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September 26, 2016

Guest Blog: Ramsey Barton Looking on the Bright Side

On May 22, 2015 I was in Valdez, Alaska hiking with some friends at one of our local trails, Dock Point. This trail brought you up on top of a mountain that over looked the water, on top of this mountain at the end of the trail there was a tire swing that swung out pretty close to the edge. My friend was on the swing and my ex-boyfriend was pushing her. I was standing just a little too close to the edge, and when she was pushed she came right for me and ended up unintentionally knocking me off the side of the mountain. This cliff is referred to as "Dead man's Cliff", a 75 foot drop landing directly on the shore of Prince William Sound. I was conscious the entire fall, up until rescue came about 45 minutes later. I sustained a compound fracture in my femur, blew apart my lower back starting at T11/T12, and completely severed my spinal cord, I broke two vertebrae, C5/C6, in my neck;10 ribs; both shoulders and shoulder blades; 13 staples in my head (with no TBI); and three stitches in my forehead. I was incredibly hypothermic, about 82 degrees when I finally made it to the hospital. I am now fussed from C4-C7, T10-L2, have two plates and screws in my neck, along with four plates and six screws in my back. I also have a metal rod going through the middle of my knee up to my hip. I was at the Valdez hospital for one night then life flighted to Anchorage.

I spent about 37 days in Anchorage, a week in ICU, and 10 days in rehab to get me ready to fly to Denver! I spent about 12 weeks at Craig Hospital. Spending my days doing everything I could to get out and be active. My mother didn't leave my side for more than a few hours. She was my biggest support system. I had a phenomenal team at Craig, and without them I would not be where I am today. They taught me everything someone in a wheelchair needs to know and they do an amazing job at it. On my journey to recovery at Craig Hospital I met a wide variety of people, all with different stories. Being able to talk to so many people and be surrounded by hundreds of people going through the same thing you are is one of the biggest motivators and support systems I had in the hospital. Everyday I would meet people whose disabilities were on a much more extreme level, and some who were already walking again.

Seeing how lucky everyone was to be alive, and seeing everyone fight kept me fighting. I remember going around the hospital in between therapy, or at lunch talking with everyone and telling them jokes, complimenting them and just doing everything I could to get out a smile from someone when you could see that they were just having a tough time. Craig hospital is a family, and without them I would not be here.

Yes, a spinal cord injury is hands down the hardest thing I've had to face, but the person I am now and the mindset I have on myself and on life is extraordinary. I am thankful. I believe that I was meant to be in a wheelchair, whether it be temporary, or permanent being in a wheelchair has changed my attitude for the better.

Regardless of the hard days, the sickness, the pain, the difficulties of getting around, and doing what I want, I am still happy. I still go out and hang out with my friends everyday, I still work all day, I still go out snowmobiling and skiing, I still go to good old fashioned parties with my friends, and yes, my mom still makes me do chores. At the end of the day its not the wheelchair or the spinal cord injury that defines me. I'm not going to say I'm still the same person I once was, because I'm not. I never will be, and that is more than okay. Because I love the person I am now. Yes, I am in a wheelchair, and yes I have broken just about every bone in my body but I'm stronger than I was before. People with SCI are the strongest people you will ever meet. Especially the ones who graduated from Craig :)

Snowmachining after returning from the hospital! Snowmachining after returning from Craig Hospital!