Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Scary Moments and an Appeal

Every one of us has done it.  Had something happen that makes us look around and think. "WOW, that could have been really bad!"  For many it happened in a car.  For most who read this blog - it happened while hanging in a harness and realizing exacly how fast 32'/sec.2 really is.

It might have been a shoddy approach to a sketchy, too small field; or it might have been a collapse right after a mis-timed launch that threatened to swing us viciously into the hill - These are moments we will permanently burn into our flying brain - so that the fact we dodged the bullet - this time - isn't lost on us.  That we are able to fly another day makes us more appreciative of that fact, and more careful to protect that ability.  We've all gotten away with some scary moments.  Every once in a while we don't.

At my first paragliding XC competition, The Rat Race, I met a great guy named Jeff Huey.  He was a top-10 pilot who was a bit older than many of his contemporaries and a respected pilot.  He's generous with his advice and as humble as they come.  He made an impression on me because I had definitely been bitten by the bug and he had attained a level of competence and respect that I aspired to -  Shortly after the comp, it happened.  I heard about his accident through the grapevine.  He had crashed in Mexico while practicing before a comp.  He had broken his back and had profound loss of mobility.  That was 4 years ago.

Jeff has been through a lot since then.  If a man shows his true character while enduring adversity, his character would fill a stadium.  While in pain and confined by his injuries, he still was the great personality and sound advisor at many events.  Well, it's not over for Jeff and he could use some support from the community.  I hope you'll help this friend in need. You can be an encouragement just by writing. Recently one of his fellow "TeamLoser" compadres wrote the following:-
As many are aware, Jeff Huey is paralyzed below his chest as the result of a paragliding accident he suffered in Mexico four years ago. The injury was a broken neck at C7 which required the removal of the broken vertebrae and hardware installed across that area. Jeff’s recovery after his accident has been inspiring! Until recently he has been driving himself to his rehab sessions at the pool, working around the yard and performing all the other tasks we all face daily.

Unfortunately there has been a series of medical complications and setbacks which required Jeff to endure an extended hospital stay with a specialist in Seattle, WA, far from his home in Bend, OR.

The recent problems began with high muscle tone on the left side of Jeff’s body tightening and pulling the ball of his femur out of the socket, which would then go back in place when his body would relax. The socket eventually wore out, creating significant pain where the ball of his femur was wearing through the socket. Jeff can’t necessarily feel pain below his chest at the site of an injury, but his body does and the effects of the pain make his daily routines extremely difficult, or even impossible.

In May 2009, Jeff was injected with a shot to deaden some of his leg muscles to prevent them from pulling the ball from the socket. Unfortunately this didn’t solve the problem, and so in October he underwent surgery to have the ball of his femur removed: the first half of a hip replacement which can be completed if he regains movement in his legs.

But after this surgery severe pain was still present. Images taken of his spine revealed that two more of his vertebrae, T9 and T10, had disintegrated and a third was wearing away. This is right at the point in his middle back where he can move his torso, which created a kind of unsupported hinge which ground away the bones. In January Jeff found a surgeon in Seattle to fuse the vertebrae from T5 to L1. The surgery went well and after a short stay in the hospital he returned to his house in Bend and was doing well with his recovery.

After a short time, however, the recovery took a bad turn and Jeff was again feeling the effects of severe pain. He endured this deteriorating condition for several days before being urged to have things checked out at the local hospital. The following day a new CT scan showed that several of the screws had been pulled from the vertebrae they were anchored to, causing significant damage to those vertebrae. It is likely that the screws pulled out during a transfer from his wheelchair to another surface where he slipped to the floor, but the cause remains unsure.  The next day Jeff was flown Air Life to Seattle to his surgeon and she fused C6 to L1 to span the new injury. Two days into the recovery, while heavily sedated, Jeff fell out of the hospital bed. Apparently the side bar was left down. When found he was in respiratory distress because of fluid on the lungs, requiring yet another trip to the ICU, where tubes were put in to drain the fluid. The fluid turned out to be spinal fluid, so Jeff was fitted with tubing into his spinal column to relieve the pressure. The procedure was successful and Jeff was transported back to Bend to a skilled nursing facility where his recovery may take up to twelve weeks. 

Through it all Jeff remains in good spirit and continues to amaze with his expanding medical knowledge and humor in the face of it all. Jeff has excellent medical coverage, but even so it doesn’t cover all the expenses associated with something like this. While his hospital services were covered his coverage for care at the nursing facility has run out and he will be required to pay $6,000 for the final four weeks of care. He will also have to pay $5,000 out of pocket for his ambulance transport from Seattle back to Bend. In light of his situation we have set up a pay pal account where anyone who feels like helping out can do so.

Pay Pal users can send donations to "jeffh22037 (at)"

Also Jeff is registered on Facebook if you would like to send him some encouragement!


Heal well Jeff -


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