51-year-old Squaw Valley CEO and President Andy Wirth had a near death experience on October 13th, 2013 when he crash landed skydiving with JT Holmes in Lodi, CA. Since his injury, he’s spent 50 days in the hospital in Davis, CA had 21 surgeries on his right arm. Andy will always be missing his right biceps muscle.
Moonshine Ink just interviewed Andy Wirth about his arm injury and his life since his accident. Below in an excerpt from their interview with Andy Wirth.
Moonshine Ink: Did you ever think this was the end?
Andy Wirth: The [vineyard] posts created substantial trauma. I realized I was very close to bleeding out. I stemmed the bleeding with direct pressure; I didn’t panic. I thought, ‘I’m in a tough spot.’ This was not going to be a discussion over beer with JT [Holmes] that night.
Nobody landed in the drop zone. It was clear that it was going to be a while until somebody got to me, and I was bleeding out. I entered into a mode of reconciliation with passing away. It was the closest I had come to death. There was intense sadness, but I quickly got to happy thinking about my kids and wife. It was an odd combination of how things went through my mind.
MI: When did you know you were going to make it?
AW: Around 12 to 15 minutes later, Amanda [another skydiver] came over. I instructed her how to do a tourniquet, but until I got to the heli, I wasn’t sure. The ambulance took about 15 to 20 minutes, then it took me to the flight for life. It was about 30 minutes until I got to the heli.
MI: What was the damage to your arm?
AW: I was very close to losing my arm. At UC Davis, now that I was reasonably confident I was going to survive the night, I negotiated to save my arm. If they needed to take it three to four weeks from now, that was okay. I demonstrated to the surgeons that I had some movement in my hand.
My bicep muscle was in the vineyard. The trauma was from the mid-humerus down, from my shoulder to my elbow. The damage was mostly vascular, a violent dislocation of the elbow and degrubbing, where the tissue and muscles get stripped off the bone. I had skin and muscle grafts, restabilization of the elbow, they had to bring the connective tissues together, graphs of veins that became arteries. Then some parts got infected, and I had to have the same surgery again by a different group of surgeons at California Pacific Medical Center’s Buncke Clinic, which specializes in reattachments.
MI: What is your recovery like and will you be able to return to all the sports you love?
AW: I can’t type. My range of motion is [that] I have good extension and flexion. I can tie my shoes and zip my jacket.
Since I’ve been back at work since Dec. 24, I do shorter days. I am on a two-thirds schedule. I won’t be able to ski this year, and I am completely bummed about it. It was strange not being here for the ski area opening. I have never missed an opening since 1986. And it’s the first time I’ve missed a ski season since I was 12.
I’m doing a great deal of physical therapy in Truckee. I’m not too sure I will ever stop doing physical therapy on my hand, elbow, and shoulder. I will still be able to trail run, mountain bike, road bike, and ski. Swimming is one of the harder things. I wanted to get back into triathlons.
My brachial muscle can gain strength and allow me to brush my teeth. But my right arm won’t return to its main strength. I don’t have my bicep muscle.
MI: Will you skydive again?
AW: I won’t. I would jump in two seconds again, but this accident created so much heartache and pain for my wife, kids, and parents. My wife hasn’t said ‘I don’t want you to skydive.’ – Moonshine Ink