Nick Powell’s career path led him to the open sea. The North Carolina native teaches search and rescue in the U.S. Coast Guard at Yorktown.
“I got to sleep, knowing I made a difference or saved someone’s life,” Lt. Powell said.
But a few years ago, Powell noticed he was the one in need of help.
“I remember waking up and my hands were numb and tingly,” he said. “I would get this strange feeling whenever I looked down.”
Mysterious symptoms nagged the healthy 29-year-old beginning in 2015. Two years ago, doctors delivered the crushing news.
“The MRI shows 10 lesions on the brain and two on the spinal cord. Basically, what this means is you have multiple sclerosis,” Powell said. “I never thought that person would be me."
Multiple sclerosis causes severe nerve damage. The disease leads to pain, fatigue, and loss of coordination.
“I still have so much to do. I’m in my prime. I’m at the pinnacle of my career. My wife is pregnant. I still have a lot of life left. This can’t be for serious,” Powell said.
While the diagnosis led to depression, it also helped the married father of one discover a passion.
For Powell, cycling became an escape.
“It is rejuvenating. It is very relaxing. It is nothing but you and the open road you just keep pedaling,” he said.
Powell is a colorful fixture on the Capitol Trail.
On June 5, Powell will lead his team in Bike MS.
Each crank of the pedal raises funds for the National MS Society which in turn helps patients like him. His 62-mile goal would be the farthest Powell has ever ridden.
“I am not going to let MS defeat me. I had to wake up every day and say that. I have MS but it doesn’t have me,” Powell. “When I am at my weakest moment, I think of how far I’ve come and how far I have to go in life. So it is a motivating factor."
Coast Guardsman is keeping the nation’s waterways safe while taking a stand against MS on solid ground.
“While I have movement and strength, I want to get out there and make a difference any way I can,” he said.
The one-day Bike MS is Saturday, June 5.
This story was originally published by Greg McQuade at WTVR.