A Simple Act Of Heroism


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I think all of us attempt to raise our children into adults we will be proud of. We teach them to walk and talk, wrestle with them, and occasionally spank them when they test the limits. We show them how to defend and stand up for themselves, get them into sports, swimming, soccer, baseball, fishing, camping, and help them learn to love the outdoors.

As they grow into teenagers we show them the use of tools, carpentry, and work on cars with them. We teach them to camp, hike, and climb, and try and provide opportunities for them to do so.

We sit them in a corner and have them read books of all kinds until it is second nature for them to be reading, and critique their writing and make them rewrite the papers until they are meaningful. We show them why mathematics is useful and necessary and drill them until they memorize the times table though they resist with all their childish stubbornness.

We try and teach them honor, personal integrity, honesty, and fairness. But how does one teach a boy courage and bravery? It is only possible to test those virtues when life presents them a challenge beyond their parent's control or influence. And nature is cruel and unforgiving.

In early afternoon on Saturday, August 2, 2003, my youngest son, Matt, went for a swim with his buddy Ed in Clear Creek just west of Golden, Colorado, near the mouth of what is known as Tunnel One on US Highway 6 in the canyon.

It was hardly the first time Matt had been swimming or climbing in the area. He has been spelunking in nearby caves since he was about 10 or 11. He is now 25 and 6 foot 1 inch tall. Though he only weighs about 145 pounds he is very strong from his hobby of technical rock climbing.

Clear Creek at Tunnel One has a kind of slide that, if one dives into it correctly, carries the swimmer down into a deep pool. A rock, less than a foot out of the water, serves as a low diving platform. On that afternoon something went terribly wrong.

Ed dove in first and began bobbing down the current underwater. Initially Matt thought Ed was simply goofing off and yelled at him to knock it off. But in a few seconds it became clear that Ed was in deep trouble. Without hesitation Matt dove in and started swimming to his friend. As he caught up to Ed, blood in the water warned him something was terribly wrong.

When he got to Ed he could see a deep gash in his head and his limp condition warned Matt that Ed was badly hurt. I don't know when it occurred to Matt that Ed's neck might be broken but he carefully got behind him and put his arms under Ed's from the back, cradling his head on his chest and frog kicking toward shore.

Clear Creek at Tunnel One is a rough, rapid mountain stream with a bed of boulders and rocks. When Matt reached shore he was faced with the very difficult problem of getting Ed, a full-grown man, out of the stream over very slippery rocks without hurting him further.

Matt slipped once, suffering a deep cut on his knee, but got Ed up on shore far enough and to a flat enough spot that he could leave him to seek help.

After getting Ed ashore, Matt couldn't tell if he was breathing or not. But yelling at him caused Ed to open his eyes.

Warning Ed to be very, very careful not to move, Matt went toward the highway seeking help. A couple with a cell phone heard him and went down canyon where they could get reception and put in an emergency call.

Matt went back to Ed and the first responder called for helicopter evacuation after Ed's head and neck had been immobilized. That required shutting down US Highway 6 through the canyon so the chopper could land on the road in the steep-walled canyon.

Flight for Life then transported Ed to St. Anthony's Hospital in Denver where he was found to have broken four vertebrate in his neck. At present he is paralyzed from the chest down.

But Matt didn't stop there. He found out where Ed's parents live in Texas and called them and told them what had happened. He also got ahold of men Ed works with, and even the president of the company Ed works for came to visit him, with Matt staying with his friend the whole time. Matt even arranged for Ed's dog to come visit him in the hospital and has gone back every day since the accident.

Clearly Matt has grown into a man in every sense of the word. I'm proud of you son!



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Last modified 3/17/16