Steamboat Springs Steamboat Springs City Manager Jon Roberts could be released from the hospital Friday and resume some work for the city in April, indicating a positive outcome after a Jan. 2 skiing accident that left him unconscious for eight days with a traumatic brain injury and significant bodily wounds.
The possibility of his imminent release from Craig Hospital in Englewood made his wife, LeAnn, so happy that she qualified nearly every statement about his diagnosis Wednesday, not wanting to jeopardize the outlook.
“We’re supposed to go on outpatient (therapy) on Friday,” she said. “But we don’t want to risk anything. … I don’t want to fluff any feathers.”
The outcome is likely enough, though, that the Steamboat Springs City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a new contract for Roberts, giving him a three-quarters pay rate from March 24 to June 1. Councilman Jon Quinn said, according to his understanding, Roberts nearly has used up all of his paid time off and sick days, including time off days donated by city staff.
“His city benefits were due to run out as of March 23,” Quinn said.
City human resources staff could not be reached late Wednesday to confirm Roberts’ contract situation.
Craig Hospital specializes in traumatic brain injury rehabilitation. Doctors there had set Roberts’ tentative release date at April 8, but LeAnn Roberts said his cognitive, physical and mental health have proved strong enough to warrant Friday’s release date.
Jon Roberts then would undergo a few weeks of outpatient therapy at Craig Hospital, which he would visit about three times a week. The family has a second home near Colorado Springs. LeAnn Roberts’ focus Wednesday, though, was on the immediate future.
“Most important thing is that we want to get discharged on Friday,” she said. “Jon wants out. That’s the only thing he’s thinking.”
She said if that occurs, she and Jon Roberts could spend a couple of days next week in Steamboat.
“We have not seen the Steamboat house for 2 1/2 months,” LeAnn Roberts said. “I’m not even sure how I left it.”
She left Steamboat in the worst kind of hurry.
Roberts was found unconscious on the flat area below the intermediate Sitz ski run early in the afternoon Jan. 2 at Steamboat Ski Area. The ski run is below the Christie Peak Express lift and above the expert See Me and See Ya runs.
No one else was reported to be involved in the accident.
In addition to the brain trauma, Roberts also suffered three broken ribs, a broken bone below his left eye and a separation of his left shoulder at the collarbone. He was flown to Denver Health medical center Jan. 2, regained consciousness Jan. 10 and was transferred to Craig Hospital on Jan. 18.
Doctors expect a full recovery for Roberts by July. LeAnn said doctors want him to take daily naps, for example, to allow his brain to rest and fully heal.
“He continues to exceed expectations, in sickness and in health,” Quinn said. “It’s just a remarkable turnaround.”
It’s not his first, either.
Roberts was seriously injured in a skydiving accident in California during Memorial Day weekend in 2009, when he could not find the rip cord for his main and reserve parachutes. The reserve parachute eventually deployed high enough for Roberts to land safely, but he nearly hit a building and became tangled in TV antennae above it. His parachute collapsed, and he fell about 30 feet to the ground and tore an artery in his chest.
He spent a week in a California hospital recovering.
“He’s not supposed to be alive. He really isn’t,” LeAnn Roberts said Wednesday. “His odds are ridiculous — between the two accidents, my God, I don’t even want to do a calculation.”
She saw many head and spinal cord injuries during the weeks at Craig Hospital, where, she said, everyone heals at a different rate.
“Honestly, I wouldn’t have guessed that March 18 would have had any meaning to me whatsoever,” LeAnn Roberts said. “You have no idea what’s going to happen when you hit your head. You just don’t know. … Every day is just a day you (say), ‘OK, God, what do you want from me?’”
— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 970-871-4233 or e-mail mlawrence@SteamboatToday.com