Friends watch as cyclist with ALS plans next steps after serious fall

On Sunday, Oct. 18 Ray Spooner officially started his “little ride,” flying from Chicago to California.
  As he continues to deal with the realities of life with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the former certified nurse midwife at Carle dreamt of biking across the country. Spooner has been detailing the adventure in amazing detail on his blog.

Back in Urbana, former colleagues from Labor & Delivery remained with him on an emotional level – even as he was all the way across the country beginning his journey.

“Staff were at the desk when someone pointed out that it was time for Ray to start,” said Chantel Ellis, RN manager on L&D. “Rachel (Campbell, RN) suggested everyone take a minute and silently pray or think of Ray for safety and strength. We all love Ray, because he has been such a huge part of so many of our lives.
“Even while he is away from us he continues to make an impact, and, although we couldn’t each ride with him, we wanted to send encouragement to him the only way we knew how in that moment.”

But on Thursday he learned that the ride may not end the way he envisioned.

Spooner detailed last week’s accident, which resulted in a broken arm, multiple fractures to his ribs and vertebrae, a collapsed lung and a concussion.

The fall Phoenix occurred at a moment when he first began to think he might just do the improbable and make it all the way through the ride from start to finish.

Up to that point, he had been learning how to deal with multiple complications of the ride due to the disease, but had also built up his confidence after traveling about 450 miles. That had him thinking about what could be.

Even though the accident interrupted those pleasant thoughts, he is finding a way to look forward.

Now Spooner is asking others to band together and share miles they bike to a site he’s created called “Ride for Ray.” To participate, he is also asking people to send in a photo or brief video of their ride, so he and his team can compile a video of all the supporters.

Mentally, Spooner is formulating his own plan. One hope that he has is to recover enough physically to finish the last leg of the trip and then dip the wheel of a different bike – one that probably has three wheels instead of two – into the Atlantic Ocean as the ceremonious moment he has desired for so long.

While he was beginning his ride, he and his team also spoke with the national media site People.com as well as many local media outlets. The Muscular Dystrophy Association rallied support and even arranged for firetrucks to escort the crew through one city. Firefighters are MDA supporters, and their lights and sirens may have startled the group a bit, but were a welcome symbol of support on the journey.

Carle neurologist Robert Cranston, MD, is one of Spooner’s doctors, and also gave his take to People.com before the accident occurred.

“He has a desire to learn and experience things. He also has an amazing wife and supportive family,” Dr. Cranston said. “Ray loves challenges and he meets them. These things are what will get him closer to achieving his dream.”

It shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows Spooner that this accident seems to be serving as fuel. His remarkable level of determination is allowing this team of friends and family to focus on how Ray’s ride will end.