Pat Dougherty

Inventor of FreeWheel

Background:

Seven years ago Pat was racing MX, and fell in front of everyone and was hit in the head. He is a C6/7 incomplete quad. Before his accident he always lived an active lifestyle and was determined to continue to live life to the fullest and not be left behind.

About four years ago he was so frustrated trying to push around his backyard to play with his children. Pat’s 40+ year old shoulders were popping and he couldn’t get through the grass. The purpose-built off-road chairs were too expensive, required more room in the garage, van, and more transfers.

As an engineer Pat knew the answer was to get the small casters out of the grass and a larger wheel out front.  He started chipping away at the problems of designing the FreeWheel. It was a challenge, but it sure wasn’t as challenging as being a quad. Pat always said he wanted to be an inventor when he grew up!

With the help of one of Pat’s machinist friends he cut apart his bicycle rack and welded up a crude frame. Pat attached a fitting on his footrest, similar to a trailer hitch set-up. It was pretty heavy, and Pat needed someone’s help to install it, but the feeling of gliding around over rough terrain was unmistakably what he was looking for.

 Interview:

 Q. Why Rugby?
The first time I saw a quad rugby game I was at the VA Games in Spokane, WA back in 2009. Seeing the level of competition and hearing the chairs crash into each other made me want to get out there. When I got back to Boise, ID I discovered the closet quad rugby teams were in SLC and Portland. It wasn’t until Spenser (Boise Bomber captain) moved to Idaho and worked with our local Parks and Recreation Department to start a team, did I get a chance to play.

Q. You now sponsor the Boise Bombers, right?
I was so impressed with the work that Spenser did to make the team come together, that I wanted to do more than just play. I help fund the travel to competitions and provide FreeWheels to game VIPs at each tournament.

Q. What is it like out there on the court? Looks pretty wild.
I am classified as a 2.5 out of 5, so I play offense. It is really fun to compete and it motivates me to always want to get better. Just being part of a team is fun. Watching everyone grow as a player and seeing their self-esteem grow is an added bonus.

Q. Rumor has it you’re the only quad to have ever gone helicopter sit-skiing?
That’s what I’ve been told. It was amazing experience and I have to give kudos to the SV Higher Ground program. They really put together a most incredible weekend.

Q. What was it like?
After we got out of the helicopter, no easy task as I was already in my sit-ski, I stared down at the steepest run I’ve ever been on and was 40% terrified and 60% ready to play my A game.

Q. How has life with a SCI been for you?
I like opening doors for people, because I am in a wheelchair people are always trying to open doors for me. While I appreciate their effort, I have the mindset that I only compare myself with able-bodied persons, NOT disabled. I am no different than anyone else, I just happen to be in a chair, though it does push me to set higher goals for my business, parenting, and life.  I’ve also learned that “rehab” is a full time job. When I first went back to work after my accident I’d get up in the morning and go swimming, then work 8 hours, then work out again in the evening. It’s important to keep pushing yourself.

Q. You have two children, have they ever shared their thoughts about you being in a wheelchair?
My son Carter, who is now 13, was 10 months old when I was injured, so he’s only seen me in a chair. I once asked him if he thought he was missing anything due to having a Dad in a wheelchair. His response was to roll his eyes and say, “No!” Conor, my daughter, who is getting ready to start college in the fall, said she doesn’t feel she missed out, but it was different. She feels it opened up her eyes to how a disability doesn’t have to be disabling. Yes, I’m a proud Dad!