When Ryan Redmond’s three friends discovered his body at the foot of
Middle Teton Mountain, they thought he was dead.
It was July 2, 2011 and the four of them were backcountry skiing at Grand Teton National Park in western Wyoming. It was the middle of the night and the run was steep, around 55 degrees, but it was nothing the 32-year-old lifelong outdoorsman and extreme sport enthusiast hadn’t tackled before. Everything was going fine, until suddenly it wasn’t.
No one knows exactly what happened, but all of a sudden Ryan was on his back, sliding head first down the mountain. He then began to tumble and cartwheel some 800 vertical feet to the base. When his friends finally reached him over an hour later, he was unconscious, his jaw was tightly clenched and he was foaming at the mouth.
Still, Ryan was alive – though in a coma. One of the guys called the paramedics – once he found high enough ground to actually get service – and soon a helicopter was transporting Ryan to a treatment center in Idaho Falls. After a few weeks there, Ryan was transferred to Sacred Heart Rehabilitation Institute, Columbia St Mary’s Coma Recovery Program.
On August 2, Ryan finally woke up. Though structurally he somehow only suffered a shattered collarbone, he did sustain severe brain damage. Though conscious, he was unable to walk, had double vision and his fine motor skills were impaired. Ryan would spend the next month living on the Coma Recovery Floor of Sacred Heart, slowly regaining his sense of balance and muscle control through the Acute Brain Injury Intensive Rehab Program.
“It was a very serious training regimen from the moment I woke up,” Ryan says. “It took quite a bit of time to be able to walk and talk. My fine motor skills took about a month to come along. I had a really hard time moving a spoon or a fork into my mouth. For about a month my girlfriend and my family fed me.”
Despite the challenges facing him, not even three months after the accident – September 14 to be exact – Ryan walked out of Sacred Heart. Ryan obviously credits his recovery to the exceptional staff at Sacred Heart. But more specifically he says it was the way the entire staff tailored their treatment specifically to his needs and personality that really impressed him and facilitated his recovery.
“They understood that my athletic abilities were pretty high before the accident and that I was extremely motivated in my recovery to get back into those things,” Ryan says. “I liked being pushed, so they all pushed me extremely hard once they understood that’s how I preferred to do things.”
Additionally, Ryan can’t say enough about the Sacred Heart shuttle service, which would pick him up at his sister’s house twice a week to participate in the Brain Injury Day Treatment Program. It offered him peace of mind that his recovery wouldn’t be an inconvenience for his family or girlfriend.
“It was so, so important for me,” Ryan says. “It’s a lot of stress when you’re putting your family out to drive you around all the time.”
Today, Ryan is back in Wyoming, and getting ready to head out to Vermont to student teach while he gets his Master’s Degree in Teaching Social Justice. Though he’s still not quite able to ski, he fully expects to be in the near future.
“The level of commitment from Liz the nurse, from Randy the physical therapist, Sara and Tracy the occupational therapists and, of course, Dr. Kennedy, my rehabilitation doctor, really made the difference to me,” Ryan says. “They were completely committed to getting me back on my feet, literally and figuratively.”