When Sophia Collier was just three months old, she was diagnosed with a rare form of Group B Strep Meningitis, also known as Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS). The disease caused brain damage on the left half of Sophia’s brain, which affected the right side of her body.
“The doctors told us she would be a complete vegetable, and I just cried and cried,” said Debbie Collier, Sophia’s great grandmother. “She sure has proved them wrong.”
Seven years later, Sophia lives with her great grandparents in a remote area of Florida. She is non-verbal, and up until May of 2019, her only mobility methods included scooting on the floor, rolling over and using a walker. Because of where the family lives, therapy options for Sophia are limited. Physical therapists (PT) are miles away and must travel to her house for therapy, and Sophia can only use her walker inside the house because they live on a gravel road.
One day while doing therapy with the Florida Elks, a volunteer-run nonprofit organization, Sophia’s PT suggested that she try an adaptive bicycle.
“When she (Sophia’s PT) mentioned getting a bicycle for Sophia, I thought she was crazy,” said Debbie. “But then she showed us the Freedom Concepts website and I was shocked. I saw bikes that Sophia could actually ride.”
From there, the family was able to work with Wheelchairs 4 Kids and the First Hand Foundation to get Sophia her very own Freedom Concepts adaptive bicycle. Wheelchairs 4 Kids received funding from The Jim and Tabytha Furyk Foundation to purchase the bike. (Jim Furyk is the US Ryder Cup Team Captain and is a 17-time PGA champion.)
Starting out slow, the family began by going for quarter-mile bike rides. Those quarter-mile bike rides quickly turned into half-mile bike rides, then mile long bike rides.
“We’ve noticed a big change in the mobility in her right leg since she started riding the bike,” said Mike Collier, Sophia’s great grandfather. “Going for bike rides helps Sophia feel like she’s actually part of something. It makes her feel like she’s actually doing something with somebody, instead of being forced to do something she doesn’t want to do.”
Just one month after getting the bike, Sophia and her great grandparents bike a minimum of 1.5 miles per day, and sometimes even 3 miles if the weather is good.
“We love the bike and so does Sophia,” said Debbie. “She laughs and giggles the whole time she’s riding it.”
The family hopes that one day the bike can help Sophia build up enough strength to walk on her own.
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