John F. Russell: 2nd chance gives family rare opportunity to cherish life

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— It isn’t that often in life that we get a second chance.

Longtime Steamboat Springs resident Tim McConnell understands that better than most.

John Russell

John Russell's sports column appears Sundays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by John here.

Maybe that’s why he is so nice to everyone around him, maybe that’s why he rolls out of bed every day and is thankful for whatever the day brings and I know that’s why Tim’s eyes well up with tears when he talks about his son and his family.

The McConnell family understand the things that are important in life. They know that it’s not about how much money you make in a week, it’s not about the grades you get in class or getting ahead of the Joneses.

They understand the important stuff. The stuff that you can’t replace.

For them the important stuff is about family, about the community where they live and about love. The family’s story reminds us all just how fragile life can be, just how quickly we can lose that important stuff and just how lucky we are when the stars align, and for some unexplained reason, we are given a second chance.

It doesn’t happen that often and maybe that’s why Tim is so grateful, and at times a little emotional. Nobody, no parent, would blame him for shedding a tear or two as he recalled his son's scary story. His tears are those of happiness.

The McConnells' lives took a tragic turn on March 12 when Tim and Wendy’s then 22-year-old son Ryan was hiking in Arches National Park. It was spring break, and he was hanging out with friends enjoying the outdoors. But as the group headed back to a main trail after checking out a rock fin that overlooked a dry creek bed, Ryan slipped and the ground under his feet gave way. Ryan fell 100 feet to the ground below, suffering a number of life-threatening injuries.

His friends arrived within minutes, and two nearby paramedics were nearby hiking and arrived on scene in less than 15 minutes. Park rangers assessed the situation and called for a helicopter to fly the young man from the park to St. Mary’s in Grand Junction. The response was quick, and Tim thinks it made a huge difference for Ryan.

Some people would chalk it up to luck, but Tim truly believes that somebody was looking after Ryan on that day. To him, the men and women who took care of his son on that day, and those who took care of him in the days that followed are heroes. And he thanks them every time he gets the chance.

Because of them, and whoever was looking after him, Ryan and the McConnells will get a second chance. Ryan still is recovering from his injuries, but his outlook is good. He is at home and is hoping to lose the halo that protects his neck soon. He also fully expects to return to life as normal and as soon as possible.

But his dad, mom and brother truly understand how lucky they are and they fully understand the things that are important in life. They understand that all those details that consume our lives each day are just that — details. The really important things are the ones that remind us just how fragile life can be.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966

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