“When I did my first walk in 2010, it became like a drug,” says Brandy. “Stroke survivors and hospitals would want me to come by and say hi. The stroke patients were depressed, and depression is common with stroke. I found for me that the walking — even though it’s hard for me to do — and getting out there and meeting people, was just so wonderful. I’m inspired by them and they’re inspired by me.”
Brandy’s current walk began at a hospital in Portland, Oregon, on April 15 and he traveled through Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. From there, Brandy is walking his way across the Midwest, and into the Great Lakes region before heading towards New England and ultimately, a hospital in Portland, Maine, where he will end his walk with a talk to stroke patients.
Using a cane, Brandy walks eight hours a day or about 18 miles. This current walk will be just under 3,800 miles, and will take him more than 10,000 miles total that he has walked since he began doing this on Valentine’s Day, 2010. Brandy expects to arrive in Portland, Maine, on Dec. 13.
Brandy is regularly invited to speak at hospitals and to communities to share his experiences and educate people about stroke, one of the leading causes of disability in the United States. About 795,000 people have a stroke or recurrent stroke every year in America, meaning that a stroke occurs on average every 40 seconds.
Stroke survivors often go through months and even years of painstaking rehabilitation to learn how to talk, walk and perform everyday activities. Brandy’s case was no different. His first stroke occurred in 1988 when he was only 37. His second stroke was in 1994, and his third stroke, which occurred in 1997, was the most debilitating. He had to rely on a wheelchair for more than a year and required rehabilitation. The fourth stroke happened in 2002, which was also the year Brandy quit smoking.
“I had smoked this entire time, even though my doctors told me to stop, and once I gave that up, I haven’t had a stroke since. I feel as strong as an ox now,” he said.
How does a four-time stroke survivor clock in so many miles on the road? Brandy says he takes his time, and his motivation is fueled by the people he meets along the way, as well as the breathtaking scenery.
Police officers come out to congratulate him. Kids on school buses wave as they pass by. Truckers honk their horns.
“I get to see America in a really special way,” says Brandy. “You miss so much when going by car, but by walking, I get to take it all in. I saw Mount Shasta (in Oregon) for a week before I reached it, and then a week as I continued on. It’s incredible. I feel so lucky.”
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Images and video courtesy of Mycle Brandy