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Stroke survivor solo hikes Appalachian Trail to raise awareness for brain injuries

Guy Pilote, who set off on the nearly 2,200-mile trek in April, raised money to support Mainers living with brain injuries

LEWISTON, Maine — In October of 2014, a catastrophic stroke almost took the life of Guy Pilote, a former Lewiston first responder. Despite incredible odds, Pilote set off last April on a solo thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail, raising awareness about traumatic brain injuries with every step.

"I wanted him to have that victory moment, right at the top. I had it all pictured in my head," Sue Pilote, Guy's wife said.

Only one in four people make it all the way to the end: the summit of Mt. Katahdin. Pilote knows a little something about beating the odds. The stroke left him unable to breathe on his own. Intensive rehab helped him regain limited speech and use of his body, except his right arm and hand.

Averaging about 12 miles a day and sleeping at shelters at night, Guy made the more than 2,000-mile journey to the base of Katahdin with no major problems.

On October 19, Guy, Sue, her sister Lisa and Sue's son Devon joined him on the last stretch of the thru-hike. They were a mile and a half from the summit when conditions suddenly changed.

At this point on the trail, they were above the tree line, with a path of large boulders ahead. But Guy and his family knew they couldn't keep climbing.

"I was like 'we are not quitting, you can't quit' and he looked at me and said, 'dangerous, dangerous,'" the couple said. 

They started up Katahdin the next day, this time ice and snow covered the boulders. The party then had to make a heartbreaking decision.  

"Being a mile and a half from the summit, I can't even tell you.  I think I cried all the way down the mountain," Sue said. She said Guy was disappointed but at peace.

"He was singing down the mountain both times," Sue said.

Despite being so close to finishing a lifelong dream, Guy blazed a new trail raising awareness for traumatic brain injuries, which affects more than 1 and half million Americans every year. Guy met other stroke survivors on the AT -- inspiring thousands on social media. He also raised nearly ten thousand dollars for the Maine Chapter of the Brain Injury Association of America. 

But he's not giving up on his dream of reaching new heights.  "Next year, I am going to do it next year," Guy said. 

"The mountain will still be there, the mountain is not going anywhere," Sue added. When the weather conditions are right, there won't be a mountain too high for this stroke survivor.  Guy hopes to resume his thru-hike to the summit of Katahdin in May of next year. 

For information from the Centers For Disease Control about warning signs and stroke prevention, go here.

To donate to BIAA-ME through Guy’s campaign,  go here.

Donations to Guy’s fundraiser can also be made by sending a check to BIAA-ME, 126 Western Ave #261, Augusta, ME 04330 with “in honor of Guy Pilote” in the memo.

   

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