A brother’s determination pushes B.C. cyclist to ride 2,500 km for heart care

#Cunnycan: Ryan Cunningham ‘pushing the envelope’ to support brother Craig’s foundation

Craig Cunningham with Dr. Zain Khalpey, co-founders of The All Heart Foundation to raise awareness and prevention of sudden cardiac arrests.

Craig Cunningham with Dr. Zain Khalpey, co-founders of The All Heart Foundation to raise awareness and prevention of sudden cardiac arrests.

Resilience, determination, perseverance.

Those qualities have defined Craig Cunningham’s long road to recovery following a cardiac arrest prior to an American League Hockey game back on Nov. 19, 2016.

The aftermath of that incident left the Trail native with the partial loss of his left leg, ended his hockey career, but never dampened his spirit, outlook on life or belief that he would recover.

Less than three months later he was lacing up his skates and hitting the ice.

Those qualities, that three-month sequence and the doctor who saved his life, are all part of the inspiration that is pushing Craig’s brother Ryan to tackle the monumental task of cycling from Castlegar to Tuscon, AZ in August.

Ryan Cunningham plans to depart Castlegar on Aug. 3, arrive in Tuscon around Aug. 18 and raise money for the All Heart Foundation started by Craig and Dr. Zain Khalpey, the cardiothoracic surgeon who saved his life, and to raise awareness for sudden cardiac arrest.

Ryan Cunningham is Pushing the Envelope for his brother Craig Cunningham:

Covering over 2,500 kilometres on a bicycle in the middle of the summer, especially through Nevada and Arizona, is a daunting task for anyone. But as Ryan describes it, the journey is a drop in the bucket compared to what his brother went through.

And that will be the fuel in his tank for the entire trip.

“With what Craig went through and being part of those extremes, and how difficult it would have been for him to lose his ability to play hockey, I saw the way his spirit carried him through it.

“So if I was going to do something to support his foundation, that he believes in so much, it was going to have to reflect Craig’s spirit.”

That’s why Ryan has dubbed his journey “Pushing the Envelope Trek to Fight Cardiac Arrest.”

“That symbolizes Craig making incremental progress in his recovery and his determination to move forward in, however, small steps at a time to complete a very long distance.

“And the other side of that is Dr. Khalpey, Craig started the foundation with him. So he’s a big part of what the ride symbolizes.”

Ryan described the days following Craig’s collapse and how the doctors debated what do to next while he was on life support.

“His toes were turning black and they couldn’t find a pulse in his left leg. I just wanted so badly for someone to do something to save his leg.”

That’s when Dr. Khalpey used an oxygenaton machine, designed to pump a patient’s blood outside the body allowing the heart and lungs to rest. That allowed the doctor to perform emergency surgery to assist Craig’s heart.

Ryan explained Dr. Khalpey’s confidence in his abilities and his determination to save Craig’s life were difference-makers at a crucial time.

“He knew he could pull off this surgery. They saved a lot of his leg.

“Again it symbolizes, for me, pushing yourself, push the boundary a little bit and get ahead of where you were.”

Ryan is hoping that spirit and determination carries him all the way to Tuscon. But his immediate goal is preparing himself for the journey.

“I probably decided to do this in February. I started training indoors on an exercise bike. The winter dragged on, so I was only getting out for the odd ride until early May. By late May is when I started getting out for the longer distance rides.”

He lives in Castlegar now so his training, on his days off from Teck Trail, took him from Castlegar to Nancy Greene Lake, to Trail and back to Castlegar. He’s done that as many as five times over a three-day period.

Add in the rides over the Bombi and Kootenay passes to Creston and back, and Ryan is gradually building up his stamina and distance before tackling the challenge.

His fiancée will accompany him in a support vehicle. He has his route planned and his goal set.

But the main impetus is to help his brother’s foundation. And he wants to raise as much money as possible.

“One thing people can do is I have a Facebook page called Pushing the Envelope Trek to Fight Cardiac Arrest. On the page, there is a donate button that will take you to a GoFundMe site.

“Or people can go directly to allheartfoundation.org and you can donate directly.”

In the video below, Ryan says, “I showed up at the gym with a lot of excuses yesterday. I hadn’t slept very well…I had to get on the road to catch a flight in the morning… I had a good list of the default excuses conjured up. This video was sitting in an unopened text from Craig Cunningham which I hadn’t looked at before getting to the gym. Overall great timing for a reminder of what you can accomplish with grit and focus!”

There will be a third way to donate to the foundation on July 26 when the Trail Firefighters Local 941 will be hosting a boot drive outside Ferraro Foods to raise money for Ryan’s ride. The times will be announced soon.

“We are very passionate about this cause as firefighters are more at risk than the general public to suffer a cardiac arrest,” says Trail firefighter Matt Larmour. “And it is the leading cause of on-duty deaths in our profession.”

Larmour explained that the All Heart Foundation is focusing its efforts on technology to help detect irregular heart rates.

“This app that Craig’s foundation is working towards is going to save firefighters lives as well as prevent some of the cardiac arrest emergencies that we respond to.

“It is an amazing thing that Ryan is doing and we are trying to support him any way that we can and we hope the public will come support him as well.”

 

A brother’s determination pushes B.C. cyclist to ride 2,500 km for heart care

Ryan Cunningham celebrates completing a ride from Castlegar to Creston and back over two mountain passes. It’s just part of his arduous training for a bike trek to Arizona in August to raise money for Craig Cunningham’s All Heart Foundation. Submitted photos

Ryan Cunningham celebrates completing a ride from Castlegar to Creston and back over two mountain passes. It’s just part of his arduous training for a bike trek to Arizona in August to raise money for Craig Cunningham’s All Heart Foundation. Submitted photos

The Cunningham family, from the left, Ryan, Craig, Heather and Mitch. Submitted photo

The Cunningham family, from the left, Ryan, Craig, Heather and Mitch. Submitted photo

Just Posted

Crews are battling a fire near Ashcroft. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)
Crews battling grass fire above CP tracks near Ashcroft

Fire started around 9:30 a.m. and is moving through sagebrush away from town

Michelle Jacobs receives her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Coast Capri Hotel on April 28, 2021. The pop-up clinic was hosted by the First Nations Health Authority. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
126 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health over the weekend

There are 22 individuals hospitalized due to the virus, and 13 in intensive care

The Cariboo Regional District. (Angie Mindus photo)
Industrial park slated for Watch Lake Road

Building company Omnitek to start building new plant on 32-acre site

North Okanagan business Hytec Kohler set up a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Spallumcheen plant Friday, May 14. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
More than half of eligible adults in Interior Health vaccinated

Over 365,000 vaccine doses have been administered throughout the Interior Health region

Doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine are seen being prepared on Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Decatur, Ga. Hundreds of children, ages 12 to 15, received the Pfizer vaccine at the DeKalb Pediatric Center, just days after it was approved for use within their age group. (AP Photo/Ron Harris)
One death, 60 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

The death is connected to the outbreak at Spring Valley long-term care in Kelowna

A prowling coyote proved no match for a stray black cat who chased it out of a Port Moody parking lot Friday, May 14. (Twitter/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Little but fierce: Cat spotted chasing off coyote by Port Moody police

The black cat is seen jumping out from under a parked car and running the wild animal out of a vacant lot

Announced Tuesday, May 18 by Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth, the province added gyms, dance and fitness studios to its list of places where face coverings are mandatory (AP/Steven Senne)
Masks now required at all times inside B.C. gyms, including during workouts

The province added gyms, dance and fitness studios to its list of places where face coverings are mandatory Tuesday

Reinhard “Bud” Loewen of Abbotsford has now been charged with 21 counts of sexual assault related to his massage business. (Facebook photo)
Former Abbotsford masseur now faces 21 counts of sexual assault

Bud Loewen of Bud’s Massage Therapy initally faced three charges

Over the years, police have worked with sketch artists to draw what the boys could have looked like at the times of their deaths. (Vancouver Police Department)
DNA breakthrough expected in cold case involving murdered Vancouver boys, 7 and 8

Forensic analysts are working to identify relatives of the children, whose bodies were found in Stanley Park in 1953

Livestock competitions have been part of the Pacific National Exhibiton for more than a century. (Maple Ridge News files)
B.C. provides $50 million to keep major tourist attractions going

Tour bus companies also eligible for latest COVID-19 aid

Derek Descoteau with his trusty dog Harvey. (Photo submitted)
Friends provide continuing comfort for family in wake of unresolved senseless B.C. murder

Case remains before the courts five years after Derek Descoteau’s abrupt stabbing death in Chemainus

The top photo is of a real carbine rifle, while the bottom photo is the airsoft rifle seized from a Kelowna man on May 15. (Contributed)
RCMP issue warning: ‘Imitation firearms need to be dealt with responsibly’

A man brandishing his airsoft rifle in public had his weapon seized by Mounties on Saturday

Abbotsford Regional Hospital. (Black Press Media files)
Canada marks 25,000 COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began

6 in every 10,000 Canadians died of COVID-19 since March 9, 2020

Staff-Sgt. Svend Nielsen, with the 100 Mile House RCMP. (Melissa Smalley - 100 Mile Free Press)
14-year-old boy killed in serious ATV crash near 100 Mile House

Youth was travelling with a group of peers when the incident occurred last Friday

Most Read