Friends rally fundraiser for injured Squaw skier
Life can change in the blink of an eye.
For 27-year-old Steve Wallace this life lesson became a reality when on April 10 while skiing down Squaw Valley’s Granite Chief, Wallace caught an edge, ejected from both skies and landed hard on his stomach, leaving the avid skier paralyzed from the waist down indefinitely, said Casey Story, a close friend who was skiing nearby that day.
Wallace was taken by Careflight to Renown Medical Center in Reno where he had emergency surgery on four broken vertebrae in his back and a punctured spinal cord. He also sustained a collapsed lung and broken ribs as a result of the accident, Story said.
Despite a successful operation, which enabled Wallace to wiggle his right toes, the prognosis was grim, she said.
“He was initially given a 50/50 chance of ever walking again,” Story said.
After several days in intensive care, Wallace was taken by air ambulance to a rehabilitation center in Santa Clara where he is currently learning to adjust to life in a wheelchair, said Danny Scott, a friend and Tahoe City resident.
“Being the strong person that he is, I think he’ll make massive improvements from where he’s at now,” Scott said.
But Wallace’s progress may not be realized until June when he hopes to be admitted as an outpatient at one of the country’s leading rehabilitation hospitals ” the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Ga., Scott said.
Like many mountain denizens, Wallace moved to Tahoe City from the East Coast to tackle the big mountain terrain. He got a job at Squaw Creek Resort, but similar to most out-of-college seasonal workers, Wallace did not have health insurance and did not receive medical benefits from his employer, said longtime friend Adam Palmiter.
“When you’re a young guy, you don’t expect anything catastrophic to happen,” Palmiter said.
Robin Wallace said she’s hopeful that some of her son’s medical expenses will be paid for by MediCal such as the $3,000-per-day fee at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.
However, Wallace is unsure of where the funds will come from to pay for the $10,000-per-trip air ambulance fee, intensive care services at Renown, the abundance of medications and pending rehabilitation in Georgia.
“Nobody has spoken to us about the financial aspects of all of this,” Wallace said. “We don’t know what the costs are yet, but I’m sure it’s getting to be very expensive.”
In an effort to support the family, Wallace’s friends have rallied together to ask the Truckee-Tahoe community for donations, Palmiter said.
“The Reno hospital bills alone are into the $100,000s,” Palmiter said.
While friends organize a spaghetti dinner fundraiser at Fireside Pizza in Squaw Valley next Tuesday, Wallace continues to make progress with his rehabilitation in Santa Clara.
“We’re hopeful that he will walk again. There’s a good indication that he will, but it will probably take up to two years,” Wallace said while sitting at her son’s bedside on Tuesday. “He has an amazing, supportive group of friends and coworkers.”
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