Teens getting back on track after spills
August 20, 2006
There are a lot of what-ifs about that day in April when Kyler Smith was paralyzed. But after four months in the hospital, Smith has finally returned home and is letting the past go to look for his future. I want to get out and do as much as I can; I dont want to just sit around the house, Smith said. I want to have an active life again.The active life he once led of snowboarding, skateboarding and disc golf was left behind on the terrain park of Northstar-at-Tahoe where Smith fell and broke his neck, causing damage to his spinal cord. Smith was paralyzed from the chest down.But Smith is on his way to that active goal, having worked through months of rehabilitation to learn new life skills. Hes in touch with paraplegic adventure athlete Mark Wellman and is anticipating winters snow when he can participate in the Tahoe Adaptive Ski School. A basket in his bedroom is filled with oddly shaped gadgets; a tool for buttons, a tool for zippers, a tool for typing, a tool for brushing his teeth. Smith can feel and move his arms and shoulders, but he has yet to regain the neurological connections that will allow him to control his hands and fingers. In the meantime, tools such as these and the assistance of his family and friends are helping Smith grow toward independence. Once youve had an accident like this, you realize how difficult things can be. Just getting out of bed and getting dressed is extremely difficult. And you cant just come out of your room and plop on the couch, Smith said. Smiths mother, Renee Smith, has been at her sons side constantly from the get-go, serving as his arms and hands and legs when he needs them. She helps him get ready in the morning and roll over in bed in the middle of the night. Its an exhausting job, but one that Renee said she would never trade. I cant tell you how thankful I am. I wouldnt take back one moment of my summer spending it with him, she said. He had an incredible experience and learned a lot of life skills. He has the tools now to have a very successful life.But what that life might entail, Kyler Smith cant yet know. After graduating from Tahoe Truckee High School he went to work painting houses with the anticipation that he would become a contractor, but that option isnt looking so solid anymore.I need to go back to college and find something where I can use my brain and not my body, he said. Maybe real estate.But even college is still a little ways off. Smith will need to become a bit more independent, and that includes learning how to drive his new van, rigged just for his circumstance with a lift system for his wheelchair and hand pedals for the gas and brake.I want my fingers back the most right now, Smith said. Of course I want to walk, but I would rather be able to help myself and pick up a sandwich.Smith and his mother said that they are both still adjusting to his paralysis, but that they are confident that his recovery will be a strong and successful one.You dont know how you will handle something until you are faced with it, Renee Smith said. But the biggest part of his recovery is right between his ears.
The Bikes, Brews & Bands Benefit Ride for Kyler Smith on Sat., Sept. 23. The dirt bikes are out for a 120-mile ride from Donner Ski Ranch to Forest Hill and back to benefit Truckee resident Kyler Smith who sustained a spinal cord injury while snowboarding in April. The $100 minimum donation will include the ride, Bar-B-Cue lunch and some non-stop rockin with the Jonnie Bias Band, Truckee Tribe and The Deckheads. For more information, call 582-4511.
Tahoe Truckee High School graduate Justin Vivian is home recovering from a 40-foot fall that broke his back and shattered his leg.Vivian, 21, was attempting a back-flip off of a rope swing at Prosser Reservoir on Aug. 5 when he miscalculated his release and landed on the shore. I lost forward momentum, Vivian said. I landed on my feet. [The impact] went straight through my legs and into my back. I was coherent the whole time.A broken back, shattered tibia, broken fibia and broken ankle socket landed Vivian in Washoe Medical Center for five days. Vivian is expecting a full recovery from his injuries. Im pretty lucky Im not dead. I would have landed any other way, I wouldnt be talking to you.