I Survived

At 6pm on June 13th,2009 I had just gotten off of work and decided to go for a ride on my new ATV.  About a month earlier, I had purchased a brand new 2008 Polaris Sportsman, which was my first ATV and possibly my last.

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By Blake, a SurvivalCache.com Reader

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My New ATV

My first month with my new Polaris was spent at this nice little spot in the woods where I was carving out a trail system.  I never told anyone about the trail system that I created; I wanted it to be a surprise for my friends.  This, along with leaving my mobile phone at home, were the two biggest mistakes I made that day.  At the end of this trail was a natural made bowl with dirt ramps on all sides.  This was where I nearly met my demise.

I spent a few days carving out those trails and playing around with those dirt ramps.  I started to 4 Wheeler Accidentfeel a little too comfortable on my ATV, I started to get cocky.  I headed back as far away as I could from the jumps, aimed my ATV at the largest ramp and gunned it.  It never once crossed my mind that there was an enormous tree growing only a few yards away from the ramp.  By the time the ATV came down, there was no room to maneuver.  I crashed straight into this monster tree at full speed causing my T12 vertebrae to fracture and snapping two of my ligaments in my back.

Surprisingly, my back was the only thing that had been broken after this horrific crash.  I failed to realize my injuries right away.  Thanks to adrenaline, I was able to walk around for a few moments only concerned about the damage to my ATV.  Only when I sat down did I realize there was something wrong with my body.  When I tried to get back up, I buckled under my own weight and a terrible flash of pain went through my whole body.  I immediately thought about my phone and crawled back over to my ATV.  I normally kept my phone in the cargo container on the side of the ATV but it wasn’t there and I knew I was in serious trouble.

My house was about 3 miles away from where I crashed and no one would know where I was ATV accident in the woodslocated.  I didn’t even bother yelling for help because I knew no one would hear me.  My wife was at home in bed and would not know anything was wrong until the next morning.  She assumed I was staying out late with my ATV which I had been doing ever since I bought it.  Of course, the next morning she knew something was terribly wrong when I was no where to be found around the house.  She checked the garage for my ATV and noticed it was missing.  She called work, friends and family to see if anyone had heard from me.  When no one knew, she called the police to file a missing persons report.  The bad news for me was that they had no idea where to start looking, I was on my own.

My father, a few of his buddies and the police started looking for me immediately.  There are some woods near our town where people are known to ride ATVs, so they started there first. Unfortunately, that wasn’t where I was riding.  They searched there for most of the day until the sun went down and then they had to call it quits.  My mother and father stayed with my wife that night hoping for a miracle.

I knew my family would be worried about me but I had to concentrate on the matter at hand.  I could tell there was something wrong with my back but I didn’t know the severity of my injuries.  I found a thick piece of bark lying nearby, gathered a few sticks and took a piece of rope I had on the ATV.  It was a difficult process but I managed to create a makeshift back brace.

Since I had cleared a trail with my ATV, I figured it would be easier to crawl back this way and I Crawling over thorn busheswould not take a chance at getting lost.  The land was flat for the most part, but there were a few small hills.  Every once in a while I would hit a patch of thorns or poison ivy.  The thorns were by far the worst obstacle I had to overcome aside from my injury.  There was no way around them, so I just had to drag my body across them.

My goal was to make it all the way back to my house or at least to where someone would be able to find me.  So I started my long excruciating journey back.  I literally crawled inch by inch only covering about 25 yards at a time before my energy gave out.  Sometimes I would stop for a few minutes, other times I would have to stop for a few hours.  To my surprise, I never once thought about food or water.  I just kept telling myself “Soon this will all be over” and that was my focus.  I also remember being extremely tired and thinking that I had a concussion.  I would not allow myself to sleep at all during this ordeal.

I live in an area that is known for coyotes but I tried not to let it bother me.  In my condition, I Afraid of spiderswould not have been able to defend myself so I put it out of my mind.  One thing that I could not get off my mind were spiders.  Considering that I have a small case of arachnophobia and I was constantly seeing spiders run across my path at eye level, it was very unnerving to say the least.  Unless you have this condition it is hard to describe how terrifying this can be but it was something that my mind could not escape from.  It is strange that even in a life and death situation conditions like arachnophobia can still have an effect on you.

30 Hours Later

It was just past midnight the following day when I finally made it back.  It took me about 30 hoursScar after back surgery to crawl to my house after the crash.  As soon as I arrived in the front yard my mom noticed me through the kitchen window and came rushing out.   I was grateful that she had seen me because I was already trying to think of ways to signal my family inside the house.  In my condition, standing up and ringing the doorbell was out of the question.

I stayed in the yard for about 20 minutes until the ambulance arrived.  It was hands down the Back brace after ATV accidentmost unbearable, excruciating, worrisome event of my life.  I now have 6 screws, 2 rods and a large scar down my back to remind me of my experience.  Thank goodness I had temporary medical insurance at the time.  The doctor bill for major spine surgery, an ambulance ride and a week in the hospital would have cost me well over $100,000! With the insurance it was down to about $1,000. The only reason I even had temporary insurance at the time was due to my wife constantly telling me how I might get hurt while riding the ATV.  What a coincidence, I’m sure she felt pretty good about that decision.

There’s always a bright side to everything. The bright side to this story is how it opened my eyes to my sometimes radical behavior.  I never should have left my house that day without telling someone where I was going and I should have been more prepared with a survival kit and my cell phone.  There is hardly a day that goes by without thinking about how I could have done things differently that day on my ATV.  Of course my biggest regret was flying towards that ramp at full speed without checking my landing zone.  Taking extra precautions has now become habit, a lesson learned in blood.  Hopefully I won’t ever find myself in such a miserable situation again.  I also hope that someone else can learn from experience.

ATV wreck survivor

I survived because of a lot of luck, I kept my head and didn’t panic and my will to see to my family again.

Photos by:
Blake
Henry Oon
DeepakJohn
JSRice00

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19 thoughts on “I Survived”

  1. I seriously respect your perseverance, the worst injury I ever marched through was a bad blister! Don't feel bad, I too have an embarrassing case of arachnophobia…

    Reply
  2. We are conditioned to expect success. We are told to 'plan for success'. The problem with that is what happens when we don't succeed. As I have said elsewhere, experience is not the best teacher, it is only the most expensive. A very expensive lesson but since you have learned from it, it may save your life or your family in the future.
    Well done on keeping your head and pulling yourself out. Since you recognize the role luck played in your survival (and how poor depending on luck is as a survival plan) there is no point in mentioning the lack of foresight that got you there. Having had back problems for over 30 years I am sympathetic to what you are facing. I would recommend that if any of your survival plans involve walking out, be very careful about what size load you plan to put on your back. If your back is subject to re-injury, a bug out scenario would be about the worse time for it to occur.
    Thank you for sharing your experience. A good summary of how much trouble a lack of planning can get us into as well as how valuable the human brain and will are as survival tools.

    Reply
  3. Wow, incredible story and thanks for sharing. You are very lucky that you were only three miles from your house, this also goes to show us that even when close to home bad things can happen. Sounds like you did everything right ( except for not having your phone on you or telling people where you were going) in terms of surviving the situation. You kept your cool even through certain fears like spiders and other wildlife, you made a makeshift brace, you knew when you take breaks but most importantly YOU KEPT GOING. You told yourself it would be over soon and kept on diggin in. The WILL to keep going is the most important thing we all have and you definitly showed yours in this situation. Again, thank you for sharing and i'm glad to hear you made it back alive. Good luck to you!

    Reply
  4. I've snapped 2 ligaments myself and I have to admit mine were tiny but of incalculable pain. To do what you did, you're one tough son of a gun.

    Great story, very inspirational. Now get it made into a movie 😛

    Reply
  5. Great article , but thats the problem with things like motorcycles , snow mobiles , etc … your protecting the vehicle , not the other way around , and all are noisy as shit . I had fun getting alcohol poisoning in a drinking contest also , didnt mean it was a smart thing to do lol .

    Reply
  6. Great post. Glad to hear that you are healing up. It just goes to show that there is never a time to not be prepared. When you least think that something is going to happen disaster strikes. I believe in always telling some one where you are going and when you plan on being back. I usually try to leave a small map of the area with who ever I am leaving the info with. Some people leave a note on the inside of their windshield at the trail head but I think this just invites someone to break into your car while you are gone. Great survival story.

    Reply
  7. Glad you made it out Blake, and I hope your back heals up soon. I broke an ankle when there was no one else around, but I was able to hop (rather than crawl) to get help.

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  8. Blake your story is a great example to everyone of how determination, attitude and pure "grit" can get you through some pretty nasty situations if you keep a cool-head. I to went through a serious spinal injury (moved a 1klb water heater at work, blew out disks L3 through S1, still trying to recover 4 years later), I can completely sympathize with the pain you endured and probably continue to live with. I was "lucky", well if any injury can be called "lucky", because my injury happened at work with several people around. I couldn't imagine having to drag myself 3 miles with an injury like that!

    As CaptBart mentioned, you need to be sure and keep from re-injuring your back, especially in a SHTF/TEOTWAWKI situation because chances are there won;t be many docs you can go to if you get hurt again. There are also gear concerns you should address now to help prevent an injury in such a situation. Personally I find that an external frame pack, with a few modifications makes the best choice for me when I need to cary more gear than what fits in my 3-day pack, and some sort of LBE system might be a wise investment as well.

    Good luck in your continuing recovery (those of us with similar injuries know that the recovery never REALLY ends), and thank you for sharing your story!

    Reply
    • Having lived with RA for 16 years I can no longer carry more than a minimal load. My solution for my BOB/gear is to use cart designed to carry game out at end of hunt. Will go anywhere I can walk, is collapsible for transport, and I have used in all sorts of terrian w/o problem. For those with disability is better option than remaining in an area no longer tenable. Strive to Survive.

      Reply
  9. The SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger and Emergency GPS Locator Beacon. If you want to go out alone into the great unknown this is your best bet for survival. I bought one for my brother-in-law who likes to go out on long off road rides alone. Found it for $99.

    Reply
  10. i had an experience similar but my injury was to my tailbone (Coccyx) after falling 5 feet on an icey deer stand rung. i was alone, and a mile from my truck. and i crawled and slept for a day and a half until i got to my truck and was able to get warm and drive out using a stick on the accelerator ..i spent 4 days in the hospital recovering from the injury and hypothermia . now someone knows when i go out and i leave detailed directions and try not to deviate and now i carry a radio,,,

    Reply
  11. Deep Survival, by Laurence Gonza – a good read for anyone…specifically addresses decision making BEFORE an accident as well as after. A fascinating read, with one story in particular that reminds me of this one. Basically, why some very experienced guys when tearing up an avalanche prone hill even though they knew it was dangerous. They didn't live, but the point was that once their mental conditions got to a certain point, they just never had a chance to stop themselves. Understanding how this can happen can help us avoid getting into many survival situations altogether.

    Reply
  12. You're a moron and were obviously riding well above your experience and skill level.
    Probably also wearing no helmet, hat on backwards, "carving" the trails out in an area where you weren't supposed to be which is also illegal not to mention the bad reputation it creates for the rest of us safe, law abiding, responsible ATV trail users.

    Reply
  13. Great story. No doubt, this is a lesson in many respects.

    1. Plan for the worst
    2. Never become over-confident
    3. Know your limits
    4. You can overcome almost anything with determination and basic means
    5. LOOK FOR danger.

    Reply
  14. I know what it is to have a back that tells you that it hurts. My back injury was an industrial accident, but I sure know the pain. That being said, from this point on not only should you pack a kit that includes a first aid kit, but also overnight gear, some food, and a means to contact those that are concerned about you. Also get yourself a USGS or other topographical map of your area and keep a good compass with your kit. Also like the pilots do leave a plan that tells where you're going and when you expect to get back home or to your destination. If you go out into the wilds again on your ATV include pioneer tools in your kit. Have a shovel, pickaxe, and perhaps an axe and a coil of good rope or a tow strap or cable for self-recovery if you get stuck or mired. These don't have to be big, the time used by the military for entrenching should work and would fit tied down to the cargo racks that are options or standard gear on many ATVs. Also the advice about finding load bearing gear that spreads the weight of your gear out over your whole body so that it's not concentrated on that spot along your back was good.

    Reply
  15. I just got into 2 accidents- a huge rollover and a tree. The rollover made my arm go backward in its socket and the tree jacked up my spine. I was reading up on ATV crashes and You really toughed it out! the tree was also a 30-mile crash and I am pretty young(I am not legally allowed to drive by age requirements), so I am pretty lucky I lived. You were a piece of steel to walk after your vertebrae snapped. I could never accomplished such a feat. You go man!

    Reply

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