I've recently started following several RSS feeds about MS and I came across this inspirational story.
Winchester resident's nasty fall inspires an epic walk
Winchester, MA —
As he sat in front of his television at home last May, unable to sit up or reach the remote control that rested just a few feet away on a table, Winchester native Stephen Homsey began to think.
He knew his injuries would heal — although he had broken his back and bones during a bad fall, doctors told him he would recover — but he began thinking about what life would be like for someone who wasn’t so lucky.
Someone, he thought, with Multiple Sclerosis, a nervous system disease that affects the brain and spinal chord and can lead to, among other symptoms, weakening of the muscles and loss of coordination and balance.
“I couldn’t take that fall and then not do something positive with it,” said Homsey.
Next May, Homsey intends to walk across the United States from Boston to San Diego in an effort to raise money for MS as well as produce a documentary about MS patients he meets on his journey.
It was May 10, 2009 — Mother’s Day — when Homsey, now 26, was in Boston and accidentally found himself locked out of an apartment building on the building’s rooftop, where he had gone with some friends to get a better view of the city.
Homsey, an athletic young man who played soccer and wrestled at Winchester High School, took a look at some pipes on the side of the building and decided he could climb down.
He was wrong.
“I was making progress but the pipe broke, and I fell 40-plus feet to the ground,” he said. “I broke both heels, an ankle, my left wrists in two spots and my back.”
Homsey said he knew he was lucky he wasn’t injured worse, and extremely lucky that doctors projected he would make a full recovery.
“After I got home from the hospital, we had a makeshift setup in our living room. So I would sit there and watch TV all day.
“It was extremely frustrating, because the controller was two feet to my right but I couldn’t get there. I started thinking about how some people have to deal with that their whole lives.”
Homsey said he started formulating his plan to walk across the country during his six months of recovery.
“I’ve always wanted to see the country, and I thought, “What a better way to do it than to walk for MS?”
Homsey, who manages an indoor sports facility in Maryland where he now lives, said what started out as a novel idea started getting more and more plausible as his recovery progressed.
He said he was almost fully functional last November, and although he is still gaining some of his strength back in his left foot, believes he’ll be able to make the 3,453-mile odyssey with some help along the way.
“My plan is to stay with as many families affected by MS as possible,” said Homsey, who will camp out or go to budget motels the remaining nights. “A big part of this is that I want to film a documentary about my journey and about people all over the country who I talk to who have MS.”
Homsey said he is currently working on getting the National MS Society to partner with him on the documentary, which he believes would be an excellent tool for the organization to use in its fundraising campaigns.
He said he got the idea from a group of people he found who walked across the country last year to support breast cancer research.
“They had a lot of great suggestions,” he said, including pushing his belongings on a three-wheel pushcart instead of carrying a heavy backpack.
Homsey has already planned out his trip, touching everything from the clothes he’ll wear to how many miles and what locations he plans on hitting every day.
In tribute to the source of the walk, he’ll start out May 10, 2011 — two years after his fall. Homsey will go from Boston through Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania before arriving in Lexington, Va. by June 8.
After that, he plans to meander through Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi before reaching Memphis, Tenn. on July 11.
Then, because a commitment he made to his employer, he may be required to fly back to Maryland for a few days to help them out with an important event.
“It certainly will be odd,” he said, traveling in one hour the distance it just took him months to walk.
After flying back to Memphis, Homsey will pass through Arkansas and Oklahoma before reaching Amarillo, Texas on Aug. 16.
The toughest part of the journey will then follow, as he’ll have to pass through the heat of the desert in New Mexico and Arizona in August and September.
“That’s probably the thing I would worry most about — camping out with coyotes and other dangerous animals,” said Homsey, who, although traveling light, will need to haul around a tent, his laptop and other essentials in the heat.
If all goes as planned, Homsey should reach San Diego, Calif. on Oct. 11, 2011.
“I’m sure there will be a big meal, a good night’s sleep and some beach time,” he said, smiling.
Dealing with disbelief
Homsey admitted many of his friends and family members are still trying to come to terms with his decision to walk across America.
“At first it was disbelief,” he said, adding that they asked him whether he was crazy. “Then I started actually pushing it, and started a nonprofit, and then they turned very supportive.”
Still, he said his parents are concerned for his safety, and will no doubt be checking in on him quite frequently.
Homsey is currently taking a 12-mile walk every week to get ready, as well as doing some strength training in anticipation of hauling around his “luggage.”
“I love it,” he said of the thought of his impending challenge. “When I get out on my 12-mile walks, as weird of its sounds, its some of the happiest time of my week.
“I can’t wait to get out across America and meet people I’d never imagined meeting,” he said.
Asked whether he got any inspiration from another cross-country traverser — the legendary movie figure Forrest Gump — Homsey laughed.
“That’s my favorite movie, so maybe there’s some inspiration there,” he said.
Those interested in donating to Homsey’s non-profit organization or learning more about his efforts can visit steps4ms.org.
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