October 24th, 2011 / posted by paularath


Lonnie Hicks and his hand cycle on the bridge over the Ala Wai Canal.

Lonnie Hicks of Waikiki, age 50, could easily have lived out his life as a couch potato. He had plenty of reasons to do so. Disabled due to decades of knee problems, followed by seven surgeries to try to correct them, he became disabled, reliant on a wheelchair. Then a mysterious, chronic disease, Trigeminal Neuropathy, often referred to as “the suicide disease,” presented him with chronic, excruciating pain in his face.

Lonnie laid down on his couch, watched TV and ate. And ate. And ate. He ate until he weighed 280 pounds and seldom got off the couch or out of his wheelchair. He had diabetes and double bypass surgery.

However Lonnie’s devoted – and determined – wife, Yvonne, whom he decribes as “The best wife on the planet,” and counselors at the Veterans Administration, worked with him to make drastic changes to his lifestyle.

With the help of a VA counselor, Lonnie learned  “Pain is the physical hand you’re dealt. Suffering is what you do to yourself.”

“There is hope,” Lonnie said. “Even though you feel like giving up! I want them (readers) to know the first step to better health is the biggest one. Then they can take the next. The one thing that got me on the right track, and I think it’s the same for everyone, was taking responsibility for what happens to my body. It is just a few words, but extremely important ones: ‘I am responsible for whatever happens to me.’ To reach this point, you must stop, of course, blaming everyone and everything for your condition.”

After knee replacement surgery in June 2010, “the Challenged Athletes foundation, Operation Rebound and a private individual “Got me my first hand cycle,” Lonnie said. “I did the (2010) Great Aloha Run in 51:55.” He also dropped from 280 to 225 pounds, normalized his cholesterol and no longer requires insulin. He credits the hand cycle with “Helping me get all the exercise I need for my upper body.”

Tag team at the Tinman Triathlon: L to R: Lonnie Hicks (hand cycle), Warren Samuels (swim), Eric Samuels (run).

The VA also offers nutritional programs that helped Lonnie get control of his eating habits. As part of his pain control program, he began painting. Last year one of his acrylic paintings won the gold medal in the VA’s National Creative Arts Festival.

“Anything that helps me forget my pain is wonderful,” Lonnie said. “When riding my hand cycle I enjoy what I’m doing so much, I don’t care about the pain.” He now rides five or six times a week, up to 50 miles per ride. I met him at Island Triathlon and Bike in Kapahulu. “After taking the hand cycle to other bike shops, I now only trust Island Triathlon and Bike to repair and maintain it. They are the best around,” he wrote in a followup e-mail.

Lonnie has also found tremendous benefits from Tai Chi for Better Balance classes at the Still and Moving Center on Queen Street. “The Center has also helped me to take care of my body and mind,” he wrote.

Lonnie at the Tinman Triathlon.

Lonnie’s tag team partner in the Tinman Triathlon, Warren Samuels, calls Lonnie, “Definitely inspirational. I ended up swimming about two miles a day and entering the North Shore Swim series because of this guy. Based on our conversations about the tremendous pain Lonnie deals with I was duly impressed with his tenaciousness. He has a casual way that I appreciate in any athlete, or person for that matter. I’ve dealt with pain from back surgeries and now know what a wuss I was about the pain. Lonnie has figured out what it takes to overcome setbacks. ‘Get off your butt and enjoy life!’ His cycling obviously has him in positive mode and brought him much happiness.”

Thanks to a hand cycle, and a new lease on life, Lonnie Hicks has transformed himself from an obese couch potato to a triathlete.

– Paula Rath

Lonnie Hicks makes a truly jolly Santa.

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October 24th, 2011 at 7:28 pm

Lonnie’s journey is so inspiring! Thanks for sharing it with us.

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