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Getting back on the pedals

Michael Braem has raised nearly $10,000 participating in the Bike M.S. charity event over the past six years


It wasn’t very long after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1997 at the age of 39 that Michael Braem began volunteering with the Oregon chapter of the M.S. Society.by: SETH GORDON - Low rider - Newberg's Michael Braem has raised nearly $2,000 and will participate in the Bike MS event for the sixth time this weekend in Monmouth. Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1997, Braem has raised approximately $10,000 for the MS Society Oregon Chapter since riding for the first time six years ago.

Braem volunteered at several events and helped out in the office or wherever he was needed, but quickly gravitated toward the Bike M.S. event.

Unfortunately, his health at the time wasn’t good enough for him to ride.

That finally changed in 2007.

“After being at all those rides, I just dreamed that one day I might be able to ride,” Braem said. “At first, I was trying to figure out going tandem with somebody, just to say I did the ride. That fell through and then, all of a sudden, the opportunity came that a person had a three-wheel recumbent bike. I got on it and I felt whole again.”

Braem is prepping for this year’s event, which will take place Saturday and Sunday in Monmouth.

Braem counts himself as lucky that he’s never experienced pain from his M.S., a disease of the central nervous system that damages nerve cells, affecting the complex orchestration of neural pathways and causing unpredictable symptoms from tingling and numbness to blindness and paralysis. At first, Braem suffered periods where he was spastic, but mostly it has affected his balance.

It was when he began having trouble walking that he sought medical attention and was diagnosed.

“You end up walking kind of like you’re drunk,” Braem said. “My balance was affecting me and my equilibrium was off. I just knew there was something wrong.”

In so many ways, Braem’s life was thrown upside down by the disease, but he steadily built a new one for himself.

In addition to volunteering with the M.S. Society, Braem also gives his time to Medical Teams International and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

“It takes a toll, but if you don’t continue to feel like the world’s coming to an end, you can live a semi-normal life,” he said.

Braem chose to settle down in Newberg in 1998, despite having never spent time in the city.

An avid outdoorsman as well, he later joined Joyful Servant Lutheran Church, where he said he felt welcomed. He is now a member of the church’s stewardship committee.

“It’s a small community, and I felt the people around here were accepting and acceptable,” Braem said. “It was a place where I felt like I was retired. I wanted to find a place that I was close to the real world, but out into my world, too.”

Braem has raised approximately $10,000 since he began participating in Bike M.S., including a high of $3,600 in his second year and more than $2,000 so far this year. Each year he has raised at least $1,000.

He participates as a member of Team Slugfish and has a personal page on the Oregon chapter website where donations can be made: http://main.nationalmssociety.org/site/TR/Bike/ORCBikeEvents?px=3914098&pg=personal&fr_id=21039.

The highlight this year will be doing the ride with his 22-year-old twin daughters Becky and Sarah, who both live in Camas, Wash.

The trio attempted the ride three years ago, but Sarah’s bike broke down after the first turn of the course and they were unable to repair it. Becky Braem finished that race and participated last year, enjoying the opportunity to bond with her father in a different and deeper way than just sharing a lunch or going to the beach.

“You’re really not talking, but you just feel really good because you’ve got that person next to you pushing you and it’s your dad or your daughter or brother or whatever,” Becky Braem said. “It worked out pretty well for me just because I got to spend time with him.”

Becky said she has been prepping Sarah for the ride and is excited to share the sense of accomplishment together and expects the connection she’s experienced in the past will only deepen with her sister participating too.

“It’s like if you try to go camping and you try to set up a tent, but you can’t because you have to have that other person on the other side,” Becky Braem said. “This year all three of us are doing it and we’re going to feel great afterwards.”




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