‘Transitions.’ What a fitting word…

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!

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.

3 months out

bye bye bedHey everyone. Sorry it has been so long since I checked in with you all. As you can imagine, life is still pretty chaotic around here. I’ve made some major progress since I last checked in, I had my neck collar removed which has been huge for comfort and mobility, and I was also moved to the East wing of the hospital to a much bigger room that is set up for a more independent life style. Last night was my first night sleeping in a real bed in the last 3 months. It was a huge step to watch my hospital bed leave the room and to spend the night sleeping next to my love. It’s crazy to look back over the last 3 months and see the progress I’ve made since being admitted to the ICU in Albany. I must say I’ve been proud of myself in my ability to accept this injury and work as hard as I have despite the mental rigor that paralysis can bring. I wouldn’t have been able make all of the progress that I have without all of your support. So thank you all once again for that. I am set to leave here on the 7th of May and I am very excited to spend the next four months living in LA with katrina and working on “Transitions” with Poor Boyz productions.  I plan on continuing my rehab in LA as well as spending endless hours in an edit suite as well as hopefully a few on the beach.  Katrina will be going to LA this weekend to find us an apartment as well as look into doctors in the area and explore the Redondo Beach area a bit for herself.  I must apologize that I haven’t gotten back to more of you I’ve got a hefty stack of emails, facebook messages, text messages and voice mails that I need to return. It’s been really hard to find time to reach out to all of you with my steady chaotic schedule here at Craig.  I’m still promising to touch base with you all as soon as my schedule allows.  Like I said your love and support means everything to me I still have a long road ahead and all of you pouring your energy into me are helping me travel down that road.

Signing off for now with much love

Riley

one life to live

Thursday evening I was shocked to hear the news that a good friend Shane McConkey had past away in a BASE jumping accident in Italy while filming with my former film crew Matchstick Productions.  Shane had a infectious personality and his ability to make people laugh will be missed by everyone lucky enough to cross his path. Shane has supported me from the beginning of my career in the ski industry and growing up watching the progress he made for the sport of skiing and BASE jumping was both awe inspiring and truly terrifying at moments. Shane had a way of living everyday to the fullest and always walked the fine line between safety and insanity – needless to say he inspired and changed the lives of millions of people across the globe.  I feel blessed to have known him, laughed at his jokes, and had him as a supporter.  I guess you could say I am one of his biggest fans.  Shane was at a point of comfort with the risks he was taking the same as all of us fall into a comfort zone whether it’s driving down the highway, or progressing a sport that has no apparent ceiling.  When I was injured I learned that your comfort zone can often be a dangerous place to be and what I’ve taken from Shane’s death is how truly lucky I am to be alive today.  Shane was a huge inspiration to me and I will be taking that inspiration into every day of my life and especially my rehab process for the months/years to come.  I hope everyone who reads this wakes up tomorrow feeling lucky to be alive and takes a moment in their day to smile in Shane’s memory and to walk that fine line between comfort and fear no matter how that applies to you.  Live your life to the fullest and never loose sight of what you love. We all miss you already Shane, we are here for your family and your infectious personality will absolutely never be forgotten.

We lost a good friend, a husband, a father, a son, and an icon. Rest in peace Shane.

Shane skiBASE

half way done at craig

Hey everyone I apologize for not being able to check in with you as much as you’ve been checking in on me but as you probably all know they are keeping me pretty busy here at Craig and for every day I don’t check in marks a day that I’ve pushed my body to it’s maximum limits. Last week I reached the half way point of my stay here and from what I’ve heard from the therapists and doctors I’ve made more progress than anyone could of expected. My date is set to leave here for May 7 so I’m going to take each day in between to keep working my body both physically and mentally as hard as it will allow. I can’t thank all of you enough for your constant outpouring of energy and support. I’m still promising a personal check in with each of you as soon as I can find the time. Once I am released from Craig Katrina and I will be going to LA to finish the production of the 2 year documentary that I have been working on with freeskier Simon Dumont titled Transitions. We will also be looking into other rehabilitation facilities in the southern california area. If I continue to progress at my current rate I will still have allot of work to do through the summer months and beyond. Once again I wouldn’t be able to keep my spirits as high as they are without all your love and support so all I can ask for is to keep sending the positive energy my way. I’m also very happy to report that I’ve been able to be active in my career once again which keeps me very busy beyond my therapies and brings a sense of normality back to my life. Next big step is getting rid of my collar, which should happen in the next few weeks, and I’m entering my third week in a manual chair, which has finally given me the sense that I am getting stronger and more independent. 

 

I hope everyone is well and in as high of spirits as I am I love and miss you all and for those of you that I don’t personally know I look forward to the day we will meet. 

P.S. Katrina and my mom have continued to replace my back bone through this process so please send some energy their way as well. Everyone should know I’m in the best of hands.

progress

Last week was a big week for me, my fifth week here at craig my body is starting to come out of shock somewhat and I’m starting to evacuate tubes from my body left and right. Last week they removed the g-tube from my stomach which was used for meds and tube feedings while they were making sure I could swallow correctly.  In the same day I made a huge step by getting the trach out of my throat, which has brought much more comfortable days and nights. On saturday I received what will hopefully be my last iron transfusion and the last IV line was pulled from my arm. This is huge progress for me because I can now get in the pool, which I here is an amazing experience as a quadriplegic. This next week I will be able to start a daily be fit class and functional skills class which will add to my increasingly hectic schedule. I am so excited to get to do some really hard work finally as all the little bumps in the road transcend further into the past. I want to send out a huge thank you to those who have visited, seeing you gives me strength to wake up each day with a little more energy that you leave behind.  I also want to thank freeskier and my C.B. friends Martha, Jenna, James and Jamie for hosting some amazing events this past weekend I love you guys.  Once again I want to send a huge thank you to my mom and to katrina who has literally been holding my entire life together to this point.  A very special thanks to Jake and Lilli for their assistance in getting us moved out of our apartment in boulder you guys rock. I will check back in with you all as much as possible but the weeks ahead will be busy and I just want you all to know that I will be working my hardest. The care I am receiving from the love of my life katrina is keeping me safe, happy, and healthy on a daily basis. I’m in good hands here at craig the staff has been amazing my family has been amazing and Travis if your reading this I want you to know I’m getting better for you every day little brother. I miss you dad and jasper.

I love you all and I will see you soon

P.s If you want to come visit please email katrina at bobknits@gmail.com weekends work the best 

bumps in the road

Hey everyone,  Riley here.  Found a 20min window in my day that I can use to check in with all you guys. These days for me attitude is everything I can not explain to you the importance of me keeping a good strong head on my shoulders but I would be lying to you if I told you that’s been an easy task. I have definitely made some major steps forward with my recovery but it hasn’t come easily or without a fair amount of bumps in the road.

After arriving at Craig our first hurdle was the pneumonia that was living inside of my lungs. Let me tell you, when you go through an experience like that you really learn to appreciate your lungs something I had majorly taken for granted up to that point. My next hurdle regarding my respiratory system was to get off the ventilator, which had been breathing for me since my accident.  I am happy to report I was able to attack that goal on my terms and I am now officially breathing on my own will 24/7 but not without the assistants of supplmental oxygen. The next major hurdle I came to at Craig started as a blood clot we found during an ultra sound in my lower right leg. By my next ultra sound a few days later we learned that it had rapidly spread up my right leg and in addition the clots had also formed in my left leg from ankle to thigh. This meant a few things firstly I went on a constant stream of blood thinners that I will likely have to stay on for 6 months to a year. Secondly my legs had to be immobilized both in therapies and in bed. A few days after learning about the clots my legs ballooned in size growing to proportions that scared the crap out of me after another slew of tests the doctors confirmed that I was not bleeding out which is a huge risk from the blood thinners but in fact I had edema which is the pooling of fluids in the skins tissues. Over the next few days I put on a about 40 pounds of water weight which once again complicated my therapies. I am once again happy to report that we have gotten that issue somewhat under control and although I still have clotting and edema in my legs I look a whole lot less like the marshmallow man. My next hurdle seems to be getting my blood counts under control, which is something I have been battling all along. I already had a blood transfusion and iron IV drips both of which can really take a toll on your system, as I found out yesterday. I was completely wiped out by a test dose of iron.

I guess in saying all this I just mean to relay to those of you who care that even though my spirits are high on a daily basis this hasn’t been nor will not be a walk in the park. Please keep your positive energy flowing my way as it’s truly the most powerful medicine that I can use to heal.

1 month

The last month of my life could never have been expected or prepared for by any of the parties involved. The exhaustion brought by the last month’s events have brought to both me, my family, and the love of my life Katrina has been significant, and we are all in need of a little rest and relaxation. Yesterday, I made a huge step by going off the ventilator and now I can proudly say that each breath I take throughout the day is by my own will and strength. An added bonus is that I have my voice back and can now communicate much better with the caregivers that surround me. Even more importantly, it means that I don’t necessarily need the watchful loving eyes of my girlfriend and my mother through all hours of the day and night. Hopefully the next week will bring both my family, my love, and myself a healthy dose of that much needed rest.

As far as my recovery goes, I couldn’t be happier – I make great progress every day and I wake up each morning looking forward to what the day will bring. Throughout all of this, I have realized how important meditation will be and I’ve been able to develop some pretty effective ways of going inward. From now on, I will be the author of this blog as I feel it’s important these messages and updates come from me. I want to say a huge thanks to my father and all the other contributors for keeping my community involved and up to date over the last month.

I want to say a huge thank you to everyone for their overwhelming support and contributions to my recovery fund, and want everyone to know that once I am able to communicate with the technology at my finger tips you will all receive a much more personalized update.

love riley

Riley Poor Stickers+

We all loved watching the coverage of the X Games this year. Riley seeing his friends supporting him with those bright orange stickers meant so much to him, knowing that  he was present with them in some regard. We have had a lot of interest in those stickers and Nike is in the process of printing more.  The stickers will be distributed through Riley’s fundraising efforts in a number of ways, and available to you soon.

Thanks to Kevin Kruse, Bart Snyder, and the others who took the below photos.

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Appreciation from Riley

I want to start by sending a huge thank you to everyone for their support; as always there are to many to thank without putting my lip reader through too much hell. But I need to say thank you to Katrina–she is truly calling the shots and all my progress over the last week is because of her proactively getting me to Craig as soon as possible. I also want to thank Katrina’s sister and brother in law for their amazing support. I want to send a huge thank you to Trent, Jamie and Cjay for their amazing rally, and to the community of Crested Butte as well.  I can not voice how gracious I am and how lucky I was to grow up in that beautiful town. I also want to thank my parents for their energy–it gives me strength every day. I want to send a huge thank you to the sponsors of our film project, especially Nike. I can never say enough how lucky I am to work with all of you. The people at Craig have been amazing and there is not a better place in the world I could be. I need to cut this short so I can go off the ventilator for a half an hour.

Travis, I think about you every day… and to my Nike crew that is currently on our team trip I will be with you guys every day. I once again apologize to all the visitors that we have had to turn away. I promise as soon as my body gets into a regular program we all will share conversations and laughs again soon. I love all of you…

Riley

(translated by Tinka aka Katrina, not an english major (lip reader))

Riley’s Benefit Extravaganza in CB A Success

party

On Friday night, Crested Butte’s men, women, and children showed up in force to celebrate for Riley. DJ TWO3 was on the one’s and twos all evening providing fuel for what was one great night.  Energizing words were provided by Riley’s Dad Bob and Noah Wight (who has first hand experience with the challenges of living with a spinal cord injury).

Riley sends a huge thank you out to Cjay Clark and Trent Sweitzer who both dreamed up the event the week before. Riley’s good high school friends pulled out all the stops with a front-door raffle, $.25 wings, $2 beer, and one hell of a silent auction.

For those of you who weren’t able to make the event but who would still like to donate to the cause, all of the information is here.  Riley’s heart goes out to the community of Crested Butte for their love and support.

Some photos of the event follow…

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