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skiing, inspiration & recovery 1 man's story

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
you can probobally guess this story is close to home but thought it was worth sharing.
I am sorry if it is in the wrong forum, I dont know anymore.
Iif you are looking to donate $ or time the two charities in the article, NAC & Oley, are well worth both.

0ne day, out of the blue, Rick Davis woke up in a hospital bed.
He had had a stroke. Scary as it was initially to see tubes galore coming out of his body and not knowing why, the more he learned, the worse he felt. His body's right side did not work like before. His eye drooped. His speech was slurred. Like old people, he needed a walker to get around.
"It left me looking and feeling pitiful," recalls Davis, who ran the Salt Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau until stroke night - Dec. 21, 2000.
Worse yet, he couldn't swallow. Couldn't eat. Couldn't drink. Had to hook himself up to a liquid feeding bag and sit around 10 hours a day while the contents dripped, dripped, dripped into his system. Couldn't go anywhere without that damn pole they use in hospitals to keep IV solutions elevated.
And he felt alone. Whoever heard of anyone not being able to swallow?
But he learned there were others, a few. And they had a support group, the Oley Foundation, that provides information and "psycho-social support" about fuller living even if you need feeding tubes or IVs to stay alive.
Mentally empowered, Davis set out to regain the active lifestyle he enjoyed pre-stroke.
Skiing was his salvation.
He re-learned how to ski at the National Ability Center in Park City and now spends three dozen days a

year on the slopes, mostly at Alta, going fast, turning infrequently. Motivated by regaining his freedom of movement - "skiing is the closest thing I've ever found to flying" - he pushed himself to hike the trails he loved to hike before.
In 2004, Davis achieved a milestone. He hiked from the North Rim down into the Grand Canyon and then back up to the South Rim, 25 miles in all. "That was major for me. It was something I'd been able to do before."
He still can't swallow, though. Never will. But given that he is doing so much of what he did before, Davis has added another role - mentor to others on feeding tubes and IVs, including cancer patients on chemotherapy. Estimates are there could be 400,000 nationwide.
And always a Convention & Visitors Bureau ambassador, he brought the Oley Foundation's 2006 meeting of 370 doctors, clinicians, patients and family members to Salt Lake City.
"Members relate to him because he does not minimize his situation," says Joan Bishop, executive director of Oley Foundation Inc., based at Albany (N.Y.) Medical Center. "He admits that he was struck a huge blow, fell to his knees and simply found the situation unacceptable. He recognized the benefit of support and education, and has the sensitivity to represent the Oley Foundation appropriately, whether he is talking to a fellow consumer/patient or on a fundraising mission. He is an inspiration to everyone he meets."

Dramatic changes
Six years ago, he did not feel inspirational. "Everything in my life is before my stroke or after my stroke," he says. "It changed my life so dramatically."
Before, Davis was a prominent downtown figure, a vibrant, good-natured man, who at 57, was in the prime of life.
A native of Fort Dodge, IowaƂ, he entered the hospitality industry with the upscale Fairmont Hotel chain. He then moved into the convention and visitors bureau world, holding positions in Dallas; Tulsa, Okla.; Atlanta; Asheville, N.C.; and Nashville, Tenn.; before taking over the Salt Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau on Jan. 1, 1985.
It was a critical time for the bureau, which was transitioning from a Salt Lake County department into a quasi-private entity, set free to rise or sink based on keeping the Salt Palace Convention Center busy. That year also marked the beginning of the city's pursuit of the Olympics. Davis was an early disciple. He talked often with bid leader Tom Welch and provided office space for bid aides Dave Johnson and Verena Rasmussen.
Even if Salt Lake City did not get the Olympics, Davis knew it would benefit from bid visits by officials from the national governing bodies of various U.S. winter sports.
"That was what I was about. I was helping them gain credibility with the Olympics folks. It was a good marriage. Entertaining visitors was easy for me because I had a budget," he said. "I had captured the vision."
Davis also had become keen on skiing. He did not ski when he moved here, having lived for years in the South. But once in the West, bureau board member and Snowbird President Rene Myer told him he had to learn.
"We need to see you up here with customers," Davis remembers Myer saying.
So he took lessons, took potential conventioneers skiing, and by Dec. 21, 2000, was a 50-days-a-season guy.

Life was good
Life was good. The bureau was thriving. The Olympics were a year away. Davis and wife Dianne were leaving for Africa two days after Christmas.
Davis was in the basement of his Avenues home after work, newspaper in hand, when the room started twirling around. "I half sat down, half fell down. It was like I was so drunk I couldn't stand up. I had absolutely no control."
He crawled up the stairs toward the kitchen where Dianne was preparing dinner. His cries for help were muffled, his throat feeling closed. A former medical technician, Dianne thought her husband was having an anaphylactic reaction to malaria shots for the Africa vacation and rushed him to LDS Hospital's nearby emergency room.
Doctors quickly administered a clot-busting drug that minimizes stroke damage to the brain. Even so, Dianne says, doctors said there was an 11 percent chance of bleeding into the brain. He could die. "The first night was the scariest, knowing I've been married to this guy forever and he might not be here tomorrow."
He survived. But the long hospital stay and rehabilitation were grueling. Feeding sessions were depressing. "Ten hours on an IV leaves limited time for doing a lot other than reading and watching TV," Davis recounts.
To buoy his spirits, Dianne and son Matt bought him new skis, tied a ribbon around them and propped them in a corner of his hospital room. "That's what he loved to do more than anything," she says. "It was good motivation for him to get back to what he wanted to do."
It worked, to a certain extent. He learned to walk again. His speech improved. But he still couldn't swallow. "I figured it would come along like everything else, but it didn't," he said. Being tied to a slow feeding tube made life miserable.
"I thought we were never going to have a normal life again," Dianne says. "We traveled all over the country trying to get one."
Davis made four trips to Northwestern University, a leader in developing therapies for patients with swallowing disorders. He received Botox shots at Columbia University, hoping to relax his throat, esophageal and stomach muscles. No luck. He underwent exhaustive physical exams with Baylor University doctors whose advice was stark: "Get used to tube feeding."
During these many travels, Davis asked his home health-care dietitian how he could travel better with an IV pole. She passed along an Oley Foundation newsletter. "For 18 months, I didn't know there was anyone else like me," he says. "It was like being lost in the desert and finding an oasis."
He went to the foundation's 2002 convention in Anaheim. His first impression was disastrous. Davis walked into the meeting room and saw a banquet table stocked with food he could not eat and a bar with drinks he could not drink.
"I was angry. It was not fair for a conference for people who cannot swallow to have other people eating in front of them," he thought. After cooling down, he recognized he lived in a world where people everywhere ate and drank, all the time.
"I said to myself, 'It's been 18 months. Deal with it, Davis. Don't let it get in the way of things you want to do.' "
He started skiing again.

and if you are looking to donate $ or time the two charities in the title are well worth both.
post #2 of 7
md - thanks for sharing this. what, I've known you 6 years? I had no idea.

I love this:

"skiing is the closest thing I've ever found to flying"
post #3 of 7
Thanks. This is special. Touched me a lot. to him for making the most of it & getting out there!

Official Bonus Time thread...
post #4 of 7
I am inspired. Its unbelievable what some face and what can be accomplished with grit and character.
Thanks for sharing.
post #5 of 7
Quite a tale, matt daddy. I know you skied with him this year, rock on, both of you.

"going fast, turning infrequently", heh.
post #6 of 7
What amazing determination to come back and be active in all aspects of life in spite of such a devastating stroke. Most of us can't imagine such a loss in an instant of time regardless of our general health and fitness. It certainly hits close to home as I lost my mom to a stroke back about this same time. Thanks for sharing this story of courage and determination.
post #7 of 7
Fantastic Thanks for sharing Matt.
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