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News > Kevin Pearce: Joyous in Recovery, Thankful to be Alive

Kevin Pearce: Joyous in Recovery, Thankful to be Alive Hot

Kevin_PearceShaun White’s execution of the Double McTwist 1260 spun Olympic Gold while it almost killed fellow U.S. Snowboarder Kevin Pearce.

Pearce is now more than a year removed from a devastating brain injury incurred when his head slammed the edge of the halfpipe while attempting to land the double cork. Pearce’s injury can be attributed to the great mystique of the snowboarding culture as riders constantly push what’s possible in order to invent bigger and better aerials.

The Vermont native hoped the 20-foot high maneuver would propel him to Olympic stardom in Vancouver, instead it landed the 22-year-old in hospitals for the better part of six months until he was released to family in Vermont by June.

The incident, which occurred New Year’s Eve 2009, caused massive swelling in Pearce’s brain, rendering him unconscious and in critical condition at the University of Utah Hospital. The trauma occurred despite Pearce wearing a helmet during training.

“Doctors have said so many times if I didn't have a helmet on, I would have died,” Pearce told reporters.

Breathing tubes kept Pearce alive for the first week, until doctor’s upgraded his conditional from critical to serious. After three more weeks of steady progress, Pearce was transferred out of critical care.

Denver’s Craig Hospital, a rehabilitation facility focusing on traumatic brain injury, awaited Pearce next. He would spend the next four months regaining and relearning basic functions such as speaking, walking and caring for himself.

Now 15 months since that fateful day, Pearce is back on the board in Vermont – well at least the balancing board he’s employing for muscle memory exercises. Other rehabilitation continues as he combats lingering effects of the brain injury including weakness, fatigue, slowed thought processes and distorted vision.

Still, Pearce recently told the USA Today how fortunate he feels despite this arduous, pain-filled process, “It totally brought me back to the point of how lucky I am – how unlucky I am, but how really, really lucky I am to be in this situation," he says.

Some things are back to normal for Pearce. He recently regained his Vermont Driver’s License and did commentary for ESPN at the Winter X-Games held in January.

Optimism remains tempered by reality for Pearce; according to Dr. Alan Weintraub, medical director of the hospital’s brain injury program, competitive snowboarding may never be in Pearce’s future again.

"We had to explain to Kevin that he absolutely cannot take another hit to his head, as there could be some potential devastating circumstances.”

Yet, there are things bigger than snowboarding, namely health and family – two things Pearce clings to these days.

"I'm alive, I'm living," Pearce said. "I can talk, I can walk, I can do all the things that I would hope I could do."

 

Ryan O'Leary

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