Robby Pease, February's Mystery Man

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(Pictured is Robby, who loves photography. Above pictures he's taken are displayed in the apartment complex he lives in.)

He wants you to know, that the service dog he has, although loved, doesn’t define him. He also isn't afraid to tell you that he is not retarded, nor does he need to tolerate any rude and hurtful comments that people say. “I can hear them talking about me, on the bus, the bus driver is even intolerant to my needs” Robby can tell you exactly what it is like to be misjudged. I haven't ever met someone as outspoken, and honest as Robby about his disability.  I met Robby on a Wednesday afternoon between classes.  He and his rehabilitative specialist, Sue, had so kindly invited me to one of their sessions. When I arrived at Robby’s apartment Sue greeted me and warned me not to pet his service dog, because he isn’t friendly. We knocked on Robby’s door, which was on the first level of his lovely apartment nestled in the Queen Anne Neighborhood. He opened the door while sitting in his wheelchair. Robby’s appearance was not intimidating, or off-putting. He smiled and welcomed us in.

Sue had forewarned me that it is sometimes difficult to understand what Robby is saying.  His verbal pronunciation is somewhat slurred and his annunciation is sometimes lacking distinct consonants. However, I was pleasantly surprised that within the first 5 minutes, I was accurately picking up what he was telling me. Robby so graciously shared a lot of his story, giving surprising detail.. Sue, whose known Robby awhile; even learned some new things about Robby!

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Robby has an extensive key chain collection. He shared that many are from people he has met. What a popular guy.

Robby is 46 years young. Unfortunately, in 1988, Robby was in a motorcycle accident when he was only 20.  The incident happened on a day just like the rest. Robby was enjoying riding his motorcycle, which had been a favorite hobby of his, and during his ride, a van pulled out of nowhere and hit him. He broke his leg, and suffered major brain damage among other injuries. Robby informed me that once they got him to Harborview Hospital his heart stopped beating, but they were able to bring him back to life.

He had to relearn how to speak, which was of course a struggle, but if someone knows Robby at all, they’d say he is a man of determination and perseverance.  Robby familiarized himself with the sign language alphabet to also help with communication. “Mom” was my first word,” he told me. He also shared that prior to the accident he was right handed like many of us, however due to the extent of his injuries, he had to train himself to be a lefty.

Robby had to re arrange everything about his life after the accident. While Robby no doubt has the spirit and attitude of an Olympic athlete, one piece Robby was lacking was resources, and financial support to accomplish what he dreamed about doing, which was living normally-particularly walking.  Robby was fortunate enough to connect with the Plus One Foundation, who currently has been providing and supporting Robby for the past year.  Plus One is just as blessed to be connected with Robby. The match has been perfect; Plus One has been able to provide Robby with grants to fully pay for his personal rehabilitative specialist Sue Bream (pictured below walking with Robby) who does phenomenal one on one work with him once a week.

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Plus One has also been able to provide Robby with regular support, and a growing community of friends and professionals who are really rooting for him. Some major ways Plus One has been apart of improving Robby’s situation include, providing consistent and complete financial help for his rehabilitative therapy, supplying him with better specialty wheels for his walker, providing “sled” attachments to his walker, instead of those unsightly green tennis balls, which hindered any outside walking, and of course has also coupled him with Sue, which has resulted in personalized and compassionate therapeutic care.

After 24 years of living with his injury, Robby has some pretty powerful messages that I was fortunate enough to hear first hand from him. Sitting at his kitchen table Robby explained to me “Life isn’t fair.”  Robby really knows how to ease the uncomfortable tension that’s sometimes brought about by not knowing how to interact with someone different than yourself. “You know, I’m not that messed up in the head” he will joke when someone asks him what he would call a “stupid question.” At one point during our time together I asked Robby how he gets his groceries, “ I get them like everyone else, at the grocery store.” As a humorous guy, I was astounded by his will to push on, to do whatever it takes to live a normal life.

Throughout our meeting, Robby took time to assure me “I’m all there upstairs,” pointing to his brain, “ it’s just my body doesn’t do what I want it to.”  I can’t imagine the frustration Robby must feel with every word that doesn’t come out right.  Robby attributes his sense of humor as just part of the package. “ You have to have a sense of humor to survive what I have gone through,” he says. I think Robby would also add, that you also have to surround yourself with people who care and support you, Plus One has made being active easier for Robby and many other clients that may otherwise have a more complacent and less mobile lifestyle, by encouraging Robby to continue his therapy, and provide the resources to do so.

Since leaving Harborview, Robby has thrived. He lived in Magnolia where he had aid from a caregiver for 11 years, but now is living independently in his own apartment. And what’s next is only more progress. Not wanting to slow down, Robby is determined to make his next dream come true: to be able to walk again. Standing, stretching, and practicing balance is all a part of what Sue, (his personal) rehabilitative specialist works on with Robby.

Watching Robby go through his exercises was moving. I was able to see what Robby does daily to continually grow his strength, and improve his coordination. As of now, Robby walks around his entire block with Sue and a walker. When Robby first dreamed of doing this, it took him about an hour to make in around the neighborhood block, but walking with them on Wednesday, it took us about 33 minutes.

 Plus One and Sue are just as invested with Robby’s walking goal as he is. Sue was in fact, the very first person to work with Robby while out of his wheel chair. Sue and Robby surprise all of his neighbors when he is out on his weekly walks. Numerous times, neighbors who regularly see Robby in his wheel chair, have stopped Robby and Sue to express how shocked they are to see Robby not only standing, but walking around! Then almost without fail, they always say “Robby, I cant believe how tall you are!” When Robby is in his wheel chair, he is 4 feet 10 inches, but when he stands, Robby towers at 6 feet 2 inches!

People are speechless when they see Robby up and moving during the week; it has become apart of his journey, and encouragement to getting out. People often wrongly assume that when someone is in a wheel chair, sitting is the only position the individual can be in. Robby will continue to defy this idea, and give hope to many while he continues his walks around Queen Anne. With major progress, Plus One’s support, a caring and compassionate Sue, and a persistent Robby, I have no doubt that time will continue to melt away.

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A goal of Robby’s is to walk a full lap around Green Lake one day, which is approximately 2.8 miles.  Another goal he shared before we parted ways was that he would love to visit Australia one day. As a visionary, and a go-getter, I am excited to see what feats he makes in the new 2014 year.

If you want to connect with Robby, He's welcomed that you find him on Facebook by searching Robert Pease or clicking here.