Summertime ride

Ethan Maurice 225
Northern Arizona University student Ethan Maurice rode across nation to benefit others.

At the age of 16, Ethan Maurice’s life was in jeopardy. A rare infection found in his brain triggered a stroke in the otherwise healthy teenager, and for three days, he was in a coma. When Maurice awoke, he couldn’t speak. He had forgotten how.

“When I first came out of the coma, all I could say was ‘yes’ and ‘no,’” Maurice explains. “Doctors would show me a card with an apple on it, and I couldn’t say the word. I just sat there speechless.”

Maurice was a patient at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. He says the doctors there not only saved his life, but they worked with him to help him make a full recovery. It was a level of care and dedication he never forgot, even as he headed off to study at Northern Arizona University.

Now, as a biomedical science major, Maurice hopes to become a physician’s assistant after graduating, and help save lives as his was saved.

His first step towards this goal began this summer, when he and his younger brother biked across the nation in an effort to raise money for the hospital. His cause, Pedaling with a Purpose, was his way of giving back and making a difference in the lives of others who go through what he experienced.

Planning and willpower

Out of curiosity one day, Maurice mapped how long a cross-country bike ride would be. It was then that he was struck with the inspiration and confidence to attempt such a feat.

“It was a realization,” Maurice says. “The thought came to me: ‘I can actually do this.’ At that point, I sent an e-mail to the Phoenix Children’s Hospital Foundation.

He decided to name his cause Pedaling with a Purpose, and received approval from the hospital to undertake the ride to raise money for them.

While he is in shape, Maurice is by no means a professional athlete – in fact, he had never even ridden a road bike before setting his mind to the journey. He invited his younger brother, Reid, to come along, both for company and encouragement. In addition to his brother, Maurice brought along a tablet that he used to blog updates about the trip, enabling his friends back at Northern Arizona University to follow his adventures across America.

Summer to remember

The journey began in mid-May in Virginia, and the Maurice brothers traveled, on average, 60 miles a day on their bicycles. They rode unassisted – everything they needed, from camping gear to food, was stored on saddlebags on the back of their bikes.

There were challenges on the ride – in Pueblo, Colorado, Maurice was hospitalized after a swollen calf prompted concerns that a blood clot was forming, a lingering danger for him due to a rare blood disorder he has also dealt with since the age of three. While some would have given up then and there, Maurice took a few days off, and then got back on the bike to finish the journey.

As a result, Maurice and his brother raised $24,000 over the course of their summer-long excursion. Their work is not done. The two are still doing promotional activities, and remain confident that they will be able to raise even more money for their cause.

Maurice’s own time and experiences in the hospital provided him with a renewed sense of purpose, both for pedaling and for earning performing academically.

“It's been almost five years now, and I'd say over the last three or four, I finally got better and I don't lose my train of thought, anymore,” Maurice says. “Now, I’m here in Flagstaff, and have fully recovered as a biomedical science major with a 3.90 GPA.”

After a summer vacation that he’ll never forget, Maurice returned to his friends and colleagues in Flagstaff. A senior, he’s preparing to finish his degree and take the next step onward from Northern Arizona University to graduate school. He hopes to enter a physician’s assistant program, and work toward helping people – much like his doctors once did for him.

“I want to be able to talk to patients and understand what relates to their situation, and I think being able to relate with them on having all kinds of medical issues in the past is important,” Maurice says.

Maurice is grateful for the opportunity to have made a difference through biking.

“It so much better than just doing it for fun,” Maurice says. “It gave the ride so much meaning.”