C.R. Johnson’s condition better all the time | SierraSun.com

C.R. Johnson’s condition better all the time

Sylas Wright
Sierra Sun

C.R. Johnson is on pace to a rapid recovery.

The 22-year-old professional skier and Truckee native suffered a serious head injury skiing in Utah on Dec. 8. He is now speaking above a whisper and is able to walk with help from a walker, said Evan Raps, a fellow pro skier and close friend to Johnson.

“He’s doing way better,” said Raps, who visited Johnson in physical therapy at the University of Utah Hospital Tuesday. “He’s making quite a bit of progress. He mentioned a bunch of things in the last year that were pretty obscure. So I’m really psyched. I’m confident he’ll come back strong.”

Raps, 26 ” who met Johnson while living in the North Tahoe area between 1998 and 2003 ” said he did not actually witness the collision that caused Johnson’s head injury, but was at his friend’s side immediately following the accident.

Johnson, Raps and several other riders, including 15-year-old skier Kye Peterson, were filming a sequence inbounds at Brighton ski area in which each hit a small jump in rapid succession. Johnson went first, Raps said.

Raps, who was in the back of the line, said by the time he came off the jump Johnson was lying on his back unconscious, with his head pointing downhill. Johnson somehow had fallen, Raps said, and Peterson, who followed in the same line, collided into him.

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“It was just a freak thing,” Raps said. “C.R. is like the best skier in the world. I’ve been saying that for years.”

What made Johnson’s fall even more perplexing was the fact that the jump was incredibly small, Raps said.

“I couldn’t even call it a jump,” he said. “It was just about a three-foot dip with a lip. I got 5 or 6 feet of air.”

Johnson remained unconscious for about three to five minutes, Raps said. When he awoke he seemed OK, but then became “upset” when ski patrol attempted to secure him in the sled, Raps said. Johnson’s father, Russ, who flew to Utah that evening, said doctors told him that acting combative after head trauma is common.

“He had a lot of emotion coming out,” Raps said. “He was trying to rip the neck brace off. It took four of them [to strap him down]. It was ugly. He was fighting real hard.”

Johnson was sedated and airlifted to the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City, where he remained in a coma until opening his eyes on Dec. 18. When Johnson did awake, he could not speak or move his arms or legs, his father said. He also had developed pneumonia.

On Dec. 26 Johnson became able to sit up in bed and speak in a whisper, said his mother, Lorraine, as well as eat solid food for the first time since the accident.

Raps said that on Tuesday it seemed as if Johnson was nearly well enough to ditch his walker and walk on his own.