Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Justin's, I Shouldn't Be Alive, Story (Part 1)

You would never know just by looking at Justin that he almost died 13 years ago. I have asked him to write up an account of what happened the day of his accident and the days, weeks, months, and years that followed, because it really is a miraculous story. Every time I hear the story I am truly amazed and thankful he survived. So with out further ado here is Justin's story.

"He may never walk again"

   "He may never walk again" is what the doctor told my parents as I laid in a hospital bed.
   Let's start at the beginning.  My sister, brother in law, my best friend Corey, and I had been planning this ski trip for some time now.  The week before we left several friends and family had told me "you better be careful".  My response was what most, if not all, 24 year old males would have been, "I'll be fine, don't worry".  In hind sight I really should have been more careful!
   The trip to the slopes was filled with laughs and more planning of what we would do first and what we would do that night after we had showed the mountain who was boss.  We stopped at a ski shop to get outfitted where my brother in law bought my sister a nice new 2 piece jacket, this will be important later.  Then it was up the mountain.
   It had been a great winter for the mountain.  The slopes had a 101" base, the most the mountain had seen in a very long time.  That being said, the conditions were not as good as they could have been.  The slopes were groomed but they were nice and icy.  Not the best conditions for trying to snow board for the first time.
   Up the lift we went.  What a beautiful day it was.  The sun was shining with little to no clouds and the wind was nonexistent.  As we rode the lift I looked all around noticing skiers swish, glide, zoom and fall down the slope.  I was now realizing I would, more than likely, be the latter of these people.  I also began to notice how uncomfortable the board hanging from my foot was.
   We had completed our first run without any major issues.  A few wrecks lots of laughs and a growing confidence in my newly found ability.  My sister was starting to overheat in her new jacket and I was also a bit too warm in my jacket.  She took out her liner and gave it to me to wear and I got rid of my jacket.  Then off for our next run.
   When we reached the top we stopped at the upper lodge for an adult beverage before careening down the mountain.  While we sat there joking and talking none of us had any clue what the day had in store.
   Our second run was even better than the first.  I was able to board much faster and still maintain control.  The day was just what I had expected, fun and exciting.  Once we had reached the bottom we made a plan to attack the mountain from a different lift.
   Our new plan required us to take a long lift ride.  The lift seemed to drag on and on.  My ankle was killing me from the board dangling from one foot.  I was trying to think of ways to alleviate the pain as we continued up.  I tried lifting the dangling weight with my free foot but that proved not to work very well.  So I decided I would adjust the binding just a little and that should fix it.
   There was no lap belt or bar on the chair lift, so I hooked my right arm through the armrest and bent forward reaching for my binding.  In retrospect my timing could have been better.  As I was bent forward the chair passed over a support column causing the chair to shutter.  Before I knew it I had slipped out of my seat and was now hanging by my arm that I had hooked in the armrest.  Corey looked at me and calmly asked " What are you doing?".  I calmly replied "just hanging out".
   It surprises me now at how calm and unconcerned we both were a that moment.  Corey thought he could just pull me back up in the seat.  He is a very strong guy and I would have thought he could do it as well.  When he started to pull up on me he started to slip out, so we abandoned that plan.  I say plan because we were planing our moves.  Like I said we were really calm.  So I began to remove my gloves and Corey did the same.  As my right arm was hooked in the chair I had to give Corey my left arm to grab onto with his right.  He was hooked in the chair with his left to avoid slipping out as well.  This put my back to him.  We knew that I could not be pulled up in this position with my arm still hooked in the chair.  With Corey gripping my left wrist and I his right wrist I unhooked my right arm from the chair and was now being held up solely by Corey.  At this point we began to realize the severity of our situation.  Corey once more tried to pull me back up but was unable to.  Out of options we decide to just simply hang on until we reached the top.
   Mean while we can see and hear people watching our predicament I had gotten us into.  Some watched in fear others thought we had done this on purpose for some stunt.  The loudest of the voices was that of my sister in the chair lift in front of us.  "What are you doing?!  Don't drop him!" were some of the things I remember hearing.  I was really trying to concentrate on hanging on.
  About now I started to think about how I should try and land if I did fall.  I was taught by my father, who is an army veteran, that if I jumped out of tree to tuck and roll rather than "stick" the landing in order to cushion the fall.  Hopefully avoiding a broken bone.
   To the best of my recollection I had been dangling for about 5 minutes by this point.  The mood had gone from "we got this" to "this might not end well".  Corey's and my grip was beginning to slip.  Our hands were sweating and I was slowly sliding down.
   Finally panic was setting in.  Corey said "you better try and grab onto something cause you're slipping".   I grabbed onto some strapping on the bottom of the chair with my right hand and held on tight.  But my arm had lost its strength doing the previous maneuvers and it fell to my side like it was asleep.  As I was now inevitably going to fall I made another attempt to grab the chair.  I grabbed it a couple of seconds before our grips finally slipped.
   When our grips failed I was unable to keep hold of the strap.  I fell.  You know how in the movies when a person is falling they let out a scream?  Yeah, only in the movies!  When I fell, my body sucked in all of the air it could hold.  What a "flight", short and fast.  Later I was told that I had fallen at the highest point of any of the lifts on the mountain, 75 feet. 

Part 2


  1. My heart is pounding as I read this.

  2. Justin & Jenny, Thank you for taking the time to share this story. What a wonderful testimony of strength, resolve, and faith! I remember you telling me once how you also resigned yourself to doing without all the pain meds in order to function more normally in spite of the pain that remains. In my opinion, the heroics continue! Proud to know you, Pam

    1. Thank you Pam! That's true, it's not often that he takes something for pain. He truly is one of the strongest people I know. Thank you for taking the time to read it. Jenny


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