Suffering and sorrow on Heart Across America bike tour

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When former Intel executive and recovered stroke victim Sean Maloney took off on a cross-country bicycle tour this spring, he had no way of realizing the hardships that would befall his tour.

day1The 58-year-old launched the 5,000-mile Heart Across America bike tour to raise awareness about heart disease and stroke. He described the bike tour as the second most difficult challenge of his life, just behind his efforts to recover from a stroke he suffered in 2010, when he had to overcome paralysis to his right side and the inability to speak.

The bike tour that supports the American Heart and American Stroke associations left Palo Alto in March, en route to an arrival in New York City on June 15.

Disaster strikes

Then speeding down the mountains about 100 miles east of San Diego, Maloney wiped out on a turn. He broke his hip and some ribs in the crash, and injured his shoulder. He recovered in a hospital while the others on the tour continued ahead.

More bad news struck in Texas last weekend. Don Brennen, who joined those who pressed on after Maloney’s crash who rode on the tour from the beginning, was found dead in his hotel room outside Dallas. The Heart Association blog reports that Brennen, who was a diabetic, died in his sleep. His daughter, Amy, drove the support van for Heart Across America. His brother-in-law, David Fisch, was another cyclist on the team.

After a couple days of mourning, the group took off again. They were joined by Fisch’s wife, and Brennen’s sister, Diana.

Back to the road

The decision to resume the tour wasn’t an easy one, and included talks with Brennen’s family. When they started riding, it was raining.

Fisch wrote at the Heart Across America journal,

“Diana told me in the morning that she wanted to ride…in the moment she told herself that she could and would ride, she felt an emotional release and felt Don’s support.

I mentioned to Diana, ‘I can feel Don’s presence. I think he’s in the van laughing at us”. We laughed through the rain.”

Riding conditions improved during the day. At the end of the ride, Fisch wrote:

“It may be true that I’m not facing the hurt and that this will make it hurt deeper and longer. But I’m in no hurry for the hurt to go away.

As we cleaned our bikes I once again felt pangs of regret. Missing Don. It’s not the same, Never will be.”

The message

So the Heart Across America bike tour is continuing. Maloney rejoined the group in Texas and has been riding in the van. Unfortunately, he won’t be able to return to the bike before the tour ends in New York.

One reason they’re pressing ahead, in spite of the Maloney’s crash and Brennen’s death, is to continue spreading the message.

Actually, there are several messages. One is that 800,000 Americans die annually from heart disease or stroke. The American Heart Association says 80 percent are avoidable by good diet and exercise, as well as monitoring blood pressure and cholesterol.

Another message is that Maloney lost his ability to walk, talk, and use his right side because of his stroke. However, he is proof that recovery is possible.

Members of the Heart Across America tour would like local cyclists to join them on their trip. Here’s the Heart Across America itinerary. Let’s wish them a safe passage as their tour continues and hope they can put the heart ache behind them.

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    • Diana Fisch on May 6, 2015 at 11:43 pm
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    Don Brennen, my brother had been with the ride from the very beginning. I had ridden 5 days with the group previously, and from Dallas to Houston.I will rejoin, after spending some time with my daughters.

  1. Don’s daughter, Amy Brennen is Special Events Coordinator for Heart Across America, and not just a van driver. She continues to spread the message of stroke and heart awareness across the U.S.

    • Cecilia on May 7, 2015 at 4:22 pm
    • Reply

    I am so sorry to hear this very sad news. I applaud your determination in soldiering on when everyone would understand if you just stopped. Blessings to the team, may you continue on in your amazing work of bringing awareness to all.

  2. Thank you so much for helping spread the word. We are getting incredible moral support everywhere we go. Lots of people with big hearts out there.

    • Elma C on May 9, 2015 at 8:50 am
    • Reply

    Strength, courage and peace to all who are involved in such a worthy cause….and my love to you, Lynn Schneider, and your family….

    • Diana Fisch on May 22, 2015 at 7:53 am
    • Reply

    Yes, thank you for your article, I appreciate your attention to detail.

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