As a rising star in the world of freestyle skiing, David was a young athlete with boundless energy. Every day was a chance to push the boundaries of what was possible on skis. But in June of 2021, his life took a heart-wrenching turn.
David had been honing his skills at the Utah Olympic Park, practicing aerials, preparing for the Slopestyle and Half Pipe events that were meant to define his future.
As he completed a practice run, he unclicked his skis and slung them over his shoulder, ready to walk away from the massive airbag that had cushioned his landing countless times before. A sudden gust of wind tore through the park, ripping the tethers anchoring the airbag to the ground. In an instant, the structure reared up with David still on it, and he plummeted from a height of 65 feet.
The impact was catastrophic. David was swiftly rushed to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, where X-rays revealed the extent of his injuries. His left tibia was broken in two places, below the knee and at the ankle. The left fibula, ankle, and heel were shattered. He also suffered two compression fractures in lower vertebrae. On his right leg, his heel completed shattered and there was a small break in his fibula.
Seeking the best care possible, David’s family relocated him to the University of Colorado Hospital in Denver. In July, doctors had to surgically remove the external fixators from his right heel. Weeks turned into months of intense wound care and surgical cleanings.
With a fierce determination that mirrored his tenacity on the slopes, David underwent three reconstructive surgeries. He returned home to Steamboat Springs in late July, facing three months of non-weight bearing healing.
Yet, the road to recovery was fraught with setbacks. A month later, David found himself back at UC Hospital due to complications—an infection had taken root in his right heel and foot. Months of antibiotic treatment and a dozen surgeries for cleaning and debridement followed. His medical team, faced with the prospect of a lifetime of pain and limitations in his right leg, suggested amputation.
On September 9, 2021, David made the decision to amputate his right leg below the knee. Just three days later, he underwent TMR surgery to help mitigate the phantom pain. By mid-September, he was back home, where the warmth of family and friends helped soothe his spirit. By Christmas of that year, he had been fitted with his first prosthetic leg.
The journey back to his former self was long, punctuated by additional surgeries for hardware removal. David’s world had been shattered, but he refused to let it break his spirit. He remembered the words of Rocky Balboa: “Life ain’t about how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”
At just 15 years old, David seized the opportunity to explore passions he’d previously put on hold. It was his first piece of advice to those facing similar trials—identify your passions and pursue them with unwavering determination.
David adopted a positive outlook and set goals for himself. Lance Armstrong’s words echoed in his mind: “Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever.” He believed in himself and found satisfaction in his accomplishments, no matter how small they may have seemed.
The great outdoors became David’s sanctuary, where he felt most alive. He ventured into hunting, crutching and crawling alongside friends who supported him wholeheartedly. Archery hunting deep in the forest, they carried him and his wheelchair to put him in the perfect position.
Returning to skiing was a grueling process, filled with frustration and pain. But he refused to give up. With the help of a specialized adaptive foot, he found enjoyment in skiing once more. The lesson he learned was clear: the more you try, the more you accomplish.
Now he’s on to his next milestone: college. He is attending Montana State University and pursuing a degree in Business Management. The Limb Preservation Foundation is proud to award David with a scholarship and support him on his journey.
David shared, “The Limb Preservation Foundation has helped me pursue my business major at Montana State University. This degree will help me learn the skills necessary for starting and running my own business.”
Today, David hikes up to 10 miles, conquers the slopes, rides snowmobiles, and revs up dirt bikes. Not every day is perfect, and some come with blisters and soreness, but he turns failures into fuel for greater accomplishments. He lives each day to the fullest, focusing on what is possible rather than dwelling on what is not.
David proved himself truly unstoppable, a testament to the strength of the human spirit. His story serves as an inspiration to all, a reminder that life’s challenges can be met head-on, and in doing so, one can discover their own remarkable resilience.
In David’s words, “The more you try, the more you accomplish.”