Firefighter recovering from 100-foot fall takes on Mount Marathon
Standing on top of Flat Top, Ben Schultz can't help but feel gratitude for friends, family, and God.
"Definitely thankful," he said looking out at the Anchorage Bowl far below.
Just two years ago, June 5, 2017, the Anchorage firefighter was training about 100 feet up on the aerial ladder of a firetruck and fell off. The next thing he remembers is two months later — waking up in a hospital in Colorado.
The list of injuries was staggering. Both ankles broken, a broken wrist, five broken ribs, a collapsed lung and a serious traumatic brain injury. His helmet, with a shattered visor, was found some distance from his body and likely did nothing to soften the blow onto the cement.
One step at a time, his recovery began. He had to re-learn how to do all the things we may take for granted, like moving his arm or taking a sip of water.
"It definitely took a long time for me to be able to achieve those goals, and I definitely beat myself up about it," Schultz said.
"I was very frustrated and very impatient. And that was one of the biggest things I learned was to be patient with the therapists, with myself, with my family, friends, doctors. Because with hard work, determination, and my faith in God, all things are possible."
His friend Rod Whitney, also a firefighter, witnessed the recovery.
"I think it's a miracle," Whitney said. "I don't know any other way to describe it."
Whitney is a Mount Marathon veteran, and after seeing how well Schultz was doing, encouraged him to enter the race.
"Why not?" Whitney said. "Conquer something big, he's conquered a lot, so what's Mount Marathon? Just a little hurdle."
Schultz will need to take a few extra precautions. He says because of his traumatic brain injury, another hit to the head could be fatal. He's wearing a helmet, both in training and on race day. He doesn't plan to rush the downhill.
For him, it's worth the risk. He was given a second chance and he's not wasting it.
"Every arduous step up this mountain, it's like hey, sure it's challenging, but praise God I'm here to go through this and endure it," Schultz says with a big smile. "And it's so rewarding when I get to the top."
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