I’ve been struggling with whether I should write this or not over the past couple weeks. I think most people are curious about the details behind my whole skiing injury, but if I put it down in writing would it be too much? Back and forth I’ve gone, until finally making up my mind this morning. It happened, people are curious but not comfortable to ask, and if I’m going to write about all this conquering life stuff, I might as well start from the beginning.
I remember the morning so clearly. It was March 1, 2007 and my parents had just arrived at Salt Lake City on vacation the day before to enjoy a piece of my awesome new life as a ski lift engineer near some of the best skiing in the US. We woke up early that morning to reports of heavy snow in the mountains and decided to head up to Deer Valley to take it easy on everyone the first day. The skiing was perfect, nice groomers where they’d packed the fresh snow, and about 8-10” inches of powder off to the side. We were having a wonderful time taking in the bluebird skies and fresh Utah powder!
After about the first hour of skiing we were all getting kind of thirsty and decided to take a tote road to Silver Lake Lodge. I was cruising down this very easy blue circle run, my parents in front of me, from time to time going off the main trail to flirt with the powder. I was making a few turns in the powder, getting ready to go back on the main run when at the last moment I noticed a rather abrupt transition where the main trail was quite a bit higher than where I was skiing. I tried to jump up and clear this wall of snow and ice, but instead of clearing it my tips smacked right into the side of it and launched me forward straight onto my head. I remember instantly feeling like everything in my body was a shock of electricity, and then having it all go numb.
I laid there totally conscious, face down in the snow, struggling to breathe, and unable to move. It wasn’t until a short time later, when this older lady came over to see if I was okay and I told her that I was hurt bad and that my parents were below and to go get ski patrol for help. I laid there by myself for what seemed like forever, until this young couple skied up and asked if they could help, if they could roll me over. I said NO and the young guy took off his skis and sat on the trail next to me until the ski patrol arrived. I remember telling the ski patroller, that I was a Park City patroller myself, and to call for a helicopter because I thought I’d broke my neck. He immediately made the call and then sat down next to me to stabilize my neck. Minutes later an on the hill doctor showed up, more ski patrollers, and finally my parents, completely wiped out from hiking up the ski trail. They started getting me ready for the toboggan, put on the C-spine, and rolled me over into the toboggan. I remember looking up at the sky, seeing my parent’s faces, and saying I was sorry. We headed off down the hill, an oxygen mask on my face, and a ski patrol riding in the toboggan with me, talking to me the whole way. It seemed like they had only skied me down the hill a short way when we came to the helicopter, parked midway up the hill, waiting.
They loaded me into the helicopter and I remember a very shaky, jet fueled smelling ride down the canyon to the University of Utah Medical Center. They unloaded me, and as we entered the trauma room I was absolutely surrounded by doctors and nurses asking me questions, trying to get all the information they could. I laid there as they did test after test, asking me to wiggle my toes and telling me I was doing a great job. It wasn’t until they moved me into the CT Scan machine and I saw my arm move by my face, but never felt it move, that I realized how badly I was really hurt. Soon after I lost consciousness and woke up sometime later in a room with my parents with some crazy device attached to my head. It seems my neck was so severely broken they had me attached to a traction device, which was pulling with 50 pounds of weight before everything was straight.
Looking back at this time after I broke my neck, but before they did the surgeries to fix it is almost surreal. I remember laying there, looking over at my parents, smiling, joking, and almost acting like this was no big deal. Don’t know if I still hadn’t come to terms with my injury or if this was the beginning of me conquering life, but whatever it was, it was a special time. I remember feeling so much peace and love knowing that my parents were there, and knowing that they’d always be there. And somehow, hope that everything would be okay.
It wasn’t until they carted me into the operating room that the real battle began. I can’t imagine the misery and torture my parents went through during those two 10 hour surgeries where they cut open the front and back of my neck to stabilize all the damage and the days that followed. I’m told during the surgeries I almost didn’t make it a few times, needed many, many units of blood, and remember the first time of them trying to get me to breathe on my own and not being able to do it. Eventually, I did begin to breathe on my own only to be overtaken by pneumonia, a collapsed lung, and eventually have a small hole cut into my throat so that I could be attached to a breathing machine for the next 30+ days.
Those days in the ICU were absolutely the most challenging of my life, but as I fought my way back to life, I remember taking so much comfort and strength from the wonderful family and friends who stayed by my side during every moment. If it wasn’t for all of them, I doubt that I would be here today.
Mom, Dad, Julie, Andrew, Hannah, Grandparents, Aunts & Uncles, Relatives, wonderful friends who drove/flew across the country, hundreds who sent me cards, thousands who were thinking/praying, Doppelmayr folks, everyone who believed in me. Thank you! You all made such a difference in my recovery and have a large part to do with where I’m at today. I love you all!