The Journey

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It was 1983, the year that saw 115 million people say good bye to Captain Hawkeye Pierce and Corporal Maxwell Klinger and the rest of the 4077 as M*A*S*H ended its 11 year reign on network TV. The Police owned the radio airwaves with “Every Breath You Take” and Pierre Elliot Trudeau was back for his final term as the Prime Minister of Canada. Steve and Joanne Patenaude were as excited as any parent would be to welcome their bouncing baby boy into this world but they had no way of knowing of the journey that they were all about to embark upon. Their newborn son, Trevor, was born with acute Epilepsy.

Trevor’s epilepsy was severe. In fact, the Doctors noted that it was one of the worst cases of Epilepsy seen in British Columbia to date. As a parent it is hard to imagine the torture that Trevor’s parents would have went through as his prognosis was given: The right side of his body was paralyzed. He would be partially brain dead by the time he was a teenager. His life expectancy was not to exceed 30. As time went on there were small improvements, by the age of two he had gained use of his right side and Trevor’s diagnosis was upgraded to “wouldn’t lead a normal life” and “motorskills will diminish over time”. At this time the Patenaudes met Dr. Hill, who would become a major influence in Trevor’s battle with Epilepsy. Dr. Hill firmly believed that he could help Trevor lead a normal life. The Patenaudes quickly settled into a routine that included monthly or sometimes bi-weekly trips from Prince George to Vancouver, a distance of roughly 800 kilometres, to see Dr. Hill. For nine years.received_1371552932998952

Around the age of 9, the seizures had subsided to the point that he did what many “normal” nine year olds did – he got his first dirtbike. For the next few summers Trevor and his dad ripped up the trails around home, producing some of the best memories that they both have. The excitement of pushing limits in the dirt was born and the feeling of being a normal kid made it all the better. Trevor had found his passion but during the summer of 1996 he would learn, for the first time, how fickle a mistress a dirtbike can be. On yet another outing on the trails he was, as usual, pushing the limits of himself and his machine when he met a four wheeler on a blind corner, head on. Even with his safety gear, including a chest protector which was split in half, Trevor broke six bones and spent a month in hospital. A further two months were spent in bed at home and then the rest of the year learning how to walk for the second time in his life. Though hard work and desire, Trevor was back on a bike by Easter of 1997.

The battle with Epilepsy was not over however, and in 1999 at the age of 16, the seizures returned. The trips to the Doctor and the tests started all over again and, even worse, while all of his friends were excitedly getting their drivers licenses, Trevor was forced to wait another two years. Once again it was cruelly pointed out that he was not “normal”. For the next few years the dirtbike took a back seat, its usage getting less and less until finally in 2003 the two wheeled love of Trevor’s life was sold – it had become an expensive dust collector. Dirtbiking was now just a source of fond memories from his childhood.

As his dirtbike-free life continued, Trevor met Crystal, his future wife, and the two quickly became inseparable. As they shared their stories and she learned more about his life she could sense the hole in Trevor’s world where motorcycles had once been. In 2010 she surprised Trevor by buying him an almost new Suzuki RM250 two stroke. It was time to get back in the saddle. After a few summers of practice it was decided that his long lost dream should again become a reality: It was time to try an actual race! With the help and support of friends and family, a trade for his two stroke bike saw Trevor line up at the start gate in the beginner class on a five year old 4 stroke RMZ450. The track was muddy and it was a struggle but Trevor managed to pull off a win – out of two people. Regardless, he was hooked on racing! Now knowing how much work a race was, a gym regiment was started to get ready for the 2015 season. At this time Trevor also met Garry Logan, who welcomed him to the NR motors race team and Trevor promptly bought a new RMZ450 Suzuki to race. This purchase may or may not have been made with Crystal’s knowledge and approval, that topic of discussion shall remain between the two of them.

With a new bike, new team and a new drive to win Trevor only had one piece of the puzzle to worry about: The Epilepsy had resurfaced yet again. New tests showed that it had never really stopped in fact: An EEG discovered that Trevor was having micro-seizures all along. The number of seizures discovered shocked everyone, including the Doctors: He was having over 700 seizures per day. The Doctor was amazed that Trevor could even function in daily life, let alone work and succeed. In the Doctors’ words “imagine trying to do your desk job and your monitor is going to shut off for 1 to 4 seconds… 700 times a day – how productive would you be?

The seizures had become a part of Trevor, so ingrained into his daily functioning that no one around him even noticed. If Trevor paused before speaking, that was just his mannerism – it had become who he was. Further tests resulted in the loss of his driver’s license again, which he would get back just in time for the race season. The leap was made from Beginner class to Veteran Junior class and the steep learning curve on the track continued: The season total was a broken nose, two cracked ribs, two separated shoulders, a sprained ankle and a concussion – which is never a good thing for someone suffering from epilepsy. More importantly, to Trevor at least, the season ended with a placement of 8th overall and a renewed dedication to the next season, which would see a move over to the blue team when his friend Jon Giroday brought him under the PG Motorsports banner on a new Yamaha YZF450. A calmer approach to riding meant that Trevor was getting smoother and more controlled and by 2017 he was catching the top 5 fastest of his class.

Through all of this, Crystal and Trevor had gotten their kids into motocross as well, teaching them the passion and dedication required to be successful on the track. The little racers quickly became known throughout the circuit and were setting their own goals to achieve. Late in the season of 2017, in a highlight moment of his life, Trevor found himself standing on the podium for the first time with his son Lyndon also holding down a podium spot. No one knew that making the podium together would never happen again.received_2986455278095825

In September of 2017 the Patenaude family was at the Hard Knox MX track to ride. Trevor’s parents had made it out and it was the first time his mom had seen Trevor ride since he was a kid. There was a challenging double jump that Trevor had been wanting to nail but previous attempts had been hampered by gusty wind. Today was calm and the conditions were favourable so Trevor rolled into it a few times, backing down at the last moment. He told his son Lynden “see buddy, even grown-ups get scared sometimes” – a statement that would surely impact Lyndon ’s riding career in the future.received_674121109738624

On the lead in to the jump Trevor’s bike kicked sideways, scrubbing off some needed speed. He corrected with more throttle but an overcompensation made Trevor run long on the landing, putting his bike down hard on the flats instead of the downhill slope of the jump. The impact drove his legs down past the pegs holding his foot, pushing his toes up towards his shins. The instant pain told Trevor that this was a bad one and he rode to a stop, calling to his dad for help. As shock set in, Trevor was able to stand on his “good” leg and lean against his bike while his dad went for the truck. It was later revealed that his good leg wasn’t actually good at all – shock can make people do amazing things. The bike was loaded and they headed to the hospital, thinking a broken ankle was on the agenda. Crystal, herself an Emergency RN, was called and told they weren’t going to make it home for dinner. Trevor’s history of 22 broken bones and 12 surgeries ensured that there was no shortage of friendly faces at the hospital waiting for him, but this time was different. This break was bad. X-rays showed a need for multiple surgeries and his Doctor impressed upon him that this was going to be a very long road. The concern on the Doctors face is what caught Trevor off guard. As he explained that this was more than just a broken ankle, this time the injury is different – this one is SEVERE – Trevor realized that there was the real possibility of never fully recovering. On the way home, the reality of this situation set in. It was no longer a question of when he could ride again, instead it was a question of if he could walk again. A question of whether the pain would ever go away. He thought of the timeline the Doctor had given him: 3 months in bed and 6 months until he could “maybe” put weight on his ankles. He thought of the family and their active life with the boys in hockey for the winter, the off season training for motocross – how could he just miss all of that? For the first time, Trevor broke down and began to cry.received_441836409757972

The next 3 months saw Trevor laying on the same bed, looking out the same window, each and every day. The bed rest was reminiscent of his four wheeler crash when he was a child, watching everyone’s lives go by while he lay immobilized. He had zero feeling in his right foot and ankle but the nerve pain was unbearable. It took weeks just to get it under control and even then, the pain wasn’t really under control – He just took enough Dilaudid that he could pass out and avoid the agony. Eventually Trevor was given the go ahead to start moving around, using a wheelchair to get himself to the washroom and see sights other than the same wall he had been staring at. Bedrest at home was better than in the hospital but the lack of mobility was still frustrating. In a moment of ambition, he transitioned himself out of his wheelchair and lifted himself up the stairs, one step at a time, dragging his wheelchair behind him, to get to the big TV and the fridge. While he was proud of his achievement, his wife Crystal was not so impressed: She was furious at his risk filled adventure up the stairs and its potential for disaster.

Finally it was time to learn to walk again! With his legs feeling like spaghetti (a feeling well remembered from when he was 12) Trevor made gains in his mobility. He quickly learned how far he could walk each day while trying to keep the pain in check. 2000 steps meant the pain was intense but bearable. 3000 steps meant the next day would be spent in bed. The excruciating pain that welcomed him each morning made sure that he monitored exactly how far he pushed. Through this process, a problem was detected with his right ankle: it was not aligned properly and the pain was not getting better as it should have. The foot remained without feeling but the ankle more than made up for it, feeling like flaming knives were being pushed into it daily. The pain coupled with the stalled progress on his step count began to wear on Trevor’s optimism. He started to wonder how he could live the rest of his life like this. As supportive as his family was, he began to feel like a burden with no hope.

Another meeting with the surgeon was in order, this time to look at what options were available for the next step, pain control being the main topic of discussion. The discussion was dark, the reality harsh: They could re-break the ankle, straighten and align it, and then fuse it in place, removing all motion except up and down. If the pain still persisted then there was only one option left if he wanted to ever walk more than 2000 steps: he had to consider amputation and a prosthetic device. Trevor understood that the Doctor was giving him the “worst case scenario” but the emotions took over. As Crystal helped him to the truck, he cried tears of frustration. And tears of anger. They decided to try the option of fusing the ankle.

After the surgery, the recovery process started all over again and Trevor’s mind began to drive down to a darker place. He felt useless again, unable to provide for his family, unable to help out around the house. He thought about all of the things that used to keep him happy: hiking with his wife, riding his bike, playing with his kids – each thought made it worse and he wondered if he would ever do any of those activities again. Perhaps they should just remove his ankles and be done with it. The frustration was immeasurable. So many months had passed and here he was, back at square one. Through social media Trevor had met others with injuries, one very similar to his, who were leaving him in the dust on the recovery road. He was, of course, happy for their progress but it pointed out how slow and painful his journey was. Why couldn’t anything go right? Why was life so cruel? The surgeon said the ankle looked good now, was fused straight and was healing, but nothing was going fast enough for Trevor. The next 8 months were spent trying, and failing, to get his life back. The pain, while better, was still always lurking in the shadows, ready to rear up and cruelly remind Trevor when he pushed too far. The chronic pain coupled with the lack of mobility also brought on a steady weight gain, something that Trevor had historically struggled with anyway. The entire journey was weighing heavily on Trevor, taking his mindset to a dark and unhappy place. Up to this point, his natural charm and smile had nearly everyone fooled, his spirit bright to the outside world while Trevor’s inner misery remained hidden. But as the weeks turned into months, the burden would no longer stay buried. His face began to show the depression and torment that was carried inside. Friends and family noticed the change in his demeanor and would ask if he was ok, frustrating him even more. How could he yell out “What the F**K do you think??” to his friends? Trevor was at a crossroads where many people are unable to return from.

Fortunately Trevor finally opened up about his inner feelings, letting those who loved him inside, letting them help. Diet and nutrition was something he could work on without his ankles, something tangible to learn about and improve. Everything was changed, right down to the water he drank and the improvements were immediate. His workouts got better, his recovery times faster, his energy levels rising – and all in measurable quantities that he could track. Why hadn’t he realized how important diet and nutrition was before? The mindset improvement alone was worth it, the physical improvements a by-product of his new attitude and drive. He finally could see that he was going to live again. received_1133647836829618

In the back of his mind however there was still one little bug that remained an annoyance, and as he got the rest of his life back, that little bug grew incessantly louder. If you ask any rider who crashes, the number one thing they think about is when they can ride again. That had been stolen from Trevor as his number one thought to date had been whether he would even walk again. As his body improved, the need to ride again became as real as the moment he had first crashed. The reality was, racing again was not an option. With 16 rods and plates holding his ankles together, any further injury would be catastrophic and there would be no coming back.

One of the things that had always bothered Trevor was how his racing career had ended. From standing on the podium with his son to never riding again in an instant. He had always assumed that it would be up to him when the time was right to retire and the thought of a forced ending had never crossed his mind. The plan was made to try and fix that, to have one more day as a racer. One more track walk, one more riders meeting, one more gate drop as they were all deeply missed and would have been more appreciated each time had it been known in advance that they were to be his last. In talks with Garry Logan, who originally welcomed Trevor to his team in years previous, it was decided (with explicit approval from his wife Crystal of course) that Forest Power Sports would get Trevor on a bike for one last race, as well as the gear to do so! This plan made Trevor redouble his training regimen as he knew exactly what level of physical fitness was required to finish a moto without vomiting in your helmet – that and he needed to lose a pants size before raceday if he was going to fit into his team gear!received_487537091828504  

When the day came, Trevor was astonished at how humbling the experience was, the support from other riders and teams unimaginable. Their level of respect and appreciation during the riders meeting and practice sessions was nothing short of amazing. But now it was time to get serious. As Trevor sat at the start gate he closed his eyes, dropped his head and tried to calm himself. He thought about the long road he had travelled to be here and he tried to focus on his gratitude instead of his nerves. He thought about the role model he was for his children. He thought about the support from his family and friends and he thought about the support from his wife and her undying love. He didn’t know how or why she was able to put up with everything they had been through but he did know one thing: There is no way that he would be here without her.

The 5 second board turned sideways (indicating the gate is about to drop) as he looked up and he caught himself holding his breath. He stared at the starting gate and grabbed a handful of throttle. It had been 727 days since he had been in this position and as the gate dropped he ran on pure instinct, grabbing gears and looking ahead to the first turn. Trevor found himself very near the front as they entered the first corner and he charged hard with the pack. Motocross racing is one of, if not the most demanding physical sport in the world and it didn’t take long for his lack of seat time to become apparent. After pushing for a few laps Trevor remembered why he was here and backed off, letting some of the faster riders by and simply enjoyed the moment and the fun of being on the track. Over the course of the weekend he never hit the first turn any less than in third place and even managed to finish in the top ten (out of 27 riders) for one race. As Trevor rolled back into the pits after the final race of the weekend Crystal hugged him and said “It’s over!” and he replied “yeah it really is. We did it!” He squeezed her harder than he ever had before.

Looking back at his entire journey Trevor can pick out many defining moments that have helped him become the person that he is today. He knows that his kids look up to him as role model. He knows that he has instilled a sense of passion for life, especially motocross, in his son’s hearts, as his father did for him. He has learned the power of healthy eating and nutrition for mind, body and spirit. He has learned the power of perseverance and how important a positive mindset is. He has learned what true gratitude in life is. But most of all, he has learned the power of teamwork and that as long as he has his wife and family by his side they can take on anything.

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3 thoughts on “The Journey

  1. wow. what a journey Trevor has had, he has a fighting spirit and an awesome supportive wife. This is a very inspiring story, thank you for telling it.

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  2. Thank you so much Marty for telling my story. This is something that I will forever be able to look back on, to guide me on the hard days and inspire me on the good days. Thank you again

    Like

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