Disabled skier returns to mountain

RACHEL YOUNG
Last updated 05:00 15/08/2014
David Carter
DEBBIE JAMESON / Fairfax NZ
REMATCH: Former Invercargill City councillor David Carter will next month tackle the mountain which changed his life nine years ago.

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Skiing down Coronet Peak will be like conquering Mt Everest for a disabled Queenstown man.

Former Invercargill city councillor David Carter was left with side paralysis after a freak ski accident in 2005.

The then 50-year-old was skiing - something he had done regularly since he was 13 - when he fell.

Carter landed oddly, causing damage to a carotid artery in his neck.

Four days later, the injury caused two blood clots to travel to his brain.

"Once that happened, I was a very sick boy," he said.

At one point, doctors gave him six hours to live.

Friends and family, including his two teenage sons, gathered around his bedside to say their goodbyes but Carter was determined to live.

The businessman spent two weeks in the intensive care unit surrounded by an amazing network of family and friends.

"They kept morale high, any negative energy was sent out of the room. In myself, I decided to be strong, and not to panic.

"No negative vibes were allowed in intensive care, that was strictly controlled by my sister."

After two weeks in intensive care he was transferred to Dunedin Hospital for rehabilitation.

"When I arrived there, I couldn't sit up in bed but, 14 weeks later, I was able to walk out of there, " he said.

Carter is paralysed down his left side, but can walk with an aid.

He had to resign as a city councillor after about 10 years' service because of his poor health.

Carter described the 14 weeks in rehab as the toughest in his life.

"You also have to come to terms with what has happened. One moment can change all your goals in life. In hospital, I decided I had two choices - live in a home or go out and live my life to the full."

He learned all the nurses' names so that he could personally thank them, and constantly cracked jokes to keep the boredom at bay.

Since then, he has spent hundreds of hours at medical appointments, including weekly physio, pilates and personal training sessions to help with his rehabilitation and fitness.

"You have just got to keep on living and that's what I have been doing. I probably live a fuller life than the average person."

In 2012, Carter went to the slopes again after initially calling the idea ridiculous.

"The whole emotion was the most difficult part and I managed to beat that," he said.

With the support of family, friends and Adaptive Snow Sports, Carter has started skiing again.

He uses skis with a chain link at the front so he can control his left ski with his right leg, and has learned a new technique so he can ski solo.

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"There are not many sports I can do, but skiing is something I can do. I need a lot of support and I have to use a chair for assistance."

Straightaway, Carter knew that one day he needed to face the mountain which changed his life.

"I knew every gully [of Coronet Peak] and that's why I want to beat the mountain again. It is my home mountain."

Next month he will ski it from top to bottom.

"The whole challenge terrifies me but you have to meet your fears and I have trust in my coach," he said. "I am still terrified of heights so, on the chairlift, I will be hanging on for dear life but, so long as people are talking to me, I will be OK."

It will take about eight hours to complete - before his accident, it took him about four minutes.

While a personal goal, Carter hopes to raise $50,000 for causes close to his heart; with 40 per cent for adaptive skiing, 40 per cent for Queenstown Cancer Society and the balance to Rotary Foundation.

He said the work the adaptive snow sports team did was outstanding, as it gave people with disabilities the freedom to explore the mountain and to control their own speed and direction.

"You are able to say that you are out there in the outdoors and a lot of people are very lethargic and I am proving that even with a disability you don't have to be lethargic."

Carter said not knowing the run would make it difficult.

"If I wanted an easy challenge I'd do the Remarkables. My Everest is skiing top to bottom of Coronet Peak."

The exact date of his attempt will be weather dependent.

The ever-positive Carter sums up his challenges with three words: "Today I live."

 

HOW TO HELP

To donate to Carter go to: http://www.givealittle.co.nz/cause/davidcarter

- The Southland Times

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