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Passion, Optimism, Recovery: Hunter Shares Story of Tree Stand Fall

by Chris Lewis

For as long as he can remember, Gale Lynch has been passionate about the outdoors – and hunting.

At the age of 8 he began to accompany his father during fall and winter deer hunts, as the two regularly searched for trophy bucks.

He soon found himself shooting at tin cans with a 22 gauge rifle and then, eventually, hunting at his grandfather’s farm. When he was 12 years old, he traveled to his first deer camp with his father, grandfather, uncles and cousins.

“Even though no one shot anything that year, I have been hooked on the sport ever since,” Gale said.

As a result, Gale became an ardent bow hunter. His passion for the sport led him to regularly hunt deer from tree stands during most autumn evenings, including October 13, 2002.

As Gale recalls, the evening was much like any other.

The bright red, orange and yellow hues of the leaves were glistening in the sun, creating a silhouette across the ferns and grasses. Various animals scurried through the woods in search of food and shelter. And, unfortunately, Gale had not yet seen a deer.

As the sun set, he prepared to leave his tree stand, eager to meet up with his brother-in-law and nephew, just as he had done so often in the past.

But then something went terribly wrong.

“I could see my nephew’s flashlight coming down the trail toward my direction,” Gale said. “I stood up, unfastened my safety strap, and descended towards the bottom of the tree. That’s the last thing I remember.”

Somehow, in his descent, Gale fell and landed on a log.

The fall was serious. He broke two vertebrae in his spine – T6 and T12.

In an instant, his life changed forever, as he became paralyzed from the lower back down.

For the next six weeks, Gale recovered and rehabilitated at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital. While at Mary Free Bed, he received a variety of therapies, ranging from occupational and physical therapy to driver’s education.

To enable a faster, more efficient recovery time and to further improve his strength on a day-by-day basis, Gale also used an array of sporting equipment, including stationary hand bikes, weights, basketballs and hand-pedaled tricycles.

The recovery process was, at times, long and arduous. But, with the support of his family and friends, as well as hospital staff members, Gale maintained an optimistic attitude throughout all stages of his rehabilitation.

“I will always remember my stay at Mary Free Bed as a positive experience,” Gale said. “The nurses were friendly, fun loving, and encouraging. The PT and OT staff members are number one in my book.”

In addition to assisting Gale as he recovered, various staff members also encouraged him to continue to enjoy his hobbies, including hunting, and to always pursue his dreams.

“The staff members taught me how to move forward and to not dwell on what could have been, but to instead focus on what adventures lie ahead of me,” Gale said.

Today, as a retired school teacher, Gale resides in Florida, where he is enjoying a multitude of hobbies, including photography, travel, and, of course, hunting. He has also recently become a professionally ranked shuffleboard player in the Sunshine State.

As he prepares for the future, Gale has some final words of advice – for handicapped and non-handicapped individuals alike:

“If you want to do something badly enough, there is a way to transform your dreams into reality. It’s all in your attitude. Life is what you make it – not what you wish it to be.”

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