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