Friday, April 8, 2011

The Last 72 Hours...

Gates Hunsaker

Before all else...

From the initial report of the accident, to the uploading of this first post, people from all over the world have reached out to the Hunsakers with well wishes, expressions of love and offers to help.  The Hunsaker family is overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support and are truly humbled and sincerely grateful to all who have shown concern and to all who have offered prayers in behalf of Gates and their family.

The purpose of this blog is to offer updates to all who desire to learn of Gates’ condition and progress.   We encourage you to comment and share stories of Gates, as the future will require much of this young man.  He continues to inspire all of us, even in his current state, defying any who challenge him stating, “I don’t care what anyone says, I will walk again!”

The last 72 hours:

Prior to leaving on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Gates had a sort of “bucket list” of things he wanted to do “one last time.”

Monday:  Gates wanted to spend time with his three younger siblings (two sisters, Gentry and Avery and brother, Reese) and parents (Brian and Cherie), participating in a favorite family past time, skiing (Gates boarded).

Tuesday Morning:  Gates got up early to take part in the traditional “Mission Pictures” though he still had visible scratches on his face from an earlier meeting of a carpeted wall, thanks to an over bounce on an Olympic trampoline.  After his photo shoot and once again wanting to spend his last few hours with family, the group headed to the Sunshine CafĂ© for breakfast where Brian said, “Gates enjoyed a HUGE breakfast.”

Tuesday Afternoon: Gates relaxed on the couch to take pleasure in a couple favorite movies, James Bond, specifically; when a welcomed visit from a good friend and snowboarding partner, Garrett Millward, made the day complete.  The two loaded in the car to make one final "Gap Jump” across the stream, up Big Cottonwood Canyon (around 2:00pm).

Tuesday Evening:  Brian anxiously awaited Gates’ return, as Gates was scheduled to be set-apart as a Missionary in their home at 7:00pm that evening.  He made a phone call to Gates to gauge his estimated time of arrival.  The conversation was as follows (5:00pm): 

Brian:  “Gates, where are you?”
Gates:  “I’m standing at the top of a cliff up Big Cottonwood Canyon.”
Brian:  “Gates, please be careful…”
Gates:  “Don’t worry, Dad, the only thing that could happen would be I fall into a puddle and get a little wet.”
Brian:  “The Stake Presidency will be here around 7:00pm for your setting apart, you need to be home at 6:00pm to get ready.”
Gates:  “Dad, we’ve been building this jump all afternoon, we’re just going to do this jump once.  I can’t be home by 6:00pm but I’ll be there by 6:30pm and can be ready by the time they get there.”
Brian:  “Alright, please be careful.”

At 5:15pm Brian sent Gates a text and said, “You need to load up now.” 

No response.

At 5:30pm Brian sent another text saying, “Hope you’re on your way.”

No response.

At 6:00pm Brian walked in the door to find Gentry, his eldest daughter, on the phone; she quickly handed the receiver to him.

On the other of the line was Garrett Millward’s mother, Margaret, “Brian, I don’t want to scare you but I just heard on the radio that two 19-year-old boys were up Big Cottonwood Canyon and one of them is being flown by ‘Life Flight’ to IHC.”

At the same time, Cherie was on her cell phone with IHC Emergency.

What happened between the time Brian and Gates text conversation ended and when Brian received the call, only Garrett and Gates know.  I would love to get the story from Garrett ( and will post it with the consent of Garrett and the Hunsaker family.

At the hospital:  Brian was greeted by the nurse who said, “Gates has been in a serious accident which will most likely have life changing affect.”  Brian’s heart sank.

As they walked toward Gates, lying on the table in the trauma unit, Gates said,  “Dad, don’t look at me like that…   you’re scaring me.” 

The surgeon, Dr. Rich, approached and gave a quick synopsis of the extent of Gates’ injuries.  Dr. Rich reiterated again, “These injuries will have life changing affect.” 

Tuesday Night:  Doctors put Gates in traction, to straighten his neck and relieve pressure, to put his spine back in alignment.  This is an important measure as it relieves the stress on the spinal cord and allows circulation to continue. 

That night, Gates lay flat on his back, the bed slightly elevated, with no feeling in his lower arms or legs.  The accident shattered the C6 vertebrae in his neck and caused much trauma to his C5 vertebrae.

Wednesday:  Gates, family and friends wait for surgery.  That evening, around 5:00pm, Gates was wheeled into the operating room where he would undergo two surgeries, one from the front of his neck and the other from the back.

Six hours later Dr. Rich met the family in the waiting room to report.  They fused three vertebrae (C5, C6 and C7) and were happy to report they did not see additional issues, which cause concern in these types of injuries.  Dr. Rich made a point to talk about Gates’ strength and overall good health.

After the surgery Brian and Cherie left Gates calm and resting.

Thursday:  Gates suffered a partial lung collapse Thursday morning.  He was having difficultly breathing and keeping fluid out of his lungs, which lowered the oxygen count in his blood.  Thanks to a respirator, which is very common in these types of injuries, Gates’ vital signs are good and his lung functioning fully.  Doctors said, the fact Gates’ was off the respirator to that point was good news and that he was “beating the odds.”

This has been a difficult day for Gates; hospital staff will not allow visitors to his room due to the risk of infection.  The respirator makes it impossible to talk; communication is done through a series of blinking.  The equipment is cumbersome and invasive requiring Gates to be sedated.

Miracles and Tender Mercies thus far: 
  • Gates cell phone was in his pocket; it was neither wet nor damaged beyond usage.
  • The stream where Gates was submerged had been dammed the day prior, leaving only a slow trickle and not a more dangerous river.
  • Rescue crews were just over the hill and responded within minutes.
  • In surgery, there was no additional leakage within the spinal column. 
  •  Gates still has mobility in his shoulders, can rotate his arms on both sides and can feel touch above his elbow.
  • Since his surgery:  Gates is now feeling a “tingling” sensation in his forearms; where concerns his triceps wouldn’t function the occupational therapist is saying he is seeing some use of those muscles.

Though Gates can’t feel anything in his legs, yet, he’s hopeful and taking one day at a time.

The outpouring of love has buoyed this family up.  Gates knows of the prayers, the fasting, the messages and postings on Facebook, the friends who have met for a small vigil and united prayer, those who’ve waited outside the operating room and everyone else who has not ceased to think of him in his troubled time.

Again, the Hunsaker family wants to express their sincerest thanks to all who have shown so much charity and compassion for Gates and their family.

Gates and Little Brother Reese

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  1. Thank for you for taking the time to share this information with everyone. All our thoughts and prayers for Gates full recovery and strength for the whole family.

  2. Our family prayers for you in every prayer. We've put your name on the prayer roll at the Bountiful temple. We'll be fasting for you Sunday. All our faith and prayers are with you every day! Love, The Richters (Kurt, Jen, Julia, David, and Anne Marie)

  3. We're all praying for you Gates!! Hang in there!

  4. We love you Gates and are constantly praying for you and your family. Cherie and Brian, we are here for you. Whatever you need, please let us know. The Giles Family

  5. So many people down in Provo are praying for you
    Gates. One of my Professors told me that the St. George Temple is for healing and that one of Brigham Youngs wives went there to do something with healing (it was a confusing story) so I called them and had them put you and your families names on the prayer roll. You are incredible! I love you tons and haven't stopped thinking about you.
    -Aubree Jones

  6. I shared your information and story with hundreds of professional colleagues and personal friends and on my facebook and twitter and asked them for their their prayers on Gates behalf. We were watching the 6pm news Tuesday when the accident was announced, Lyn called the Bountiful temple and put Gates name on the prayer roll. Our entire family fasted Wednesday with others for Gates. You have tons of people from all over the world and many more who are adding you Gates and your family to their prayers and petitioning the Lord for your full and speedy recovery. God Bless! Jeff & Lyn Donovan & family

  7. Gates!

    Krystal just shared with me what happened. I am so sorry. I have taught many seminary students over the past 17 years and you are one of those kinds of kids (young men) with whom I hope my kids will be like and have as a friend. Our prayers are with you and for you. Try not to let the physical stunt the spritual. Love you brother.

    Jason Klodnicki (Chaplain USAF)

  8. Gates, you got this you are strong!!! Me and Garrett set up an account at America First Credit Union for anyone who would like to donate! The account name is "Gates Hunsaker Charitable Account". The tellers will look it up for you. Keep hanging in there Gates, you are doing awesome!!! Love you Ken!!!!!

  9. Gates was a student at Woods Cross High School. He was one of those students that every teacher was aware of and knew because of his excellent efforts. We were all very proud of his accomplishments here and know that he is destined for success regardless of the playing field where he is placed. Our sincere concern and best wishes are for Gates and his family. His committment to success and excellence will serve him well in this new learning experience. I am confident that we will continue to be very proud of his accomplishments. You are in our hearts and prayers.
    Joan Williams

  10. I am a 25 year old woman and you have no idea who I am and I don't know your family. But I am a big believer as well as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I have a big belief that everything happens for a reason. This story inspires me and makes me want to cry because as bad as things were, you took made a list of the good outcome of all of this. I struggle in life and what God's plan for me is and I tend to think of the negative and that brought tears to my eyes when I saw that list. Thank you for sharing this story. It is amazing! Good luck! I will pray for you and your family!

  11. Good luck Gates!! Your story is a inspiration. My nephew is a cousin of your friend Garatt. Hang in there.