PHOENIX — Ethan Maurice, a junior at Northern Arizona University, was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder and suffered a heart stroke four years ago because of it.
Phoenix Children’s Hospital saved his life.
Ethan has been a patient at PCH since he was three years old. Five years ago, he suffered another medical blow.
“I was bit by a mosquito and it caused a grand maul seizure,” Ethan said. “I was in that for over an hour, and was in a coma for four days. I had a stroke while I was in the coma, and more seizures once I came out of it. By the end of the whole thing, I could barely talk. I could say yes and no, and that was about it.”
Ethan spent nine days in the hospital’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, then went through two months of rehabilitation to regain his speech and motor skills.
Last year, he decided it was time to give back by doing the cross country ride, and he asked his brother Reid to join him.
“I was really proud of Ethan, and I knew it would be a cool thing to do,” Reid said. “Then he asked me, and I realized that it would be an opportunity to do something really amazing with my brother.”
On May 15, Maurice and his brother Reid took their bikes and started riding the Trans-America Trail in order to raise a total of $42,330 for the hospital.
Ethan said the toughest part of the trip was climbing Hoosier Pass into the Rocky Mountains.
“Reaching 11,500 feet, we were not used to that elevation after coming out of Kansas,” Ethan said. “We were stopping a lot because there’s not a lot of oxygen up there. And there were so many cars. It was July 3rd, and everyone was going to Breckenridge, Colorado for the 4th of July. We were just being run off of the road constantly. There was no shoulder, and it was the perfect storm for riding issues when you’re on a bicycle.”
But they made it through.
They were wearing “Give to Phoenix Children’s Hospital” t-shirts as they rode. Ethan said people saw that and opened their hearts.
“People donated to us,” Ethan said. “When we were stopping for groceries, someone would come up and give us $20. We stayed in people’s homes. People would buy us dinner. Everyone was interested in what we were doing.”
Reid said it all ended on August 1, when the two brothers finally dipped the rear wheels of their bikes into the Pacific Ocean off of the Oregon coast.
The brothers posted a photo as they reached the coast of the Pacific Ocean, marking the end of their 4,233-mile journey.
“There was just such an amazing feeling knowing that we had just crossed the entire country on a bicycle,” Reid said. “That was probably the most exciting day for me.”
Pedaling with Purpose, a Facebook page the brothers created in order to help raise money for their cause, documented their journey from the state of Virginia as well as their adventures crossing the Missouri River.
The trek has raised a lot of money so far, and Ethan and Reid are still accepting donations through the website.
“Right now, we’ve raised over $19,000,” Ethan said. “Our goal is to raise over $42,000. That’s $10 per mile.”
The brothers hope their ride inspires others. Ethan has some advice for people who are trying to overcome obstacles like he has.
“Never give up,” Ethan said. “Don’t set limits on yourself. You can accomplish well beyond your wildest dreams if you really put your mind to it and dedicate yourself to that idea.”
KTAR Newsroom contributed to this story.