Bam, the second that changes everything, the second you can’t get back, the fork in the road down which you are hurtled, and everything after that second, well, the world has changed forever. Your world.
When Pat Knowd came out of the hospital he came out a different man, still the father, still the husband, still the person who ran his own business, but he came out of it paralyzed from the chest down. One moment he had been Pat Knowd, everyday guy driving his Jeep, and the next, ejected with a debilitating spinal injury.
“You recover most in the first 6-12 months,” Pat said when we spoke. “The key to maximizing that recovery is to be as physical as possible, and I’m really motivated to get as much back as I can. I’m going all in, throwing every dart I got at the board, stem cell injections, you name it.
“And it’s not simply for the recovery. The stronger I get the better I feel, that’s what activity is like, it’s like a drug. As opposed to lying in bed thinking about what I can’t do, with working out I can get stronger and focus on the here and now, and that makes me mentally stronger and more confident.”
Pat’s life changed on August 11, 2019. It’s been a few short months since his injury, and our paths crossed as a result of the Nosco Ride.
I’ve done this ride on and off for the last several years. It was founded in honor of Mike Nosco, a sailor in the Navy Reserves training for his third mission in Iraq. His brother Jack, a Ventura County firefighter, dealt with the grief in an elegant way: he set up the hardest course he knew and invited people to come ride it.
No advertising, no gimmicks, and no entry fee. If you showed up you got an amazing swag bag, a full lunch after the ride, and manned aid stations throughout the course. If all that made you feel good, you were free to donate. If you didn’t want to donate, that’s cool, too, because it’s not about the money.
But in a way, it is all about the money, just not for Jack Nosco. The donations every year are collected and put back into the hands of people who were going through every imaginable kind of medical trauma, from stage IV cancer to ALS to people like Pat Knowd, who were going to travel a rocky, rocky road in order to get better or to simply survive.
Unlike charities that promise to help find a cure, or help raise awareness for something, unlike charities that have expensive offices and paid executive directors, unlike charities whose beneficiaries are anonymous “people,” the Nosco Ride gives cash to local individuals going through hell.
It’s support that makes a real difference.
Says Pat, “I think it’s great from a community coherence standpoint and for those of us who receive a few dollars because so much isn’t covered even if you have great insurance. For example, durable equipment like the hospital bed and wheelchair, and when you’re out of the hospital in need of a daily caregiver at six grand a month plus $1,500 for medical equipment, those things aren’t covered.
“I’m an insurance agent and the last thing I looked at in terms of coverage was durable medical equipment. Its great that Jack is continuing to honor his brother and giving to those in need with such a great event, giving back in a way that is good and holistic.”
It’s easy to remember the Nosco Ride, and not only because the first climb is Deer Creek, the number one leg breaker in the Santa Monicas. The other reason is because it’s held on the same day every year, November 3, the date that Mike Nosco died.
Like so many cyclists–most?–who do the Nosco Ride, I didn’t understand very well the impact that the donations have for the recipients.
Pat: “The ride inspires me. As a patient, the immediate need is acute, right? How am I going to pay for all this stuff? But long term, there’s a deeper meaning. I was so caught up in my career but this has forced me to slow down and appreciate my family and my community. Volunteering and helping out is giving back what we’ve been given. It’s made us appreciate friends and family and community in a way you simply never do until you’re in need. The media focuses on the negative in the world and in people. There’s a lot of good out there. More than you can imagine.
“I grew up in Westlake. And even though I’m paralyzed from the chest down, I can use my shoulders, arms, fingers, and am starting physical therapy to hopefully regain motor movement below waist. My family is running the insurance agency, stepping in. I’m lucky and fortunate for friends and for my deep roots in the community and church.
“It has been debilitating, no question about it, but I look at the positive side. I could have died. I can still pursue my vocation, I’ve got a great wife and family and friends. So many positives have come out of it; who knows what God has in store? I may regain everything but even if I don’t, so much goodness has happened with people coming out of the woodwork, it has made me so happy to see all the support from people who really care.
“I look at it like it’s a new challenge and chapter of my life. There are so many things I can do. I used to spend all my time at a computer and my physical condition wasn’t the greatest. I’m losing weight, getting stronger again, ironically. Physically I’ll be stronger; I’m getting so much more active.
“We had a couple of guys from church volunteer to build a wheelchair ramp; that’s the kind of goodness that’s out there. They invested hours to put ramps in the front door and in the garage and also wheelchair access in my house because the doorways were too small. They widened the doorways and did it in a week’s time so that it’d be ready for me when I got discharged. They’re doing a room accommodation for an accessible shower. Cabinet companies are donating cabinets, contractors donating help; so many people helping who are doing it just because they are good people.
“I’ve been most surprised by people you think are closest, who kind of disappear after the initial trauma, but people you knew from a long ago come out of the woodwork and help and are proactive, bringing a dinner to my family, people I didn’t even think I was friends with anymore. You learn so much about people.
“The silver lining is I’m stronger in my faith and in understanding the smaller things in life. Coming out of the hospital and breathing the fresh air and putting my hands on the trees, things I’d never thought about before have so much meaning for me now. I don’t know what the future will bring, don’t know if I’ll be confined to a wheelchair, but I’m already interested in wheelchair athletic events. The Triumph Foundation has been in touch, it’s an organization to keep spinal cord patients active and involved, and my mission going forward will be to give back what people have given to me.”
Thousands of riders have done the Nosco Ride since its inception, but I wonder how many of us really understand and appreciate its impact? So I asked Pat for a message, something I could share to help people like me grasp the depth of this simple bike ride’s profound mission.
And Pat delivered:
“When you’re at your limit and can’t go anymore, think about those who can’t go at all, and just push harder. Think about the people benefiting by you riding when you’re at the edge, think about how fortunate you are to have legs that work to push through it. Think about that.”
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