I am writing this because I have a story that I think is worth writing about. I think it is worthy for two reasons; one so that we can bring more awareness to TBI and the other because people need to know that this can happen to anyone.
Professional snowboarer, Danny Toumarkine, just suffered a TBI (traumatic brain injury) on January 3rd. He was on a filming trip with Shreddy Times in Teton Pass, MT and hit a small fun little jump on the side of the trail and fell into a group of trees. No one saw the actual fall, but when his friends arrived to help him, he was lying face down unconscious exhaling blood with every respiration. It was every bit as terrifying as it sounds.
Fast forward to today, January 12th. Danny has had two craniotomies. He is currently heavily sedated and carefully monitored. He has a tracheostomy- which is a tube that runs through your neck and is hooked up to a ventilator that breaths for you. He has a percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy, or a PEG- which is a tube that runs from the outside of his abdomen and into his stomach. A piece of Danny's skull is being stored just under the skin in his abdomen. When the brain swelling subsides the bone will be placed back in his head. At the moment the only thing separating his brain from the outside world is the skin flap covering the area the bone was removed from.
It has been nine days since Danny arrived in the ICU. On a good day Danny is able to wiggle his toes and move his arms. Nothing is certain about what will happen an hour from now. His vitals are constantly changing. Even if he does make it out of this predicament doctors are unsure what the brain damage will be.
The reason I am bringing this up is because I think a huge issue needs to be looked at in the ski and snowboard world: Helmets. Danny was not wearing a helmet at the time of injury and chances are that the outcome of the situation would have been considerably different if he had been wearing one. There is a big problem with helmets though. Plain and simple, they just aren’t cool. Well let me tell the world about uncool. Uncool is watching your friend nearly die while executing a maneuver that I have watched him do flawlessly for the last 15 years. Uncool is sitting in the ICU for 9 days and expecting to be here for AT LEAST another week if things go smoothly.
As I sit here in Great Falls, MT on the fifth floor of the Benefis Hospital in room 5109 watching Danny and listening to the sound of the ventilator breathing for him all I can do is wait. This is by far the hardest thing that I've ever been through. When he wakes up it will be the hardest thing he will most likely ever go through. Save yourself and your loved ones from this awful misery… Buy yourself a helmet if you don’t already have one.
Danny's brother started a website to follow his progression throughout this experience. If you would like to follow his progress, share your thoughts, or donate to his recovery check out www.dannyisthebomb.com.