100 Miles for Hope encourages 74-year-old to come back from double brain surgery

LeClaire, IA

My name is Ron Leiby. I’m a longtime member of Buffalo Bill Post 347 of Iowa.

Prior to April 2020, I had been working out at a gym three to four times a week for about two hours each time. I also got exercise working around the yard and through several volunteer organizations. Sometime during that period I jarred my head enough to break blood vessels, which filled my head with enough blood to push half of my brain into the other half of my cranium, causing severe pain. After arriving at a hospital I was informed by the neurologist that I had to have a serious operation to drain the blood and repair the damage. The first operation was not successful, so a second one was needed. I ended up with four permanent holes in my head. While in the hospital, because they had to discontinue the blood thinner I had been taking due to another prior situation, I developed blood clots. And had to have another procedure for that. I ended up spending a little over a month in the hospital. During that time the COVID situation began which resulted in no visitors the entire time. I was finally sent home to begin rehab. My wife had passed away four years ago. I could hardly walk and had to have a full-time person take care of me. It was very degrading and embarrassing. Being an active man prior to all this and now having to be waited on hand and foot, walking at best with the aid of a walker, having the person cook all my food, wash me and my clothes, help me to the bathroom, etc. took a lot out of me. This lasted for a little over a month till I could walk on my own and pretty much take care of myself. But I was still not moving much, and couldn’t exercise at all.

Then during the summer I had heard about the Legion’s 100 Miles for Hope program and decided that I was eventually going to set a goal of participating. I practiced until I could walk short distances, and then about the end of August I began the program. My house has a long deck in front that I used to start walking. I could walk 21 steps in one direction and 21 steps back. I carried an iPhone with an exercise app that kept count of how many feet I would walk. I would do that both ways five times and then rest. I would continue until I walked a mile, then stop. On rainy days, I would use my treadmill in the basement. I’d rather be outside for the fresh air and scenery (I have a view of the Mississippi River from my deck). Every day I would walk, determined to keep walking at least a mile a day. As I progressed, I was quick-walking without stopping to rest. Then adding all my walking, not just on the deck but also to the end of my long driveway and back, and around the house, I was up to about 2 miles a day. I started to feel much better and much stronger. Eventually, because of the weather getting colder, I purchased a recumbent bike and placed it in my upper TV room. I started riding on that bike 2 miles a day, then 3, 4 and sometimes 5. Sometimes, depending on time and how I felt, I would do a half-mile or mile on the treadmill too. In the last month I had left to finish my 100 days, I began alternating between the treadmill and the bike. At this time, I was able to do a lot of work in the yard along with the bike and treadmill workout. Although I finished my 100-day journey on Nov. 31., I am still continuing the regiment and get an average of 2-3 miles a day. I’m pretty much back to where I was prior to the first of April. I credit this program for helping me to regain my health and normal use of my entire body. If you would have seen me at the beginning of May and then compare that to now, well, it is quite a transformation. It had a side benefit too: it gave me something safe to do and a goal to accomplish during this COVID madness to keep my mind off it. A big thanks-you goes to The American Legion for helping me get my life back.

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