As an experienced hunter, Breck Lonier was familiar with the safety precautions. However, one mistake led him to fall from a tree stand and become paralyzed.
The only thing Breck remembers during that hunting trip in October 1999 was that he wasn’t feeling well.
“I actually fell from the tree stand twice,” Breck explains. “I had a belt on for the first fall and was able to get back up in the blind. Then I took belt off to get down and fell down 14-feet.”
When Breck woke up in the hospital and saw his family standing around him, he knew he was in a bad situation. The doctors told him that he shattered and snapped his spinal cord in half, leaving him paralyzed from the chest down. It was determined that heat exhaustion caused him to pass out.
For his recovery, Breck completed three months of therapy through the Spinal Cord Injury Program at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital. “I had to learn everything again,” says Breck.
During his stay, He enjoyed getting to know his therapists and nurses and knew he was in good hands. “They really know their stuff, and were very professional and sympathetic. They know the right ways to push you,” remembers Breck.
After returning home, Breck had a difficult time transitioning back to his life. Fortunately, he was able to return to hunting the very next year. His background in engineering helped him make an adapted deer blind and custom shooting arms for his wheelchair to help him hold up his crossbow.
Although Breck was able to quickly return to the sport he loves, it took him longer to accept his situation and make the best of it. “I did not like sitting inside all day because I was so active beforehand,” says Breck.
Going back to work helped him cope with the change. He is able to drive himself to and from work every day with a modified vehicle. As a fabrication shop manager, Breck is able to do most of the tasks at work as he did before the accident.
Working on projects also helped Breck stay positive, including restoring an old Aermeter 46’ windmill and placing it on the Lonier family farm. “My cousin helped me assemble it. I did all of the painting and stripping,” shares Breck.
To help others realize what activities they can still do after a spinal cord injury, Breck served as a mentor for patients in a similar situation at Mary Free Bed. His advice to others, “You can do it,” he says. “Look what I’ve been able to accomplish.”