After well-known cyclist’s accident, Anchorage continues to show support
Having been born, raised and lived the majority of my adult life in Anchorage I had been thinking that not much could happen in this town that would surprise me.
Until mountain biker Luke Simpson had a terrible accident in Kincaid Park resulting in life-threatening injuries from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and an uncertain future.
What’s happened after Luke’s November crash has totally blown me away. I know that’s not a very literary way to put it, but plain and simple, the community response and outpouring of support makes me believe that not only is Anchorage a great place to live, work and play, it’s the only place I would want to be when disaster strikes.
By the time this column goes to print, Luke will have been a resident at Craig Hospital in Denver for two months. Craig Hospital specializes in the rehabilitation of patients with spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries.
Luke’s TBI is on the severe end of the spectrum, so much so that other rehabilitation hospitals on the West Coast turned down his application for admittance because they are unable to deal with injuries as severe as his.
The extent of Luke’s injuries is sobering and now being understood. Luke’s first two weeks at Craig Hospital were dedicated to diagnosing the extent of his neurologic impairment.
According to Ann Loyd, a family friend who keeps Luke’s fans up to date with CaringBridge.com journal entries, Luke is cognitively aware and learning to use a communication device. Because Luke cannot speak, the device will allow him to interact with medical providers, family and friends. The ability to communicate is vital to Luke’s active participation in his recovery at Craig Hospital.
Luke’s care at Craig might not have been possible without a tremendous outpouring of financial support from family, friends, business associates, even strangers. An active outdoorsman, skier, climber and cyclist, Luke has many friends spanning recreational “tribes” in addition to business associates affiliated with his company, Finishing Edge Curb & Sidewalk.
Immediately after Luke’s injury, a committee of friends launched Team Luke Simpson, a fundraising campaign to make sure that Luke would receive the best treatment in the country. Luke’s story is compelling enough that total strangers have donated up to $1,000 or more to the effort.
Sarah Monkton states in her Caring Bridge journal entry that Craig Hospital costs $3,000 per day or $270,000 for Luke’s estimated 90-day stay. Insurance will cover only one third. Team Luke Simpson has set a goal of raising $300,000 to make sure that Luke receives the best possible opportunity to regain motor function and his ability to communicate.
So far the team has raised an impressive portion of this goal but Luke’s continued care is likely to be costly. Fortunately local businesses such as Chain Reaction Cycles have stepped forward to help with the effort. Chain Reaction Cycles raised $11,600 in the Frosty Bottom Snow Bike Race in which more than 300 mountain bikers, skiers and runners participated, many of who opened their wallets generously for the cause.
But this story is about more than Luke. If ever there were a hero depicted it would be through Luke’s wife Kris. Kris has set the tone for the effort to provide the best care possible for her husband. Her strength and courage are awe-inspiring as she not only tends to Luke’s and their small children’s needs, but holds an entire community of well-wishers together. She welcomes the community into the Simpsons’ lives at this difficult time.
Luke’s acceptance at Craig has been a blessing to Kris. “It’s been great here,” she explains, “Swedish Hospital is connected underground and they can wheel him over to his tests and back. This is where I wanted him to be because I had heard so much about it. They’re one of the only facilities equipped to do this.”
Craig hospital’s family-centered care means that Kris and their kids can live in an apartment attached by a sky bridge. Kate, age 4, and Will, age 7, can run back and forth to visit their dad and participate in his therapy. Luke can watch the kids swim and do special projects such as tie-dying shirts. When Luke was in the Providence ICU and later at St. Elias Hospital family and friends would have to make arrangements for the children to visit their dad.
“It’s good for them to be a part of this. They need to be a part of the change. We have to be together and be a family through the whole thing.”
Being in Denver at Craig Hospital has taken some of the pressure off Kris.
“Since I have a whole team of people here I don’t need to worry about him as much. I can sit back and watch him get better. We can spend more time together as a family.”
Rather than be bitter about their misfortune, Kris is philosophical and optimistic about their future.
“You must enjoy life. I don’t regret encouraging Luke to follow his heart and to exercise and go biking. I would never discourage my children from doing that. I think this is something that just happens. Since we’ve been there my perspective has changed a little, too. I don’t look at him anymore and think, ‘Wow, you might have died.’ I now think, ‘Wow! You’ve had a bad accident and we’re here to get better.”
I asked Kris about her reaction to the community response, to which she replied, “I knew we had a strong community, I just didn’t expect it to be this good.”
She further added, “I have heard (at Craig Hospital) that the level of support is quite unusual for patients. Not everybody has that level of support.”