It’s been a tumultuous holiday season for Whistler local Brendan Cavanagh.
On Dec. 16, Cavanagh sustained a debilitating spinal injury after crashing a routine backflip in the Blackcomb Terrain Park. He was airlifted to the Whistler Medical Clinic and, after alerting staff he had no feeling in his legs, was flown directly to Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) for surgery.
“I ended up going a little too fast for the jump and threw the trick a bit too quick,” said Cavanagh from his hospital bed at VGH. “I overshot the landing and over-rotated. I can’t recall every millisecond I was in the air, but I remember leaving the jump, hitting the ground and everything after that until the drugs took over.”
Cavanagh — known to many in the community for converting his home in the Brio neighbourhood into the Whistler Haunted House every Halloween — is expected to remain in the VGH Intensive Care Unit (ICU) until at least mid January. Afterwards, he will begin his long road to recovery at Vancouver’s GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre. Last week a friend posted an online fundraiser for Cavanagh’s medical bills on gofundme.com. It had raised $4,621 by press time.
“It’s been one hell of a ride emotionally,” said Cavanagh. “I’ve been overwhelmed with these feelings I don’t think I’ve ever had in my life. I’m always looking for the silver lining and with all these emotions of gratitude and happiness. Some of the happiest moments in my life so far I think have been sitting in this hospital bed.”
Last week Cavanagh had an unexpected visitor at the hospital. Freestyle skier Mike Shaw — who dislocated his neck while skiing in Colorado exactly one year before Cavanagh’s injury — was visiting another patient in the spinal ward when Cavanagh’s mother recognized him from a newspaper clipping on the wall. Shaw was more than happy to pay a visit to Cavanagh and share his own story of recovering from a severe spinal injury.
“I didn’t sugar coat it, I told him ‘This is the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do,’” said Shaw. “There are times when you’re going to want to pull your hair out and scream because it’s so frustrating, but there are also going to be times of extreme joy because you’ve found a newfound sense of gratitude. I also told him about the importance of acceptance and having to work with your new limitations. Brendan seems like a pretty strong individual already. He’s able to joke about it and he keeps on smiling. From what I’ve seen it looks like he’s in a pretty good spot mentally.”
Cavanagh remains in good spirits, not only from his conversation with Shaw, but also from the long list of visitors, well wishers and donors to his fundraiser.
“That’s been making all the difference in the world, as far as my mental state goes,” said Cavanagh. “I’m so grateful for it. The costs that me and my family are going to incur are huge, and the response (to the fundraiser) has been great so far.”
To donate to Brendan Cavangh’s campaign head to www.gofundme.com/brendansrecovery.