LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — A father of two with a child on the way is improving after a snowboarding accident at Lake Tahoe last week left him paralyzed from the neck down.
Cody Walker, 34, was snowboarding at the Northstar California Resort with a group of friends on Friday when a jump he had done in the past went badly. It wasn't a crazy trick, but he was off-balance from the start, according to Zack Hackett, who was with him.
"He was slowly just floating as he got higher and higher and his head got lower and lower," Hackett said. "By the time he landed, he was almost totally upside down As soon as we saw it happen, we all knew he was either severely injured or dead."
Walker was transported via helicopter to a Reno hospital, where it was found he had broken multiple vertebrae and had broken his hips in four different places.
Lori Walker, his wife, left the couple's two children, June and Max, in Salt Lake City with her parents so she could go to Reno. It was Max's third birthday.
"They had celebrated early so he could go on the trip, then the day of his birthday they were at Jungle Jim's when we called her," Hackett said. "That was the worst time and the worst phone call she could have gotten in that situation, during her son's birthday."
On Saturday, doctors performed surgery to fuse together three of Walker's vertebrae. Surgeries on his hips were performed over the two days following. As of Thursday, he was improving. He could feel his legs, although he couldn't move them, and could move his arms to his elbows. He wasn't able to move his hands yet, though.
Doctors are "cautiously optimistic" that Walker will heal, and so are his friends and family. Hackett said Walker is the kind of person who, if it is physically possible for him to recover, will work every day for the rest of his life to walk again.
"He's very motivated because of his kids," Hackett said. "He'd like to be able to walk and be able to run and play with them. His wife is going to have a baby in four or five months, and he really hopes to hold his baby."
Hackett said Walker is a "superstar dad" who enjoys hiking and playing soccer with his children. "It's very tragic," he said.
Hackett said there have already been many miracles since the accident.
"The fact he wasn't dead, then the fact his spine is not completely severed and that he has feeling is a really good thing," he said. "All the surgeries went really well. He already got his arm movement back; his grip is tightening."
All the while, Walker has kept a positive attitude, cracking jokes and comforting his friends and family in his own time of need. Hackett said a picture of Walker posted on Facebook that shows him smiling and wearing a neckbrace is representative of his personality.
"This is a guy who's been paralyzed, but he's smiling and happy," he said. "There's a lot of support being rallied around him, but I think a lot of it has to do with his positive attitude."
For now, Walker is hoping the prayers and positive wishes of others can help support his family as he works on healing. He is hoping to be able to return home by March 17, his 35th birthday.
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