Portland man with rare disease pedals on for a curePosted: Updated:
Sam Bridgman may suffer from a very rare neuro-muscular disease affecting his coordination from head to toe, but the recent University of Portland graduate isn't taking his condition lying down.
And he's hoping Portlanders will jump on their bike to help him fight.
Bridgman, who recently started a job at Nike, grew up playing baseball and skiing down black diamond runs, but he developed scoliosis when he was 10 years old. He started falling down for no reason.
By age 15, Bridgman was diagnosed with Friedreich's Ataxia, a condition that only affects 10,000 people in the U.S. and 15,000 worldwide. Bridgman said there's only about eight people in Portland who have the condition.
FA affects coordination from head to toe, and it can cause heart disease and an early death.
"Basically, your body just fails over time," he said. "I can build up strength in my legs. My body just might not know what to do with that strength."
Despite the condition, Bridgman refused to stay on the sidelines, and he became involved with Ride for Ataxia, an annual fundraising bike ride for FA research.
"There's currently no treatment or cure, which is why we have these fundraising bike rides every year - to fund research (and) find a cure," he said.
Bridgman works out on his handbike with other disabled athletes every Tuesday night at Portland International Raceway. Over the years, he worked so hard to stay in shape at the University of Portland that he brought thousands to tears on Graduation Day.
With help from his strength and condition coaches, Bridgman walked on stage to get his degree. A video of his graduation went viral.
Now Bridgman is choosing to continue to focus on the positive and to find a cure. He said he reminds himself it's possible with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
"If you can't fly, then run. If you can't run, then walk. If you can't walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward."
This year's Ride Ataxia Portland is being held on Sauvie Island on Sept. 21. For more information, click here.
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