Positively charged: Tahoe native continues recovery from 2010 spinal cord injury | SierraSun.com

Positively charged: Tahoe native continues recovery from 2010 spinal cord injury

Sylas Wright
swright@sierrasun.com

Keoki Flagg / www.gallerykeoki.comGrant Korgan paddles on Lake Tahoe last August as part of a four-day training fundraiser for his expedition to the South Pole, called The Push.

LAKE TAHOE and#8212; Grant Korgan could whip his former self in an arm-wrestling match.

and#8220;Yeah,and#8221; he said with a good-natured chuckle, and#8220;my guns are bigger than they were before.and#8221;

The 2010 snowmobile accident that left Korgan paralyzed from the waist down clearly did not dampen his sense of humor. If anything, it may only have enhanced it, just the same as his uber-positive, glass-half-full disposition.

In fact, as those who know the man will attest, there may not be a more positive soul on the planet.

and#8220;Grant has the most positive, infectious vibe to him. It’s almost like when you see Grant, you are coming into experiencing royalty. He’s emanating all this positive energy. You can instantly feel it,and#8221; said Truckee’s Roy Tuscany, whose own spinal cord injury and#8212; and recovery and#8212; inspired him to create the High Fives Non-Profit Foundation to help support injured winter athletes.

and#8220;He’s slowly turning into this ginormous ball of positivity,and#8221; Tuscany said. and#8220;You just get near him and it’s like, and#8216;life is so good and#8212; every day.’ It’s amazing. I can’t even explain it.and#8221;

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Korgan has that kind of effect on people. It’s part of reason the 35-year-old Incline Village native has received such an outpouring of support and#8212; charity from High Fives to Spine Nevada to complete strangers who are touched by his story.

With that support, a resolute Korgan has achieved checklists of ambitious goals, including regaining feeling down to his kneecaps thanks to a rigorous workout regimen, and walking again with the assistance of arm crutches. This past winter, he executed a 12-day traverse 75 miles across Antarctica to the South Pole on the 100-year anniversary of Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s Terra Nova Expedition and#8212; pushing a sit-ski across Velco-like snow in brutally cold conditions.

and#8220;I’m beyond grateful. My gratitude is through the roof,and#8221; Korgan said this spring Kauai, where he was preparing to compete in a tandem surf-ski race from one island to another. and#8220;Both High Fives and Spine Nevada down in Reno are two amazing groups of people. They have enabled and powered my workouts. I can’t even put words to the amount of love, light and humanity that people have given to me. It’s absolutely beautiful.and#8221;

One might think it was that humanity that led Korgan to adopt his positive outlook. Not so, said Olympic Valley-based photographer Keoki Flagg, who accompanied Korgan on the South Pole expedition, called and#8220;The Push.and#8221;

and#8220;I made the foolish mistake to think that his positivity was the result of his determination to overcome the obstacles that he experienced with his accident,and#8221; said Flagg. and#8220;And he immediately stood up and said, and#8216;You know, we didn’t know each other before my accident, but I think you need to know that I’ve always been this person.and#8221;

Korgan explained that, while he and#8220;evolvesand#8221; with every passing day and becomes more aware of his consciousness, it was his mountain lifestyle that instilled in him a sense of positivity from a young age.

and#8220;I grew up in Incline Village, so I had this amazing upbringing,and#8221; he said. and#8220;I got to live in this recreational paradise, and I was always so grateful for it. The glass was always half full, and I was always so stoked no matter what was happening.and#8221;

After graduating from Incline High School in 1996, Korgan attended Western State College in Colorado before taking his studies to University of Nevada, Reno, where he graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering in 2004.

A professional-caliber snowmobiler and white-water kayaker, among other outdoor sports, Korgan started a mechanical engineering company after college while acting as co-owner of the Alpine Assassins snowmobile team. He also met the love of his life, Shawna, and was married. Times were good.

Everything changed on March 5, 2010.

Korgan was filming with Alpine Assassins in the Sonora Pass backcountry when he overshot the landing of a jump, violently shattering his first lumbar vertebrae upon impact more than 100 feet from the takeoff.

and#8220;(I was) lucky to be riding with my ultra bros and now personal heroes Duncan Lee, Ryan Oddo and Ken Evens,and#8221; Korgan wrote on his Alpine Assassins bio. and#8220;These superstar snow safety professionals made all the correct decisions, in all the right order, at all the perfect times, without hesitation, and a deep backcountry helicopter rescue saved my life and allowed me to begin the long process of recovery.and#8221;

Korgan was rushed to the intensive care unit, where he spent nine days. He then spent a full month in a rehab hospital. Shawna became his personal trainer as he underwent multiple forms of recovery. Slowly but surely, the hard work paid off as Korgan regained feeling in his upper legs, then to his kneecaps. He began using hand crutches to get around. And he began dreaming bigger dreams.

In the summer of 2011, Korgan brewed up plans as part of his active recovery along with Truckee’s Doug Stoup, who’s recognized as the world’s most well-versed polar explorer, and helicopter ski guide Tal Fletcher for an expedition to the geographic South Pole. A date was set for Jan. 17, 2012 and#8212; the 100-year anniversary of the first successful expedition to the southernmost point.

Backed financially by High Fives, Korgan and crew set out to accomplish a series of smaller adventures in preparation for and#8220;The Push,and#8221; from Alaska to Patagonia and back to Lake Tahoe, where Korgan and a fellow adaptive athlete paddled kayaks 50 miles around the lake in four days.

The South Pole is not for wimps.

Korgan’s team was greeted by temperatures ranging between minus-30 and the mid minus-50s, with bitter winds that created blinding whiteout conditions. Korgan, traveling on a custom-made sit-ski, discovered what he was in for on his first push.

and#8220;Every stroke, because the snow was like Velcro or Styrofoam and#8212; there was no glide at all and#8212; every inch of that 75, 80 miles was earned,and#8221; he recalled. and#8220;There was no glide whatsoever. You stuck the poles in and struggled to pull yourself through, then you stuck the poles in again and did the same thing. And nine hours later you jumped in a tent and tried to sleep, then woke up and it was Groundhog Day. You did it all over again.and#8221;

It wasn’t fun, Korgan said. He’d crawl into his tent at night, trying to thaw his bones as his muscled barked at him, knowing full well that quitting was not an option.

and#8220;My muscles got super sore, but at the end of the day I wouldn’t listen to anything in my head that didn’t serve me. So when I got in the tent, yeah, my muscles were screaming at me, yeah I’m totally freezing, yeah I’m tired. But none of that was going to help me get rest and get up the next morning and do it again,and#8221; Korgan said. and#8220;Frankly, there was no option. It came down to mental toughness. You put yourself in whatever space you need to be in to perform, and that’s what I had to do. I had to flat-out perform.and#8221;

With a teammate feeding him snacks every 15 minutes, Korgan chewed and he pushed until eventually arriving some 12 days and 75 miles later at the South Pole. For the final 100 feet, with the sun beaming light, Korgan shuffled across the ice to the geographic South Pole with the assistance of Stoup and Fletcher. A crowd of more than 100 scientists from the Antarctic’s research center provided an audience.

The poignant moment reached a storybook crescendo when Shawna Korgan appeared from the crowd, shocking her husband to tears.

Amid all the adventure and recovery, Korgan has work to do.

He recently completed a book called and#8220;Two Feet Back,and#8221; which chronicles his accident and recovery process leading up to the South Pole expedition. And he has already outlined a second book detailing and#8220;The Push.and#8221;

and#8220;Who knows? Maybe there will be a book three,and#8221; he said.

Aside from writing and promoting on book tours, Korgan travels to public speaking engagements to share his story. He focuses his talks on the power of positivity.

and#8220;Every day we’re choosing recovery, and every day we’re manifesting more healing,and#8221; he said. and#8220;And I believe in my heart that no matter how long it takes, I will get to 100 percent recovery. My goal is 120 percent recovery. I want to be stronger than I was, and I believe I will make it.and#8221;

Who’s going to doubt him?

and#8220;If anybody is going to do it, Grant Korgan is going to do it,and#8221; said Tuscany.

Learn more about Korgan by checking out his company, Korg 3.0 Movement, at http://www.korgmovement.com.

As the website indicates, Korg 3.0 and#8220;began as a recovery from a spinal cord injury, that lead to a journey of positivity, which created a movement and#8230; a movement inspired by HEART and FIRE to empower humanity.and#8221;

There, you’ll learn how to buy a copy of and#8220;Two Feet Back,and#8221; book Korgan as a motivational speaker and much more.