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Howdy folks!

I realized that I forgot to mention one thing….really important thing.  After few years of not able to make it to infamous annual Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, I finally got to attend to this year’s festival after the announcement of hosting the last festival this year after 40 years of hosting the festival.  The festival was majority of hearing womyns, but this year was largest  number of Deaf/Hard of Hearing womyns attending – around 115.  The request was from these Deaf/Hard of Hearing womyns that they wanted to see presentation in ASL.  I thought about if I could give our presentation (Ad-Cane and myself), but Ad-Cane is not womyn.  I gave it some thoughts and decided that the presentation should be about me sharing my personal experiences as a Deaf Female Long Distance Hiker with the world.  I submitted my proposal and asked for two presentations – one in ASL only and one with voice interpretation.  My proposal was accepted.  I was thrilled!

I gave both presentations for 1.5 hours which I thought should be sufficient time, but before I knew it, 1.5 hours went by so fast!  Next time, I may ask for 3 hours instead!  🙂  The title of my presentation was “My Journey on Appalachian Trail as a Deaf Female LD Hiker – April 2010 – June 2014”.  I explained to the audience that I have given presentations in the past with my hiking partner, Ad-Cane, but he is not womyn, so it was my first time giving presentation as myself.  If anyone wanted to to know more about Deafblind, Ad-Cane, and SSP, I asked them to hold these questions and see me after the presentation as some of them did.

I enjoyed sharing my experiences, tips, suggestions, and photos with the audience.  It was a bit weird that I did this way as I have been used giving presentation with my hiking partner, Ad-Cane, as it was our journey from start to end.  However, I was glad that I went with different approach to share something of myself as Roni “RamSham” Lepore – Deaf Female Long Distance Hiker in “Hearing Male Hiking environment”.  It did gave me some perspectives that I haven’t thought about since then.  I can see that it serves as an inspiration to womyns who came to listen to my presentation – anyone can do it if one puts her/his mind to make this happening and be patience with a “progress”.  I thank to Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival for allowing me to share my experiences and womyns for attending my presentation.

Ram Sham's Presentation:

Ram Sham’s Presentation: “My Journey on Appalachian Trail as a Deaf Female LD Hiker – April 2010 – June 2014”

Ram Sham presenting

Ram Sham presenting

Ram Sham's hammock at Michigan Womyn's Music Festival

Ram Sham’s hammock at Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival

Roni at Michigan Womyn's Music Festival

Roni at Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival

Hello all!  Here are some updates since my 25-Nov ACL/Meniscus repair surgery.  The surgical center where I had my surgery done wasn’t exactly Deaf-friendly, so I am going to send them a letter providing my experiences/feedback and suggesting some improvement and mindful approach next time they handle any patients who are disabled especially Deaf/Hard of Hearing with ASL/English interpreter.  I am not going to bother you with details what happened at the surgical center.

The surgeon and staff did a great job.  I recovered from waking up and dealing with post-surgery recovery/healing and was sent home in one hour after coming out of surgery instead of typical two hours of recovering.  My leg was placed into splint, but funny thing was that it couldn’t stay on my leg!  I think I have a slippery leg!!!!  I walked with one crutch on that night.  I proceeded to use the CPM machine – device that assists with flexioning and extensioning my knee/leg – for two hours on that night.  Not too bad!  I am to use the CPM machine for 14 days – 2 hours and 3 times a day.  Whoo hoo!

my leg on the CPM machine

my leg on the CPM machine

Post-surgery knee

Post-surgery knee

Close up of post-surgery knee

Close up of post-surgery knee

Roni gives a thumb up

Roni gives a thumb up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next day, my Dad and I went to my doctor’s office to check on my wounds and re-bandage.  It was snowing in that morning, so I elected to walk with one crutch under my right arm and use my other hand on other crutch to prevent possible slippery or loss of traction on the snow-covered pavement/sidewalk.  I walked into the doctor’s office and used one crutch.  Upon calling my name, Dad, ASL/English interpreter, and I went into an examination room.  My physical assistant came in and was amazed at how great I looked.  I was perplexed.  She called other staff and doctor to take a look at me.  LOL, what a show!  They couldn’t believe how well I looked with less than 24 hours of post-surgery.  I have very little idea of how people were dealing with post-surgery recovery/healing.  My physical assistant asked me if I slept well last night and I replied yup!  She said no wonder and if I was in any pain.  I said not really….just a little pain in certain area where the huge cut was made and other than that, I was all good.  She proceeded to check my wounds and re-bandage my leg.  She said my wounds looked fantastic.  LOL.  I was to come back next week to have my sutures removed and by then, I can shower/bath.  Funny thing was that before AT, I would worry about how my legs would look like with hairy, how would I smell like, how to deal with my dirty hair, and etc.  However, at this time, I just shrugged it and laughed cuz AT taught me so much – just go with flow and take one thing at a time.  My health came first, so my vain/appearance wasn’t that important.  I was to focus on healing and getting my leg and myself exercised.  🙂

Between check on wounds/re-bandage and sutures removal, I spent a lot of time watching movies and TV show called, “The Tudors” and reading some books – both Deadtree and electronic format – a huge thanks to my dear friend who lend me some DVDs and books from her library!  I also spent a lot of time catching up with some work and projects.  Really good down time for me.

My inspiration stuff

My inspiration stuff

AT walking sticks

AT walking sticks

On Thursday 4-Dec, I went back to my doctor’s office for suture removal.  I was so excited!  My surgeon came in which was the first time we have seen each other since my surgery day.  He looked at me and my knee….he was amazed with my recovery/healing progress.  I was way ahead of normal recovery/healing phase.  I gonna credit it to my practice of yoga, ongoing outdoor activities (ie: hiking), personal training sessions, physical therapy sessions, mental/emotional preparedness for pre-, during, and post-surgery, and maintain Paleo lifestyle (clean eating).  After the sutures were removed, I was to fit with my ACL knee brace.  I was to wear it for a year.  I asked my surgeon if I must wear the brace on my skin or can it goes over pants or leggings.  He said my brace must be on my skin.  My jaw dropped!  I asked for how long….he said one year.  My jaw dropped even further.  AARRRRGGHHHHH!  LOL!  I was asked to come back a month later for check-up.  It will happen in January.

Top view of my ACL knee brace

Top view of my ACL knee brace

Side view of my ACL knee brace

Side view of my ACL knee brace

 

 

So…..here is dilemma with my clothing and boots.

  • Pants….skinny/tight pants have to put away for a year.  I have to try on some pants to see if they will be comfortable while I wear my brace under it.
  • I have some skirts.
  • Leggings/tight yoga pants – *crying* they have to put away for a year too.
  • Sweat pants – they are for home use only!
  • Long dresses – I have some.
  • Shorts – I have some.
  • Ankle-high winter boots (I have to put away my knee-high boots for a year….:( )

My mom told me about her work at high school….kids with ACL knee brace – they mostly wear shorts year-around.  Geee!!!!!

I researched and decided that I am to look for reasonable and affordable prices on these following items rather than cutting up my pants:

  • Skirts – both long and short
  • Maxi Dresses
  • Long Dresses
  • Thigh-high Leg Warmers
  • Leg Warmers
  • Bike shorts
  • Skorts
  • Loose- and wide-fitting and wide-leg pants
  • Shorts

It is gonna be an interesting journey for me fashion- and clothing-wise!  😉  So far, my current challenges with mobilization are:

  • not able to drive yet
  • walk up/down stairs gingerly and slowly
  • not able to sit in back of the car cuz my knee has not bent at 90 degrees yet, so I have to sit in front passenger seat
  • not able to get around tight spaces effortlessly

I began my personal training at my local gym on Friday 5-Dec  and I felt good.  My knee was doing all right, but I listened to my body and knee by not pushing it for now.  I will resume my physical therapy next Thursday 11-Dec for 3 times a week for next 4 weeks and I am excited!  I am already thinking about going back to hiking this Spring only if I can help it by not trying to think about snowboarding/skiing this Winter!  If my knee feels good, I might do snowshoeing, but not gonna hold my breath.  🙂

Wish me well on my post-surgery recovery/healing journey.

Hello folks!  Yesterday was the beginning day of my journey with my knee repair/recovery…..Just had two medical devices delivered to get ready for my big day today…..one device, CPM (pictured above) will assist with increasing/decreasing extension & flexion of my knee – 2 hrs, 3 times a day for 2 weeks or so. Another device, ACL knee brace, I am to wear it full-time when I move around….it will goes on my knee a day after surgery. It takes a while for my mixed feelings to sink in…..

CPM device and ACL knee brace

CPM – assist with increasing/decreasing extension & flexion of my knee
ACL knee brace – it goes on my knee for full-time movement for months

Knowing that I am surrounded by warming and amazing support system from you guys – my family, loved ones, friends, and AT community, it makes it a bit easier for me to begin my stride by accepting the physical and emotional pains along the journey….knowing that I will have brand new knee to resume my activities especially hiking which I love doing – as my friends tease calling me “Bionic Woman”.

I plan to update once I am out of surgery later this week.  If I do not check in before the holidays, have a wonderful Thanksgiving and holidays to y’all!  Stay safe and count your blessings for what you are thankful for.

Hello everyone,

It is time to let the cat out of the bag.  As you might recalled from my previous posting mentioning briefly about my ACL injury – http://wp.me/pntmN-g8, guess what.  I re-injured it while hiking in Maine with less than 100 miles away from Mt. Katahdin in early September 2013.  I didn’t mentioned it as I wanted to keep it low-profile and concentrate trying to conquer Mt. Katahdin in June 2014 as we failed at our first attempt in September 2013.  I saw my orthopedic doctor in November 2013 and decided that I may suffer more damages to my ACL, meniscus, and possible MCL.  I opted to postpone the treatment options until after I complete the entire AT which was to be after June 2014.  The reason was that if I went ahead to have a surgery to repair my knee, it means that my recovery may takes between 3 months and 1 year.   I decided not to gamble on it trying to recover and prepare at same time for the summit climb.

Here is a picture of torn ACL to give you an illusion:

ACL torn

ACL torn

Here is a picture of torn meniscus:

meniscus torn

meniscus torn

Fast forward to June 2014, I climbed and conquered Mt. Katahdin with Ad-Cane, David Whitney, and his son, Ateon.  I am eternally grateful for David and Ateon being with us to provide support to us when my knees was giving me some troubles and not able to support Ad-Cane.  It was painful journey for me, but it took a huge amount of my mental and physical concentration to get through.  I was supposed to be visiting the Robarges in Michigan and traveling in Europe working during the month of September 2014, but my knee was giving me some troubles after Mt. Katahdin climb.  It was a utmost difficult decision for me to forfeit the trips and take care of my knee trouble.  I saw orthopedic doctor in August 2014 and had MRI done in September 2014.  I saw the orthopedic surgeon a few days ago with my MRI results.  My ACL deteriorated to the point where it no longer keeping my knee together.  I collapse on my hands when I move in certain inward lateral movement.  It happens to me several times.  Pretty scary!

My knee surgery is scheduled in end of November, so I have some time to prepare and do some work on some projects including pictures, videos, and written entries on our AT journey before and after my knee surgery.  My surgeon says that I am to attend to rehab my knee for 3 to 6 months and have my knee recovered completely in a year from surgery.  It is another journey for me.  🙂

Hello everyone!

I received anticipated certificate in the mail and it brought a grinning smile from ear to ear!  I am now official recognized as 2,000 Miler – hiked on the Appalachian Trail from Springer Mtn. in Georgia to Mt. Katahdin, Maine.  Wow…..Here is my certificate along with AT patch, 2,000-Miler patch, and ATC (Appalachian Trail Conservancy) logo sticker:

Certificate of Congratulations  Roni "Ram Sham" Lepore

Certificate of Congratulations
Roni “Ram Sham” Lepore

My dear friend, Ed M., handmade this wooden plaque for me.  He completed it back in 2010, but held onto it until I completed AT this year.  Beautifully made!

Ram-Sham - wooden plaque

Ram-Sham – wooden plaque

Ad-Cane’s sister, Diane P. – one of our arduous supporter, gave each of us a gift – carved wooden stick – made by her dear friend, Billy.  She surprised us by presenting these sticks to Ad-Cane and me at the Celebration Party in Millinocket, Maine after summit ting Mt. Katahdin.

Carved Wooden Stick presented by Diane Poulin

Carved Wooden Stick presented by Diane Poulin

2 Wooden Sticks - Top one presented by Diane P. Bottom one presented by Ed M.

2 Wooden Sticks – Top one presented by Diane P. Bottom one presented by Ed M.

Ad-Cane is working on submitting his 2,000 Miler application.  He will receive Ed’s wooden plaque in the mail.  Once Ad-Cane receives both certificate and wooden plaque, I plan to post the pictures here.  Right now, he is traveling in Europe until first weekend of November.  Hopefully, the pictures will go up in November or December.

Thank to all of you for your steadfast support throughout our journey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello all!

My mother and I traveled to Maine last week for a few days.  We enjoyed our time there especially early Fall season and received wonderful hospitality among friends and people of Maine.  The reason we went to the Pine Tree State is that I am chosen to receive an award as well as Roger by the Maine Commission for the Deaf, hard of Hearing, and Late Deafened.  Roger was not able to make it to Annual Tea Awards held at Maine State House in Augusta, Maine because he currently works and lives in Seattle and has an upcoming trip to Europe which starts this week for six weeks.

On the behalf of the Commission for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Late Deafened (CDHHLD), I am recipient of an award, “Meritorious Support Services Provider Award” – This award is given to a trained support service provider. This year’s award is in recognition of exceptional support of Roger Poulin in his quest to complete the Appalachian Trail (AT).  Roger received an award, “Special Commendation Award” – This award is given to an individual or agency whose activities in and with the Deaf community deserves recognition.

We want to say our heartfelt thanks to the Maine Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Late Deafened, DeafBlind, Interpreter, and Hearing community and CDHHLD for their generous and amazing support for Roger’s quest with AT and my work.  People said that I am now “Honorary Mainer” since I am now embraced by the people of Maine.  🙂  

Annual Tea Awards - Meritorious SSP and Special Commendation

Annual Tea Awards


Image description: Two plaque awards are displayed with a picture of the State of Maine Seal on top part of award.

On left, Roni’s award – “Presented to Roni Lepore – Meritorious Support Service Provider – In Recognition of Exceptional Support of Roger Poulin in His Quest to Complete the Appalachian Trail – September 18, 2014 – The Deaf Community of Maine”.

On right, Roger’s award – “Presented to Roger Poulin – Special Commendation Award – September 18, 2014 – The Deaf Community of Maine”.

 

Here is a copy of my acceptance speech upon receiving my award – “Meritorious Support Service Provider” (be mindful that my speech at Annual Tea was not exactly same – upon giving my speech, I was flooded with generosity and gratitude from the audience that my speech altered in some ways for some wonderful reasons!) –

Hello, my name is Roni Lepore and my name sign is . I hail from New Jersey and my mother is here in the audience. I travel to Maine from time to time, not only for hiking on the Appalachian Trail, but also to work, teach, and enjoy the beautiful scenes here in the Pine Tree State. Each time I come here, I am always welcomed by the warm and friendly people of this state. That’s why I keep coming back as much as I can!

When I first found out that I am nominated to receive this award, I was not sure if it was a mistake since it goes to Mainers as I do not live here. Once I learned that it was an exception due to my role as a SSP to Roger Poulin, AT DeafBlind hiker, it is truly an honor to be recognized for my commitment and work. My journey of becoming SSP is probably unique as I received various training, not only here in USA, but around the globe – Australia, Europe, Asia, and Africa. I have worked with amazing and diversified DeafBlind clients from many walks of life – age, gender, race, ethnics, experience, and forth on. Each one of their requests to work with me was never the same. I relish and thrive on some challenges that come with SSP work. Yes, some days, there are difficult or bad moments. It requires one’s courage, faith, and belief to get through and move on. The communication and teamwork between SSPs and DeafBlind clients demand that each person understands the needs of each other’s as it becomes a critical two-way journey of enjoyment and respect.

So, being SSP for Roger Poulin was a completely “different zoo” for me. Roger got to witness my good and ugly sides and still worked together! I vividly recalled that when we first hiked for 3 months in our first year of hiking on the Appalachian Trail in 2010, it was a rough and bumpy road between us. It was 24/7 experience for both of us and we were trying to figure out how to work together and balance our control and power over each other. I wore many hats – hiker, first-aid provider, counselor, water girl, and so forth on, and best of all, a friend. It was probably an unorthodox practice of professional SSP as I may have broken most of rules, but it was Appalachian Trail – that’s where one discovers “true self” after going through phrases of man vs. wild, man vs. man, and man vs. self. That’s the true beauty of realizing one’s potentials through this kind of experience. Once Roger and I conquered Mt. Katahdin with David Whitney and his son, Ateon, we didn’t do it by ourselves. It was our friends, family, community – both hikers, Deaf, and DeafBlind – and even strangers backing us up. The most important of all about being a good SSP is to take a good care of yourself – mentally, physically, and emotionally – and ability to prepare and anticipate as much as one can.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank to the Maine Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Late Deafened, and DeafBlind community for recognizing my tireless work and my friends and especially my family for supporting my work. Lastly, Roger is a special person who taught a great deal about how to collaborate with a DeafBlind client even through difficult periods. Patience and respect are valuable legacies that come through Roger and me. Thank you, Roger, for allowing me to be me and being part of your dream to hike on the AT.

Here is Roger Poulin’s acceptance speech for his award, “Special Commendation Award” shown at Annual Tea – in ASL only. English Subtitles and/or text shall be available at later date. Roger gave me his blessings to publish his video here.

Roger’s quote from his interview with The Bangor Daily News was displayed at the Annual Tea –

Roger Poulin's quote

Image description: “My goal is to show that dreams can become a reality for anyone, regardless of their personal challenges and struggles. I also want to expose the world to understand why SSP (Support Service Person) is extremely important to DeafBlind community.” — Roger “Ad-Cane” Poulin

 

Here is the list of who’s who on CDHHLD who nominated me and Roger to receive the awards – special thanks go out to them!

Commission for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Late Deafened Members

Last Updated; August 29, 2014

Patty Sarchi, Deaf Consumer
Sitara Sheikh, Vice-Chair, Deaf Consumer Christy Callahan, Deaf Consumer
Karen Keim, Hard-of-Hearing Consumer Conrad Strack, Chair, Deaf Consumer
Kate Strack, Deaf Consumer Vacant, Deaf Consumer
Mary Hamlin, Hard-of-Hearing Consumer Vacant, Deaf Consumer
Vacant, Family Member of Deaf/HoH/Late-Deaf Individual w/Intellectual Disability or Mental Illness Vacant, Parent of Deaf or HoH Student
Vacant, Parent of Deaf or HoH Student Cathy Glover, Educator of the Deaf
David Sherry, Superintendent or his/her Designee of the Maine Educational Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing/Governor Baxter School for the Deaf Nicole Duncan, Audiologist
Susan Nay, Dept. of Education Representative Vacant, Local Educational Administrator
Theresa Jack, Rep. State/Fed Meryl Troop, Civil Rights Director
Emily Cain, Legislator Elyzabeth Smith, RID Interpreter
Vacant, Legal Rep. Vacant, Member-at-Large, Medical or Health Care Professional
Stephan Bunker, Member-at-Large Vacant, Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing Student
Marty Golden, Member-at-Large Romy Spitz, Late-Deafened Consumer

Hello folks!

I am on break between vacation/journey/work, so I took a peek into ATDBDeaf gmail and found some email with link to one’s website or blog writing about Roger’s AT Journey.  Here are some links below for you to read:

Victory for Deaf-Blind Appalachian Trail Hiker

Need a shot of motivation?  Check out this story.  So cool.

“I wanted to quit, but I persevered.”

Enjoy reading and please take your time to thank these writers/bloggers!

 

 

Hello everyone,

With the help from my family (we are on vacation exploring Maine, by the way), we decided to work on transcribing the online video from The Bangor Daily News tonight rather than waiting.  Please be aware that it is the work of the Lepore Family, not the Bangor Daily News.  Here is the transcript below:

The Bangor Daily News online video – Transcript (3 minutes 25 seconds long)  Both voice-overs and American Sign Language are being used in the video.

Main Interviewees:  Roger “Adventurous Cane” Poulin and Roni “RamSham” Lepore

Please note if the words are within parenthesis is the words of the interpreters, not interviewees.

Roger: I had wanted to hike the AT for 3 reasons. The first is to prove to myself that I could do it. As a Deaf person and as a blind person, see if I could find that success. And the other reason, is that when I was a young child, I had so many big barriers in my life, that many people keep telling me that I couldn’t do things, and I really took that on. Because of my vision, I couldn’t do things, I wanted to really let go of that and show people that I could do. I also wanted to prove to the DeafBlind community that they could do something like this. You don’t have to just sit at home all day, you could go out and really adventure.

Roni: We started this journey in 2010 and so with my experience as a Deaf hiker who worked with hearing and Deaf hikers, and as a SSP, and with the experience of working with people who are DeafBlind which gave me a special perspective, I thought this would be a great opportunity to work with a DeafBlind hiker. And so I felt really inspired to have this opportunity with Roger.

The edge of the rock, this is what I would use to show either this is a steep edge (cliff) on the right side or the left side of where we were walking. I would warn him that the trail was going to get narrow, and that you could fall, or if there was a someplace that he would have to be careful checking for the depth over a rocky path because he would not know how steep some steps would be.  That before stepping down or (making a big leap, or a jump) I would warn him of that, or to show him that “you need to use your poles (cane) to sort of pull ahead to see or feel what is there”.  If it was raining and there was smooth rock up ahead I would warn him of that because of its slippery when wet, and this is the sign for that smooth rock.

Roger: So from Georgia to Pennsylvania, I was not using a helmet, and I ended up falling on this really sharp rock, so I actually hit the crown of my head, popped open and bleeding, everywhere. I mean, I had blood all over me, but I was not in pain (and I was in serious pain) at that point. I got four stitches, and I decided I would buy a helmet at the point and I would wear it for the rest of the adventure.

The first day in Georgia when I was thinking about what it would be like when I got to the end and when I was done with this journey I couldn’t have vision that really. I couldn’t believe that I made it.  There was so many times I wanted to quit. But, I persevered and finished.  The moment at the top was really an overwhelmingly emotional end.

 

Corrections:

(1:00) The video only gave Roger’s 2 reasons.  His third reason was SSP – Support Service Provider – is very important to the DeafBlind community.

(1:00) Name Tag: Roni Lepore – Support Service Provider

 

BDN Video Credit:

Video by Brian Feulner

Trail footage by registered Maine guide David Whitney

Interpreting by Sarah Littlefield and Debbie Meyers

Transcribers: Kaylee Lepore, Christine Lepore, Roni “RamSham” Lepore

We are in the Bangor Daily News – both online and in Saturday’s press (28-June-2014).

One might notice that an online video via Bangor Daily News is not accessible for everyone.  Not only Deaf and DeafBlind community do not have 100% access to the online video, the hearing and blind community don’t either (ASL is being used and no voice-overs being available).  Roger arrived in Seattle this morning and I am on vacation with my family exploring rest of the Maine for one more week.

The press was very last-minute arrangement by our beloved hiker, Tecolote (The Barbarian Utopia), who steadfastly supported us.  Many thanks to Tecolote  for making this happening!   Please accept our apology for video’s accessibility issue and please bear patience with us while we are working on making the video accessible for everyone.   Thank you.

 

 

Hello folks,

I just learned that Ad-Cane gave a presentation at University of Washington in Seattle, Washington USA on 9-April-2014.  Here is a link to an article about his presentation:

Deaf-Blind hiker shares experiences in UW visit

Great job, Ad-Cane!

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Appalachian Trail

Map of entire Appalachian Trail - 2,179 miles/3,507 km - through 14 states - Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine

Map of entire Appalachian Trail - 2,179 miles/3,507 km

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