Wednesday, September 20, 2006

I Can Only Imagine

For those of you who may not have seen this video about the remarkable father and son team of Dick and Rick Hoyt ... I just have to share. You'll need 4:13 minutes and a box of Kleenex.


If you haven't heard the story ...

Eighty-five times Dick Hoyt has pushed his disabled son, Rick, 26.2 miles in marathons. Eight times he's not only pushed him 26.2 miles in a wheelchair but also towed him 2.4 miles in a dinghy while swimming and pedaled him 112 miles in a seat on the handlbars -- all in the same day. Dick has also pulled him cross-country skiing, taken him on his back mountain climbing and once hauled him accross the U.S. on a bike. And what has Rick done for his father? Not much -- except save his life.

The love story began in Winchester, Mass., 43 years ago, when Rick was strangled by the umbilical cord during birth, leaving him brain-damaged and unable to control his limbs. "He'll be a vegetable the rest of his life" Dick says doctors told him and his wife, Judy, when Rick was nine months old. "Put him in an institution". But, the Hoyts weren't buying it. They noticed the way Rick's eyes followed them around the room. When Rick was 11 they took him to the engineering department at Tufts University and asked if there was anything to help the boy communicate. "No way" Dick says he was told. "There's nothing going on in his brain." "Tell him a joke," Dick countered. They did. Rick laughed. Turns out a lot was going on in his brain. Rigged with a computer that allowed him to control the cursor by touching a switch with the side of his head, Rick was finally able to communicate. First words? "Go Bruins!" After a high school classmate was paralyzed in an accident and the school organized a charity run for him, Rick pecked out "Dad, I want to do that." Yeah right. How was Dick, a self described "porker" who never ran more than a mile at a time, going to push his son five miles? Still, he tried. That day changed Rick's life. "Dad" he typed, "when we were running, it felt like I wasn't disabled anymore." That sentence changed Dick's life. He became obsessed with giving Rick that feeling as often as he could. He got into such hard-belly shape that he and Rick were ready to try the 1979 Boston Marathon. "No way" Dick was told by a race official. The Hoyts weren't quite a single runner, and they weren't quite a wheelchair competitor. For a few years, Dick and Rick just joined the massive field and ran anyway, then they found a way to get into the race officially -- in 1983 they ran another marathon so fast they made the qualifying time for Boston the following year. Then someone said "Hey, Dick, why not a triathalon?". How's a guy who never learned to swim and hadn't ridden a bike since he was six going to haul his 110-pound kid through a triathlon? Still, Dick tried. Now they've done 12 triathlons, including four grueling 15-hour Ironmans in Hawaii. When asked why not try and see how he'd do it on his own, Dick said "no way". Dick does it purely for the awesome feeling he gets seeing Rick with a smile as they run, swim and ride together.

Two years ago Dick had a mild heart attack during a race. Doctors found that one of his arteries was 95% clogged. The doctor told Dick that if he hadn't been in such great shape, he probably would have died 15 years ago. So, in a way, Dick and Rick saved each other's life. Rick who has his own apartment (and receives home care) works in Boston, and Dick, retired from the military and living nearby, find ways to be together. They give speeches around the country and compete in some backbreaking race every weekend, including Father's Day. That night, Rick will by his dad dinner, but the thing he really wants to give him is a gift he can never buy. "The thing I'd most like" Rick types, "is that my dad sit in the chair and I push him once".


Anonymous said...

Ann -

The Hoyts are trully famous around here. I've seen them run in a race in 1985 when I was on the Cape on vacation. I think Rick was about 12 then. I've seen them run in the Feaster Five road race in the town where I grew up and was walking the race (and just getting through it!) on Thanksgiving morning. I've seen them cross the Boston Marathon line many times on TV. They are really inspiring. I think Rosie had them on her show once too after ABC profiled them on the Ironman one year. Thanks for reminding us of what we can do!

- betty

julie worthington said...

I've seen this, and it brought tears to my eyes. John is doing a half marathon next weekend - maybe I should get him to take Sam (don't think he would though, Hehe)

Thinking of you all

Hugs to Jack


Anonymous said...

I saw them on Oprah and cried and cried. They are both truly amazing people. They focus on what can be done and not on what can't be done.
Thanks Ann.