Snow and a raffle

by Bethany M. Dunbar, April 10, 2011

Hi folks.  The snow is still here, but it’s predicted to be 80 degrees tomorrow.  So guess what?  It can’t last. We are seeing robins and redwing blackbirds, snowdrop crocuses are out, and geese are heard honking their way back north to us.

First of all, sorry for not posting for so long.  I’ve been working on a book which is expected out here in Vermont in June.  It will be called Kingdom’s Bounty and those of you who have been reading Vermont Feature all along will recognize some of the people and places in this book.  It’s a guidebook about farmers and food in the Northeast Kingdom and I can’t wait.  It’s my first book and incredibly exciting.

I will keep you posted.  We plan a summer signing tour and photo show.  My publisher is Nan Richardson of Umbrage Editions, who lives in Brooklyn — and Barton part of the year.

Meanwhile I wanted to post something this week about a story I did for the Chronicle that should have an even wider audience if it possibly can.  So please, repost this, share it, tell your friends, whatever you have to do to get the word out about David Wieselmann.

His friend Julie Poulin and he are holding a raffle to raise money to get him to a therapy program and get him a piece of equipment that could help him walk again.  He was injured in a mountain bike accident last year.  If he was a wealthy man, he’d already have the equipment and therapy he needs.  Seems to me a story about yet another failure of our health care system thank you very much.

He doesn’t have time to wait for the politics to get straightened out so everyone gets the coverage they need.  He needs this right away because the first year of this particular type of injury is critical.

Julie sent me an e-mail after the story came out in the paper to say the story was really helpful, but they still have about 85 tickets to sell.  So if anyone out there is interested in taking a chance on a guy who could really use a little help here, please check it out: www.giveforward.com/helpdavidwalkagain

The drawing was supposed to happen this week, but it’s postponed for three weeks to try to sell the rest of the tickets.

Here’s the story, with updated information about the drawing:

Raffle benefit could help injured man walk again

David Wieselmann, hurt in a mountain bike accident in June, is determined to walk again. Photo by Bethany M. Dunbar

by Bethany M. Dunbar, the Chronicle, March 30, 2011

ST. JOHNSBURY — David Wieselmann is determined.  But time is short.

Mr. Wieselmann hurt himself in a mountain bike accident nine months ago, and his legs are paralyzed.  There’s a chance he could walk again if he can gain access to an $18,000 piece of equipment and physical therapy that has proven effective in helping people with spinal cord injuries walk again.

“The first year of this injury is pretty critical, and exercise is the key,” Mr. Wieselmann said.

The first year is up in June.  In order to try to raise enough money to buy the equipment, his friend Julie Poulin — an equally determined human being if not even more so — started a raffle with some major prizes.  Top prize is a $5,000 Visa card.  Other prizes include a season pass at Burke Mountain, a two-night ski and stay package at the Tram House Lodge at Jay Peak, individual and family passes from Kingdom Trails, and a long list of other smaller prizes.

The drawing for this raffle will be held at Trout River Brewing Co. in Lyndonville on April 29 at 7 p.m.  Tickets are $100 apiece or a split ticket is available for $50.  Only 300 will be sold.

The goal is to raise $30,000.  Of that, $18,000 will be for the functional electrical stimulation (FES) bicycle, and the remainder will be for therapy at a center called Journey Forward near Boston, Massachusetts.  The founder of the program was hurt in a swimming accident in the year 2000 and could not even breathe on his own, to say nothing of walking.  But after years of therapy he got to a point where he could not only breathe, he could also use his hands again and he can walk.

“He walked a mile to raise money for Journey Forward,” Mr. Wieselmann said.

A key to the therapy is making the muscles that are not getting any activity in a wheelchair active again so they don’t atrophy.  Weight-bearing exercises are used, and the legs of the paralyzed person are forced to move and stimulated with electricity.

Mr. Wieselmann got a chance to try out the equipment, called an FES bike, for one day at the facility in Boston and he knew immediately that it was extremely helpful.

“It was the first really good aerobic workout since my accident,” he said.  His heart rate got up, he worked up a sweat, and the blood got flowing even in his legs.  They felt warm; he felt good.

Even in cases where this therapy doesn’t get someone walking again, it is helpful for the person’s health in lots of ways.  There are lots of side effects of paralysis that can be minimized with this therapy.  Among them:  osteoporosis, muscle calcification, skin problems, and blood pressure problems.  Mr. Wieselmann has already had trouble with low blood pressure as his heart tries to pump blood into his inactive lower body.

Before he was hurt, Mr. Wieselmann lived to ski, mountain bike, and kayak.  Every Tuesday he used to ride his bike from St. Johnsbury to Morgan, kayak around Seymour Lake, and then back to St. Johnsbury.

“I just love exercise,” he said.  Now he gets physical therapy three days a week but the therapist is not set up with the FES bike.

“There’s none of these in Vermont,” he said.

He got a chance to get on his feet and bear some weight with help from a trainer at Total Fitness in Lyndonville, who rigged up a painter’s harness.

His family has a camp in Morgan, and Julie Poulin and her family were their neighbors.  They met at the Tamarack Grill at Burke Mountain where Mr. Wieselmann used to work as a waiter and have been friends ever since.

“It’s my favorite place on the planet,” said Mr. Wieselmann about Seymour Lake.

Mr. Wieselmann’s mother was born in Vermont and her family has been here since the late 1800s.  She went to the University of Vermont.

Mr. Wieselmann was born in Colorado and started skiing when he was three years old.  He went to college in San Francisco and lived there until six years ago and studied film and broadcasting.

All the time he was living other places he was thinking about skiing.  When he came to Vermont he realized if he lived here he could ski every day if he worked at Burke.

Once he broke his collarbone during the ski season, but even that didn’t stop him.

“I stopped for a week and snowshoed every day,” he said, but after the first week he skied with a sling.

The accident happened when he was mountain biking with friends and hit some soft ground.  His front wheel sunk into it, and he went over the top of the bike.  He was wearing a helmet.  His head hit the ground.  He remembers everything.  He got up and then collapsed.  The break was just below his shoulder blades.

Since then he has been researching possible therapies.  Christopher Reeve, who played Superman in a movie and hurt himself in a horseback riding incident, started a foundation that has made huge strides in spinal cord injury research, Mr. Wieselmann said.

“As cheesy ball as it sounds, he really was Superman for this cause,” Mr. Wieselmann said.

If he raises enough money to buy the FES bike, Mr. Wieselmann said he would be willing to let others in the area use it when he is not using it.  It’s useful for stroke victims as well as victims of spinal cord injuries, he said.

Ms. Poulin said there are still a lot of tickets left to sell to raise the money needed.  She has been running spots on the radio and planned to sell tickets at a beach party at Jay Peak.

“This is it.  It has to work,” said.  She said her pitch to the beach party will be:  “You could leave here today and know that you’ve changed someone’s life forever.”

Raffle tickets are available at Poulin Lumber in Derby, Rowe Designs and Custom Framing in Newport, Ben’s Bootcamp in Derby and Lyndonville, Trout River Brewing Company in Lyndonville, the Boxcar and Caboose Bookshop and Café in St. Johnsbury, and Eastern Main Market and Deli in St. Johnsbury.

The tickets are also available online with a credit card at http://www.giveforward.com under “Help David Walk Again.”

For more information about the therapy program, look at http://www.journey-forward.org.

Beside the top three prizes mentioned above, prizes are being donated by East Burke Sports, Village Sports Shop in Lyndonville, the River Garden Café in East Burke, Green Mountain Books and Prints in Lyndonville, Ben’s Bootcamp and Edgewater Creations jewelry in Newport.

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5 responses to “Snow and a raffle

  1. Ann Harrington

    Glad to see you back, Bethany! We are all looking forward to the publication of the book. Can’t wait!

  2. Great to hear about the book, Bethany — can hardly wait! And thanks for forwarding your column on David Wieselmann and Julie Poulin. Good things happen.

  3. I can imagine how exciting it is to have your first book come out. Congratulations! I’m waiting for it!

  4. I was wondering where the heck you were! Glad your back to keep me up to date on NEK happenings. Can’t wait to read the book! Thanks also for the info on David. We’re rooting for him!

  5. I have been looking for Dave for awhile . I wish I would have know about the raffle intime to buy some tickets , but I would like to get a hold of him

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