Snowboarder Kevin Pearce is home in Vermont, continuing to recover after an accident on the slopes nearly killed him. Pearce was training for the 2010 Olympic Games when he fell on the half-pipe. He was in hospitals for months learning to swallow, talk and eventually walk. He now has hopes of getting back on a board.
Reporter Kristin Carlson sat down to talk to Pearce about his accident, the recovery and what's next.
Kristin Carlson: I think most people want to know-- how are you doing?
Kevin Pearce: Yeah, that is kind of the main question I get now and I'm doing amazing and it's just crazy how good I am doing. I think nobody realizes how good I am doing and no one really wants to call or talk to me because they don't know if I'm alive, but it's pretty amazing that I'm sitting here and I can pretty much do so many things now.
Carlson: What do you credit this recovery to? Because people in similar situations don't make this recovery-- they don't ever walk again.
Pearce: I think a huge part of the recovery and the reason I'm doing so well is the amount of support I've gotten. There is a Facebook where I have 50,000 fans and my family has just been beyond belief the amount they have supported me. Somebody in the family has been with me every single day for the past 9 months, so that is pretty amazing. There are so many things that have worked out for me in so many ways-- I've been incredibly lucky.
Carlson: Do you think part of that has to do with your own drive? Your brother was telling me earlier that you start the therapy, you end the therapy, you ask for more therapy.
Pearce: Yes, it's pretty crazy just because I have had some changes but one thing that has not changed is my competitiveness and my drive. In therapy I always want to do everything to the fullest extent, so if I mess up it's like we are not done until I do that perfectly and so I think that has been a huge reason that I am doing so well now.
Carlson: Do you remember anything from around the accident?
Pearce: Yeah, that is another really crazy part for me. I remember the day before and the day of the accident and a month and a half after I have no memory and the doctors say that will never come back, so for being so young and living such a crazy life to have lost a month and a half of your life is pretty wild.
Carlson: What are your permanent issues moving forward-- what are you working on improving now?
Pearce: A huge one I'm working on right now is my vision. You can't tell from these glasses but my vision is really bad. When I take these off I see double of everything and I can't see well at all. Another huge problem I'm working on is my balance. I had good balance before this and now my balance is pretty bad. It's gotten better in the sense that I used to walk down the hall and fall over but it is still not up to the level it was, so there are a bunch of different things that I just have to go to therapy for for a long time and try to get better.
Carlson: And you said your personality has changed from the traumatic brain injury?
Pearce: Yeah, there have been some big changes in my personality. I think most are for the better. I love some new kinds of food; I love dogs and can hold my breath for a really long time, so I haven't really noticed any negative changes. I talk a lot now; I ask a lot of questions, so people say it's all good.
Carlson: When you look back you have pictures of the accident, you have pictures of you in the hospital-- which I'm sure was a horrifying time for your family. What do you think when you see those pictures?
Pearce: At the beginning it was mellow-- I didn't mind seeing the pictures and it was good to see them because I don't remember anything, so it was good to see where I was. But a week or two ago, I got two pictures of me lying in the bottom of the half-pipe after the accident-- I looked dead and it's crazy to see those and the shape I was in and how quickly I was in that shape, but most of the pictures are good.
Carlson: How has this changed your life?
Pearce: This has changed my life in such a huge way. Before this I was traveling, pretty much every week I'd be in a new state or country, it was nonstop travel. I traveled over 100,000 miles for the last six years. So now for the last 9-10 months I've been completely not doing anything-- in one place in the whole time. Luckily I've had this amazing family to be with but it's just so crazy how big of a change this is for me.
Carlson: Every day.
Pearce: Every day... totally changed. Every day there are great things happening, I'm getting better but it's also hard to be so young and to have something this traumatic to be going through.
Carlson: What it is like when you have that breakthrough in therapy and you are able to do something you weren't able to do yesterday?
Pearce: That is really exciting for me. Another part of this traumatic brain injury that's hard for me is I can't see any of my progress and I can't see how I'm getting better, but I can sort of tell now how I'm getting better in so many ways so that is exciting.
Carlson: Do you hope to snowboard again?
Pearce: Yeah, that is the main question now-- people ask me if I'm going to snowboard. I mean I think it's incredibly amazingly lucky for me to be able to sit here and tell you that I will snowboard again without any questions. It is just so amazing for me and it is my biggest passion. I'm just so lucky to be able to do it again
Carlson: Do you have any concern in the back of your head because snowboarding is what caused what's happened to you?
Pearce: Definitely, there is a lot of concern in my head, you know, how much and how extensive my snowboarding will be after going through something like this and what I've put my family through and the help I've gotten-- obviously it will be nowhere near the level I was doing before but I'd like to do it mellow quite mellow... it will be fun.
Carlson: You have a very positive attitude about this. I'm sure it's not like that every day, but what keeps you going?
Pearce: That's one of the biggest reasons of why I'm doing so well because I've been so positive through all this, and what keeps me going is that I know I can get better. I know I'm not perfect yet in any ways-- it's still exciting that I can make so much progress everyday... it's just cool to keep getting better.
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