Casey’s Pond resident returns to slopes at age 74
March 14, 2016
Steamboat Springs — Jim Cartwright spent his childhood as an active Coloradan — singing in his church's choir, spending time with family and riding the train from Denver to go skiing at Winter Park.
Then, on Labor Day 1954, at the age of 13, he was stricken with poliomyelitis — more commonly known as the polio virus. He spent the next eight months in the Children's Hospital in Denver, finally checking out of the hospital during the same month the country's first polio vaccine was licensed for mass production — April, 1955.
Cartwright's diagnosis came at the end of a nationwide outbreak, and today, new cases of polio in the United States have been non-existent for more than 30 years.
Once released from the hospital, Cartwright had to adjust to post-polio life, which involved walking with crutches and a full leg brace and losing the ability to engage in the same activities as friends his age.
"Polio is a virus, so it never leaves," said Cartwright, who is now 74 and a resident of the skilled nursing portion of Casey's Pond, where he has lived since January 2015.
Despite the obvious hardships of post-polio, which can include progressive muscle and joint weakness, muscle atrophy and cognitive problems, Cartwright has not allowed the disease to stop him from living a full, active life.
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As a young man, he graduated from Denver University, worked for his father's real estate company and always served his community through volunteer work, including periods he lived in Denver, Santa Fe and Fraser.
Cartwright even said he once made a bid for the Colorado House of Representatives, losing his election by fewer than 200 votes.
His zest for life has carried Cartwright to Steamboat Springs, where he remains active through volunteer work at the local hospice and recently returned to a sport he's been able to enjoy only a handful of times since childhood — skiing.
Cartwright, who uses a wheelchair, said he tried skiing in an adaptive program in Santa Fe in the mid 1990s and again in the mid 2000s in a similar program in Winter Park.
After moving to Steamboat, it was only a matter of time before Cartwright would stumble upon the Steamboat Adaptive Recreational Sports program and get the opportunity to try skiing on a new mountain.
Through a scholarship with the hospice program for which he volunteers, Catrwright's now taken to the slopes three times this season, most recently on a Monday morning earlier in March.
"I like to go fast," said Cartwright, who has taken a trio of lessons from STARS operation director Ron Southworth, who, by coincidence, was also Cartwright's instructor in the adaptive ski program in Winter Park many years ago.
Southworth said he enjoys seeing the pleasure skiing brings to Cartwright each time they hit the slopes.
"We can take him out, and he can feel the wind in his face and the adrenaline going downhill, and it's great. He and I ski pretty fast," Southworth said.
Southworth said Cartwright has met with friends while skiing each time he's gone out with STARS, adding he's hopeful Cartwright will also take part in STARS' therapeutic horseback riding program during the summers, an activity the two enjoyed together back in Winter Park.
Cartwright's inspiring decision to return to skiing has also caught the attention of employees at Casey's Pond.
"Jim is an amazing inspiration to us and, we hope, to others," said Lindsey Simbeye, sales and marketing director at Casey's Pond. "He does not let his inabilities define who he is and who he wants to be. This is a philosophy we fully support at Casey's Pond. We do everything we can to empower and support residents in their successful aging journey."
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