Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

A new bike for Leo

Posted by on August 25th, 2008 at 12:43 pm

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13 year-old Leo Westwind, just
minutes after getting his new bike.
(Photos © J. Maus)

A very tough year for 13 year-old Leo Westwind was made a bit brighter on Friday.

Leo suffers from a genetic liver ailment known as Alagille Syndrome and last winter his condition worsened severely. In December, his mom Kyrstin (owner of a bike-powered smoothie business) rushed him to children’s hospital in Seattle where doctors told her Leo needed a new liver.

Fortunately, with fundraising help from the community and from Southeast Portland-based non-profit Free Geek (where Leo’s dad Michael works), Leo received a new liver on December 18th.

After several months of rehabilitation in Seattle, Leo finally came home in March, but his recovery was far from over.

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A happy and proud
Kyrstin Westwind.

After six months in bed, Leo lost a lot of body mass and the tendons in his knees and ankles have contracted, making him unable to walk. “It becomes this vicious circle,” Kyrstin explained, “where he can’t build up the muscle mass because he doesn’t have the strength to ride or walk and yet the only way he can ride or walk is to build up the muscles.”

Kyrstin says he hasn’t had any complications from the transplant but that, “he’s really been struggling with his physical recovery.” She said Leo has been “hating every minute” of physical therapy (“there’s not much more depressing than sitting in a gym and pedaling nowhere”) and Kyrstin hoped to find a more fun way for him to regain strength.

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After seeing Leo on a recumbent trike at a local bike event, Kyrstin went into Citybikes (a worker-owned cooperative bike shop on SE Ankeny) and asked if they could help. Through their community outreach program, Citybikes agreed to help Kyrstin purchase a Sun Bicycles EZ-3 recumbent trike.

Kyrstin and Leo picked up the bike on Friday.

Leo walked into the shop with the aid of a walker, but he left pedaling his new bike.

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In with a walker…
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out with a bike.

Citybikes’ Richard Perry was there to fit Leo to the bike, install lights and a water bottle cage, and offer some basic riding advice. Leo was pretty quiet (I think he was just anxious to start riding), but his smile said it all.

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The first of hopefully many
future pedal strokes for Leo.

“He wasn’t been able to ride a regular bike and he hasn’t been able to walk, so this is like the perfect thing,” beamed Kyrstin.

From Citybikes, Kyrstin wrote me to say Leo rode all the way to Free Geek (near SE 10th and Hawthorne). She wrote: “I know, that’s only half a mile of flat terrain, but given that the kid hasn’t ridden a bike on his own steam for nearly a year, and has only just graduated from a wheel chair to a walker, half a mile by bike was amazing!”

I’d say a lot of what Leo’s been through lately is amazing.

Great seeing you Leo, keep up the riding and here’s to a speedy and fun recovery!

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  • John Lascurettes August 25, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    Go, Leo, go! Kudos to City Bikes!

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  • Le-oh! August 25, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    From one Leo to another, keep at it kid!

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  • Bill Stites August 25, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    What a beautiful story – brings tears to my eyes. Looks like the perfect match for the little guy – nice job Citybikes.

    A minor correction – that\’s the new X-3 model. The EZ-3 is still produced, but the X-3 is the latest from Sun. They also make an X-1 in very similar bicycle form.

    Leo, you rock!

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  • Peter August 25, 2008 at 2:26 pm

    damn – that\’s pretty awesome.

    good job, Leo! roll on!

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  • K'Tesh August 25, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    Congrats Leo! Thanks Citybikes!

    Keep on Rolling with the Rubberside Down!

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  • westwind August 25, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    thanks so much for the awesome story! Just in the few days Leo has had the bike he is already walking better ~wont be long before I put him to work pedaling smoothies 🙂

    ~Leo\’s mom

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  • Opus the Poet August 25, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    Awesome! A new convert to the recumbent fold (cult).;/]


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  • Garin/waybigdog August 25, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    gooooooo Leoooooooooooooo !

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  • Icarus Falling August 25, 2008 at 3:55 pm


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  • Carissa Wodehouse August 25, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    What a sweet story! I got all teary eyed. Totally hope to see him pedaling a smoothie soon.

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  • KT August 25, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    Yay, Leo! Keep pedaling, kiddo! You\’re doing great!

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  • Donald August 25, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    Pretty sweet ride, Leo.

    Now go get it dirty!

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  • Ken Wetherell August 25, 2008 at 7:59 pm

    Nice going Leo! Sweet bike!

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  • Lesa Pinker August 26, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    What a day brightening story! Thank you for reminding us about the kindness of this community and restorative power of bikes!

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  • Ian Stude August 26, 2008 at 7:42 pm

    Leo, you are my personal hero! Best wishes for a continued recovery and many happy miles on your new ride.

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  • matt picio August 26, 2008 at 11:47 pm

    Awesome! Pedal Leo, Pedal!

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  • Sean August 27, 2008 at 8:16 am

    What a fantastic story. Good on you Cityikes. Stay strong Leo. You\’re an inspiration to many.

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  • Kathy August 27, 2008 at 9:21 am

    Now thats a 3 hanky story! I have seen Sprocket Smoothies at events around town, but I had no idea this super-cycle gal was juggling so much! I cant wait to see this dynamic duo in the bike lanes again!
    You ROCK Leo!!

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