Monday, August 30, 2010

From Chop Cult:
  Lee Bender and the Ride For Lightning

Lee Bender is a skateboarder and professional vagabond. Raised in Indiana, Lee split his time between Arizona, Oregon and the road for years and eventually settled in the San Francisco Bay area. An Evo Sporty is his bike of choice. Inspired by a friend's rigid XL he sold off most of his old Honda stash a few years ago and bought his first Gnarly Davidson. A run-in with a distracted broad in an SUV left him with fewer injuries than a good skate session, but the insurance was enough to fund the construction of his new bike, another Evo Sporty. Lee's the first one to tell you he's no master fabricator. His bike was built by Rudy at Foundry Moto and has been a reliable road companion ever since. In 2007, Lee was diagnosed Multiple Sclerosis. The SUV didn't slow Lee down, and neither will MS.

MS is a disease which among other crippling symptoms includes loss of balance, numbness, vertigo and loss of coordination. Basically, it messes with all the motor skills needed to do the things that are central to Lee's life: skating, and riding motorcycles. There is an operation that Lee believes will help his condition, but it's not legal in the United States. Here's how Lee describes the operation:

It's called the Liberation procedure. An Italian doctor named Zamboni diagnosed his own wife with MS about five years ago. He said, "Fuck it, I'm gonna stop what I'm doing and figure this shit out." Well, a few months and a million and one tests later, he determined that his wife had narrowed jugular veins. Either from hereditary, or they were pinched between a muscle and bone. Dr. Zamboni opened the space where his wife's veins flowed and almost immediately she claimed that her hands and feet felt warmer. It made sense. Poor circulation to your body means cold parts, right? Basically, they feed a wire into your vein to the narrow part and either blow it up with a balloon or they insert a stent, which is like a chinese finger cuff and they leave it in place where the narrowed vein was. It returns the bloodflow back to normal and you are golden. So, a week or so later, her balance started getting better and her cognitive issues cleared up. She was seemingly back to normal. Amazed at his discovery, he tried this on a select group of his own patients from his personal practice in Italy. He found that some ridiculous percentage of patients with MS had narrowed veins, but not all. Keep in mind that MS is one of the most misdiagnosed diseases known to man. Anyhow, I forget the percentage, but close to 90 percent or more of his patients with MS that had the Liberation procedure started getting better. Balance, vision, numbness, etc. decreased, so the word slowly spread about this new technique. Some neurologist scoffed and really most people looked down on Dr. Zamboni and didn't believe his claims. Think about it, years and years of school, and practice, being brainwashed that one thing is one way, then having the rug pulled out from under you. We've all been there at one point I'm sure. So I can understand the medical world's speculation but, give it a chance, right? Slowly but surely, it's spreading. Poland, Bulgaria, India, even here in the States they are doing a study, but it's for ten people and it has already started. The hoops and red tape the FDA makes people jump through are generally understandable, but this is an old procedure, the same as angioplasty used on stroke victims. There's nothing different, it's not new, but since there will be 9.7 billion dollars lost per year by the four drug companies that make MS meds, it's banned, outlawed, looked down upon, etc. Now I'm not one to jump on a get fixed quick scheme, but, I personally met someone, a friend of a friend that had MS. See how I said the word "had"?  She went to Poland and paid to have her veins ballooned open, and same deal as the Italian doctor. Her vision became more vivid, her numbness and fatigue went away. I got an email from her saying she was doing backflips on her trampoline the other day. Something there's no way I could even think of doing today as a reasonably healthy 31-year-old. So yeah, sign me up.


Frustrated by Lee's situation, friends, skate- and motorcycle-industry coleagues and fans have rallied around him with various fundraising activities. ChopCult member Tim from Death Science (also a Revenge Run organizer) got wind of Lee's need and decided to put his energy to work with an event that could scare up some dough and pitch into the pot. There is a thread with all the details here but the broad strokes are this: Ride around the Carolinas for a couple days on old moonshining roads, camp out one night, then wrap it up day two at a bar with bands, booze and broads. The dates are October 15-16, 2010. There will be a massive raffle, and with a sponsor list like these guys have, nearly everyone is coming home with some good swag. You can details, sign up in advance and purchase swag on the Ride for Lightning blog. We'd like to wish Lee good luck and urge you to support the cause and help a fellow rider if you can/

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