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WHOOPS! Teen determined to walk again after mountain bike crash (CA)

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Old September 1st 17, 04:03 AM posted to alt.mountain-bike
Mike Vandeman[_4_]
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Default WHOOPS! Teen determined to walk again after mountain bike crash (CA)

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Teen determined to walk again after mountain bike crash

Wreck left 15-year-old paralyzed

| August 31, 2017
By Thomas McMahon
Special to the Acorn

PHYSICAL THERAPY*Newbury Park High School sophomore Sam Audenino uses an electrical stimulation bike as part of his recovery from a mountain biking accident in July. Courtesy photo

Until this summer, Sam Audenino’s goal had been to go pro in mountain-bike racing, but a critical crash shifted his priorities.

Now the 15-year-old’s goal is to walk again.

Sam, a sophomore at Newbury Park High School, was mountain biking in Big Bear on July 15 when he took a spill over his handlebars and injured his spinal cord. Since then, he has not had the use of his legs.

After spending the past month in rehab in Century City, Sam is slated to return home Sept. 1, but his battle to overcome paralysis is far from over.

Need for speed

The youngest of three Audenino children, Sam got hooked on mountain biking four years ago. He could often be found riding with friends in the hilly terrain around Newbury Park.

“If he wasn’t in school or in youth group, he was on the trails somewhere,” said his mother, Roxanne.

For the teen, the adrenaline rush was the main attraction.

“I really just kind of like tearing fast down a mountain . . . the thrill of it, honestly,” Sam said.

For the past two years, he has been competing in downhill mountain-bike racing. In this form of the sport, riders rush down rugged trails, pressing into steeply banked turns, catching air off jumps and putting their bikes’ suspension to the test as they roll over rocks.

“I wanted to get up to the level of professional riding,” Sam said. “That was kind of my main goal*to race in the World Cup for downhill.”

Airborne spill

Everything changed July 15. Sam had set out early with a group of local parents and youths to ride at Snow Summit in Big Bear. The ski resort turns into a mountain biking park in summer.

ONE WRONG TURN*Before his accident, Sam, 15, could often be found riding with friends in the hills that surround Newbury Park. Courtesy photo

It was sunny as Sam and three friends reached the top of the ski lift, mounted their bikes and took off down the trail.

On the first descent of the day, Sam took flight off a jump and landed badly. He flew over his handlebars and hit the ground hard, briefly losing consciousness. When he came to a moment later, he couldn’t feel anything below his waist.

Sam’s fellow riders sprang into action. His friend Jake Hildreth, 15, stayed with him and helped him stay calm. Jake’s brother Josh, 13, rode down the trail to get help. Josh’s friend Austin Miller, also 13, went uphill from the jump to stop other riders.

At the base of the mountain, Josh found his mother, Erin, and told her what had happened to Sam.

“I just immediately felt sick and a sense of urgency,” Erin Hildreth said.

The gravity of Sam’s condition was confirmed after the ski patrol staff brought him down the hill. Emergency responders reached him and said he would have to be airlifted to a hospital in Loma Linda.

Back in Newbury Park, Roxanne Audenino received a call with the news. She and her husband, Mark, got in the car and rushed to their son’s side..

Severe injury

At the hospital, doctors discovered that Sam had shattered his T8 and T9 vertebrae, and the bone fragments had damaged his spinal cord. In surgery, the bone fragments were removed and rods were placed in his spine.

The initial diagnosis was that Sam had a complete spinal cord injury, but that was later upgraded to incomplete, which typically has a better chance for recovery. Still, Sam remains paralyzed from the sternum down.

About a week after the crash, Sam was transferred to the California Rehabilitation Institute in Century City. Since then he’s been undergoing intensive physical and occupational therapy.

Three times a week, Sam is hooked up to a functional electrical stimulation bike, which gets his muscles working and stimulates his nerves with electrical pulses. It isn’t mountain biking, but the motion is comfortingly familiar.

Family and friends have come often to visit Sam. Playing video games and working on a Rubik’s Cube have helped break up the monotony of the extended hospital stay.

Caring community

To prepare for their son’s return, the Audeninos have been renovating their two-story house so he can get around in a wheelchair. That includes building ramps, widening doorways and making the shower accessible.

Along with the home-renovation costs, the family is paying many out-of-pocket medical expenses, some for treatments insurance won’t fully cover.

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