his leg over the top tube.
Ever determined with his positive attitude he knew he was one day going to get back on his bike. His wife Debbie watched as he repeatedly tried to mount his bike over many weeks. As she watched him try and try again she realized that Mark was probably never going to be able to get back on his old bike. Not wanting to see her husband heartbroken and demoralized by that eventual realization Debbie had a brainstorm. What about a step-through bike? Do they make those?
Debbie jumped on the internet and began searching for step-through bikes. She found Aventon as an ebike company offering step-through ebikes and thought that such a machine was exactly what her Mark needed to get him back up and cycling again. She wrote a short letter in the contact form on the Aventon website describing Mark, his situation, and his need for a step-through ebike. Sara, a customer service representative here at Aventon, picked up the ticket and messaged Debbie back asking for more information. Debbie sat down and crafted a letter further detailing Mark’s situation, what happened, where they were now, and how she wanted to get him back on a bike ASAP; and wondered aloud whether Aventon would be able to help them out with a small discount on the price of a step-through ebike to get him out and riding with his grandkids ASAP.
Receiving this response Sara recognized how much we could potentially help Mark and Debbie and elevated it to her manager, who immediately pushed it further up the line to his director. The decision was quickly made to send Mark a step-through ebike, not, however, without sending Debbie one too; so she could keep up with him!
Debbie received an email from Sara asking for both their sizes and was stunned when she received an email back a few days later containing two tracking numbers. Debbie was excited and confident but kept all this a secret from Mark; one: because she wanted it to be a surprise for him but, two: just in case this was another company that provided only empty promises and the ebikes never turned up. As much as she wanted to see him grinning from ear to ear she couldn’t bear to see the disappointment on his face if it turned out to not be true.
A few weeks passed and no sign of the ebikes on their doorstep. Debbie, disappointed, thought that it had been too good to be true, and the way the pandemic had messed up online ordering and delivery was the only thing that kept her hope alive. Another few weeks passed and the ebikes still hadn’t arrived. She reached back out to Sara, not wanting to seem pushy, and Sara immediately got on the case. By the end of the day, she had two new tracking numbers in Debbie’s inbox and the ebikes were there within a week!
Mark was shocked and they literally couldn’t put the ebikes together fast enough. Once assembled they took the ebikes out into the street and Mark, a little nervous, said that Debbie should try it first. She mounted the ebike and zipped on up the street and back down. Now it had been proven to him that it was possible Mark mounted the ebike, with a word of careful warning from Debbie, pushed the throttle, and disappeared up the street. He zipped past 30 seconds later whooping and hollering with the absolute biggest smile on his face!
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During our chat about his story, we could hear both Mark and Debbies smiles and happiness radiating down the line. Mark told us that he’d never even thought about an ebike before Debbie and Aventon surprised him by plopping two on his doorstep. He had only ever seen the specs online, and what he didn’t get from that, which he now does, is the amount of adventure they offer to the rider. In his own smiling words having an ebike has:
“opened up a world of opportunity with a great bit of mobility. Everything is now in reach and riding the ebike makes me feel young and free again. It’s really empowering. There’s really no other word but empowering!”
Now they both take their ebikes everywhere they go, having recently bought a bike rack to put them on the car. Mark does say, however, that the phrase it’s like riding a bike doesn’t work when you have a prosthetic leg, and he has had to learn to ride a bike all over again. But learning and riding with his wife by his side gave him a huge confidence boost. He felt like a 5-6 year old riding a bike for the first time; not just for the lack of balance but also for the sheer joy of having the wind in his hair!
“It’s pure joy!” Mark told us, “The exercise is there, and I can ride safely in the knowledge that I can get home at the end of the day. It’s made my life 1000% better, and after months in a wheelchair, barely being able to walk around the freedom of an ebike is exceptional!” The first time Mark got on the bike he couldn’t pedal, he just didn’t have the muscles to be able to and used the throttle to get everywhere. Now though, he goes as low as pedal assist level 1 and can pretty much power himself around. He now has the freedom to just head out whenever he wants and his grandchildren love that G-daddy can still ride bikes with them!
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Mark joyfully tells his story to everyone. Many people saw him struggling, for months, to walk with a cane or just rolling around in his wheelchair; with his face often displaying the pain of a person who had their mobility and parts of their independence taken away from them. For such a happy-go-lucky guy this was painful for those that know him to see. But now he’s whipping around on an ebike with a prosthetic leg and a big grin on his face. Everyone is wondering what on earth has changed.
He tells them of his accident, his time in hospital during the pandemic, his extended recovery at home, and his attempts at trying to get onto his old bike. He follows this up with how Debbie contacted Aventon -behind his back- and they sorted them out with two ebikes, the extra one so his wife could keep up! He then lets them have a go on his ebike and, in his own words: “they let out sounds you never hear grownups make!”
Adventure, adventure, adventure is what comes to mind when Mark thinks about his ebike but one of the most touching moments to come out of the whirlwind of a year separating the slip and fall from the receiving of his ebike was when his grandson was with him. He rolled into the living room in his wheelchair where his 10-year-old grandson, Kolton, was lying on the couch watching TV and joined him on the couch. Kolton scooted over and laid his head on his grandad’s full leg and gave it a hug. Kolton then rolled over onto his grandad’s half leg and gave that a hug too and Mark had a moment of wow… I’m still here. Whilst I’ve changed and I've felt a big change I am still accepted by my kids and my grandkids.
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This is why we do what we do here at Aventon; for stories like Mark’s. The ethos of doing good runs right through our company and is a cornerstone of the Aventon philosophy. We’re so happy that we’ve managed to properly convey this message to our employees, and want to finish by thanking Sara for recognizing Mark and Debbie's situation and elevating it up the chain so quickly so that we could provide them with the ebikes that now give their whole family so much joy!