Trevor DeCloedt and his dad Shawn are truly a dynamic duo. Both of them understand from experience what it means to battle physical challenges in order to follow your dreams. After overcoming a debilitating spinal injury that forced him into early retirement from the Los Angeles police force, Shawn had personal proof that many physical limitations are not truly handicaps unless you allow them to be. So when his son Trevor was born eight weeks premature, with an umbilical cord wrapped around his neck, and diagnosed with spastic cerebral palsy, Shawn was equally determined to seek out every resource possible to help his son thrive. Fourteen years later, Shawn is an accomplished chiropractor and Trevor is making a name for himself in the world of competitive bike racing (with his sights set on the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics).
While on their way to a racing weekend in Las Vegas, the two took a break to speak with us about their remarkable journey.
Shawn, can you explain what your feelings were when you heard doctors say that Trevor would never walk or talk?
The whole thing was frightening. They weren’t telling us anything. At this point I wasn’t a doctor—I didn’t understand what was going on. They’re doing all these tests and can’t find out why he’s not thriving. It wasn’t until they had an ultrasound of his brain that they saw the blood clot in his brain and knew he’d had a brain bleed at some point. We didn’t know when it happened; we’re guessing that he’d twisted himself up in the umbilical cord. But the biggest frightening thing was the lack of information. Nobody was telling us what was going on.
[The cerebral palsy diagnosis] wasn’t until the first year of his life. We kept telling the doctors “something’s not right.” But we were put off, treated like we’re just first-time overreactive parents. We’d go to the doctor and say “Something’s not right” and they’d say “He’s fine, oh you’re just first-time parents.” Then one day, Trevor was just super spastic. We went to the neurologist and he was like “Oh my gosh, he has cerebral palsy.” That’s when he said he’s not going to ever walk or talk.
I just looked at Trevor’s mom and said “We were hand-picked for him; he’s going to be fine and we’re going to be fine.” We never had that attitude that he’s handicapped in any way. We never let them tell us anything like that.
Shawn, you yourself overcame physical challenges after a spinal injury forced you into early retirement. What gave you the confidence to keep seeking recovery?
It was a long process for me. When I got injured, the sheriff’s department let me go. I tried and tried, but I wasn’t getting better. I got some pretty severe depression because I just thought I was never going to get better. But when Trevor was born, I was like “I gotta get better—I can’t even go play catch with my kid.”
Then my chiropractor found a doctor in Cedar Sinai—I went to a consultation with him, and there sitting in the lobby was Hulk Hogan. I thought “If he does your back, I’m in the right place!”
I literally had the surgery, woke up and was out of pain. Within 8 weeks, I was back on my road bike. I took my physical agility test without any training and passed it.
After that, my chiropractor talked me into going to chiropractic school. And then the whole thing with Trevor happened, so it was meant to be.
When did things start to turn around for Trevor?
It wasn’t until Trevor saw Dr. Drew Hall that he really took a turn for the better. At the [chiropractic] school I went to in Los Angeles, they’d bring in all these chiropractors to talk about their philosophy. One [practitioner] talked to us about this doctor who was helping people with cerebral palsy. I went home to Trevor’s mom and said “I heard this guy talk about this—he’s adjusting these people’s necks and they’re making them better. What have we got to lose?”
Dr. Hall does this technique where he only adjusts the C-1 and C-2 vertebrae. We were going on vacation and we stopped at Dr. Hall’s office. He adjusted me first; I looked at Trevor’s mom and said “I don’t know if it did anything, it was very light—but it won’t hurt the baby.”
Dr. Hall adjusted Trevor, we get in the car and we’re driving down the Los Angeles freeway. I looked in the mirror and I see Trevor holding his bottle in his left hand, looking at it like “Wow.” That day he walked and started talking that night—“Mama” and “Dada,” simple stuff. But it started that night. Honestly, had I not witnessed it, I don’t know if I would believe that it came from the chiropractic. But I witnessed the whole thing.
Trevor, how old were you when you learned to ride a bike?
I was four years old. My dad taught me. It was kind of hard at first. But I liked it a lot and ever since then I’ve been riding.
Last January, you had a crash on the track that caused you to experience some seizures. Did that scare you?
It was really scary. There’s a part in the track that’s called the rhythm section, and I zoned out and everybody said that I had a seizure. I don’t really remember what happened. All I know was I was in the rhythm section and I wobbled and then I fell face first.
Was it hard to get back on the bike, after that?
Not really. I went out for two months to recover, and I was so bored I just wanted to get on my bike forever, but my dad wouldn’t let me. I just went to school and had to be in the office when everybody else was outside, because they don’t want you to get hurt even more. But I was allowed to bring friends with me, and would bring cards and stuff like that with me, to keep me busy.
Do other people ever ask you about having cerebral palsy?
Usually, with people that get really close to me, I tell them what happened to me and that I have a disability. But when I say I have CP, their face is like “CP? What is that?”
Yesterday, I told someone that I’ve known for a long time. I told them that I had CP, and it means part of my body is partially paralyzed. And the lady was like “Really? You have CP?” And she started touching my left side and saying “Can you feel this? Can you feel this?” I was like yes, it doesn’t mean I can’t feel anything. It was kind of weird.
I was talking to someone the other day, too, who has spina bifida and CP. She gets the same reactions as me.
All I can do is just be patient and be nice. If they want to ask me questions, I let them.
Who inspires you?
My dad and my mom—they inspire me to ride. And my friend Hunter who has spina bifida, he actually does skate parks in his wheelchair. He lives in San Diego, so I sometimes go over there or he comes to skate parks out here. We inspire each other.
What are you proudest of?
I’m proud that I can ride a bike, I can talk and walk and move. I’m basically proud that I can be a regular person.