Editor’s Note: In association with the Cincinnati Reel Abilities Film Festival, we are honored to join the #DifferentLikeYou conversation on social media. #DifferentLikeYou is a way to celebrate the diversity that makes us – the patients, children, families, employees and community we serve – unique. We are inspired every day by people who overcome adversity to accomplish their dreams, like one of our employees, Charles McDonald. In turn, we hope telling his story inspires readers to share their own personal triumphs with us. Join in the conversation on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using the #DifferentLikeYou hashtag or comment below and tell us what makes you “you.”
I’m Charles McDonald, cycling enthusiast and employee at Cincinnati Children’s. I am #DifferentLikeYou.
My right arm was amputated in 1998 when I was struck by a train. From that point forward, I found myself in a new population group. I was disabled.
I had a difficult time with the reality of my disability and the perception of myself. Despite my injury, I have never considered myself disabled and still don’t. As a way to assure myself that I was not this disabled person, I started to do as many things as I could that most folks say they can’t do or would be too hard to try. I started with athletics.
Six months after my amputation I started to cycle as a way to get fit and deal with the phantom limb pain. But I didn’t just ride a bike. I jumped head first into competitive, ultra-endurance cycling. My first race was the Henry Clay 30k, a cross country mountain bike race in West Virginia. My next race was the day-long 24 Hours of Canaan Valley race also in West Virginia.
Competitive cycling continues to be a huge part of my life. I ride for the Paralyzed Veterans Racing (PVR) Team, which includes both veteran and civilian cyclists. Riding for PVR is how I became involved with the Reel Abilities Film Festival. After meeting event organizer Christa Zielke at a local bike shop in 2013, I served on the advisory committee and was featured as a festival VIP that year.
Not long after, I began working for Cincinnati Children’s. Because I enjoy commuting to work on my bike from my home in Bellevue, Ky., I started working with the medical center to make covered bicycle parking available at Vernon Place. I wanted to open up this healthy lifestyle option to all employees. The medical center was not only receptive to the idea, but they allowed me to move forward with my plans.
Now that covered parking is available, I plan to continue working with the medical center to beef up our cycling infrastructure on campus. My hope is that it will lead to things such as our own bike share system to get from building to building; lockers and showers for commuters; or perhaps a cycling team. I would love to wear the Cincinnati Children’s colors in some of the races I compete in.
A short film by Carrie Cochran about my competitive cycling will be featured at two film festival events this year: The first on March 4 at Taylor High School and again on March 7 at the Cincinnati Art Museum. The message Reel Abilities is promoting is one that I live every day. When I’m on the bike, I’m just another rider. Not someone with a disability.
I am proud that Cincinnati Children’s continues to sponsor this event. The mission of the festival and the mission of Cincinnati Children’s are very much the same. We are both here to improve our community and to change the outcome.