Monday, July 25, 2011

It is truly inspiring for me...

Emily "Milly" Wallace -

"I am 5 years and 7 months out since my accident and everyday is recovery. I had to lay down on my back for 3 months with only 1 hour of time allotted per day to eat, bath, sit up and physical therapy.

"My recovery was lots of walking, I worked up at Brighton and would lay down when my back hurt, I would go outside and make snowmen and that strengthened my back. Unfortunately I did not have insurance and with all the bills I couldn't afford physical therapy, the hospital kicked me out a week after my surgery because of that, luckily my mother took a month off of work to be my nurse. She had to help feed me, bathe me, brush my hair and teeth, dress me, give me my meds on a schedule and help me with my physical therapy.

"Once I was strong enough from walking and building snowmen I started snowshoeing, then 6 months after surgery I went snowboarding..that was so scary! I was told not to crash! Then I spent April, May, June and July at Snowbird and snowshoeing to get my strength back even more.

"Then that summer I went mountainboarding for my first time again. It took me 4 years to get to a point where I feel stronger than I did before my injury. I have been very lucky that physically I have been able to get back to all the same things I used to do and added more sports and experiences to my life since then, such as rock climbing, paragliding, snowkiting, backpacking, and kayaking.

"It is a long road...but it is life changing and humbling. Savoring every experience and every accomplishment means so much to me. Each person is given different situations and challenges in life and each person chooses how they will handle that. I am just so glad that through my experiences that I had been able to meet and make great friends and helped them through their recovery.

"It makes me so happy to see Gates' positive attitude, you can see him working hard and pushing through so much to achieve goals. It is truly inspiring for me. I will keep watching the blog for the next event so I can come meet Gates! Stay strong!"

Friday, July 15, 2011

Dear Brian...

Since that day in April, and even before, I have learned so much by watching you.  The day after the accident, the night of the surgery, as I shuffled my way through the hospital cafeteria, I focused on the largest person in the room, in stature and in so many other ways; You.  Your right hand hide the right side of your face as you used your fingers to rub your sleep deprived eyes; with each pace I felt my emotions bubbling, as you greeted me with a hug, I lost it.

Before Gates’ accident you sat in our home, with Gates, talking of his swimming accomplishments and encouraging him to give more detail; Gates, nonchalant, relayed the basics where you interjected saying, “Come on, Gates, it was a bigger deal than that.”  That afternoon, the demonstration of love you have for Gates brought joy to my spouse and me as you finished the story; Gates shrugging and rolling his eyes all the while.

I distinctly remember the testimony you shared from the pulpit, approximately one year ago, about overhearing Gates talk, with his friends, about his plans for a mission.  I can still hear your words expressing your happiness with his decision to serve the Lord.

These stories shared, it’s been the last 100+ days, where I’ve learned the most. 

The initial moments, of my unannounced visits to the hospital, are some of the most cherished seconds I’ve had with you.  One experience, specifically, where you sat on Gates’ hospital bed, no spoken word, no television noise interrupted the peaceful ambiance you shared with your son.  It was me who broke that solemn silence, announcing my presence at the doorway.  I’ve reflected on this moment numerous times, and the sweet spirit there that afternoon, when I've needed the serenity and perspective. 

Each post I write has a vested emotional piece to it, however some time has passed since, while glaring at the monitor, typing feverishly... I’ve cried.  Today, I am overwhelmed with feelings brought on by how humbled I am to know you, your character, your service, your dedication and most of all your love. 

You have imparted of your gratitude to all of us, and so we return the favor as we make known our indebtedness to you for your example of charity, attitude, perseverance, strength, effort, faith, dedication, patience and more and more and more.

A big bear hug, for the Big Bear himself!

Sincerely and with much love,

All of us

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Gates is home...

Gates is home.  He's been home now for more than a week and going through therapy nearly every minute of every day; he told me, "Pretty much anything I do is therapy."

It is fun to witness him zipping around the house in his chair and then to find him, mustache and all, again back at church on Sunday.  It does me so much good to see him, smiling, leaned back in his seat, raising his eyebrows in salutation as I escort my little one out to the restroom in the middle of the meeting.

I didn't intend to write tonight but as I sit here occupying this familiar chair, my thoughts drift, as they often do, to Gates.  A recent comment reminded me of the group of individuals who have shared their stories of injury and recovery, stories which have touched me, stories I hope touch you.

Sabrina Glade in her own words:

"Hey Gates,

"I heard about you from my mother-in-law just recently.  It sounds like you have a great attitude and a lot of support and I wish you the best. 

"I just thought I'd write to see if there was anything I could do to offer encouragement, etc.  I broke my back eleven years ago snowboarding and was paralyzed from the waist down.  I was also 19 years old.  

"Although my injury was lower on the spinal cord than yours, so it was not as complicated, I'm familiar with some of the struggles you'll be facing.  Fortunately, I've been very lucky in my recovery.  When the doctor first saw my injury, he thought I would never walk again.  I have x-rays that show the vertebrae next to each other instead of being on top of each other.  They thought for sure my cord was severed.  

"After the surgery to put it all back in place, they did the MRI and found the cord wasn't severed but crushed.  The doctor said that increased my odds to about a 5% chance of walking again.  (They have to give you worst case.)  

"I spent two months rehabilitating in the University of Utah.  I spent 8 months in a wheelchair and then another year walking with leg braces and crutches. I started out with a full leg brace on my left leg and a half brace on the right.  I still have a brace on my lower left leg.  I have never regained full use of my left leg and there are other things that never went completely back to normal.  However, within a couple of years I was learning to snowboard again.... in fact I went last week.  I still hit jumps and boxes but I no longer take risks like I did... but am just grateful that I can still enjoy the mountain.  

"It seems like you've already met some people who have had similar injuries. (I think I saw on the blog that you're working with Brandon Sulser.)  But I thought I would just let you know if you feel like you'd like to talk to someone with similar background, I'd be happy to come talk with you.  I know I haven't mentioned this yet, but the reason I'm walking today is through the faith, prayers, and fasting of my family and friends.  I knew I would walk again.  Keep your faith.  

"My hope & prayers are with you & your family."

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Hunsaker Kids Helping at Gates' Booth at Eaglewood

My beautiful, blue eyed two-year-old daughter, who is generally very sweet and patient, became frustrated with me, on Saturday, as I struggled to wrap her baby doll the way she wanted.  Her level of irritation became visible when she took them both from my hands, placed them aggressively on the chair next to me and walked off in a huff.  She struggled to communicate, in a way I could understand, what she wanted and needed to happen.

Brian and I talked the day before about the way Gates’ body communicates with him.  Where most of us can feel the pain of a stubbed toe or an upset stomach, Gates doesn’t have that blessing to know something isn’t right.  For him, his body communicates problems through raised blood pressure, fevers and headaches, headaches so bad his eyes water.

Unfortunately, for Gates, his body has sent him these messages for the last few days requiring him to remain in the hospital another night; his much-anticipated “escape” has been delayed.  Keep him in your prayers that Wednesday will be better and he’ll sleep Wednesday night in his own bed.

This said, Gates would not be denied the chance to lie on the cool grass, distancing himself from anything remotely associated to the hospital, to watch the fireworks from his backyard.

Gates' Booth at Eaglewood
At Eaglewood Golf Course, a few of Gates’ friends and family members faced the heat of the July afternoon and joined in an effort to raise a little extra money for the mounting bills.  Gates visited the group and didn’t care to leave as he received loving embraces from various friends within the swarming crowd.

On Friday and Saturday, ward members, neighbors and friends fell on the Hunsaker home to clean and help move furniture in place for Gates’ homecoming. 

I’ve reflected the last few days about communication as a whole.  The inability to communicate not only brings distress to the person or part of the body attempting to relay the message, it also causes confusion and an annoyance to the receiver, be it in the form of bewilderment or physically demonstrated through headaches and fevers. 

How important then the ability to communicate?  Whether it is through acts of service, a hug from a friend who parts a sea of people or the verbal expression of appreciation and love.

As echoed many times before and peppered in nearly every conversation I have with them, if there is one message Brian, Cherie, Gates and the rest of the Hunsaker family wish to make very clear, and communicate to all, it is this:  Thank you!

For the 4th of July

Finally, Gates, we wish you a VERY Happy Birthday 
on this July 6th!
May a night in your own bed be your gift!