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To the sea: Bucky Webb will handcycle 200 miles for fundraiser

By Katie Scarvey
Salisbury PostYou might have seen Bucky Webb around Rowan County in the past few months, riding his handcycle.
Bucky is getting in shape to cycle ó using solely arm power ó 200 miles in three days.
The ride, called Cycle to the Sea, goes from Monroe to North Myrtle Beach. It’s a fundraiser for Charlotte Medical Center Adaptive Sports and Adventures Program (ASAP). About 30 people, on handcycles or tandem bikes, participate in the annual event.
Funds raised help people with physical disabilities across the Carolinas get involved in physical activities, including wheelchair rugby, basketball, water skiing, golf, swimming and snow skiing.
Bucky has been using his handcycle ó which is on loan indefinitely from ASAP ó for three months. He rides about 20 miles at a time, three times a week.
Over the past several months, he’s seen a big change for the better in his fitness level.
“I’m more active than most people I know not in a wheelchair,” he says.
Bucky lost the use of his legs 13 years ago at age 14, when ó without warning ó he became paralyzed below the waist.
He remembers attending a friend’s birthday party at a recreation center when he was an eighth grader at West Rowan Middle School.
The next morning, his mother had made him a grilled cheese sandwich for breakfast before school. After he took a bite, his chest started to hurt.
“I wasn’t sure why,” he said.
He spent 15-20 minutes on the couch and realized that he had lost feeling in his legs.
His parents took him to Rowan Regional Medical Center, where he went through a battery of tests, from a spinal tap to CT scans to MRIs. They tested him for everything they could think of, Bucky says, including HIV and Guillain Barré.
Finally, he was sent to Wake Forest University’s Baptist Hospital.
There, the diagnosis was made: transverse myelitis.
In those days, Bucky says, not a lot was known about transverse myelitis, which is a neurological disorder caused by inflammation across both sides of one segment of the spinal cord. The inflammation can damage or destroy myelin, the fatty insulating substance that covers nerve cell fibers. As a result, communications between the nerves in the spinal cord and the rest of the body can be interrupted.
It is estimated that about 1,400 new cases of transverse myelitis are diagnosed each year in this country, and approximately 33,000 Americans have some type of disability resulting from it.
About a third of those with transverse myelitis recover fully, Bucky says; some have a partial recovery; and a third do not recover.
Bucky spent three months in rehabilitation in Charlotte, learning how to handle a wheelchair, doing recreational therapy and seeing a psychologist.
His younger sister Mandy Webb, who shares a home with Bucky when she’s not attending college at UNC-Asheville, says Bucky’s health crisis was a very confusing time for her. She was in seventh grade.
After the initial shock, life went on more or less normally.
“He was still just my brother, and we still argued and fought like brother and sister,” she remembers.
Bucky says that emotionally, dealing with his new reality was easier for him than it is for most in his situation.
In fact, he says, he handled things so well that his psychologist suspected he wasn’t disclosing his true feelings.
He returned to eighth grade three weeks before the school year ended.
More than his mobility changed. Before the virus, Bucky says he was getting in trouble and hanging out with kids he probably shouldn’t have been.
Afterward, he began to straighten up and hang out with a better crowd, he says, and learned who his real friends were.
He feels he had a pretty normal high school experience, all things considered. Like most everyone else, he got his driver’s license ó he uses hand controls ó and graduated with honors.
“It never bothered me a whole lot,” he says. “Of course I’ve had ups and downs, but I probably do more than most people.”
“We pretty much took it day by day as it came,” Mandy says.
Mandy says that the biggest problem is accessibility issues ó she may want to go somewhere with Bucky but be unable to if it’s not wheelchair-accessible. She’s learned to call ahead to find out what the situation will be like.
After high school, Bucky went away to college at Wayne State University. Michigan winters, he learned, were colder than he liked, so he came back to Rowan County.
He returned to school at Catawba College and in December, he was awarded a B.S. degree in Information Systems in the Lifelong Learning Program. He’s looking for a job but says a lack of experience has made it challenging for him to compete in a tough job market.
In his spare time, he likes to hang out with his friends, ride his four-wheeler and shoot pool.
If you’d like to sponsor Bucky in the upcoming Cycle to the Sea event, with funds going to the Adaptive Sports and Adventures Program, you can make checks out to ASAP Fund and send it either to Webb directly (Bucky Webb, 380 Stoney Knob Lane, Salisbury, NC 28147) or or to ASAP-Carolinas Rehabilitation, 1100 Blythe Blvd., Charlotte, NC 28203.
Donations sent to ASAP should note that the pledge is under Bucky Webb’s name.
Contact Katie Scarvey at 704-797-4270 or kscarvey@salisburypost.com.

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