Man grateful to be alive after near-fatal accident
Mountain climber Seth Anderson had been to the top of the world, scaling to the highest points in North and South America. He was six mountains away from bagging all of Colorado’s Fourteeners and had climbed countless other 13,000-foot peaks. So, it was some weird twist of fate that the mountainside that nearly claimed his life was the same slope he had gazed at since he was young boy growing up in Clifton.
Anderson, now 36, was backcountry skiing on the east face of Grand Mesa with his friend Ann Driggers on St. Patrick’s Day, when his skis triggered an avalanche. More than five months after being plucked off a cliff ledge by a rescue helicopter, the impact to his body and the ensuing life changes reverberate throughout his life.
“Just a few days ago an EMT said he’s seen a lot of trauma, but he’s yet to see somebody who was so hurt as me that lived,” Anderson said. “My whole body was black and blue.”
These days Anderson walks slowly with a limp and a cane. He works sales when he can for Loki, the local outdoor-apparel company he co-founded. He is working with producers who plan to feature him next summer in the A&E television show, “I Survived.”
In a way, he said, the accident helped him slow down to more fully enjoy his family: his wife, Randi, and 2-year-old son, Asa.
“Have I driven home that my whole vision for living that day was my wife and baby?” Anderson said, recalling his first thoughts when he realized he might die.
After being slammed 500 feet down the mesa in a swirling mass of heavy snow, Anderson suffered seven major breaks of the bones in his legs. Doctors pieced his bones back together with 23 titanium screws, plus rods and plates. By some measures his recuperation has been speedy. Anderson recalls another man in the hospital who had similar injuries after being hit by a car about the same time he had his accident. That man is not yet walking and contracted a staph infection that slowed recovery, Anderson said.
Anderson’s recovery hasn’t been worry-free. After falling ill around Memorial Day, he wound up back in the hospital for a week fighting off his own staph infection.
Pain is a daily reality for Anderson, but over time he has come to cope with it better. He shrugs off questions about how much his body aches, changing the subject to, “I’m lucky to be alive,” or, “It could have been worse.”
One thing he didn’t expect was the influx of friends and family wanting to see him and communicate with him immediately following the accident. During that time, he said, he needed all of his strength to focus on recovering his broken body. It was something that loved ones didn’t always understand.
Even after an interview with a reporter recently, Anderson said the experience left him drained, and he had to sleep the rest of the day and all the next day.
“I tried to shut down, but people were e-mailing me, texting me and calling me,” he said. “People were mad that I didn’t call them. I didn’t know that many people cared about me.”
Anderson said doctors estimate he will fully recover in about a year and a half. During that time, he will continue to work on some media projects and work on his paintings. Though he’s had other brushes with death in other outdoor adventures, it’s his latest focus that doesn’t involve scaling dizzying heights around the globe that may prove more challenging.
“I’m doing all kinds of stuff that I’d be scared to do before,” he said.