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Survival....the will to live
Survival....the will to live
This is an event that happened in January of 2000.... six months before I actually moved to Florida. It was the reason that I decided to move...and after reading this you will surely understand why.
This is a story of survival...as much a story of finding the will to live. Inside each and every one of you there is this will to live...for me it was this event that showed me what that will is..and I hope that all who read this take away something positive out of this...as I have.
After Nick was taken from me..I seemed to have lost the will to live. By this I mean I didn't want to kill myself...I had just lost the will to live..and so..I would put myself in situations that there was a chance that I may die....not by my own hands.. but die just the same. This is only one of these life threatening positions that I found myself in....but it was the latest one..and this time it might have just worked.
I am an avid outdoors man, loving nature..and all it has to offer. In the winter..with snowfalls accumulating in the high country.. sometimes more than 50 ft deep...and rarely less than 6 ft on the ground all through the winter months..I was one of a group of 5 guys ... who enjoyed snowmobiling from October until there was no snow left to play in. We all had the best equipment available, and when the chance to ride was there, we would pack up and head to the mountains.
It wasn't as if I couldn't ride from my front yard, all the way to Canada, there were just some areas that offered the type of rush that we all liked. By this I mean some very extreme conditions.. where, not only was there the possibility of avalanches, but the opportunity to actually cause them. This is a real story..with the video to prove it.
These areas offered sheer faces that rose from the base, 2000 feet straight up, with what is called a cornice at the top. This cornice is caused from wind blown snow off the back of the face causing the snow to literally hang..sometime 20 to 30 ft thick ..out over the top of the face.
For those of you that have never been snowmobiling.. it is a very fun sport..and keeps you on your toes...and it could be compared to jetskiing only freeze the water..and add some big ass hills to climb.
My "sled" of choice was a brand new Polaris "RMK 700 High Performance Twin"..and was the fastest machine at the time..although they had just come out with an "800" but there were none available for me to get my hands on. These machines could easily travel at speeds of up to 100 mph...and I often had mine going that fast. It also was easy for me to put more than 3000 miles on my sled in any given year..when the average guy put 150 to 200 miles on theirs. So as you can see I was good at this sport..and had had plenty of experience with this machine. (I had put close to 2500 miles on this machine by the time this event took place)
So there we were..we fueled up our sleds, checked all the equipment and headed up to the "hills". It was a very clear day, with the temperature at about 20 degrees which was perfect for playing in the snow. We had been to this area before, about an hour ride after we unloaded the sleds..and we all knew how to get there... So my buddy Marc and I took off for the "hill climb".. about 25 miles into the wilderness.
The ride was uneventful..other than seeing a cougar (mountain lion)... off in the distance. We rode hard to be the first ones there..knowing that the best part of the hill climb.. was being the first one to "mark" the hill. With new snow on the hill it was a way of knowing who went the farthest up the hill. On a good run you could actually reach up... before the turn to head down...and touch the cornice..causing an avalanche, and then out run the rushing snow as you headed back down the hill. As you can tell now..this is extreme..and not recommended for anyone to try...it was just what this group loved to do....and we all knew the risks that at any moment you could be buried alive in snow. This is also the reason for the "buddy" system..as we were all knowledgeable as to the ways of rescuing anyone that was trapped in an avalanche.
I had brought my video camera, as I had so many times before, and was enjoying a rest while watching the other four guys make the assault on the hill. I had stopped on a hill with a slope to my right... had loosened my helmet so that I could cool down, and was filming Marc as he made his climb. It was so peaceful and ..with the other sleds about 300 yards away..I was left to watch and enjoy the thrill from a distance.... when I felt my machine list to the right....
This can happen at any time since you never know what is under you.....and I did what I thought was best at the time...I jumped off the sled to the right... the same way that I was now leaning..and started to slide down the slope... it was at this time that it became obvious to me that I might have a little problem. You see...the snow gave way..and I felt myself falling..........
The snow had slowly melted 25 ft under my feet from a creek that was running along the bedrock..and had caused a snow bridge that was undetectable by the naked eye.... I had stopped my sled right on top of it.
I was not aware of where I was when I came to....I could only see a little light as I looked up toward the sky. I had only been knocked out for a few seconds..and when I came too the light above me went away...and my sled..weighing 580 lbs had flipped over and was falling into the same hole that I found myself in.
I tried to block it from hitting me..but that was a futile attempt..and the sled slammed me against the bedrock that I had landed on only seconds before. This was not going to be a good day...and in the seconds that followed I realized how much I really wanted to live!
Instincts kicked in and I knew that no one knew that I was down here.... they didn't know that I was pinned under my sled..completely covered in snow now...and laying in a creek which had now soaked through the Gore-Tex jacket and snow pants designed to keep me warm and dry in the winter conditions that I loved to play in. I was going to die if I didn't do something right now..so I moved the sled..and began slowly climbing out from under 25 ft of snow.
I do not know how long it took me...but when I finally saw the sunshine... I knew that I might just live.
Marc and my other bud's had noticed that I had disappeared.. although they did not know where I had gone..they knew that as the "buddy" system works..if you can't see your buddy than you went to look for them. As they had started to look ... I had realized that I couldn't see them and tried to yell...but I couldn't. The shock of the impact had put some kind of hurt on me to the point that I couldn't even talk above a whisper.....It was then that I tried to stand up..but to no avail. My legs as I knew them were completely useless to me. The impact of the sled across my waist..I found out later.. had blown both legs out of the hip socket..and had fractured my pelvis in four places. I had crawled out of this hole with only my arms..and now I couldn't even stand up.
It was then that I realized that I still had my camera...and it was still on! As I cleaned the snow off of it I thought...this is just great...now I have it all on film...and I chuckled to myself in the midst of it all. I used my camera to see if Marc was anywhere around by using the view finder... recording the entire time.
They found me within minutes and asked me how I was....I whispered " I'm fubar"...and smiled. They knew the jokester I was..and they had much the same humor ..Marc said "did you get me on film?... and I whispered "nope...I've fallen and I can't reach my beer".. they knew I would be ok...but I wasn't sure. As they dug my sled out of the hole they realized what had happened and the seriousness of my predicament. My sled ..as it turned out was completely fine.. I had apparently broken it's fall. I attempted to stand again but I couldn't..and I told marc that I would need to get dried off as I was soaked to the bone..and knew that I would soon be in shock.. if I wasn't there already.
We all knew that there was 25 miles of wilderness possibly 5 hours between me and any rescue attempt...and so they thought that they should put me on the back of one of the sleds and tow mine back. I thought for a sec and whispered "there's no way I am going to ride on the back of anyone's sled..I rode mine here and I will ride it back!"...I didn't realize until later that this was the best thing that I could have done. So all four of them picked me up..and set me on my own sled and I began the journey of a life time.
At about 10 mph it took me almost 3 hours to ride back to where my jeep was waiting for me...and with every bump I lost more feeling... until I had blocked out everything except the beauty of mother nature around me. It took me another 1 1/2 hours for Marc to drive me to the nearest hospital...and when I got there the medics literally had to peel me out of my seat.
After several X-rays the doctors revealed to me that I had some how reset my hips and my pelvis and I wouldn't need surgery to repair them..what they suggested was that because of the posture that I had taken while riding my sled after the wreck...I had reset them all by myself..and that perhaps in 5 or 6 weeks I would learn to walk again. This was amazing to them..and great news for me....as well I would have no visible scars to show off.
Three days later the therapist came into my hospital room to see me...and asked me if I would like to learn to walk again....I told him "you mean like this?"..and I flipped my legs over the side of the bed and stood up!.. I will never forget the look on his face..and he said "I don't think that I will be much good to you"...I said "you need to help me to walk up stairs...cause I can't do that in bed"...What he didn't know was that I had already started my own therapy within hours of being put in the bed....and had started working my legs so that I would be able to walk out of the hospital.
I did walk out of the hospital 6 days after this accident...and only used a cane.....and it is this type of fortitude that I live with every day. The will to live can save your life when it is needed.. and I am living proof of this.
I now know how much I truly do want to live!
7/9/2005 12:41 pm
Patty..to be quite honest....this is the first time I've ever done this in my life ... although it did occur to me that a magazine like "Readers Digest" might enjoy printing this particular story of survival...I haven't given it much thought otherwise. Thank you for the compliment... and maybe I might consider this in the future. Thanks again Patty...and stay tuned....I do have several other stories that I will attempt to put into this blog...btw..I only just discovered a couple of weeks ago..that there this feature even on this site...lol|
7/11/2005 8:14 am
You lucky man - not only were you given a second chance at life, but a gift of writing to share your experiences. I will be checking back for future entries. Thank you for sharing this.|
9/7/2005 9:37 pm
I truly hope you have no more desires to be a daredevil... I hate to worry about my friends. Loves ya babe~ T.|
9/10/2005 4:00 pm
Gator, it is wonderful to be able to express yourself in writing. You are very good at it. I have been captivated by reading your adventure. I'm a lazy reader and it says something when I finish. Looking for your next installment. How exciting...you dare devil! Glad you are ok...behave now..LOL|