On June 27, 2011 my life came to a screeching halt. I woke up outside a bar, on the pavement in a tough part of town in Flint, Michigan. Things went from an extreme high in life, to an all-time low. Only hours before I was holding the “King of Darkness” gold medal (it was a night jump) high in the air on top of the podium after one of the biggest victories of my life.
Being a pro Waterski Jumper, winning this event was one of the highlights of my career for more than one reason. My family was going through some tough times, my parents were divorcing, and I was just coming back from a serious surgery that took me out for a few months. On top of that my wife Breanne and I were newlyweds, and we just built our dream house in Palm Bay, Florida. From the outside things couldn’t get any better. Little did I know, things were about to go downhill fast.
After spending 12 hours in the hospital I was diagnosed with a fractured skull and bleeding in my brain in three areas, causing severe pressure in my head.
I was rushed to the trauma center to be monitored and prepared for surgery to alleviate pressure in the skull. Luckily after close monitoring and a follow up CT scan, the bleeding stopped. This was great news, but by no means was I home free. The doctors were amazed I was alive, let alone coherent.
I was put on bed-rest for four months with no hopes of ever competing again. I wasn’t allowed to do physical activity, be outdoors in the heat, have my head on a pillow, or put my head below my heart. I couldn’t even go outside for the first month as I wasn’t supposed to have my body temperature rise. I wasn’t allowed to get stressed out. That whole process was extremely uncomfortable and painful for me. I had to miss the World Championships that I worked so hard towards for two full years. It was a very slow, painful path to being able to walk around somewhat normally and try to get my life back.
When I completely hit rock bottom, and had no idea what to do, a good friend of ours called us up and said to come for dinner and meet someone special. The decision to head south to a nice little seafood restaurant near Port St. Lucie was one of the best decisions in my life. Breanne and I met Jim Murphy that night.
After a nice meal and a solid connection, we decided to start working together, setting up monthly calls along with working through his book chapter by chapter. At the start it was difficult but once we got going things started to change and I started to see hope in my recovery and in my life.
After three months of working with Jim, I was able to get back in the gym. It was around December 2011. After two months of training at the Olympic Training center in Calgary, and guidance from Jim I took a trip back home to Florida to get back on the water for the first time in 8 months.
My first set back off the ramp, I flew like I was flying through heaven.
It was one of the most amazing feelings of my life. Gratitude and joy so immense felt like it was bursting through my body once I got back on the water. The general consensus was that I would never ski again, and for me to go from rock bottom to back flying through the air was awesome.
My first event back in action was in May 2012, less than a year from my head injury. To the amazement and shock of the skiing world, I flew a lifetime best jump of 237 feet, and won the event.
My next event was the US Masters, the biggest event of the year. An event I had never won.
I won that also.
That victory was much more than a trophy and paycheck, not to mention my first-ever US Masters triumph, but a whole new outlook on life. A whole new me.
I was 10 pounds lighter, physically stronger, and mentally in a far better place than before my accident. Now I am far better at seeing the positive in every situation, and see setbacks as opportunities to learn and grow. No matter what happens to me, I know it’s meant to be, and I know I will never face an obstacle too powerful to overcome.
2012, the year following my life-threatening injury, became one of the best years of my life; not only performance-wise on the water, but in what I learned and how I see the world.
I thank my family, friends, Jim Murphy, and my loving wife Breanne for getting me back on the water, and helping me find my way. I am truly thankful I went through this experience or I wouldn’t be in the position I am in today to help others learn and grow.