Silverthorne man to e-bike to Ohio to raise money and awareness for Meniere’s disease
SILVERTHORNE — Imagine living your entire life feeling carsick. That’s what Steve Schwier of Silverthorne says his existence is like with Meniere’s disease, a syndrome that attacks the inner ear and, as a result, hearing and balance.
A day in Steve’s life includes the spins of vertigo. Then there’s the consistent dizziness and nausea. Each morning when he wakes, he can instantly tell how the day is going to be. On a good day, he might be able to hike or golf. On the worst days, he can’t get out of bed.
Since he was diagnosed in 2013 — a year after he began feeling symptoms — his life has changed completely. He had to leave his job as a heavy-equipment operator to work a less demanding job at Keystone Resort’s golf courses. But even that gig proved too much to handle with Meniere’s, a confounding disease for which doctors don’t know the cause.
“So my job now is managing my disease full time,” Steve, 53, said. “Every day, all day, I spend the day trying not to feel sick.”
Living with such a rare condition has removed pastimes and passions from his life. He stopped playing live shows with his band Straight Creek Drive after Meniere’s took his ability to play the bass guitar. It’s the same fate rock star Huey Lewis recently suffered thanks to Meniere’s.
As for sports, he can’t snowboard anymore. He can’t play in competitive soccer, volleyball or softball leagues like he used to. That said, Steve plans to traverse 1,295 miles to his hometown in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio, to raise money and awareness for the disease. He’ll be able to do so thanks to an electric bicycle.
For Steve, e-bikes have been a godsend. His younger brother Dave will join him Sept. 1 for the charitable adventure. The brothers hope to raise $10,000 to donate to the Deaf to Meniere’s foundation and the American Hearing Research Foundation.
“It’s kind of opened the door,” Steve said. “The difference with the e-bike is, I can hop on a mountain bike and drive around Summit County a little bit, but with the amount of exertion it takes, it causes me to get dizzy. But the e-bike takes stress off my body because the electric assist really allows for me to focus more on my balancing then on the exertion it takes to ride.”
The Schwier brothers plan to ride a total of 15 days, averaging 100 miles per day. Dave will be driving the chase van behind his older brother as well as documenting the journey and the different Americans the brothers meet and educate about Meniere’s on social media. Most nights, the brothers will break out the tents and camping gear from the van to camp wherever makes the most sense — whether that be in a new friend’s front yard or at a designated camping site. One night per week, Steve said, the brothers will rest up by sleeping at a hotel.
Go to Bit.ly/OnTheVertiGo to donate and to find out more about Steve’s e-bike fundraiser.
On the journey, Dave will be the little brother sidekick once again to the older brother he described as “competitive.” It’ll be the latest athletic achievement for the Schwier brothers.
“I’ve seen him suffer this torturous disease for many years now,” Dave, 52, said. “So when he called me to be support for the trip, it was a no-brainer to drop everything and say, ‘yes.’
“I’ve been super impressed with his drive and will to do this, and I’m confident he’ll accomplish exactly what he sets out to do. Meniere’s is a brutal disease, and this isn’t a project to be taken lightly. It’s beyond the imagination right now what this will mean to the global Meniere’s community when he rides into Columbus at the end of September.”
And if the ride goes well, there’s a wintertime challenge Steve would like to try.
“I’d really like to get back on my snowboard some day,” Steve said. “If this trip is successful, I think that’s another step forward, maybe getting back on snow.”
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