WHY I’VE BEEN M.I.A.

Greetings. Sorry for the radio silence from After Orange County lately. Let me explain why I’ve been M.I.A.

Three weeks ago tomorrow I got one of those calls every parent dreads. The caller ID said it was my youngest son calling, but the person on the line was not my son. Rather it was one of his ski buddies informing me that he was in an ambulance, accompanying my son to the Trauma Center at The University of Utah Medical Center.

WHY I'VE BEEN M.I.A. | University of Utah Medical Center | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

We had given our son Austin a ski trip to Utah as a birthday present. He wanted to visit his hometown skiing buddies who now go to college in Utah. The boys grew up together, racing on the Snow Summit Ski Race Team in Big Bear, California. Now, all 4 of them go to college in places where they can nourish their brains as well as their passion for skiing.  So, Austin traveled to Salt Lake City over his Spring Break from The University of Colorado at Boulder. He and his friends had a fantastic 4 days of skiing every resort in the Salt Lake area, with Austin doing what he loves best, shooting ski videos as he and his buddies perform the most hair raising, freestyle stunts. Take a look at this video Austin shot and edited while on his trip to Utah and you will see how ski accidents can happen. You can see Austin’s shadow and the tips of his skis as he follows his buddies down the slopes taking the video. On a side note, the last skier in the video is Jordan Romero, the youngest person ever to climb to the summit of Mount Everest. Austin calls him “Gordon Jomero” in the credits for fun.

So, as is often the case, Austin was skiing the very last run of the day on what was to have been his last day in Utah before coming home to California for Easter. The conditions were slushy when he and his friend hit a jump together, side-by-side. They had planned to do a simultaneous trick with Austin doing a front flip and his friend JM doing a backflip. Entering the jump too quickly, they both crashed. Austin’s friend landed without injury on his butt but Austin landed on his upper back, having over-rotated his front flip. Ironically, a friend standing by shot this photo of Austin at the very moment he knew things were going very wrong.

WHY I'VE BEEN M.I.A.| www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

WHY I'VE BEEN M.I.A.| www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

The crash resulted in Austin shattering 5 vertebrae in his upper back. A CT Scan, MRI and various X Rays determined that his injuries were very serious, but by a small miracle, his spinal cord was uneffected. That news was music to my ears, because of course when I heard the words “broken back” the first thing I thought of was, is he paralyzed?!!! It was decided that he would need surgery to fuse the broken vertebrae and because Austin was 18 years old, he was able to sign the medical release forms authorizing all of the medical procedures being performed. Brad and I caught the first plane to Salt Lake City, which agonizingly wasn’t until the following morning, and arrived at the hospital 15 minutes after they took him into surgery. My heart sunk as we arrived to find his hospital room empty and the name, “Trauma Caspian” written on the door. They explained to us later that when trauma patients arrive in the ER, they are assigned a name, just like they do with hurricanes.  It’s the way they can identify patients who don’t have time to “check in” through normal channels.

WHY I'VE BEEN M.I.A. | University of Utah Medical Center | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

WHY I'VE BEEN M.I.A. | University of Utah Medical Center | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

A very long 4 1/2 hours later the surgeon came out to tell us that Austin’s surgery was a success. He explained that although he would have a very long and painful recovery, in about 6 months Austin would be good as new, albeit with 12 screws, several plates and 2 long metal rods in his back. The worst news was that Austin wouldn’t be able to return to school in Colorado to finish the semester, as he would not be able to care for himself for at least 6 weeks. That meant coming home with us to California after a week-long recovery period in the hospital. Brad and I spent every waking moment with him in the hospital, learning from the doctors, nurses and physical therapists how to care for him. All we saw of Salt Lake City was the lovely view from Austin’s hospital room. And all day long we watched a steady stream of medevac helicopters land on the roof, filling the hospital with many other victims of ski accidents. As the doctors said, “Tis the Season.”  As a result, The University of Utah Medical Center is one of the finest Orthopedic Hospitals in the country. So, if you have to have a ski accident, this is the place to do it.

WHY I'VE BEEN M.I.A. | University of Utah Medical Center | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Finally, on Easter Sunday, which also happened to be Austin’s 19th birthday, we were able to take him home with us. The journey began with a terrific Uber driver that got us and all our luggage & ski equipment safely to the airport.

WHY I'VE BEEN M.I.A.| www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

A wheelchair ride through the airport and the very nice folks at Delta Airlines got Austin onto the small plane where we were able to book 3, First Class tickets in row 1 of the aircraft.

Wheelchair to plane

Austin got settled into his seat before any other passengers boarded the plane and managed an awkward smile for this photo. While I’m usually the one with the camera, taking photos was the last thing on my mind.  My husband, however, had the presence of mind to take all of the photos you see in this blog post. He thought Austin would enjoy having a record of this journey and all that he had endured. I’m glad he did.

WHY I'VE BEEN M.I.A.| www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Now I’m learning what it takes to be a caregiver and I have a whole new appreciation for what is involved. My new job description is Nurse, Physical Therapist, Short Order Cook and College Tutor, with Blogger dropping to the very end of the list. I have never gotten so much exercise in my own home, running up and down the stairs to his bedroom all day long. Nor have I ever gotten so little sleep. Like a friend said to me today, “Now you know why sleep deprivation is a form of torture.” And just as Brad and I were beginning to enjoy our empty nest, we now have what has felt like a newborn baby under our roof. Instead of nighttime feedings and diaper changes I’m getting up to make sure my son takes his medication on time. But, while caregiving isn’t easy, I keep reminding myself that what my son is going through is far, far worse. His world has been turned upside down, he is in agonizing pain at times, and he is away from school, friends and his dorm room which he now considers home. So, I have nothing at all to complain about. It’s a transition for all of us and we will get through it. Austin is making daily progress, and every day gets better, with today being a particularly good day. In fact, that’s why I was finally able to sit down and write this blog post. I hope you’ll stick with me while I forge my way through this new reality. I have every hope of being able to get back to my desk and share my life After Orange County with you.

In closing I thought I’d share this inspirational ABC News report about Austin’s friend, Jordan Romero’s successful climb to the summit of Mount Everest at age 13. Now 19 and training for his next climb, Jordan’s fortitude, bravery and hard work is an inspiration to Austin and our family to keep the faith and keep forging ahead, even when the pain and the agony of life’s setbacks want to pull you down.

Click on the play button below, then on the link “Watch on Youtube” to view.

So there you have it:  WHY  I’VE  BEEN  M.I.A.

You might also like: 10 Reasons It’s Better to be a Soccer Mom Than A Ski Racer Mom

or

The Benefits of Being A Ski Racer Mom

10 REASONS IT’S BETTER TO BE A SOCCER MOM THAN A SKI RACER MOM | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Express Yourself!

No blog post is truly complete without a word from you. I’d be so delighted if you’d leave a comment below. 

All opinions expressed in this post are my own. Unless otherwise credited, all photos are the original property of Celia Becker @ www.AfterOrangeCounty.com and may not be reproduced without specific permission.

Comments

  • The Enchanted Home

    OH. MY. GOSH! You are not kidding..you have been through a crazy ordeal…..thank GOD he is OK! As a mom of three daredevil boys…I can relate to this, between my middle son who was adrenaline junkie with snowboarding and skateboarding….we almost knew the ER crew on a first name basis…never anything super serious like this but certainly broken bones/sprains. My youngest son went on an annual ski trip to Park City every year until he graduated from HS with his best friend and family and they are all extreme skiers..ugh!! So I held my breath that ENTIRE week.
    SO happy for you that Austin is OK and home being given lots of TLC. Your husband is one smart cookie to take the pics:) Wishing Austin a very speedy recovery…..boy if this doesn’t throw you for a loop, don’t know what will. He is VERY lucky to have sustained an injury that he will fully recover from. Go Austin!! And go you…sending you a cyber hug, know this must have been incrediby scary for you and your husband.
    PS And Jordan? A M A Z I N G!!!! I have had a lifelong fascination with Everest and have many books/seen all documentaries on the subject, so to do that at 13 is beyond!

  • Hi Tina, thank you so very much for your kind and understanding comment. I too have raised 3 boys, the first two being easy. Austin on the other hand is making up for his brothers, with major daredevil as his middle name. Like you with the ER docs, we are on a first name basis with Austin’s Orthopedic. In fact, I think we keep him in business, as Austin has broken every extremity in his body. You are spot-on to say he is one very lucky kid. And despite it all, I’m very lucky to be Austin’s mom. Have a great Sunday Tina.

  • Wow…Celia, that is a phone call that you never want to receive! I am so sorry you have all been through so much, but am happy that things are getting better! We are a family of skiers and my husband spent days in intensive care in France after a skiing accident…a fluke but so, so scary! Please know that we are thinking of you and wishing a speedy recovery for your son. Sending you warm hugs…xoxo

  • holly

    I am so sorry to hear of Austin’s accident but I will include his successful surgery and recovery in my gratitude journal. Sending you wishes for endurance in the coming weeks as caregiving is a challenge. Far better than the unthinkable alternative, yes? xx-hb

  • Sunny Henderson

    Oh Celia!!! We’re so sorry to hear about Austin! What a journey you all are on. We will be praying for complete recovery, rapid healing and for the pain to be deminished as much as possible. Also that this time would bring you all closer and connected in a new way.
    We also will keep you uplifted with regard to sleep, rest, stamina and hope. Thank you Brad for the pictures. It’s good to see Austin’s face on the plane.
    With much care and concern,
    Sunny

  • OMG I am so sorry but so thankful he will recover. My daughter broke her neck at the end of her junior year. Although it wasn’t nearly as serious as this, it was life changing. She has a cadaver bone in her neck and it totally altered her plans for playing water polo in college. It all worked out and she has had very few problems. My heart goes out to you.

  • Well Cindy, it sounds like you sure can relate to our situation, having gone through a broken neck with your daughter! These things are indeed life changing, and we hope maybe in some way for the better. I am praying Austin has learned to appreciate life and wellness much more as a result of all this. So glad to hear your daughter made a full recovery.

  • Hi Sunny, thanks so much for your kind words. You now, what doesn’t kill ya makes ya stronger, right? And yes, looking back on it all now I am really glad Brad took photos. At the time I thought it was a bit insensitive, but I sure am glad to have them now that it’s all said and done. Best to you and yours.

  • You are so sweet Holly, thank you. My son’s mother-in-law keeps a daily gratitude journal and I think that has got to be the most inspirational thing one could do for well being. It is so good to remind yourself daily of all the good things in life. Cheers to you!

  • Yes, one’s heart sinks to the very depths with this type of phone call. But, how completely terrible for you and your husband to spend a vacation in France in the intensive care ward! Thank you so much for your kind words. I feel the love:) And, the one good thing that came out of all that time I spent in the hospital was I was able to almost finish “Lies and Other Acts of Love.” Loved it!!! My blog post about it will be coming soon. XO

  • diane

    I am so sorry to hear about his accident but tell him I really enjoyed the ski video, especially since we did not get out on the slopes this season. We experienced the same things you are going through when our daughter had a car accident that laid her up for a year and put her in the most unusual forms of arm and neck braces, pins in her arms, two surgeries (one on Christmas Eve) etc. But I believe good comes out of everything and that year ended up being exactly what she needed to make some decisions about school, work and life etc and we will be celebrating her wedding in just 3 short weeks. So hang in there and when times get tough just keep remembering how much worse it could have been…and these kids are so young and healthy that they bounce back in the most amazing ways!

  • WOW Diane, and I thought we had it bad!! I appreciate so much hearing from other mothers who have experienced difficulty with their children. Funny how adversity can bring people together in understanding and compassion. Glad you enjoyed Austin’s video, I’ll tell him so. Since he is the one behind the camera we don’t get to see him in action very often, probably a good thing. I’m very pleased to hear that your daughter is better than new and that you will be celebrating her marriage soon. You must be crazy busy at this point with all the last minute details. Have a wonderful, wonderful day.

  • Juliet Russell

    Oh, Celia, I did wonder where you’d gone and assume it was another wonderful adventure. I’m so sorry to learn what was really happening. What a dreadful accident, but how fortunate for the excellent – and immediate – medical care. Your Austin is going to be good as new in no time. How can he not with such a remarkable nurse, physical therapist, chief cook and bottle washer looking after him. Best to you and your family as you navigate through this major challenge. Your devoted readers will be anxiously awaiting your return to the blogosphere. ~ Juliet

  • Dear Juliet, I so appreciate your sweet words of encouragement. Things are really improving rapidly with Austin and already I feel like we’re getting back into a more normal routine. Watch for more regular blog posts starting this week, it’s MY therapy!

  • Elizabeth

    Celia so happy to hear that your son is ok! Enjoy the time with him, yes being a caregiver is hard but I am sure that he would not want to be anywhere else but home with his family caring for him.

  • qromiq

    I’m so grateful for you and your family that your son is going to recover from his accident. My son was in an accident two years ago and the surgeon told us after his surgery that he almost lost his life. As a mother of a son who lives life to the fullest I can relate to what you are going through. We love our children so much and any pain they are experiencing is our pain too. When my son was back at home recovering I looked at it as bonus time to have him with us a little longer. Sending peace and prayers for your sons healing.

  • It’s so nice to hear from someone who’s been thru a similar event. Not that we’d wish this on anyone but it sure does remind you how precious life is and how it can change in an instant. You know, it’s funny you should mention time with your son being a “bonus” because my husband and I were just saying the same thing. We were just adjusting to an empty nest and all of a sudden he’s back. I think I’ll be going thru kid withdrawals all over again when he leaves again in the fall.

  • Thank you Elizabeth. We are enjoying him! Good thing his appetite is ravenous because I’m really enjoying having an extra mouth to feed. It’s been challenging cooking for 2.

  • Kathy B.

    One of my best friends went through this a few years back when her son also broke his back while mountain biking. It was pretty traumatizing for her as a mother so I have a feel for what you’re going through. Reading your account of it all, I was also adding up the dollar signs and, while you all have much to be grateful for, the costs can be stressful on top of everything else. Coincidently, my daughter turned 25 on Easter Sunday and she also had a skiing accident – a torn ACL so nothing in comparison – but she was home with us, working from home, for 2 weeks after her surgery. Once she stabilized, it was such a charm having her here! I really miss her. If there’s one silver lining, it’s that you’ll get some extra time with your son before he goes back to school and then off to a job after graduation. Try to enjoy it as you traipse up and down the stairs 🙂 Wishing you all a quick and full recovery!

  • How funny that you and I gave birth on the same day, albeit 6 years apart. It’s even more unbelievable that she too had a skiing accident that day. I know that a torn ACL is no walk in the park either so please send her my belated birthday and get well wishes. Funny thing you should also mention cost because we call Austin our “Deductible Kid”. That’s because every year he alone satisfies our considerably high medical insurance deductible. And yes, as my husband said, this accident could have been a very nice extended vacation to Europe for what it cost. But hey, as parents no expense is too much when it comes to our kids health. Thank you so much for your kind comment Kathy.

  • MaryKBachman

    I’m so sorry Austin with what you and your parents are dealing with. Sounds like you were put into very good hands once off the slopes.
    I’ve watched the videos Tucker and his ski buddies at USC filmed throughout the years, and as a parent its nerve wracking!
    In high school he hit a big jump too hard at Bear and over rotated his back flip. Fortunately he landed flat on his back leaving abrasions of all his ribs on the skin, but didn’t break anything. Several weeks of chiropractic, rest and lots of Arnica followed.
    Austin, you are in our prayers for a really quick recovery! Hang in there!