Sophia Collier was diagnosed with a rare form of Group B Strep Meningitis, also known as Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), at three months old.
The disease caused brain damage on the left half of Sophia’s brain, which affected the right side of her body.
“The doctors told us she would be a complete vegetable, and I just cried and cried,” said Debbie Collier, Sophia’s great grandmother. “She sure has proved them wrong.”
Sophia lives with her great grandparents in a remote Florida area with limited therapy options for her Guillain-Barré Syndrome. Before May 2019, her only mobility methods were using a walker indoors or scooting and rolling on the floor. Physical and occupational therapists had to travel miles to reach her due to the family’s location on a gravel road.
One day while doing therapy with the Florida Elks, Sophia’s OT suggested that she try an adaptive bicycle.
“When she (Sophia’s OT) mentioned getting a bicycle for Sophia, I thought she was crazy,” said Debbie. “But then she showed us the Freedom Concepts website and I was shocked. I saw bikes that Sophia could actually ride.”
The family worked with Wheelchairs 4 Kids and the First Hand Foundation to get Sophia her Freedom Concepts adaptive bicycle. The Jim and Tabytha Furyk Foundation funded the purchase of the bike. They started with quarter-mile bike rides, which progressed to half-mile and then mile-long bike rides.
“We’ve noticed a big change in the mobility in her right leg since she started riding the bike,” said Mike Collier, Sophia’s great grandfather. “Going for bike rides helps Sophia feel like she’s actually part of something. It makes her feel like she’s actually doing something with somebody, instead of being forced to do something she doesn’t want to do.”
Just one month after getting the bike, Sophia and her great grandparents bike a minimum of 1.5 miles per day, and sometimes even 3 miles if the weather is good.
“We love the bike and so does Sophia,” said Debbie. “She laughs and giggles the whole time she’s riding it.”
The family hopes that one day the bike can help Sophia build up enough strength to walk on her own.