Assume Nothing

January 21st, 2014

If you wondering why I don’t write here often I might give you the expected “I’m too busy” but the truth is the Internet is a pretty vulnerable place to express yourself this day in age. When I do get the chance to sit down and write it is often brief so those fragments of thoughts are not yet ready for global publication. Ultimately what does inspire me to write here is all of my friends, family and supporters who I know care so much about me and do genuinely want to know what’s going on in my life. Unfortunately, I am too busy to connect with all of you in detail so here’s the report and thank you all for bringing out the best in me!

I’m better understanding what an unavoidably transformative experience life is. The last time I wrote with the intention to share on this blog was over a year and a half ago and my life was once again at a turning point. I wrote about the chapters of life being a fresh start, a new blank page unwritten and full of potential, a new chapter lay ahead for me. Once again I’ve written the next chapter and in doing so have pointed my narrative in an entirely new direction. I start writing again now with a new outlook, new circumstances and my life in transformation once again.

Being able to buy and remodel a home for accessibility has been one of my biggest blessings and one of the most important things I needed to do to bring some normalcy and independence back to my life. It had been three years since I was able to roll up under my own sink and brush my teeth by myself. Three years since I had let myself through my own front door. Three years since I’d felt comfortable being home alone. The love that has come through this house is evident in the décor, the drawings on the guest wall and Quill’s love of new faces (my 3yr old Shiba Inu). I can’t thank all of my friends and family enough for making me feel so comfortable here. I finally feel like I’ve moved from survival to stability.

Although once I’ve been put together I may be able to shove off into my day and appear somewhat independent the bottom line is my life requires a lot of assistance at home. That assistance comes largely from caregivers and I don’t know what it is about my luck but I have had some amazing people brought into my life as a result of my dependence and I am blessed for that. At any time I usually have 2 to 3 caregivers in my weekly rotation one of which I live with full-time. The selflessness and compassion that I’ve received from these relationships has and continues to teach me some of the most important lessons one human could teach another. Most importantly I’m learning my care is a necessity of my life not a burden on someone else’s and as you can imagine that’s a helpful realization.

I’m having a harder time these days telling people my body’s fine and life goes on. Life certainly goes on but the truth is I’m living with chronic pain and it affects my quality-of-life daily. So many people have pain and injuries that are invisible to those around them and while my injury is obvious the pain isn’t as much. Outside looking in you see a disabled body in a wheelchair and it often ends there, I could never explain to you the different layers and aspects of pain that live within. Over the last two years my spasticity and nerve pain has changed for the worse and I’m currently doing everything in my power to try and figure out how to reverse the trend. The bottom line is I put my body through a lot and my mind for that matter as well. I’ve never really accepted that life would need to slow down after my injury. As a result I’ve pushed through when my body and my mind are asking for rest and as we all know it catches up with you. I am not enjoying living my life in pain and hoping to find some relief as I continue to seek out every available option while continuing to do the things that I have been fortunate enough to weave into my schedule like stretching, chiropractic, acupuncture and massage. They all do help but can’t seem to get to the root of the problem. I also just recently learned the harsh realities of pressure sores and bed rest as I unfortunately sat on a small hard piece of plastic for one day and it put me in bed for two straight months. I’m doing better now and back at it, cruising around with my friend pain.

Someone once asked the Dalai Lama what surprised him the most about mankind and this was his answer…

“Man, because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and the he dies having never really lived.”

I’m currently working on a solution to this problem in my own personal life. I’ve made the recognition and I need to continue to work on making the adjustments. Work is rewarding and engaging on so many levels for me. My career has become a very important part of my identity and motivation so I’m doing my best to balance my workaholic tendencies with what my body’s realities are. I feel like all things considered I’m in as good a place right now as I could ask for and things are definitely looking up in the near future. I also have a very special girl now in my life that inspires me to really get the most out of every day regardless of what situation we find ourselves in. It’s a good time for me to get out of my own head and pursue the things I know will put a smile on my face.

I’ll leave you with this… If I look back on the time since I wrote here last the most important lesson I personally have learned is about making assumptions. We all make them every day about everyone we see and know and it’s not healthy. I think the reality is there can only be one assumption safely made and that is that each and everyone has their struggles whether they are blatantly evident, more personal, invisible or even unknown. Assumptions are easily made and often completely wrong so I ask you to please practice the same compassion you have with others as you have with me and hopefully we can all continue to lift each other collectively.

Riley

*Please excuse my horrible sentence structure, lack of understanding proper punctuation and generally shitty grammatical skills

The next chapter-

February 12th, 2012

Books almost always have chapters for ease of navigation. The chapters are almost always listed in a table of contents. -Wikipedia

My how things would be different if this were true to the chapters of life. Our chapters are not for ease of navigation and a table of contents will certainly not be found at any point. Our chapters are different, a new fresh start, a time to start telling a story irrelevant to the chapter before. I have once again reached that point in my life where a new chapter will begin but since it has been nine months since the last time I’ve checked in with you all I wanted to give you some cliff notes on where things are at with me since I last wrote.

Love-

It can take an incredible amount of sacrifice to unconditionally love someone. By no means does that mean that everyone sacrifices to love. Ultimately we are all drawn to love someone because of an inexplicable reaction in our brains that overpowers us with the willingness to do whatever it takes to be with that person. I think many people find that in some cases over time it’s natural for love to become less black and white and a little greyer. There are a lot of things that can break relationships down and in my case with Katrina we had led each other into situations that ultimately did not work for us as individuals. We both felt strongly we needed to work on our individuality for a while before we could be good for anyone in a relationship. An important chapter of my life has now come to a close and I hope that both of us are better people for having written it together.

Family-

I’m embarrassed to say that it has taken me way too long to appreciate the importance of family. Another thing that I took for granted I guess. The last few months have been a shuffle of dynamics, roles and support structures for my family and I really couldn’t have a better one by my side. After Katrina and I split up back in October the following weeks and months had me coming to a realization that will be very important for the rest of my life… Help is always there if you know how to ask for it and receive it and there’s no one we would rather help than our own blood. I also recently learned some very important lessons about what I have put my family through over the past three years and all there is to be said is I wish it upon no one.

Friends-

Friendship is something that I have never taken for granted. The beautiful thing about friendship is that each and every one of us has something to teach each other but it takes friends to actually learn from one another. My many friends in this life have taught me so much about who I want to be as a person, who I am expected to be as a person and how I can become that person. The last three years for me have been tough in regards to losing friends. First it was Shane while I was in the hospital then it was CR then three years to the day of my injury I get a phone call about the one and only Sarah. Each of these people had so much to teach us about the way they live their lives, so much we can take on with us every day in their memories and infectious smiles and constant positive energy. I guess ultimately the question is what do we learn from our friends… those that are now gone have just as much to teach us as the next you will meet. I have learned that there is no guarantee at tomorrow, there is no sense in trying to control the uncontrollable, explain the unexplainable and there is no reason not to love yourself because someone out there loves you.

Riley-

I’m not going to lie it’s been a heavy couple months. The stress of buying a house, the end of a six-year relationship, a complete change in my support system and watching a friend slip through our fingers = therapy needed. Being paralyzed is the least of my worries.

As many of you know from reading here it was quite a challenge for me to find accessible housing since I’ve been in Portland. Our ultimate goal was to build or remodel something to meet my specific accessibility needs but getting there was a slow process. I am ecstatic to announce that my search will be over as of the end of this month! Katrina was instrumental in helping me find the appropriate house that could be remodeled for accessibility so I will be forever grateful to her for going through that hugely stressful process. Moving into an accessible home is really going to make a world of difference for me that no able body person could really understand unless you spent a week in my chair. Want to give a huge thank you to my Dad for stepping in as job foreman, Joseph and Julie for all your creative genius and support, my Mom, Brother, Hera, Amos, Coryna, Leana and Kirsten for all their help on the site and once again Katrina for motivating me all the way through closing.

Another big step in the right direction coming around the corner for me is getting back on the road again! I really truly have some amazing people in my life and they want to see me driving so we are going to make it happen! The freedom that driving on my own will bring back into my life is much anticipated… Need to thank Katrina for her help getting my vehicle situation dialed it wouldn’t have happened without her undying dedication to see me moving forward. Now I gets to be at ?? miles per hour…

My body is good all things considered. As far as a medical diagnosis goes I am considered plateaued meaning highly unlikely to gain back any additional function from here forward. Not giving up hope on modern medicine but my body’s nervous system has healed itself as much as possible. I am so lucky to have my mom acting as my personal nutritionist as she is quite educated in the field. Mostly just working on physical therapy to get my arms as strong as can be so I can get in a sit ski this fall!

Work is great, love the challenge, love the people, love uncle Phil and love Nike!

Love to you all thanks for your continued support!

Riley

Never backwards always up…

May 24th, 2011

Starting writing is always the hardest for me because it always starts with my scripted excuses of why I haven’t been doing it enough, thanking everyone for the constant ongoing support which I am still thriving off of and apologies for not getting back to as many of you as I wish I could… so now that that’s out of the way…

Life has been pretty damn good to me lately! I am truly blessed in every aspect of my life right now with Katrina, family, friends, work and our new puppy Quill… it’s all good! Every once in awhile when I take that much needed step back and soak it all in I don’t know how I came to be this blessed. January 11th was the two-year anniversary of breaking my neck and I thought I would be able to reflect at that point, May 7th was my two-year anniversary from leaving Craig Hospital and once again I thought I might be able to reflect on the past two years. I thought that writing everything down that happened to me in the past two years might have some sort of therapeutic advantage to my well-being but I found in my reflection process that internally I still have a lot of grieving going on for what I’ve gone through and put everyone I love through. It’s a really hard thing to explain and I wouldn’t expect anyone to understand, but in my shoes you can often feel like a burden on those around you and it’s a hard pill to swallow. Every time I say that to someone they say “Oh no you’re crazy you aren’t a burden to anyone”, and I know somewhere inside that they’re telling the truth but at the end of the day the feeling doesn’t go away. Going from being a strong independent young man, gallivanting all over the globe, not giving a shit about what lay around the corner or what I was leaving in my dust, to a somewhat helpless young man searching for what my real purpose in life is and trying to make sense of what I’ve learned thus far has been my life’s greatest challenge. I’m lucky I’ve got enough amazing people in my life to keep my head on straight and a great job that keeps me engaged and aspiring to accomplish more with my life because without that and without the freedom to run across town to meet up with a friend, go for a bike ride or run to let off some steam, do something spontaneous or even get in and out of bed on my own accord, I fear I would be groveling in my own self-pity. Thus far I’ve been able to chase away my sporadic onsets of depression brought on from the realization that spontaneity is hard to come by with the true gifts that I have surrounding me every day. I guess the moral of this rant is the thing I miss the most about my former body was the ability to be spontaneous and participate in the activities that I grew up loving. Now at the mention of going to see a concert, going out of town for business or friends getting together to skate, go to the mountain, play soccer or whatever… all that comes into my mind is the logistics involved if I even want to go and not necessarily participate. One of my friends asked me the other night what I’m doing to keep myself sane, what kind of activities do I have that help me relieve stress and get outside of the grind and have some fun…? Currently I’m short on answers.

I’m not sharing any of this because I want anyone’s pity or even advice for that matter. I’m just writing and this is what’s bubbling up. It’s hard not to be honest about yourself when you’re writing and I’ve always said that this is a form of self exploration so maybe the reason I decided to write here today is to stimulate some sort of ideas for myself that I can activate on so that I can actually feel like I’m having fun again. Don’t by any means take that as my life isn’t fun, I have plenty of laughs, I’m getting my sense of humor back as I feel more comfortable with new people and my reinvented life and being with Katrina and Quill are the happiest times of my life. I guess going from being an adrenaline junkie to sitting in a wheelchair it’s inevitable you have to slow down but when you’re slamming on the brakes the seat belt can get a bit uncomfortable. I know I’m going to find something that makes me fulfilled personally again and that time is eagerly anticipated. I’m glad I’m writing here today because it’s really inspiring me to get out there and find it… whatever it ends up being.

So enough about the void as it’s also important that I share with you the glass half full perspective. The mental growth and maturity that I’ve gained from the last two years is pretty insane when I really think about it. Imagine yourself sitting in a bathtub full of cement and that’s where you have to spend the majority of everyday… somehow I’m figuring out how to have patience with all the paralysis, spasticity, pain and helplessness that I feel when I am in my cement with no escape route in site. I have to be proud of myself for that because it even just saying it… reflecting on it… I’ve surprised myself with what I’ve been able to overcome and accomplish in my mind. I told Katrina the day she was driving me to the airport, also the last time she would see me walk, that I had always felt since I was a young kid that I was going to have to overcome something incredibly challenging in my life or that something big was going to happen to me… the day I came out of sedation in ICU I looked at her and mouthed “this is it”. I guess that feeling is what’s given me the strength to accept what’s happened to me and try and move forward with patience as though it had little effect. I’m glad that I can look back with no regrets and that I never wish to go back and change anything because despite everything that I miss… the mental growth is something that I would never give back.

I’ve had a really hard time with people telling me what I’m going through is “inspiring”. I think the reason for this is that even though they are doubting their own ability to go through this type of situation somehow I take it as an insult that it wouldn’t be the expectation of me to not skip a beat. Feels like people may not really know me as well as I’d like. I look at other people’s lives and all the shit that everyone goes through at one point or another and you can find a story of “inspiration” in the person closest to you right now and everyone you pass on the street. Everyone has their own mountains to climb in their life and I’m glad I got to climb some of mine literally before figuratively. Right now I’m at the base camp of Everest and maybe someday I’ll feel comfortable being called an inspiration when I’m standing on top. For now I’m just trying the best I can to be the same Riley I was before my injury, before moving to a place where no one really knows me, before I lost the most important part of what has molded me into who I am… traveling the world with great friends, making films, being fortunate enough to see places most people will never see and do things most people will never do. I will miss all those things but the most important things that I have left are my friends from every stage of life and for you all I’m going to keep climbing.

I really truly appreciate all the ongoing support and I pull from it every day as strength to move forward, never backward and always up.

Riley

Been too long…

November 13th, 2010

Seven months… God time has been flying by! I realize I’m not writing here nearly often enough and I apologize to those of you who have checked back in on me and haven’t found anything for the past little while. When I finally found a moment to write here today I looked back at my last post and the comments people have left and at first I couldn’t believe it had been seven whole months since the last time I shared with all of you where I’m at! Secondly it brought tears to my eyes to see the outpouring of support still coming my way and it’s a smack in the face that I need to absorb more of that support to keep me pointed in the right direction. So much can happen in seven months the good news is we are in a much better place than when I last wrote here!

Katrina and I remained very much in the position we were in the last time I wrote until the end of June when a spur of the moment decision had us scouring Portland for something, anything that would work to get us out of our hotel room (the one we are forbidden to mention). Within a week we had found an apartment that somewhat served our needs, great location, more space for me to roll but still lacking the accessibility features I will one day need in my home. Within a week we had signed the lease called upon our old friend Jake to load our storage unit into a truck and drive from Colorado to Portland, had my brother come down from Vancouver, and watched the both of them unload our home. We also shuffled away the majority of our possessions into a storage unit to call upon when we actually have a house that we feel comfortable to fully unwind into.

This move was a huge turning point for us this summer as it finally got us into a better space where we could start to accept some of the help that was abundantly waiting for us to call upon. Katrina had not been home to Michigan in quite some time so we had my Mom come and trained her in my daily care so that Katrina (the trainer) could go home and visit her family! This was much needed as she has been by my side and my primary caregiver since the first day she showed up in ICU back in January 2009. It was great getting to spend some time with my Mom and at the same time it was an eye-opening experience that I did not feel comfortable having her as my fallback. It’s a very hard thing to bring a third party into your life to take care of the most necessary human functions but there are definitely boundaries that come up from having the people you love the most a little too close sometimes. However having my Mom trained to be my caregiver has been great as it also allowed Katrina to take another week and go be a bridesmaid in her good friend Alyssa’s wedding in New Mexico. Each time Katrina got to take a little vacation she came back refreshed and ready to take on the world once again.

Katrina and I also got the opportunity to do some traveling which was great as traveling was such a huge part of our lives before my injury. First we went down to Huntington Beach for the US Open of surfing where I had a big Nike summit with coworkers joining us from all over the globe. Katrina’s best friend Lexi lives in LA and they got to spend some quality time together while I was in meetings which was great for her and we also got to run into our good friend Jake who was also in town for the Nike meetings. Jake has been an integral part of our lives since my injury from the second he turned me over in the pool and saved me from drowning through the countless trips to storage and moving us from Boulder to California to Oregon and another trip from Colorado to Oregon. Jake’s one of those people that would do anything for anyone and we are blessed to have him on this earth and as our friend. He even reluctantly stood in for me as Katrina’s dance partner as we all took on the final party of the event until the wee hours of the morning.

Our next traveling experience was a two-week vacation to Canada for a film festival in Montréal and a wedding in Pemberton BC. This was such a special trip! Everything went smoothly on the travel side (which as you can imagine sometimes it doesn’t) spending a week in Montréal with many of our great friends from the ski industry and watching all the latest greatest ski movies was quite a treat. Once again we got to connect with Jake as well as Simon and his girlfriend Charlie who we hadn’t seen in quite some time. I also got to spend some quality time with my good friends Eric Iberg and Tanner Hall who showed their documentary “Like a Lion” the raw story of Tanners life, a must-see film. I hadn’t seen either of them since our friend CR passed away so it was emotional for me on many levels. After watching their film I just buried my head in Katrina’s chest and cried. When I realize how many brotherhoods and friends I have been blessed to have in this crazy life of mine I can’t help but be proud as so many of us are growing out of what we once were into the possibilities of what we will one day become. Our trip to Montréal was capped off with a super cowboy Cessna flight arranged by the event organizer and good friend JF. It was a great way to see the city but our life was definitely in the hands of a crazy Frenchman and I’m not sure everything we were up to was legal.

After Montréal we shot back to Vancouver where we spent a couple days in my old stomping grounds Squamish with our good friends Sarah and Rory before their wedding up in Pemberton which was another gathering of great friends and a very beautiful and special uniting of two people who just belong together! I was lucky enough to spend quite a few years traveling the world with Rory and filming his crazy antics and his relationship with Sarah unfolded in front of my eyes on some of our film trips. It was very special to see such great people unite in such a beautiful place with such a beautiful community around them! We left Canada with a very special import… my brother Travis! Travis has lived in Vancouver the last five years attending university and I’m more than happy to announce that he is now our neighbor living in Portland and working for Katrina at Bobknits and also just a phone call away for anything I might need. It’s been really special to get to spend more time with Travis, we both were on such different paths for a number of years that it seemed like I lost touch with who my brother had become as an adult. I’m happy to report he’s a standup dude!

Coming back from Canada it was time to jump right back into things at Nike, as it never really slows down around here. I couldn’t be happier with my work situation, my colleagues, the environment, the projects and the challenges. The amazing opportunity to work for such a great company is keeping me engaged and excited to go to work everyday. I know that’s a rarity and I’m trying to cherish every moment and learn from all the incredibly talented people surrounding me.

There have definitely been a couple other highlights this summer and fall. Friends coming to visit from Southern California, spent some time with Katrina’s dad, got to spend some quality time with my mom and a few visits here and there with my dad (he’s been quite busy working on fishing boats in Alaska, living the life). My good friend Johnny brought his new windsurfing film to Portland for a screening and as I sat in the back of the theater and watched it with him getting all the editorial notes on the amazing action going on in front of me one thing he said to me really stuck… “You know the only really important thing in life is our friends, nothing else matters as long as we have each other”.

I consider myself one of the luckiest people on this earth. My support system is dedicated and unwavering every moment of every day. Every moment I have free there is someone I need to get back to, someone that’s reached out to me to lend their support or their friendship or because memories that need to be shared have resurfaced. If I could wish for one thing it would be for an extra couple hours in the day that I could spend connecting with all of you so that you know your support is not going unheard or unfelt. For those of you who’ve called me an inspiration I am truly touched that I could inspire you in any way. Being an inspiration to anyone is definitely big shoes to fill and it’s humbling that any of you would see inspiration in my situation.

Because honestly I didn’t have to look too hard to find the amazing people that are in my life and those amazing people are the ones that made me decide to pick myself up, dust myself off and continue being Riley. My body may be hurt but my mind and my heart are as strong as ever and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. If there’s anything to be learned from or inspired by from what I’m going through it’s that human connection is priceless so take advantage of every one you come across.

Riley

I would be lying if I told you it was easy

April 17th, 2010

I’ve been asked a bunch lately why I don’t write in my blog anymore, and it’s a good question. Writing here seemed to be therapeutic for me through certain stages of my injury and rehabilitation and I think it still is, just realistically I don’t have a lot of time in my day-to-day to give a lot of thought to my overall situation, or maybe I avoid it. As of late when I do get the chance to communicate with friends, family and coworkers I’ve found myself really trying to make this all out to be no big deal, something that’s easy for me to handle and that not a whole lot has really changed. I guess it kind of intimidates me to write here very often, as it’s a sort of self-exploration that I don’t always have the emotional strength to deal with.

I would be lying if I told you it is easy for us to get settled in to our new life in Oregon. The challenges that come along with being a quadriplegic significantly cut down our options for housing, and it has become an incredibly frustrating situation that not many people could hope to understand. As a result we have now lived in a hotel room, completely on top of each other, for six months. The majority of my time with Katrina is spent brainstorming about our housing situation, looking for a better situation or listening to Katrina download what she has found out in that regard (she spends a lot of time on this).

I would be lying if I told you it was easy to have chosen my career over my rehabilitation. I consider myself extremely lucky to have the job that I do and to work with such an amazing and inspiring group of people. I’m completely engaged on a day-to-day basis and I love doing what I’m doing. There is a positive aspect in that I feel normal when I’m at work and I don’t feel anyone I work with sees me as being any less capable because I’m in a chair. Realistically I don’t think if I would have chosen to not pursue my career it would have led to any more focus on rehabilitation, as rehabilitation is expensive, hard to find and consumes not only my time but that of my family. It’s not like when I broke my neck I received some sort of settlement that would have made it easy for me to go focus on my body for the next couple years and living on an income stipend from Medicaid doesn’t necessarily allow a focus on rehabilitation.

I would be lying if I told you it was easy to not feel humiliated and helpless being totally reliant or my loved ones for my care. The times during the day when I have to ask for help or medically require help are definitely the times when the impact that this injury is going to have on my life hits home the hardest for me. You never realize how many things in your day-to-day life you take for granted until they are lost.

I would be lying if I told you it was easy to listen to the stories people tell me about “their friend in a wheelchair who is so amazing because they can do this or that” only to find out their friend is a paraplegic and they don’t know the difference. All I can do is shrug and say wouldn’t it be nice. The challenges I face not being able to use my hands or having full strength in my arms has definitely become the most annoying aspect of this injury.

I would be lying if I told you it was easy to sleep at night. The discomfort of not being able to move is one thing but waking up at three o’clock in the morning from spasticity and not being able to fall back asleep because my mind wont stop racing is another. I try my hardest to focus on making connections in my body and on the healing that still lies ahead but it’s a challenge to not get caught up in the reality of the moment that I can’t readjust without waking up Katrina (who deserves what little sleep she gets).

I would be lying if I told you I didn’t miss my good friend CR Johnson. CR and I had a long-standing relationship; I first met CR when I was 17 and my first filming trip was a month in Alaska with him, Evan and Tanner. Since then we’ve shared a friendship that is very common in the ski community and many were lucky to share with CR. When I got hurt CR immediately reached out to me and was such a powerful and positive person to share what I was going through with that we spoke often. I was lucky enough to have CR spend a couple days with Katrina, Tyler and I in Los Angeles this summer and the memories that came out of that brief visit will always bring a smile to my face. I spoke with CR the day before he passed away and he kept saying “after all we’ve been through think of what we’re going to be like when we’re 40″ (for those of you who don’t know CR suffered a traumatic brain injury in 05’ and just this past year reclaimed his place at the top of professional skiing). The thing we most shared in common was the mental growth that is a result of going through a traumatic injury; hearing about his death the next day was like getting punched in the throat and it’s still hard to swallow.

I would be lying if I told you it was easy to follow the world that I was once so much a part of on TV and the Internet. I miss making films and all the traveling, friendship, teamwork and good times that came along with it. I have incredible pride in watching my friends succeed at what they love but it’s hard not being there with them.
*Big thanks to Jossi Wells for rocking my sticker all season on his way to becoming overall AFP world champion!

I would be lying if I told you it was easy to stay hopeful after being paralyzed for over a year. I am constantly reminding myself that healing from this injury is going to be just as much mental as physical work. It’s so incredibly hard to not settle into the reality of my situation without feeling like I’m losing the hope that is going to change my situation.

I would be lying if I told you it was easy to stay in touch with all of you who are consistently and constantly reaching out sending your support. If anything I wish I had a few more hours in my week specifically for this. I usually get to fit in about one phone call a day on my way home from work so it’s a slow process getting back to people but I’m thinking of all of you constantly and feeding off your energy. When I do get the opportunity to read the comments here or log on to my Facebook it really energizes me to make the most out of each and every day. For those of you who find inspiration in what I’ve gone through, it’s humbling, and I’ve written this to let you know it isn’t as easy as I may make it look.

Riley

A Thank You to the Ski Community

December 16th, 2009

A true community is hard to find these days. I grew up in a town where you couldn’t drive down the highway without waiving at every single car that passed. Not only did we greet each other but also we looked after one another. The adults in the community didn’t avoid the children and the children didn’t disregard the adults. Everyone worked in unison to support the families that were having a hard go and there was always an outreached hand if you were down. One of the sad realities of life is that not everyone is lucky enough to grow up in a ski town community and those of us who were, are not always lucky enough to never leave.

Whether you grew up in a ski town or you visit one once a year, whether you ski 250 days a year or 1, or if every time you think about skiing you realize you’re probably not going to be as good as you were last year. We all end up sharing a common bond of knowing the feeling of sliding on snow. That makes us a community, a community that spans the globe. Each and every year we invite more to join us while simultaneously losing a few here and there to careers, old bones, broken bones and every now and then a realization that we’re not as young as we once were. I don’t consider myself old, but I’m definitely not what I used to be on the mountain. This year for me I will undergo my most drastic change. For the first time in my life if I want to feel that sliding sensation that we are all chasing, I will be doing it sitting down.

When I broke my neck nearly a year ago I realized right away that I wouldn’t be skiing at the same level I was just the day before for quite some time. As I lay paralyzed in a hospital bed I wondered if the community that I had been a part of since age 2 would slip away from me. I was having a hard time understanding what my life would be like if it didn’t revolve around waiting for winter and skiing when it came. At that moment what I was going through was so confusing all I could do was hope and pray that it wasn’t going to last forever and that someday I would ski again.

The X-Games were televised the week I came out of sedation and it was a much-needed break from my reality. Instead of lying there and envisioning my coming success I could watch my friends on TV and their current successes. Much to my surprise the first friend I saw on TV had a bright orange Riley Poor sticker on his helmet! That was the moment that I realized just how lucky I am to be part of such an amazing community. I had my family pull up the Powder Awards live webcast on my computer because just like the X-Games, I wasn’t going to miss that no matter who was breathing for me.

The outpouring of support that I received that night and every day since, has given me the energy that one would expect you need to deal with a life-changing injury. As I watched those familiar faces flash across the screen that evening it hit me how tight knit the ski community really is. I realize that in that room that night, every person could reach out and touch the person next to them and have a story and memories that they will forever share with that person. Then I started thinking about all the people who weren’t necessarily in that room and the interconnectedness of every lift ride, every lift line, every powder day and every inch we’ve ever moved on our skis. Everyone was somehow connected and together we formed a family.

The way the ski community has come together and supported myself and my family through the last year has made me realize that together we form a web that no one can fall through. I want to send my sincerest thanks to everyone that has helped prop me up through this challenging time with your positive energy, continuous outreach, generous donations, and amazing encouragement. I am incredibly lucky to be a part of such an amazing sport and will proudly call myself a skier for life.

Hope to see you on the mountain soon.

sit-ski

Riley Poor

‘Transitions.’ What a fitting word…

October 4th, 2009

I apologize I haven’t written here lately, it has been a challenge to stay in touch with everyone and even though I know this is the best way to do it, it’s been hard to find a moment to write here. I want to start by saying a huge thank you to everyone for their constant enduring support. Without all of your love, direction, support, inspiration and guidance this transition in my life would have become a lot more complicated. I realize after reading our last post here that for many of you my situation seemed bleak and there wasn’t a whole lot anyone could do about it. Truth is, I did go through a situation this summer where hope was easily lost, control was not mine, life seemed a dark place and I was the only one who could take it back. I appreciate everyone giving me some space despite your concern. It had really become trying to reiterate my situation on a daily basis. When I woke up that morning and had lost everything I had worked so hard to get back it crushed me and the last thing I wanted to do was reiterate what a confusing and scary situation both Katrina and myself were in.

As all of you know Katrina’s constant guidance has been crucial for my well being over the past nine months. It took her telling me over and over again that “reiteration of my situation was not helping my healing process,” for me to realize it myself. Everyone’s genuine concern for my situation had led me to live not in the moments that lay ahead, but often in the tragic moments that had become part of my past. This is such a natural occurrence… our concern for each other that stems from love can often become stress for the recipient of our concern. The last thing the injured, sick or distraught person wants to do is become a concern or burden for those who love them. Throughout all of this I wanted to be seen as a beacon of hope — proof that life is what you make of it and hurdles were to be expected, dealt with and filed away. As I made rapid improvements in my health in those first few months, I was confident no one felt sorry for me; people were inspired by my hope and drive and life would get easier and I would move on. Waking up one random day, losing the sensation that I had hung to so tightly, rushing to the hospital to learn that my problems might not just be contained to the spinal cord but possibly the brain-stem above, put me back at the starting line with a whole new set of hurdles in front of me.

Stress is a disease. A disease that unfortunately most of us share. The majority of the time stress will not kill you alone but pair it with any other sort of sickness, depression, cancer etc. and your grave awaits. Spinal cord injury affects your nervous system. Stress affects your nervous system. Combine the two and you’re going to get results that no doctor will explain to you the same. The doctor in California was quick to regress my Asia status from C to A, she was quick to tell me that my once incomplete injury was now complete, she was also quick to tell me that the progress I had made up to that point might quickly regress. The fact that I could once feel my feet was a mystery to her. As my MRI’s spread across the country for different “professional opinions,” stress pulled up a seat next to me in my edit suite. The immediate concern of my close friends and family was to be expected, but was it helpful for me to be reiterating my situation? We thought not. So once again I thank all of you for respecting that and giving me some space during that trying time. The next few weeks were by far the hardest of my rehabilitation; I had to decide: could I accept my new reality and push forward toward that healing light or would I fold and accept my doctor’s diagnosis and my new life as a quadriplegic.

Katrina once again stepped in and changed my life. The reason I had been so stressed is that I had taken on — or rather chosen to — finish a film project that meant the world to me personally. I knew from my hospital bed what a challenge that was going to be, I knew mentally I needed to show myself I was capable, I also knew taking it on by myself was not the rest and rehabilitation that I needed. It took Katrina pointing out to me that I was being hard on myself to expect that much of myself only five months after a catastrophic, life-changing injury. It took Katrina pointing out to me that I was taking on a task usually assigned to five capable people by myself. It took Katrina telling me over and over again that I had not changed as a person because my work ethic was still there and that’s what was going to get me to the finish line. It also took Katrina getting me out of bed, getting me fed and getting me back to a place where I could be creative and, as a result, proud of myself once again. The stress did not end there — not only had I decided to finish post-production on my film project but also take a new job with Nike that required me to relocate at the end of the summer. As our deadline of September 5th loomed over my head to both finish the film and move to Portland and start a new job it really only got worse. Then one day Katrina looked through our lease and saw a clause that would allow us to extend by 30 days giving us ample time to finish the movie and find a new place to live. I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders.

What happened next was something that will change my life forever. It was the moment I realized that stress — although inevitable — was something that needed immediate attention in my life. I felt so much better that day, taking that weight off my shoulders, I asked Katrina that night to rub my feet and to both of our surprise not only could I feel a slight tingle but my toes were moving in response to Katrina’s touch! The next day I began noticing I felt like I had a little bit more core control… sure enough, it was becoming easier to lift myself up after weight shifts.  And to both Katrina and my surprise the sensation and strength continued to come back! Finishing the movie and all the tedious tasks that come along with post-production became easier with a little more breathing room. Before I knew it the film was finished and being sent away for duplication and the world premiere in Montréal. Was stress really responsible for crippling me that much more? What would the doctors say about that theory? (They said no way) From September 10-15th Katrina and I traveled to Portland to look for housing and once again stress pulled up a seat. No one could ever fathom what a obstacle accessible housing can be until you have a need for it.

The last month has continued to reveal hurdles around every bend. But what I am trying to teach myself (with Katrina’s help) is that the more I focus on these hurdles the harder it becomes to get beyond them. I know better than anyone that stress is a disease only curable by ourselves. I know many hurdles lie ahead for me and even if they trip me up my goal is to effortlessly move beyond them. This is easier said than done but I know my awareness will serve purpose for me in the future. In the last 30 days, I finished a movie that I set out to make two years ago, I took a new position at an amazing company, we released our film to the public to rave reviews in Montréal, and I wish I could say I helped, but I watched, the strongest woman in the world move our lives yet again (with the help of our great friends Jake and Lexi). Then I rode shotgun as Katrina put the pedal to the metal and got us the hell out of LA! We went out to Colorado for “The Meeting” (snow industry get-together and film festival) where we showed our film next to legends Teton Gravity Research at the top of Aspen Mountain. It was an amazing night that I will never forget; I saw so many friends that I had not seen since before my injury who commented that I looked like myself. I saw friends who I had seen in the hospital and they all couldn’t get over how much better I was doing and to top it all off, I asked Katrina to marry me in front of 500+ friends and supporters and she said yes!

Wheelchair or not that’s a pretty good month!

Love

Yesterday a group of good friends and amazing people set out to ride from Seattle to San Diego in support of their fallen friends. In support of the Billy Poole, Shane McConkey and Riley Poor Foundations, this dedicated group of friends and athletes will take on physical exhaustion and the ride of a lifetime in yet another showing of how amazing the ski community truly is. Please follow their travels and lend your support if possible by visiting here.

the good and the bad

July 18th, 2009

So it’s been 6 months and 7 days since Riley’s accident and this was supposed to be his “golden time”. The time in which you get the most back because hopefully, by now the swelling has gone down around the contusion. However last week on Tuesday Riley woke up and he had without warning lost everything he had gained. All the sensation from his nipples down was gone and when I scratched his feet he couldn’t feel it. We immediately went to the hospital and saw his spinal cord doc she ordered an emergency MRI in fear that he had post traumatic swelling of his spinal cord. In which case he would have to have another surgery. However the results of the MRI were much more damaging then the idea of another surgery. The MRI shows that Riley has damage to his brain stem indicating a possible stroke. When and if that stroke may have occurred is unknown at this time. I had to track down all the other MRIs and x-rays from the other three hospitals and we still have to meet with a neurologist in order to decipher what this news means.

However the thing is that Riley’s spinal cord doc said there was no explanation for him being able to feel his feet in the first place after reviewing the most recent MRI. She said all the swelling and blood was gone and what remains is a very damaged spinal cord.
With that being said, Riley is obviously still trying to wrap his head around this discouraging confusing news. In the meantime he has decided to take the high road staying positive, refusing to give up hope and taking life one step at a time. As many of you know Riley’s current film project titled “Transitions” has been his passion for the last two years and he continues to work hard at it every day he’s still planning to release it in September.

The next time you talk to Riley, please don’t ask him how his progress is coming along or how the physical therapy is going. You can imagine how frustrating it is to reiterate this news to everyone who checks in on him, he will bring up his progress when it is right for him. The last thing either of us wants to admit is that he is starting at the foot of the mountain again with no view of the peak in sight just blinded by the sun trying to hike up a road that doesn’t exist.

We remain hopeful and convinced that the body and brain remain unexplainable to modern medicine and since they can’t explain how he did it before, and they can’t explain how he lost it. Then they won’t be able to explain when he summits that enormous peak and proves them wrong once again.

Always fighting
Katinka
(not an english major)

Riley Poor product

June 12th, 2009

So we have received numerous requests and questions about where people can get their hands on Riley Poor product. We are happy to announce that we now have an answer!

www.rileypoor.bigcartel.com

Katrina designed some great shirts for Nike 6.0 that are available in limited numbers, as well as Riley support bracelets and the much sought after Riley Poor stickers. All funds raised will go towards Riley’s ongoing rehabilitation and are much appreciated by Riley’s family and all his followers hoping to see him on his feet again soon.

Back Online!

June 12th, 2009

Hey everyone I apologize if you tried to stop by the blog lately as the server has been down. Good news, obviously back up!

Things are still going very good out here in California, I would finally consider us settled in! Katrina surprised me with a elaborate edit suite so my place of work is now my sanctuary, complete with plant life, inspirational posters, a Buddha, a new computer system courtesy of Nike 6.0, a ton of hard drives and close friend Tyler Hamblet working by my side on Poorboyz yearly release titled “Every day is a Saturday”. Make sure to check out both of the films we are working on this fall, More info available at www.poorboyz.com. I am also happy to report that Katrina has her knitting operation set up once again, and creativity is flowing all around this apartment!

As far as my body goes, spasticity has gotten worse since leaving the hospital making day-to-day life slightly more painful and complicated when it comes to therapy and being functional. Regardless I am a long way from being done with therapy so it is ongoing and will be for the rest of my life most likely. I am lucky enough to have a standing frame (Thanks again IYCD), that I stand in as often as possible, still waiting on the FES bike to arrive so I can get my legs moving again!

As I’ve previously promised I am writing here to share inspiration. The thing, or words I should say, that I have really been keeping me on track both mentally and physically these past few weeks are three simple words all beginning with P.

Potential. We all enter upon this earth with the same thing, we all have the potential to live our lives to the fullest extent each and every day no matter what our situation. Potential is something that should be explored on a daily basis.

Passion. Throughout our lives we all stumble upon things or ideas that make our lives meaningful. Following these passions brings us to the third word…

Progress. With our individual realization of our human potential being combined with our realizations of our passions in life we end up progressing into a better situation every day.

I want everyone to know that no matter what you go through in your life, you will live a meaningful one as long as you realize your potential, embrace your passions, and recognize your progress. For anyone going through a challenging episode such as I am, my advice to you… take a moment during your day to repeat these three words and realize that tomorrow may not be easier but it will always be a step in the right direction.

Riley