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I suffered a close proximity IED blast while walking that resulted in a left leg above-knee amputation; extensive damage to my gastrointestinal tract; a right hemispheric stroke; and three months of left-sided hemiparesis. In addition, I suffered temporary reading and speaking issues, broken right ankle, a puncture wound in my left bicep from shrapnel (still embedded),and the ever-lovely Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (mild to moderate).
Paddling helped me regain near perfect left-arm motor functioning. It’s helped with balance and strengthened my core, which are both integral in helping lower-extremity amputees walk. Whenever I was/am having a frustrating day, I just go out and paddle until my arms fall off. It’s a great release! Paddling also helped re-instill a sense of independence and confidence I lost after my injury. But the most important thing has been the amazing friends and support system I have gained through TRR.
My greatest achievement would be paddling all but thirty miles of the Grand Canyon, after only paddling 7 days of the preceding year. Other wounded warriors should participate in TRR because:
1) What else are you doing that’s so important? The X-Box and Bud Lite will still be there when you get back.
2) Paddling (be it in a raft, shredder, sit-ontop, or whitewater kayak) is a tremendous form of whole-body exercise, which, in my experience, is only surpassed by swimming (and MUCH more fun).
3) The instructors (and volunteers) are VERY experienced, and they are so excited about what they do. They are extremely supportive and will hold your hand and gently guide you every step of the learning process... until they kick you in the butt for holding back.
4) Kayaking is a VERY welcoming community, it’s a great way to meet new people and make new connections as well as friendships that will be life-long.
5) NO ONE looks sexier than when they calmly pull into an eddy after flawlessly handling a gnarly rapid.