By Richard Rhinehart
Ringwood, New Jersey, October 7, 2014 – Despite a horrific fall from a telephone pole that left him with a Traumatic Brain Injury, Daniel Mollino has big goals for his life. Riding his bicycle in World T.E.A.M. Sports’ annual Face of America ride from the Pentagon to Gettysburg is on his list, but first he plans to ride across North America in back-to-back cross-country rides.
Working as a cable technician in Teaneck, New Jersey in August 2010, Mollino awoke in a hospital, where he was informed he had fallen 15 to 25 feet. “In some level of luck, I remember nothing of the incident,” the 31-year-old Ringwood resident said. “When I woke, I thought something happened in my sleep.”
Having been placed in a three week, drug-induced coma to aid in his recovery, Mollino discovered he had sustained multiple injuries. He had “a few broken ribs, complete nerve damage in my right ear causing loss of hearing and constant ringing, removal of half my skull, and a trach breathing tube.” Eventually, Mollino recalled he “had a battle with meningitis followed by the removal of my appendix.”
Yet, despite his injuries, Mollino is determined to move on in life. “My injury resulted in a complete reset of my life,” said Mollino. “I was told at times that I would not be able to return to some of my old activities, including bicycling.”
Working with New Jersey’s Hackensack University Medical Center and the Kessler Institute in rehabilitation, it was three months before Mollino was able to return home to his wife Amber. “I was never one to accept the statement that I cannot do something. As a result, I fought to get back my balance and get back on that bike. After achieving this, I was able to look around and came to realize all I had lost and other levels I could not return to as a regular aspect of my life.”
Prior to his accident, Mollino was “a very active outdoor person” who enjoyed hiking and mountain biking on local trails. A licensed Scuba diver, skier and skydiver, Mollino also was a regular at a local rock gym.
“The reasons in my head both emotionally and physically are why I keep driving my fitness,” said Mollino, who recently participated in the non-profit Kessler Foundation’s Stroll ‘N Roll event in West Orange. “I learned some other information over the years. The biggest smile came when I read that those who are more active post-TBI trend to a greater overall recovery.”
Sometime in late March or early April 2015, Mollino will climb on his Gary Fisher bicycle and begin his solo cross-country journey. Carrying a small bottle of Atlantic Ocean water and some beach sand in his pack, he’ll ride alone to San Francisco, where he’ll fill a bottle with Pacific Ocean water and some beach sand for his return ride. Barring any unforeseen difficulties, he plans to return home to Ringwood by August 11 – the anniversary of his 2010 accident.
“The decision to ride my bike across the country was not solely based on my injury,” explained Mollino. “I had been training to ride across the country since before my injury. After my injury, I decided to reclaim one of my old goals. Since cycling was on the list, I chose to pick back up riding coast to coast. In turn, I’ll be recapturing life after it was almost taken.”
With three sponsors signed to date – elete Electrolytes, Cactus Pete’s Jerky and Old Man Mountain – Mollino is hoping to find additional sponsors and supporters before he begins his ride. Sponsorship requests to many larger outdoor companies have yet to be answered. “My goal for sponsors is either monetary assistance or product either as a loan or keep basis,” he said.
Once he’s viewed America from his bicycle, he’ll seek out other goals, including climbing mountains and riding with injured veterans in World T.E.A.M. Sports’ Face of America. “I am hoping to get the public to better understand the impact of a brain injury, and to understand that not all disabilities are visible or physical in nature,” said Mollino. “Disabled does not mean unable.”