Doug Moe: Overcoming disability — on a bike and on skis
Late on the afternoon of Friday, Oct. 10, 2008, when AdamGroener finished work at his customer service job with RockAuto onOdana Road, he got on his motorcycle, put on his helmet and punchedup the band Apartment 26 on his MP3 player.
That’s the last thing Groener remembers until the followingTuesday.
Still, he knows what happened, and what happened changed hislife. Which is really the beginning of the story. Because what isnotable is what Groener, 25, has done with the new life that fatedealt him 19 months ago, a life that now includes his upcomingparticipation in the may 30 Madison Marathon.
The motorcycle that Groener got on that day was a Ducati, anItalian model he had first encountered in new Zealand.
Originally from Lyndon Station, Groener graduated from highschool in Mauston and spent one year at UW-Milwaukee. he thentransferred to UW-Madison, earning a bachelor’s degree in Englishin 2006.
He joined RockAuto in April 2007, and then the following Januarydecided to travel. Groener spent time in Japan and Australia, andthen settled for two months in new Zealand, where he discoveredDucati motorcycles.
Groener considered enrolling in film school in new Zealand, butreturned to Madison instead. he went back to work at RockAuto andtook a motorcycle class at Madison Area Technical College.
Groener bought a bike early in that summer of 2008, anundistinguished model that he kept for only two weeks before comingacross what he called “a great deal” for “my dream bike” — aDucati. he bought it and logged 5,000 miles prior to Oct. 10. “Iwas on it all the time.”
It was around 6:15 p.m. on that Oct. 10 when Groener, travelingwest on Mineral Point Road near West Towne, hit a car that hadturned in front of him on D’Onofrio Drive.
“I went flying,” he was recalling Thursday.
Except that “recalling” isn’t really accurate, because Groenerdoesn’t remember the accident. When he woke up several days later,in a room at UW Hospital, there was a nurse in the room. Shesummoned a doctor. Groener could feel nothing from the chest down.the doctor explained that he’d been in a serious accident, had twocrushed vertebrae and would require spinal fusion surgery.
The doctors didn’t mention a long-term prognosis, and Groenerthought the surgery might allow him to walk again. Eventually thedoctors told him that was unlikely.
He was fitted for a wheelchair. Groener said he initially hadtrouble dealing with his new reality. “I didn’t want to be a burdento anyone.” but then a hospital therapist put Groener in touch witha mentor — a man who had earlier suffered a disabling injury –and the man’s positive outlook helped turn Groener around. Hismentor rode a hand bike. And he told Groener — who had snowboardedbefore his accident — about a Colorado ski trip that is awardedannually by the Madison West Kiwanis Club.
Last October, Groener applied for a Kiwanis Adaptive SkierScholarship, which is funded by a gift from the estate of EthelAllen.
Groener got the scholarship, and he spent the first week ofMarch in Durango learning to ski while sitting in a bucket thatrests atop the skis.
“It was unforgettable,” he said of the trip.
Not just for the skiing, either.
Groener’s girlfriend, Amy Scharenbroch, whom he started datingshortly after he was released from the hospital, went along. Onemorning, before they hit the slopes, Adam sang a song from “TheWedding Singer” and asked Amy to marry him. she said yes. the dateis may 21, 2011 — one year from Friday.
Now Groener is trying to give something back to the Kiwanis Cluband its Adaptive Skier Scholarship. he is going to ride his handbike in the 26.2-mile Madison Marathon at the end of this month andis taking pledges, which he will donate to the ski scholarshipfund. (Pledge at www.causes.com/causes/483689.)
His experience has informed Groener’s view of people withdisabilities. “They can pretty much do anything,” he said. “Just ina different way.”
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