The story of what happened to me began back on November 10, 2000. There was a big snowstorm the night before accumulating up to 2 feet of snow everywhere in Cedar City. Recently graduated from high school, I did what most people do at that age – have fun hanging out with friends. After a long day of getting people out of the snow and onto the road, it was time for some fun. I was with two of my closest friends at the time and we were living the night up as best we could in Cedar. We just finished up watching the SUU Thunderbird basketball team win at the Centrum and we were on our way to good old Shoney’s (IHOP now) where my girlfriend (my wife now) was slaving away waitressing.
We pulled up in the parking lot of Shoney’s and I could already see the expression on her face through the front windows. It was not an expression of “it’s great to see you”. It was an expression of “how dare you?” I was supposed to spend and see her a couple of hours previous to when I got there but called her up to see if it would be okay with her to go to the basketball game. To make a long story short, I asked if I could stay and help her close up but she insisted that I should continue to go have fun and not waste the night away. Settled.
I took off once again with my two friends and we had the most brilliant idea to go freeze our rears off and jump in that fresh powder that was calling our names. We pulled off by KB Express on the south end of town by the old Wal-Mart. Once we were all out of the car, we glanced at each other and took off running towards the prairie like snow that seemed to go on for miles. We hit the snow with a wave of energy and before we knew it, we were rolling, doing somersaults, and getting snow in places we didn’t even know existed. It was seriously all fun and games until we couldn’t feel our fingers and toes. Every single one of us looked like gigantic snowmen covered from head to toe with white powdery flakes. Our faces were barely visible to each other and then numbness settled in. We were finished!
As we approached the car to get in and warm up to the delicious heater, I could not resist turning around to see the mess we made. As I reached for the car handle, something energized my body to go jump in the snow just one more time. Well, I did just that. As I looked at both of my friends, I just smiled and jetted off towards that freezing wasteland. I dove like Superman paying close attention not to dive headfirst. When my body swam through the snow, I stopped all of a sudden and heard a big thud then everything went black. The noise made a sound in my head like a single drum strum in a cave that echoed back and forth from one side of my skull to the other. My eyes then opened and all I could see was a whitish gray. My mental side of me was fully intact and I realized that I was still underneath the snow. My legs were not moving. I was struggling for air not only from being underneath the snow but my lung capacity was gone. My arms were not moving. Nothing was working. I could still hear my two friends laughing. It was muffled but it was definitely them. The movement, the sense of feeling, the rush of energy I just had left me like a freight train went from my head and out through my toes leaving nothing behind. I was paralyzed.
I knew exactly what was going on and I knew that I broke my neck. I trained for these things my junior year in high school from the sports medicine class I took. I now needed air as I felt and inhaled a lot of snow from still being underneath it. I tried yelling for my friends but it was no more than a whisper as I had no lung capacity whatsoever. After a couple of minutes, I heard running footsteps towards me and could see the clearing of the snow as they brushed it away from my face. At once I told them that I think I broke my neck and I needed help. They tried moving me but I was quick to tell them not to. I asked one friend to go to KB and call the police and let my parents know what was going on. I then asked my other friend to give me a blessing (in my religious faith, this is a blessing given by a priesthood holder to comfort & heal those in need). At that moment, I did feel peace and was promised that I would walk again. Shortly after, I heard more footsteps of the police and new I was going to be taken care of.
I was quickly put on a transfer board with my neck securely fastened to it to eliminate causing further damage. As I was being transported to the ambulance, I realized that my favorite sweater was cut off of me and just lying there in shreds on the snow. I guess this was the least of my worries at the time. Anyway, I was almost at the ambulance and I saw my dad right by my side encouraging me to hang on and I saw my mom a ways off not understanding what was going on and in tears. I called for her and told her everything was going to be all right. After I was positioned correctly in the ambulance, my dad was right beside me helping in what way he could. I did not know much else what went on in the next few hours but from what I was told, we could not fly out of Cedar because of another snow storm that came in so I was driven by ambulance to the St. George airport and then life flown up to the LDS Hospital.
When I got to the LDS Hospital, the first thing they needed to do was fix my neck. I shattered my C-5 vertebrae and parts of the bone fragments penetrated the spinal cord causing the paralysis. My injury is considered an incomplete meaning the spinal cord was not severed. They were able to find an almost exact matching vertebra from a cadaver which was a miracle of its own. They fused together my C-4, C-5, and C-6 and only had to put me in traction for two hours. Usually they like to straighten the spinal column and cord because of how much it can swell but my case was very unusual resulting in another miracle. I did not even have to wear a halo in which they would drill screws in the sides of my head to keep the spinal cord straight. I was very lucky and happy not to wear such a pretty hat.
I spent 12 days in the intensive care unit (ICU) in which I had to be monitored pretty close. I developed pneumonia in my right lung and had to get it drained. resulting in surgery. The doctors were very sure that I would have to have a ventilator put on me to breathe for me after the surgery but my mind and body challenged that idea and threw it out the window. I was able to breathe on my own resulting in yet another miracle. While staying at ICU, I developed compartment syndrome in both of my legs. I had to go in for surgery pronto as there was a chance that I could lose both my legs from the knees down due to all of the loss of tissue and muscle. I had a miracle of a doctor guided by the hands of God to prevent that from happening.
I finally was able to eat liquid foods on day eight of being at ICU. This included ice chips, popsicles, Jell-O, and more ice chips. I had a feeding tube in me for those first eight days and I was very eager to have it taken out because first, it was very annoying up my nose, and second, it was extremely difficult to swallow sips of water. They brought in a scope and monitored how well I was swallowing with the feeding tube out. The results were conclusive that I was okay to keep the feeding tube out of commission. They were concerned if I let small amounts of liquid down towards my lungs from not swallowing correctly that could ultimately cause another lung to fill up. Thank goodness I passed the test.
I definitely had my fair share of nurse angels that took care of me and coped with me along with my family. I had one nurse in particular at the ICU unit that immediately formed a bond of friendship that has last even till this day. Not eating for some time, I was craving certain foods that I would readily eat when I was up and walking like hamburgers, hotdogs, and all the other junk food type items. I particularly remember a promise from that nurse that as soon as I could eat, she would be bringing me a Big Mac. A week or so later, she fulfilled that promise even though she brought me a Whopper instead of a Big Mac. I had one bite of that delicious piece of heaven and my body was done and couldn’t handle anymore. It’s amazing when you go so long without eating that one bite of a simple hamburger can make you full. Just in those 12 days in the ICU, I atrophied tremendous amounts of muscle from not being able to move. This was and is a very hard mental note to get over but in due time, it can and will come back with hard work and support.
It’s very hard to put all of my experiences I had at the LDS Hospital in a few paragraphs. I ended up staying at the hospital for three months going to therapy, relearning how to feed myself, using what little movement I still had to improve my lifestyle and independence. Most therapy training was excruciating with pain, frustration, and discouragement but it’s the attitude we have that will make the most difference. I had terrific support from my friends, family, loved ones, and the hospital staff that encouraged me to press forward with a never give up attitude. I tried to do so while staying those three months; however, I could not have done it without the support of everyone.
It was great to finally go home and start living life. I did not know what I would be doing or how to go about doing it but I did learn together with my parents and friends. We established a schedule and stuck to it. Now being home, it did not stop me from going to therapy but rather encouraged me to get better. This new life that I, my friends, and family tried to grasp was hard on many degrees and levels. I continued to have setbacks, surgeries, and other trials that tested our faith and hope. However, the support of friends and family once again prevailed.
This hope of mine, as well as my friends and family, has been rekindled with the new technology of today. Stem cell treatment has made it possible to improve quality of life of so many. I am ready for the next challenge. We are ready for the next phase. The hope for me being able to walk again is just around the corner and with your help, this can be accomplished. Thank you once again for your continuing love and support! I could not do it without you!