Words by Michelle Parker
Photos by Darcy Bacha
Professional snowboarder, Danny Toumarkine, suffered a TBI (traumatic brain injury) on January 3rd of this year. He was on a filming trip with Shreddy Times in Teton Pass, Montana and hit a small jump (like the one you would hit off the side of a groomed trail) and fell into a group of trees. No one saw the actual fall, but nonetheless when his friends arrived to help him out he was face down in a pile of blood and snow.
Fast-forward to today, and 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 breathes 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 in his abdomen until the swelling in his brain subsides enough to put it back into place. There is a skin flap covering his brain, but if you were to touch his head in that place, the only thing separating you from feeling his brain is flesh.
It has been two weeks 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.
As I sit here in Great Falls, Montana 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. I'm giving him all the strength, encouragement, positive thoughts and love that I have to help him through this. It is the hardest thing that I've ever been through and it will be even harder for him when he wakes up.
Danny's brother has 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 http://www.dannyisthebomb.com.
On behalf of Michelle Parker and everyone at Newschoolers, please join us in sending positive vibes to Danny and wishing him a full recovery.