Sports

Federal Way resident back on his feet and a snowboard

By CASEY OLSON

The Mirror

It seemed like any other summer day in the Pacific Northwest to 25-year-old Federal Way resident Gerald Hall.

It was mid-July in 2004 and the sun was out. The perfect day for the air traffic controller at Fort Lewis to take his beloved motorcycle out for a ride exploring the backroads near Lake Tapps. Or so he thought.

But what happened during that seemingly meaningless ride would change Hall’s life forever.

While rolling around one of the numerous hilly turns that circumvent the lake, Hall lost control of his bike, flew across the pavement and careened into a guard rail. The United States Army veteran fractured his back in three spots and was left with no feeling in his left foot and no control of his bladder or bowel movements. Conditions that still ail him today, almost two years later, and will probably be with him the rest of his life.

“It was my fault for not knowing the road too well,” Hall said. “But I got pretty lucky. I must have freaked out and hit the front brake.”

Hall was essentially dead at the scene. Responding paramedics had to resuscitate him on the pavement. He ended up spending three months in the hospital after being airlifted to Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center.

Hall was then forced to endure a year of physical therapy in an attempt to regain the feeling in his foot, which hasn’t happened yet. He is able to walk with the injuries, but cannot run.

“It’s like my foot is permanently asleep,” Hall said. “The doctors tell me that there is a two-year recovery period for the nerves to grow back. July will be two years and I haven’t gotten any of the feeling back. So now it’s like, ‘Hey, what I got is what I got.’ There’s really nothing I can do about it. If it comes back, it comes back. But I don’t think it will.”

So Hall is trying to get back to living the most normal life he can in his condition. Before the accident, he was an active person who enjoyed snowboarding in the Cascades and many other outdoor adventures.

“I want to get out there and do stuff,” Hall said. “I am really determined to not lay around in bed the rest of my life. I’m just starting to get back into shape

Hall got into snowboarding when he moved to the Pacific Northwest from Michigan after graduating from high school.

“It was so much fun after I got the hang of it,” Hall said. “I had come out here to visit when I was younger and Fort Lewis was the first place I picked when I had an option of where I would be stationed.”

But following the spinal cord injury, Hall thought his days of snowboarding were over. That was until he heard about the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic from workers at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Hall is currently one of nearly 400 other disabled veterans from across the United States in Snowmass Village in Aspen, Colo. The camp runs through Friday.

“It is really exciting,” Hall said. “Before the accident snowboarding was my passion.”

The clinic is open to all United States military veterans with spinal cord injuries or diseases, visual impairments, certain neurological conditions, orthopedic amputations or other disabilities, who receive care from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“There is a true sense of community and a deep bond among veterans,” said Disabled American Veterans National Commander Paul W. Jackson. “You feel it very strongly at the clinic.”

The clinic will involve much more than just snowboarding. Hall and the other participants will also be introduced to a variety of other adaptive activities and sports, such as rock climbing, scuba diving, snowmobiling and sled hockey. The U.S. Secret Service will also teach a course on self-defense designed for people with disabilities.

“It is going to be a really fun week,” Hall said.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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