The moral of the story before I start:

Watch out for each other on the hill. They say no friends on a pow day but any good friend knows the mountain is a dangerous place and no pow day means more than someone’s life.

Ok, now let’s go back. December 27th, 2015 I was enjoying some holiday powder with my two buddies at Breckenridge, CO. On my second run I was riding some trees and made a tiny, uncharacteristic mistake that led me full speed into a tree. It hurt A LOT but after a few minutes wrestling with my breath my friends advised me that I probably just knocked the wind out of myself (I WISH) … so I tried to be a tough guy and hopped on to the next lift. A few minutes into the lift ride I knew this was not your typical loss of breath. I began to go in and out of consciousness. Once I got to the top of peak 10 I knew I needed to be at the bottom of the mountain 10 minutes ago. My friends tried calling ski patrol but I couldn’t wait. I began side slipping ALL the way down Breckenridge to the bottom of Peak 9. I literally collapsed at the bottom of the hill. My friend was close behind with ski patrol and paramedics. All my efforts to avoid the sled were crushed when I realized I stopped 50 yards short of the on mountain ICU 😐 (it happens to the best of us)

OK so now for the fun part. The whole time I had been convincing myself it was just a loss of breath, I was really bleeding out internally from my spleen. My lungs and stomach were filling fast. Three of my ribs broke inward, which is how my spleen became lacerated. I was quickly moved from the on mountain ICU to an ambulance. From there I went 10 minutes down the road (all this time no one was really telling me how severe this was) to the Frisco Hospital. This is when I realized that this was no walk in the park. A helicopter was there waiting for me. My stomach sank, or what was left of it at least. Two dogs sitting at home waiting for me, a family back in PA with no idea what’s going on, a dead phone, and here I am being loaded onto a helicopter with a direct bee line to St. Anthony’s Trauma Center in Denver. I gotta tell you guys, I always thought my first helicopter experience would be jumping out one…not a flight for life. I was in and out of consciousness but I swear we made it in 20 minutes. I made it alive but barely. I had one visitor that day. A friend of a friend heard the news and came by to keep me company (also had a phone charger…I still won’t forget this’s the little things that mean the most so be kind even if you think it’s meaningless)

The next morning I woke up to my parents standing above me. They somehow found out through social media and flew out that night to make it by the morning. This was the best feeling ever because I was definitely alone and pretty damn scared. I was in the hospital for another week plus, then flew back to Philly for another month to recover some more. Two more ER trips and a whole lot of crappy days would follow before I would finally make it back to Colorado. Once I got back it was the hardest thing ever. I could barely take care of my own dogs and had to watch as all my friends continued to have fun and enjoy riding. But it wasn’t just the physical recovery that was rough. It was the financial recovery that was toughest. I had some help from my family but no outside support, which is ok, but we as a community have this power to make even just a few $1 donations which could be enough to save someone’s life. So when you can, please, lend a hand!! 🙂

But the moral of the story is that this whole incident could have broken me and my spirits but it didn’t. I wouldn’t let it. I used it as something to make me stronger, both as a person and as a snowboarder. Life is full of good and full of bad. The trick is to take it all in stride. Use both the good and the bad to build your character. They say find something you love and let it kill you. I am all for it. If things went differently I was exactly were I would have wanted to be. Luckily I got a second chance and can tell you all my story because people like my buddy Jay (RIP) and his family were not so lucky. So to anyone reading this: Be kind, be brave, and love everything and everyone as much and as often as you can.

-Kevin Wetzel