Spending the holidays with your friends at a ski resort sounds like something that we would all go for. So when Greg Durso went to Okemos Mountain back in 2009, he had no way of knowing that it would alter his life in a devastating manner.
“We had been sledding all night and into the morning (on New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day) on a ski trail,” the now 28-year-old recalls. “But on one run, I had to bail off the sled as it sped up and I ended up sliding into a very small tree stump that was protruding from the slope. It shattered my spinal cord at the T-5 and 6 (meaning the thoracic, and the number correlates to your ribs – one being the highest part or first rib of your body and 12 being down by your hips).
“I was left a complete T-4 paraplegic, which is another way of saying that I am completely paralyzed below my chest,” continues Durso. “I have no core muscles at all.”
Durso was airlifted from the mountain to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire, where they fused his spinal cord back together with two titanium rods from the T-3 to T-10 with 12 screws. After 10 days, he was transferred to Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City and underwent two months of rehabilitation. He was then sent home (Durso resides in Stony Brook, New York) and did outpatient rehab for an additional six months.
“I worked my ass off since Day One and never had a low moment,” he remarks. “I just took everything in stride and wanted to see how far I could push myself. I’m pretty independent and drive my own car, go to work (as a Senior Credit Analyst at Empire National Bank) in a suit and tie and do all the day-to-day things I would normally do, just a little differently. I have come a long way from not being able to move an inch in my hospital bed.”
Besides just being able to drive to work, Durso has been able to continue many of his pre-accident athletic activities, as well. He was always an avid skier and wake boarder, played soccer and beach volleyball and went ice climbing and skydiving.
“Since my accident, the main thing that I wanted to do was ski and I did,” he says with a well-deserved smile. “I got my own monoski and have shredded Aspen, Breckenridge, Telluride, Sun Valley, Jackson Hole and some more mountains along the east coast.
“I also have my own wakeboarding boat that I’m out on constantly when the weather permits and have a special wakeboard so I can do that, too,” he continues. “I participated in the 2011 Boston marathon and then my first triathlon that summer in New York City.”
Amazingly, Durso can also swim, bike and “run,” having already logged two half-Ironman distances. He has signed up for a full Ironman next July in Lake Placid. He is constantly improving and getting better, seeing a personal trainer twice a week.
“I am willing to try and do any other activities and sports that I can.”
Judging by all of the accomplishments of Greg Durso, the “that I can” part of his last statement is a moot point.
Be sure to check out Greg Durso’s Facebook page.