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Wilbourne family - neck injury recovery

$187,842 of $200,000 goal

Raised by 1,588 people in 5 months
Created January 28, 2019
Rob Novotny
on behalf of Tricia Pyles Wilbourne
Yesterday, January 27, 2019, my young friend Mark Wilbourne, 18 years old and a high school senior, was training for a triathlon when he lost control of his bicycle and crashed into a parked car.  By the grace of God, Mark survived but he suffered a terrible neck injury.  Mark broke his neck at the C6 vertebrae and after emergency surgery this morning, the prognosis is paralysis below the chest.  

https://www.reviewjournal.com/local/summerlin/summerlin-area-family-regroups-after-active-teens-paralysis-1590583/?fbclid=IwAR3-eb-f9Bgl29p-bjhSMYC7INxrR54J6BDPCWrDeCo5p9bxMsOVljMTVfM

Mark is a brilliant, caring and talented young man who now must learn to overcome what will be his greatest challenge.  His parents are my best friends.  They too are now faced with a life altering situation that requires our help and hopefully your generosity.  This GoFundMe account would provide them the necessary money to rebuild their home to be wheelchair accessible for their son.  Long term care, occupational therapy, and potentially follow-on medical procedures.  

This is a real tragedy that we can help mitigate.  We can help this family in their greatest time of need by giving just a little so they can heal their son and their family.  I'd ask you say a prayer for them to give them strength and courage to persevere...and if you can, I'd ask you consider a donation to a wonderful family who needs our help.   I will provide updates on Mark's progress as we know more information.  

Thank you for anything you can give.  Rob Novotny
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Rob is retired, and Mark continues to inspire...

For those of you expecting to read Rob’s prose, to you I apologize, I can never and will never match his wit and humor. He’s an amazing friend. More on that at the end.

Mark experienced a first this weekend—the first time being a spectator and not a participant at a triathalon. He was invited by Ironman to come and view the Boulder Ironman as a VIP spectator. They heard about his story and wanted him to come. For 99.9 percent of most people in a situation like this I imagine this would be a tough event to go to. You see, it was the exact event Mark was training for when he had his accident. But, once again IronMark continues to defy all odds. These are his own words he posted on Instagram:

“Did I do the race I’ve been planning for a year? No. But you know what did happen? I got inspired, way too inspired. I know without a doubt I’ll be an Ironman one day, no matter what.”

Not an easy goal. From what I can find only one other quad has ever done an Ironman, and he was a professional hand cyclist, not a full-time college student just 4 months from an injury. But one things for certain, Mark will do this!

Mark was there at the start line at 05:30 in the morning and didn’t leave the finish line until 11:30 at night. He cheered every finisher on. Even “the voice of Ironman” Mike Reilly witnessed this and gave him a special shoutout. (see the video below). For those that don’t know, Mike is the announcer for all of the Ironman events and when you cross the finish line he says the famous words “You are an Ironman today”.

There were so many folks that made this weekend possible. Several that would like to remain anonymous, but Mark would like to give special thanks to the St. Julien hotel for giving him accommodations for the weekend. If you are ever in beautiful Boulder, this is the place to stay. They were super generous to Mark. Also, Ironman gave him VIP passes and went way above the call making Mark feel very welcome.

The Ironman theme is “anything is possible”. Mark continues to live that everyday and surprise us beyond any and all expectations. What will you do today that defies the impossible?



PS, Rob Novotny is the greatest friend anyone could ask for. Him and his wonderful wife Dawn have been by our sides from the exact moment of the accident. They were even at the scene of the accident with us. But, Rob and Dawn have been by our sides as a family for 25 years. His kids are like my nephew and niece. We learned from them on how to raise kids, literally.

Many folks say, who is Rob? Is he a professional writer? Well he could be. Honestly, I didn’t know he could write like that. Instead, he has a pretty big day job. He’s a Brigadier General in the Air Force at Nellis AFB in Las Vegas. He’s in charge of the Thunderbirds, Red Flag and Weapons School just to name a few things he does. Despite all that, he spent countless nights staying up late and writing his wonderful updates that we all cried and laughed to. Words cannot express how thankful we are to the Novotny’s. We love you guys!
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#Epilogue

What a journey.

On Thursday night I had the opportunity to witness an amazing event. Our #IronMark was a keynote speaker at the Faith Lutheran High School Baccalaureate. In what was the signature speech of the night, I can tell you our nerves were pitched as he wheeled himself from stage left to the center. You could tell the crowd was anxious as they began a timid ovation. A small music stand was set a few feet back from the edge where he could place his prepared remarks and speak to a crowd of roughly 700 people. 250 of his class mates, and probably another 450-500 friends and family members in the Canyon Ridge Christian Church. My whole family was there, along with the Wilbournes…all of them…Mom, Dad and Cole, grandparents, aunt and uncle…we dominated a whole row off to Mark’s right. We were anxious. As Mark got situated with his comments, the crowd grew quiet in anticipation. Mark had not shared his thoughts with anyone until this exact moment.

I didn’t get to observe the events at Craig Hospital. I saw Mark a few times in the hours and days following the accident. But then I missed the weeks and months of rehab only to see him return home just recently. I was a second-hand witness to the events in Colorado…the small victories, new personal achievements at physical therapy, a vocal cord coming to life or the first wheelie in his chair. Tricia and JB were kind of enough to keep me in the loop on those events and I shared them with you somewhat filtered. On some events, I took some liberties, and on others, I know I failed to capture the significance of the moment. But on Thursday, I got to watch first-hand.

At the end of the speech and not captured in the video I’ll share with you, the crowd rose to their feet in applause. It wasn’t the anxious and restrained applause as Mark took the stage. It was a real appreciation for his words…but more so for his presence on the stage in my opinion. The culmination of what could have been a much worse story at any one of a thousand turns. The applause was solid and genuine. I think many in the crowd were stunned by Mark’s delivery. His words were straight from his heart and related his own story for the past 120 days. Like the final chapter in a great book on injury, recovery, resilience, perseverance, support, failure and victory, Mark’s presentation was a visible epilogue for the crowd. It was cool to be a witness.

At the end of the applause, Mark left the stage and we all sat down. I looked over at JB & Tricia to give them the victory sign but they didn’t see me. They were overcome with emotion. Speaking on their behalf, I think it was a combination of emotions. Pride for one…Mark did great. Love of course. And finally, relief. Relief in knowing that Mark was going to do this. He was going to be ok. He is going to be ok.

I hope you’ll enjoy the pictures and the video from the ceremony. Keep an eye out for Tricia’s Facebook posts as I am sure there will be more to come in the days and weeks and months to follow. You can find her on Facebook as Tricia Pyles Wilbourne and on Instagram as twilbourne.

I also hope you enjoyed these posts. When we started, it was designed to raise awareness and money for my friends. Boy, did you guys answer the call. What an amazing response from near and far. Spinal cord injury survivors, two NHL hockey teams, Tim Tebow and of course countless friends, family and just plain good people rose to the occasion in one form or another. I wish I could have written all of you who wrote me through the GoFundMe site. I passed on most of your notes to the Wilbournes and I know they wrote many of you back. Please know we read all of them.

I’m excited for this summer. My two college kids have been home for a while and they’ll be going back to college soon…too soon. Cole is spending his summer in an intern program on the East Coast, and in August, Mark will depart for CU Boulder, with Annie to his side and the world to his front. I’m excited to read his next story.

Fini

-Rob
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#Homecoming

I played sports in high school and I vaguely remember the cheers of the crowd. It was nothing like what I experienced last year attending a Texas A&M football game with my kids. As the A&M football players burst out of the tunnel and onto the field, the simultaneous uproar of 100,000 fans was nothing short of amazing. We see it here in Las Vegas as our NHL Golden Knights get their wild welcome to the ice set with smoke, loud music and the vocal euphoria from their devotees.

We also saw it last week at McCarran airport. Take a look at the video in this message (I can’t put it on YouTube so you have to click the link here: https://www.facebook.com/News3LasVegas/videos/518978891839555/). I hope you can see the incredible welcoming party for Mark. Hundreds of fans, fellow students, teachers, neighbors, and even the media, accompanied by the loud exultant music of the Faith Lutheran band erupted when our #IronMark exited his plane from Denver and was finally home. People unrelated to the homecoming, oblivious to the events at hand, clamored for a glimpse of what must have been an “A List” celebrity on their vacation to Sin City. Like a crowd of paparazzi, they pressed against the line and held their smart phones high to see our hero, strong and smiling, returning home from Craig hospital. It was an event for the ages.

Story 1: ( https://news3lv.com/news/local/paralyzed-high-school-student-wheels-into-a-special-homecoming-after-months-of-treatment)

Story 2: ( https://www.reviewjournal.com/local/las-vegas-student-back-home-months-after-bicycle-crash-rehab-1660383/?fbclid=IwAR0oNnwYpzz9YeV46BQyhgFqeyEJj4-Tqj9luyAr8VWBszpkafNU3wfpKkI)

Story 3: ( https://www.ktnv.com/news/local-student-receives-surprise-homecoming-at-mccarran-airport?fbclid=IwAR3NRM4_xxNgIhkYvwFR8E4noB3JHqYPLR6qPLw_1S3P4HzetG8Q9VvT57E)

The next two days were filled with celebrations at home. Tons of food and friends packed the Wilbourne home there to share in the good news of Mark’s return. Even the carpenters who completely renovated a room downstairs to match Mark’s needs came to meet the man who inspired their work. So many wonderful supporters made the events and we were truly blessed to have everyone who could attend.

I was out of town all week but had a chance to change my plans and return a day early. On Sunday, I snuck into church and had a chance to meet Mark for the first time since just after the accident. Crazy right? I’ve been doing all these updates and really had not seen our guy since his first days in the trauma ward. Even during those difficult 11 days in the ICU, I only visited him once or twice in the unit. He was a mess frankly. Wires, bruises, blood and seemingly quarts of drugs coursing through his veins. He didn’t remember me visiting, how could he. But it was great to finally get “eyes on” him again this Sunday. Here’s a quick picture of us just after the service, greeting guests on their way out of church. Thanks to Pastor Craig and Amy for a wonderful sermon on the great comebacks in history! Very timely.

So, what’s next? Well…a lot. We’ve got a baccalaureate ceremony and then graduation right around the corner at the end of the month. Mark will spend most of his summer in Vegas before returning to Colorado in August to gear up for his freshman year at CU. That may seem like a far-off date, but we know it will come quickly.

I wanted to take just a quick second to thank everyone who helped my friends along the way these past few months. Your support got them through this ordeal. If you gave money, I’ve seen what it purchased…a renovated downstairs apartment for Mark, completely custom built to meet his new needs. I’ve seen the amazing wheelchairs and stand-up desks which will enable Mark to get around the Boulder campus and attend classes with everyone else. Adaptive sports equipment is on the horizon so our athlete can get back to competing. And of course, a highly modified car ready for a young driver to conquer the Colorado snow safely. Most of those would not have been covered by insurance, but for your generosity, Mark is set up for success. Thanks.

Finally, this is my second to last update team #IronMark. I’ll close our chapter together after Mark graduates high school at the end of month. We’ll have some pictures and maybe I can get our guy on film to say something to all of you. I’ll write to you again in two weeks.

-Rob
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#Eight

No, I’m not trying to ween you guys off this blog I promise. So---let’s get to it. The good news is, that there’s nothing in this update except good news. Isn’t that great news?

Homecoming projection---Thursday, May 9th---eight days! Team Mark---it’s looking good that we might get the Wilbournes home to Las Vegas on or about May 9th---Wow! Can you believe that? Homecoming baby---let’s do this! All of his therapy is progressing on schedule. We’re in coordination right now about how to get the cars home, flights and maybe a little soirée shortly after homecoming. Details to follow.

Wanna hear something really cool? Just the other day, Mark felt some sensation a little lower on his obliques. He’s getting a little more control in the abdomen area and we’re just praying this keeps on keepin’ on. Tricia wrote this on her Facebook page: “Over the weekend, Mark and I had lunch outside in one of the beautiful Craig gardens. He told me he was getting some of his core back. I placed my hands on his sides and felt him move these tiny muscles. I immediately felt tears on my cheeks and told Mark “It’s happening.” These muscles may be tiny but God’s hand is big and at work!” What do you think about that?!

He’s also the proud operator of a nice Ford Explorer (check out the picture). Thanks to all of you who donated, Mark used the GoFundMe money to purchase a Ford Explorer that had been custom modified for a wheelchair. He can’t drive it yet do to some pending modifications we’ll make back in Vegas but JB says it’s a sweet ride.

I’ve also included a great picture of Mark and Tricia attending the Craig Hospital Gala a few nights ago. #SharpDressedMan right?

Finally, you have to watch this video of Tricia and Mark. I don’t really have words to describe how amazing it is to see Tricia, a wonderful teacher, mother and friend, use this experience to inspire her former students. It’s amazing to see where Mark has been, the challenges he has overcome, and how well he is doing today. Wanna hear about Mark’s journey from beginning to end---here it is. ‘Nuff said. Proof again that prayers have been answered. Bust out your Kleenex.

-Rob
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$187,842 of $200,000 goal

Raised by 1,588 people in 5 months
Created January 28, 2019
Rob Novotny
on behalf of Tricia Pyles Wilbourne
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