I know the pictures of my home made zip-line accident are gruesome. That’s me at 15 years old, Labor Day weekend at Lake Powell, for my Dad’s family reunion. You can probably guess that the weekend didn’t go as we had planned. I was a Junior Tennis Star on the fast track to becoming a professional. With intensive training everyday and professional training three days a week, I was determined to be State Champion. But when I found myself flying through the air and crashing on the beach, my dreams of becoming a professional athlete were shattered; along with the lower half of my body. As you can see the pictures are pretty graphic. We had built a 200ft zip-line just like we did every summer at the lake. It ran from the top of a large sand mountain, across the water, to the other side of the shore, and attached to a lower cliff edge. The main objective was to hold on tight and let go in the middle, where the water was the deepest. I’d done it ten times already that day. It was my last run and I was getting tired. Right off the bat I lost my grip and couldn’t hold on. My right hand slipped off first, and my left only lasted another 20ft. Under the path of the zip-line were large boulders, if I had let go any sooner I would have died instantly.
You know that cliché saying about “life flashing before your eyes”? Well my short 15yr old life really did flash before my eyes. I knew I was in trouble, serious trouble, and that I was most likely going to be paralyzed or die. My only fear was that I wouldn’t be able to say goodbye to my mom, and apologize for all the crap I’d put her through.
I plummeted 27 feet, almost the height of a 3 story building. People ask all the time if it hurt when I hit the ground. And to tell you the truth it felt softer than a huge down pillow. It was the sound of the bones shattering with in my body that I remember the most. Thanks to my forward momentum I missed the boulders and hit the wet compacted sand at 70 mph. When I made impact, by some miracle, I bounced forward 17 feet into the water, preventing me from breaking my neck and dying where I lay.
My uncle dragged me to the shore before I drowned. There were blood and bone fragments all over the sandy beach. The Aftermath I shattered 19 bones in 36 places. The surgeons called it a triple compound fracture. After being air-evacuated to the Flagstaff hospital and undergoing an intensive reconstructive surgery, I awoke in a hospital bed. While watching The U.S.Open, I realized I might never walk let alone play tennis professionally.
The next 8 months I spent in bed, followed by 3 years of intense physical therapy. I learned Calligraphy to give my mind an escape from the constant excruciating pain. I began to work with my hands and developed a level of precision and an eye for detail that I’d never know before. I also had a new found determination and focus that helped me through the pain and doubt. I have proven to myself that I am the master of my own destiny. I walk now with advanced premature arthritis, manageable pain without medication. I do have a slight limp, which I like to call swagger. I play extreme sports and exercise daily. I am a husband and a father. I am an entrepreneur. I live an above average life!
What I Do:
My wife’s Grandfather passed away a few years ago. For some reason he willed me his leather working tools. I had never used them before, I didn’t even know he had them, but I felt like I had to use them. He must have known me better than I knew myself, because my calligraphy skills and attention to detail translated perfectly into leather work. I found a new passion that grew into my business, my calling. I make products that will last generations, like my tools have. I hope that someday, some boy receives one of my bags from his grandfather and finds his passion waiting inside.
I don’t know where I would be now if I hadn’t fallen to my death. I doubt I would have my wife, my son or my daughter. I doubt I would ever have found this passion, or discovered the power of my determination. Now on Labor Day I look back and realize how lucky I was. It was the best day of my life.
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