Peak performance

Peak performance

Ryan Anderson pauses at the top of a snow-capped mountain. He pulls his ski cap down over his ears, watching the other skiers take off ahead of him. He can hardly believe he’s here: Vail, Colorado, in January 2012.

When it’s his turn, he launches himself downhill … on one leg and two specially equipped crutches.

“That ski trip was a big achievement,” says the 24-year-old from West Fargo, North Dakota. And not easily gained. But with vision, determination, well-considered steps and hard work, he achieved his goal.

Sanford Health has a goal, too, and it’s big!

A closer look

Construction begins in 2013 on a new medical center in southwest Fargo, North Dakota, including a 460-bed hospital, top-tier trauma center and expanded specialty care. Why? North Dakota’s growing population and the increasing demand for medical care.

The 1.2-million-square-foot center will exceed the expected, becoming the largest private-industry construction project in the Dakotas.

The center will emphasize “doing it right” for patients and communities, focusing on:

  • Connecting services for a seamless experience
  • Making specialists available close to home
  • Adding efficiencies to advance cost-effective care

Completion will occur in two phases: the first in 2016, the second in 2018.

Ryan’s life links

Back in November 2010, Ryan’s need for Sanford Health was immediate and critical. He severed his right leg in a split-second farm accident near Walcott, North Dakota.

A Sanford Health helicopter landed in the cornfield, then rapidly transported him to Sanford Emergency Center in Fargo. Immediate surgery set the stage for the most daunting task of all: learning to walk again.

“I had incredible support from my family and friends,” says Ryan. “They gave me hope.”

With their support and his determination, he reached one milestone after the next:

  • Day two of his hospitalization he started using crutches.
  • Day five he went home.
  • Week two the ag business grad from North Dakota State University returned to his job at Agassiz Valley Grain.

What matters most

For the next several months the hard work of rehab continued. Ryan relied on several Sanford specialties: rehab medicine, physical therapy, pain management and prosthetic support. From a traditional mechanical leg he transitioned to a high-tech computer-generated leg.

Six months after the accident? He walked the 5K at the Fargo Marathon. He set no records and early on had to resort to crutches. But he crossed the finish line.

“That mattered,” he says.

Reaching the next level

The 5K served as a wake-up call for Ryan.

“I knew I needed to trim up and get stronger, but I still had a hard time getting motivated,” he says.

Motivation arrived in the form of an invitation: a downhill ski trip with his family to Colorado. Before his accident, he loved to downhill ski.

“My friends gave me a hard time,” he says laughing. “They thought maybe I should try a bunny hill around here before taking on one of the biggest mountains in Colorado.”

But that’s not Ryan.

His preparation for the trip began in November 2011. Ryan joined a gym and worked with a personal trainer. He began exercising three times a week — a discipline he continues today.

Ryan arrived at Vail Ski Resort two months later and hired a trainer through the resort’s adaptive ski program. He learned three-point skiing — a system of skiing on one leg with the help of two crutches equipped with miniature skis.

“It was extremely exhausting, but what an experience!” he says. By day three he was skiing the intermediate runs with the rest of his family. Forget the bunny hills.

Never stop growing

Ryan says the past year has taught him the importance of staying motivated — and trying again.

“I went golfing once last year and it was miserable — so awkward with one leg,” he says. “Now I’m stronger and I’ve figured out some new techniques. This spring I’ve spent a ton of time on the golf course with friends. I can hit the ball as well as any of them.”

Two more goals: hunting next fall and one day running a 5K. A running leg tops his dream list.

Learning from Ryan

Toward the end of Ryan’s ski trip, a video crew from the resort accompanied him down the slope. They wanted to film his three-point-skiing success so others could learn.

In skiing — and in life — Ryan teaches great lessons beginning with don’t stop believing. He believed he could walk, finish the 5K, even ski down a mountain.

“Drive and motivation can take you places,” he says. “I hope I never become complacent — just getting by, just being good enough. I want to do the best I can.”

Building a future … Ryan, Sanford and you!

Posted In Emergency Medicine, Health Information, Orthopedics, Rehabilitation & Therapy