Hunter Heck: The Man Who Lived. Twice.

November 11th 2013

 “Didn’t you hear what happened?”

My friend Melis said to me, confused and half-surprised when I first asked her the question.

 “No…”

  <<< Rewind.

It was November 2013 and I was Ohio bound >> for a gymnastics teammate’s wedding (once known as casual bunny) thus ensuing an epic reunion of all the teammates combined.

Good times.

What a combo.

Hugs were had. And so was wine. But eventually when we all sat down, I asked my former teammate and friend Melis how things had been since we all left. How was everyone doing, and were they okay?

 “Everything is great!” she told me. “And absolutely fantastic.” That the team was growing fast and so was the talent. And Oh! In a couple of a weeks, they were going to celebrate Hunter Heck’s 1 year of life. “It’s going to be really great.” she said. We’re going to have champagne, food, the works. It’s going to be awesome.”

 I    s p I l l e d   a bit of my wine.

 “…One year of life…what do you mean? What…what happened to Hunter?”

 “…Didn’t you hear what happened, Olive?”

 “No…”

 And after she told me I couldn’t believe it.

 Hunter Heck’s story.

And what happened to him one year ago on October 6th, 2012.

After that night I thought about him. And I thought about him a lot.

 And I remember a few days after I left I still couldn’t get Hunter Heck out of my damn head. Or his story. So I sent him a message. Asking if we could talk. Seeing if he was okay. And maybe if I could share his incredibly inspirational story with others.

And he said yes.

Olive and Hunter Heck present:

Hunter Heck: The Man Who Lived. Twice.

Hunter:

I couldn’t see anything.

It was

R

      A

I

N

    I

N

     G

And it was raining a lot. My cousin Nick and I were at gymnastics party, dancing the weather away until the party died down a few hours later.

 “Ready to head to our buddy’s house, Nick?” I asked my cousin as we threw on our jackets on our backs and headed out the door.

“Sounds good to me.”

We stepped >> out into the monsoon.

The visibility was none.

The heavy rain drops pounding against our shared shelter. One cross walk. Two cross walks. 3 cross walks. 5.

 We waited at the last one, holding the umbrella at a slight

T

   I

        L

             T

Eventually

     we                            crossed.

 But only because we were on a college campus and pedestrians had the right of way.

 Except.

 Suddenly I felt Nick

                                              <<<<  Jolt backwards

 And it’s probably the only thing the two of us had never done together. 

Fast forward.>>

 Play.

 I op     ened my eyes. Serenaded to consciousness by…

A breathing machine.

My arms. Wrapped in wires.

My back. Immobile.

My legs.

…My legs.

 I was told I was in a coma for 2 weeks. Regained semi consciousness on my father’s birthday( Oct. 20).

Happy Birthday, Dad.

It was a particularly nice surprise considering I was pronounced dead just a handful of days before.

  And the story goes like this:

 Suddenly I felt Nick

                                              <<<<  Jolt backwards

 He saw something I didn’t. A police SUV soaring at over 50 miles per hour.

Pummeling my body.

                               >>>>> 180 feet onto the distant pavement.

Nick sat

down.

He was in complete shock. Disbelief. Terror. He just witnessed his best friend and family member get

 dis   man    tled

By an SUV. And jogging over to his corpse just wasn’t something he was ready to mentally handle yet.

Eventually he had a sURge of reality and sprinted to my seemingly lifeless body. He described the noises that I was making as the worst noises he had ever witnessed, similar to that of a person trying to sip water through a straw from a cup that had only

D

R

O

P

S

 left.

Flight care had finally arrived. I was losing a lot of blood. The paramedics were doing everything they could to revive me. Chest tubes begging me to stay alive. Transfusions were attempted, but blood was coming out of me >>>>>  just as quick as it was going <<<<<< in.

Helicopter flight was delayed, blinded by the horrendous weather conditions that got the best of me just a few moments before.

I flatlined

________________________________________________

I flatlined again.

 _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

I flatlined a lot

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They pronounced me dead.

 

On October 6th 2012.

 But at 3:41 a.m.

 Something changed.

 “I think we can still save his life.” The doctor said. “We’ve just got to stop the internal bleeding first”

They cut my entire stomach open in hopes of finding the source of the bleeding. My pancreas was damaged. My bladder and kidneys – lacerated. One lung was collapsed and the other engulfed in blood. All of my ribs were broken and displaced. My spleen –  completely crushed. (Cheers to being able to live without a spleen?) I’d venture to say they solved the mystery.

Eventually the bleeding subsided.

 Welcome back to life, Hunter.

 Cue in the trauma surgeon.

He knew my back was severed. Back surgery needed to happen now. He quickly realized my spinal cord was blown upon impact, but he salvaged all the nerves he could. Surgery was supposed to be 3 hours.

It was

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

And after an excruciatingly long wait.

The doctor emerged from the

surgery             doors.

Looked at my parents and said

“Your son is going to be a paraplegic. But. He’s very lucky. He should be dead.”

But that’s not all.

 My bleeding was reduced. My back, barely salvaged. But my consciousness? My brain? Not quite. Up until this point, nobody knew for sure if I was ever going to wake up.

 So when I op       ened my eyes on my father’s birthday (Oct. 20).

(Happy birthday, Dad.)

It was a particularly nice surprise considering I was pronounced dead just a handful of days before.

 I couldn’t speak for several more days –  and when I could, it was a very soft whisper. It took another week to actually realize that I was awake. I couldn’t eat more than a few bites of applesauce for months. And when I did, I would choke, cough, and throw up after most of my meals soon after eating them.

 I was in the Trauma Center at Miami Valley Hospital for 1 month. My mom flew with me to Chicago for inpatient rehab at RIC for another 10 weeks. I had been doing anything from speech therapy to occupational therapy and physical therapy, etc.

 I had to be admitted to Northwestern Hospital, one of which was a blood infection that became septic. While being treated, they had told my mother that I had 8 hours left. It came to a point where they had to guess the right antibiotic to use, and they had miraculously chose the right one.

Lucky guess.

It was Jan. 10th, 2013 when I finally got to return home and sleep in my own bed. And when I arrived, I saw a totally remodeled home, where our garage had been transformed into a mini accessible ‘apartment’ just for me.

Life was never the same after that.

I was always an active guy. Full of energy. Full of adventure. And I’m happy to report that not much of that has really changed.

 I can’t walk. I can’t jump. I can’t go for a run. And I can’t dance like I used to.

 But I’m still here. Just a little more humbled. A little more thankful. And a little more careful when I cross the street.

 People ask me if I get sad sometimes and I tell them:

“Yes.”

Because I’m allowed to.

Just like you are too.

I never planned on being wheel-chair bound at 20. But it happened. And I’m here. Popping champagne and high-fiving my best friends

Hunter and good friend Dan.

Hunter and good friend Dan celebrating new life post accident.

 

Hunter reunited with his good friend Blake post accident.

Hunter reunited with his good friend Blake post accident.

Because I escaped death, and I lived to tell the tale of how life-altering that really was.

The anniversary party was a success.

This party = successful.

This party = successful.

The weather was great. And the company was even better.

 And life might have changed

But

It most certainly didn’t slow me down.

I worked a full time internship driving myself four hours away to Cleveland each week. I returned to school in the fall, less than a year later. After the accident and recovery I weighed a mere 102 lbs and 7 months later had worked my way up to 140 lbs.

hunter heck before and after

Mostly for me.

But also because.

I want to show people that their problems are really only what they make them out to be.

Life always continues.

And it won’t always be fair.

But if people heard my story, I’d hope they’d become a little less stressed about their daily obstacles, and appreciate life for the fragile and adventure-ridden thing that it is.

And hopefully make it so memorable and so worthwhile that they really would want to live it twice.

Inspired by this story and want to talk to Hunter? Check out his blog here!