Fuller continues to recover from August cycling accident that nearly took his life | SteamboatToday.com

Fuller continues to recover from August cycling accident that nearly took his life

Fred Fuller holds the cracked, bent Rudy Project helmet that played a role in saving his life in an Aug. 16 cycling accident in Steamboat Springs.
John F. Russell

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Fred Fuller holds the cracked, bent cycling helmet that saved his life as he recalls the warm August afternoon when he had decided to hop on his bike to take a short ride into downtown Steamboat Springs from Steamboat Boulevard.

“What I remember is, I headed out to the corner, and I hung a left before I started down Fish Creek Falls Road,” Fuller said. “After I hung that left to go down Fish Creek Falls Road, I don’t remember anything.”

On that day, Fuller’s routine ride turned into a life-changing experience for the 62-year-old electrician specialist with Xcel Energy and longtime Steamboat resident.

The exact details of what happened as he made his way down Fish Creek Falls Road are fuzzy for Fuller, who suffered serious injures in the Aug. 16 bicycle crash.

Fuller, along with his wife, Penny Fletcher, have been piecing together the events of that day through witnesses.

Fletcher believes her husband may have moved into the shoulder to give a car that was turning more room. She said he may have lost traction on some scoria or a soft section of the shoulder that caused him to lose control of the bike. She admits that she is not certain how the events unfolded, but what she is certain of is that the people who came to her husband’s aid in the first few minutes most likely saved his life and also made decisions, she thinks, which kept him from being paralyzed.

“I just really want to convey a huge thank you to everyone that helped him that day,” Fletcher said. “We’re just totally grateful for the people who came to help him, and the first responders who cared for him at the scene and the doctors and nurses who have been caring for him since the accident. I just really want them to know that we are truly grateful.”

Family welcomed Fred Fuller and his wife Penny Fletcher home last weekend. Penny’s son Bryan, and his wife Nikki, came to Steamboat with grandchildren Ellery, 3, and Beckett, 7 months, for the homecoming. Taylor Fletcher was in Europe training with the U.S. Nordic Combined team.
Photo courtesy of Fuller/Fletcher family

Fuller said the first responders who cared for him in the minutes following the accident, and as he was taken by ambulance to UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center, were terrific, and Fletcher has nothing but praise for the doctors and nurses that evaluated and stabilized him in the trauma center after being flown to the UCHealth Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora.

That’s where Fuller spent seven days in the intensive care unit and four in a critical care unit.

During that time, Fuller underwent an 11-plus hour procedure led by Chief of Orthopaedic Spine Surgery Vikas Patel to address a long list of injuries that included fractures to the C5, C6 and C7 vertebra. Patel also addressed fractures to the T7, T9 and T10 as well as fractures to L3 and L4.

Doctors also had to deal with other injuries, including a left orbit fracture, a broken mandible, five broken ribs, a subarachnoid bleed in his brain and significant facial lacerations that required extensive surgery.

Taylor Fletcher visits his mom, Penny Fletcher and stepfather, Fred Fuller, at the Craig Hospital in Englewood.
Photo courtesy of Fuller/Fletcher family

But despite his injuries, Fletcher said they had many things to be grateful for, including the fact her husband was wearing a helmet.

“We were very lucky because the trauma response time — from the time that the paramedics got to him, to getting him on a helicopter, to arriving with the trauma team in Aurora — was only an hour and a half,” Fletcher said. “That is what saved him from having advanced swelling of his spinal cord, especially in a cervical spine, which could have left him paralyzed.”

Fuller was also thankful for the staff at Craig Hospital, which has helped him move from wiggling his toes to being able to walk with the use of crutches in a matter of weeks.

Fred Fuller spent the past week back home in Steamboat Springs after a bike accident Aug. 16 that nearly took his life. Fuller suffered serious injuries in the crash and has spent the past seven weeks in Front Range hospitals being treated and recovering. Fuller is headed back to Denver next week for another month of intensive outpatient therapy.
Photo courtesy of Fuller/Fletcher family

Fletcher said it’s been a lot of work as Fuller, who has spent eight hours per day the past several weeks in speech, occupational, physical and recreational therapy sessions. He said he has basically had to relearn everything.

The road ahead will not be an easy one, but it’s one the couple is looking forward to taking on together. Fuller and Fletcher will head back to Craig Hospital next week for another month of intensive outpatient therapy. The couple is hoping to find housing through the Craig Hospital, but their stay for the month will not be covered by insurance.

How to help

You can donate to Fred Fuller’s GoFundMe at gofundme.com/f/1s3cx11g6o

Fletcher said the outpouring of support from the community has been overwhelming since the accident, and she is grateful for the support she has gotten from family, friends and strangers who have come forward to offer a helping hand.

“This is the most understanding, compassionate and forgiving community that you could ever, ever hope to live in,” Fletcher said. “You know people in this community are there whether it’s your neighbors or people that you don’t even know.”

Fletcher’s hope is that Fuller will get strong enough to pick up his grandkids. His plan is to take things one day at a time and continue to make progress.

“It’s not just about me, you know. It’s never just about me,” Fuller said. “This affects everything around me and everybody that is around me. Now, this is my reality, and it’s also hers, and it’s still kind of hard to grasp.”

Accounts to help Fuller pay for expenses resulting from the bike crash are being set up with GoFundMe and at the Yampa Valley Bank.

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

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