Beyond BVU: Lessons I Have Learned From My Left Foot



Kyle Wiebers | Blogger

As many of you know, I was born with Spina Bifida. A direct result of the Spina Bifida is that I have no feeling in my left foot. I remember when I was younger that I was not able to climb stairs, or ride a bike as easily as all the other kids. But little did I know all that falling down would help me later in life.

From January 10-12, I climbed a mountain in Chile. At 10am on Sunday, I geared up and headed up the Denetes. Having never hiked, or done anything even remotely close to what I was about to do, I set off with an overly optimistic view of what hiking meant. I soon found out that hiking was nothing what I imagined it to be.

The first half of our climb was the most difficult, I found myself slipping, sliding, sinking into mud up to my knees. After a few choice words I would angrily pull myself out, frustrated that I wasn’t able to climb this mountain with the same ease everyone else was.

After getting to the half way point of our trek, we were able to stop for lunch. I sat on a log on the edge of a clearing and cried. I didn’t understand why no one else was struggling like I was. Then after I finished my ham and cheese sandwich, I pulled myself together and really though about what was going on around me.

While I sat on that log, I remembered all the times that I fell down the stairs in the morning when I was a toddler, and how many bruises I had while learning to ride a bike, and it began to make sense. The doctors said I wouldn’t live, I did that. After I lived, the doctors said I wouldn’t walk. I did that. The doctors also said I wouldn’t be able to play sports. I did that. An unnecessary amount of people said I wouldn’t be able to climb this mountain.I was doing just that, climbing this mountain. By quitting or getting frustrated I was just proving them right. According to my track record, I like proving people wrong, so that’s what I was going to do.

The second half was full of falls, but instead of being followed by angry energy, I kept thinking of 4 year old me and how if he had quit trying to walk down stairs, I wouldn’t be where I am today, so I wasn’t going to quit now. I kept sliding and I kept sinking, but I kept going. After a little over 3 hours on the trail, the camp was in sight. The only thing left was to cross a group of fallen logs that spanned a river. Talk about adding insult to injury. A couple of the Chiliean professors told me to take off my 40 pound pack so I could cross the logs. I said no. There was no way I hiked all that way just to take my pack off before I finished. So I kept my pack on and shuffled across the logs.

The only think I could process for the next 15 minutes after I got across the logs was “You did it. You just climbed a mountain.”

We slept in tents that night and awoke the next morning (Monday) to strong winds. The daily activities were postponed because of the weather, as the day went on the winds continued and snow was added to the mix. For the first time in 10 years of this program, it was snowing on the mountain. The wind died down so the professors thought it would be a good idea to go on an optional nature walk.

When I think nature walk, I think of a nice leisurely stroll where we stop and see birds and smell the flowers. Apparently in Chile, a nature walk doesn’t mean that. Another 4 hours of walking through mud and slipping and sliding helped me realize “nature walk” is another term for hike.

When we got back to camp, there was already 2 inches of snow on the ground. We went to bed that night in the cold and snow.

We awoke the next morning (Tuesday) to 4-6 inches of snow on the ground. The professors informed us that we were going to be climbing down the mountain a day early because of the weather.

Word got around the camp that I can’t feel my left foot, and as we prepared to go down, many people said to me how inspiring and how brave I was for climbing the mountain.

We climbed down and I fell and slipped still, but every fall was worth it. I got to the bottom and cried. They were tears of exhaustion, happiness, and pride.

I have never let my left foot prevent me from doing anything. This mountain was no exception. As I arrived to the bottom, I took off my bracelet that my parents gave me for my birthday that says, “Be Brave”. I knew I had been.

If 4 year old Kyle was able to see into the future, he would have been proud of 20 year Kyle and the fact that he never gave up.

So today I challenge you to not give up and be brave, no matter what you’re going through.

Interested in hearing more from Kyle? Check out the rest of his journey here.

Photo courtesy of Kyle Wiebers