A Failing Grade on Stairs?

Today I was feeling as though I am ready to go home; I have my strength and energy back, I’m getting around on my crutches just fine, my pain now seems to be under control with Methadone and Lyrica, and my last incision drain was pulled this morning leaving me once again detached from the grid.  Now I just needed Lindesy from physical therapy to buy in.  Today we worked on stairs, the final sign off.  Going upstairs I had no problem whatsoever; I am able to move pretty quickly.  Unfortunately not the case going down because it’s a slightly different technique, but more than that, facing down the stairs adds the fear of falling down.  I am a little slower and tend to lean too far backward.  About half way down I  started getting the groove, but Lindsey still felt as though I could use another day of practice.  I had to harass her for failing me on Stairs 101!

Today was an incredibly beautiful Spring day — even with a failing grade on stairs, Dad took us outside and treated us to some ice cream.  It was my first time outside in more than a week and it felt amazing!!  And also my first time in public with one leg.  Even in scrubs it didn’t bother me, life is too short so I am learning how to best deal with my new limitation and start moving forward!!!

While outside we absorbed the colors of spring, and then walked in to a giant basket of flowers inside as well.  The founder of Camp Good Days sent me a basket of Spring.  Of course I immediately jumped on the computer to learn more about the organization.  Such a great cause, and Gary, I would love to contribute in any way I can!  Thank you so much for bringing Spring indoors for me this afternoon.

My recovery has come quickly, and I feel strongly as though I have been given another chance to get out and experience the world.  Today I started feeling anxious about getting back out as quickly as possible and maximizing my time.  There are many things that need to happen before we can hit the road again, but most importantly for me is a pair of crutches that make me feel comfortable.  There is not a lot out there, but tonight Shannon found SideStix, which I am very excited about.  They make forearm crutches designed specifically to support adventurous exploration of the world around us.  They have exactly what I am looking for with their lightweight Boundless Pro Crutch made of aluminum and carbon fiber.

Winding down for the night in the hospital bed, we were both hard at work on our computers.  Then, out of the corner of my eye, I looked out and saw something that looked like fireworks but in a downward direction.  I quickly got Shannon to look up, and we are both convinced we saw a huge meteorite…it was incredible.  I’m always skeptical of what I see on all these drugs, so we did a news search where we found an article titled Springtime is Fireball Season: Mysterious Meteors to Light Up Sky.


About bhoefen

Going on a road trip.
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43 Responses to A Failing Grade on Stairs?

  1. Cousin Mike says:

    Great video bret! It’s very touching, but I think it would be even more inspiring if you used the Rocky soundtrack instead! “Gonna fly now… flying high now…” I already worked out this morning but after watching how fast you’re improving, I may need to pull a double session today. By the way, you’re getting along on crutches about as fast as my current 5k pace. Just think about it.

  2. David and Laraine says:

    We are speechless!!! All we can say, today was your BEST day … and tomorrow, and tomorrow…..!
    Sending our love to all of you!
    David and Laraine

  3. Christine says:

    Bret, watching the video made me feel so happy this morning. You are fantastic!

  4. Carol burke says:

    I knew you would be kept down long! Question about the crutches. Do they come in pink? Oh, wait that is my favorite color. Paint them and add your wonderful personality to them! Can’t wait to hear when you have freedom. Know it will be soon!

  5. Aaron King says:

    Ballin with the new SideStix! Great to see you getting into the swing of things. Hope you get back on the road soon!

  6. ginger johannes says:

    you made me smile this morning

  7. Laurie Dixon says:

    My older sister attended the very first “Camp Good Days and Special Times”. I recall dropping her off as the children boarded a bus that would take them to the Adirondacks for a week of camping with other kids who also had cancer. The kids were all unique. Some were bald, some had swollen faces, lost limbs, all the effects of treatment. They were nervous, scared, and among strangers. We waved good-bye, feeling their fears as well. When we came to pick them up one week later, the children were all crying. Tears of joy for the wonderful week they spent together in the mountains, and tears of sorow for having to leave their new friends. It’s a beautiful thing.

    My sister went to several camps in the years to follow – sometimes as a camper and later as a camp counselor. She was cured of leukemia and today has three wonderful daughters. It’s a beautiful thing.

    Keep walking in a good direction.

  8. Jeremy Button says:

    I can’t believe how fast your recovery had progressed. It’s simply amazing.

    I can’t help but read your blogs and wish I’d gotten to know you better in high school. I have one memory of you trying showing me how to bend a note on a guitar. Do you play guitar?

  9. Carrie House D'Attilio says:

    I have been reading your posts all along and am little ashamed that I haven’t commented sooner. I think it was because I was a little intimidated. I have to admit in high school I was always a little intimidated of you. You were older, cooler, an amazing artist, and great athlete….now even in my 30’s I find myself a little intimidated as well. Your attitude, strength and courage are traits I try to aspire to each day. Thank you for sharing your incredible journey with all of us, my husband, 2 year old and I always include you and your family in our grace each night before dinner! We all think you are truly an inspiration.
    Be sure to tell your mom I said hi!
    -Carrie House D’Attilio

  10. Linda V. says:


    I am truly inspired by your courage, strength and ability to adapt to walking, balancing and taking the stairs. Step by step you are conquering each new skill and achieving wonderful results in such a short period of time. Soon you will MASTER those stairs, leave the hospital and continue your recovery in the comforts of your home. Thank you for sharing your story. I check your blog everyday and look forward to reading what is happening in your life. You have made a difference in my life and in the lives of countless others. I admire your willingness to tell it like it is and allow your blog followers to Ride in a Good Direction with you and your family.

  11. Harriet Paul says:

    Words will never explain the thoughts that go through our heads. You are a very wonderful and courageous young man. Strong in all ways. You make the weak sit and think and see how easy life can be, although a challenge, you are doing an excellent job. You and your family have always been fans of mine, and today catching up on your blog has brought back many memories of all of you. You will continue to Ride in a Good Direction… and the new bikes they have come out with today, you will continue to ride the motorcycle also. My thoughts and prayers are with you daily. You can and will succeed in this new adventure. Love to all. Keep up the good work.

  12. Alex Boyles says:

    Its amazing how fast your recoverying Bret!! My mom Angie and I are still praying for you buddy!! Like I said before, you hang in there man!!

  13. Alex Boyles says:

    This also reminds me of that song and video by Joe Nichols called “The Shape I’m in”!! You should check it out on youtube!!

  14. Diana C says:

    Bret: You are one amazing man, full of courage and strength.
    You are my hero.

    A Fan

  15. Emily says:

    Bret – Unbelievable. That’s all I can say! So good to see you up and around and ready for your next step. Keep on keeping on.
    – Emily

  16. Nanette Hance says:

    Hi Bret …. You may have failed the stair test today but no doubt about it … you will master those too! I continue to be amazed by your progress. Durgs do funny things to people but rest assured you were not imagining that you were seeing things in the sky! My soon to be 92 year old Dad saw it also in Pultneyville and said that it illuminated the lake. I think it was intended to guide you back to Pultnyeville!! So funny that you both noticed it. May it be your guiding light.

  17. Dawn says:

    Dear Bret, It is so interesting to read how you cope or should I say keep living in a good direction.

    I also want to thank you for getting my yard cleaned up this weekend. Gary has been working on it on and off. Today, he said he was going to just take it easy and not work out there but when “Bret does what he does I feel guilty”. Bret that was this AM. He comes in and out but at this time he is still out there. Please accomplish stairs “downward” because I want my Dailias planted by next weekend. I will keep you updated on his progress. I see a connection here, you keep a lot of folks moving in good dirctions.

    Thank you,
    Love Dawn

  18. jean loughran says:

    Oh my – those crutches are just like my Dad’s. Whenever I see anyone with those crutches, or more importantly hear the distinctive click clacks, I think Dad’s around the corner. I love those crutches! If Lynn or Erin Fitzpatrick are seeing this, they’ll know exactly what I mean. The picture looks like dress crutches. Dad always had dress crutches, nice and shiny, and old ones for everyday.

    Oh yeah, and ice cream pretty much solves any uncomfortable situation, and if it doesn’t, you still get ice cream.

    Now that it’s out that my dad had a disability, I can tell you the truth as I know it. Shannon’s my hero. The one with the illness has no choice but to go through it, but their spouse provides the strength that makes it work.

  19. crissykid says:

    Since going up the stairs is relatively easy, did you consider going down the stairs backward?

    Hey yeah, we had a GREAT day today and I got outside too! I know I will sleep well tonight!

    All the best to my favorite people. Take care and walk gently!

    Chrissy Kid

  20. jean loughran says:

    Oh yeah – stairs – Dad always gave someone one crutch to hold on to, used the other crutch and held the railing, and went down backwards. Will they let you go backwards? Falling is a lot less of a problem that way. Even if PT won’t let you, no one will tell if you choose that method later, right?

  21. Reggie & Mary Lee says:

    Hey! Looked like you were going to do wheelies with that wheel chair! You were really moving out with that and on the crutches – no one could keep up with you! Amazing!!!!!

  22. Ashley says:


    What a jokster you are – the 360 in the wheelchair was impressive! 🙂

    Just as others have said on here, I am amazed at how quickly you have recovered – all with a smile!

  23. Kay and Larry Thomas says:

    Larry and I are indeed delighted that you are looking out there way beyond your daily struggles- indeed we are not trying to minimalize those hurdles either, but that you are ready to face the future thoughtfully with a warm, honest sense of humor, too.

    Words are powerful. You will never know all the people that you are touching, and the hearts that are warmed by the remarks on your blog. This life- altering experience is a lot about sharing with others a way of dealing with uncertainity and anguish in a sensible and take-charge way.

    Every day we read your comments and talk about them together. Our conversations lead us into prayerful moments for Shannon, your folks, brothers and yourself. God is watching over you!

    Kay and Larry

  24. Mike Gratz says:

    Keep up the good work Bret!

  25. Peggy says:

    I’m from the Hornell area. I saw the article about you in the Hornell Tribune. I thought you might find this article interesting!

    Keep the faith and good luck with your continued recovery.
    BTW – stairs suck.


  26. Cousin Geoffrey says:

    You’re doing incredibly, Bret! Keep it up man! I can’t wait to see some of the freestyle trix you come up with on the sidestix. I could see the wheels turning when you climbed up on the picnic table! This brings a whole new dimension to freestyle walking!

    You amaze me everyday! I can’t wait to see where you go when you’re freed from the cage!

  27. kristie bergvall vota says:

    Glad to hear you are progessing so well. Stairs can be tricky no matter how many legs you’ve got! Camp Good Days is a fantastic organization! My uncle Craig Lawrence used to volunteer there every summer. My husband did as well during med school.


  28. They say hospitals are highly contagious places. I hope your mindset runs rampant. Frankly, I’m infected.

    Have you ever seen the movie The Prestige? Its a mind puzzle thriller type of movie. In it Nikola Tesla says “You’re familiar with the phrase “man’s reach exceeds his grasp”? It’s a lie: man’s grasp exceeds his nerve.”

    As I see you manage the stairs, it reminds me of what you said earlier in this post “life is too short” so go ahead and give it a shot. Perhaps you’ll fall, but perhaps you’ll succeed.

    And tell your PT that you’ve passed Kicking Ass 101.

  29. Uncle Lee and Aunt Sharon says:

    WOW, Bret,
    You amazed us in your first video when you cruised around the hospital unit on your crutches – but today’s video moved us even more deeply! Your determination and perseverence is so amazing, you’ll have those stairs mastered and pass Stairs 101 with flying colors in no time! Love the music that accompanied the video – “When your mind’s made up…” that’s you, making up your mind to make the best of everything and move forward.! (We do like Mike’s Rocky soundtrack suggestion too.) You had some pretty fancy moves racing through the halls and outside on the picnic table with your crutches! You make all you are doing look easy, even though it is incredibly challenging, beyond anything any of us can imagine. Keep up the great work – we are all cheering you on! Many more great days await you! You’re a true champion! 🙂

  30. Peter welch says:

    Hey Bret and Shannon,

    I’m sorry I didn’t swing back by the other morning. I got tied up w something and it threw my whole morning. Glad to see you weren’t there last night =D as always I am honored to care for you both and I really enjoyed be able to spend some time with you even tho it was rushed on my end , nights get outta control quick.

    Get back out on the the road! If this surgery cant slow you down then not much will. Best wishes from me and the rest of the Welchs,

    Peter Welch

  31. Dan Piedmonte says:

    You made my morning. You’re as tough as nails.

  32. JoEllen Fahy Schubmehl says:

    So many parts of this post moved me to tears…your strength, the music, and most poignantly, the purest look love on your mother’s face. As a mother myself, I now can relate to what I see in her gentle gestures. Your parents are incredible. I hope that I can raise my girls to be the type of person you prove to be each day. In order to reach that goal, I will certainly need advice from your mom and dad.

    By the way, I have two Educational degrees; and I give you an A+ in stairs 101!

  33. Richard Kapp says:

    Glad to see you up and about, ready to charge out of the hospital. Keep at it and those nurses will set you free and send you home soon.


  34. ceejaydubbya says:

    Bret, I have to admit that I haven’t been really good about keeping up with your blog. I just logged in for the first time in quite a while, and there were tears in my eyes as I brought myself up to speed. It’s great to see you getting around again. Keep up the hard work man. So inspirational.


  35. Maria says:

    My mother-in-law works with your Aunt Judy and showed me your blog several months ago. Since then, I’ve been following your story and have been so inspired by your challenges, your determination, and your every word. I recently read a book by Don Miller called “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” (like you, he rides his bike across the country–but his has no motor!) and he writes about the ways our lives are shaped by stories and how our stories–when we revisit them, revise them, and share them–can change the world. Thank you for helping me to revisit and revise my own story as I read about the beautiful one you, with your family, are creating every day.

  36. Scott says:

    Just when you think maybe you can’t, you find that you can! You never back down. So glad to see and hear of your fine recovery.

  37. Doris Cawthorne says:


    Where to begin, I first read about you in the Tennessean newspaper(Nashville area), decided to start following the blog and each morning as I read the updates I have mixed emotions(one second I’m sad and the nx you’re cracking me up). Thanks for letting us go with you on this ride in the right direction!!
    Hopefully you are home now and preparing for the nx journey.

    Our payers are with you and the family.

    Doris C

  38. Thomas says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your inspiring story. Best wishes for a speedy recovery! Thinking of you all!

  39. Michelle Wolfanger says:

    Bret- I read ur blog everyday and I really enjoy hearing your stories and challenges but most of all how you overcome them. You have heard this many many times but I have to tell you how inspirational and encouraging you are to me. I often think WWBD (what would Bret do) your perception and thinking of the utmost challenges amazes me and is motivating. Thank u for keeping us updated and u r continually in my thoughts and prayers as well as Shannon and the rest of your family.

  40. Dawn says:

    Good Eve Bret,

    I was sitting in the Drs. office today and watched a video about these guys. I could see you do this. Check it out! seanreyngoudt.com/kite-boarding…/kitesurfingvideo.html
    and also google up Mike Walsh and sSean Reyngoudt

  41. Mary Beer says:

    Wow Bret…you never cease to amaze…when you climbed up on that table….I shouted yes Bret yes!! So glad that you are on the other side of this procedure….I hope today made you realize that you made the right choice. Your journey keeps bringing me back to a song I once sang at church called seize the day….the chorus goes:
    Seize the day…seize whatever you can
    Cause life slips away just like hourglass sand
    Seize the day….pray…for grace from God’s hand
    That nothing will stand in your way….Seize The Day!
    Each day as I read your blog, I find myself humming this song (I would attach the song for you, but alas, I am old and technically not quite as evolved as you and your brothers…..so proud of you for seizing each day…look at you…..what an incredible spirit you have!
    I talked with Marianne the other day and we are hoping that you guys will still be in town over Easter….the Borelli’s will be coming to town and we were hoping we could get the whole Welch gang together for brunch, or dessert or just a gathering on Holy Saturday….will check in with your mom.
    My thoughts continue to be with all the Hoefens…..it must be quite a challenge to see you in such pain one day and the next experience such joy when you are feeling well and sharing your incredible Bretness! Have you counted the times that people have blog describing you as amazing? You are! You are!

  42. Marianne Borrelli says:

    Just had to say you made me smile today. It is My Best Day! Thanks. Continue on this good road to recovery.

    Since you are a STAR now. Maybe you could think of Dancing With The Stars!!!!! Although you wouldn’t be the first!!! So see anything is possible!!! I love all the great songs, articles and videos, people send to inspire you for a change! Keep up the hard work.

  43. Anthony D. says:

    Hi Bret,

    Like everyone else, I’m stunned by your progress in mobility and recovery. It’s so good to see you are “getting around” with just a pair of crutches, but I’m looking forward to seeing videos of you getting around to doing things you enjoy (pun intended). And I was jealous when I saw that one pic of you and Shannon eating what looks to be one of the best snacks ever……….the legendary Choco-Taco? I used to ponder carjacking an ice cream truck (skippy) just to get my paws on those.

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