Saturday, December 26, 2009

Japanese man with spina bifida will handcycle around Guam

From Pacific Daily News in Guam:

Fuminao Kanbara (pictured) of Osaka, Japan will attempt to hand-cycle around Guam from Dec. 30 through Jan. 3.

Kanbara was born in 1968 with spina bifida with paralysis of muscle function.
The Web site KidsHealth defines spina bifida as "a birth defect that involves the incomplete development of the spinal cord or its coverings. The term spina bifida comes from Latin and literally means "split" or "open" spine."

"Spina bifida occurs at the end of the first month of pregnancy when the two sides of the embryo's spine fail to join together, leaving an open area. In some cases, the spinal cord or other membranes may push through this opening in the back. The condition usually is detected before a baby is born and treated right away," according to the Web site.

Kanbara can barely walk. At age 3, doctors told his parents that no one with spina bifida had lived longer than 20 years of age, yet Kanbara is still active at age 41. He attributes this miraculous longevity to his endless and persistent challenge to live.

As Kanbara was growing up, he worked as an electronic technician, but because of his sickness, he had to leave the job. He also worked as a sharpener of knives and scissors, etc, at home, but again he had to stop because of his severe sickness. He is currently working at a social welfare facility.

Kanbara is no stranger to Guam. He has visited two times to practice aikido at Guam Aikikai.

Kanbara is now in the midst of hand-cycling tours all around Japan.

Hand-cycling was developed in the 1980s by people working to create alternate types of human-powered vehicles. So it was almost by accident that a new world of cycling was opened to people with disabilities, according to the Disabled Sports USA Web site.

"It's ideal for people who have no or limited use of their legs, people who have poor balance, or anyone that just wants to try a different sport," said Heather Plucinski of Challenge Alaska. "It opens up a lot of trails and a lot of countryside, a lot of fresh air, and a lot of places you can travel. It's a great piece of adaptive equipment that allows people to get outside."

"The disabled community picked up on it right away," said Ian Lawless, Colorado regional director and cycling director for Adaptive Adventures. Even people with one working arm can hand-cycle with some modifications made to the equipment, said Lawless. "Just about anyone can do it. It's an accessible sport. It's not just for racing; it's also for recreational riding. It's a barrier breaker that allows a disabled rider to participate in cycling with friends and families who may be riding conventional bicycles."

Kanbara will begin his attempt at 6:30 a.m. Dec. 30 at the Chamorro Village in Hagåtña. He will hand-cycle to Merizo. The remainder of his schedule is as follows:

-- Dec. 31: Merizo to University of Guam from 6:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

-- Jan. 2: University of Guam to Ritidian Point from 1 to 5:30 p.m.

-- Jan. 3: Ritidian Point to Chamorro Village from 1 to 5:30 p.m.

Mutsuko Minegishi, the chief instructor of Guam Aikikai, is asking residents to support Kanbara as he circles the island.