In an instant: Reuniting after eight years | SteamboatToday.com
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In an instant: Reuniting after eight years

Andrew "Hondo" Sanders
Matt Stensland

Two recent accidents

The Steamboat Springs community in recent weeks has been rattled by two serious accidents at the Steamboat Ski Area. Longtime local, City of Steamboat Springs employee and ski coach Chris Arnis, who was injured in a skiing accident on Rainbow Saddle on March 15, has been moved to the Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Unit in Denver’s Craig Hospital, where he is undergoing rehabilitation treatment for an anterior/posterior break of his C4 vertebrae. A Wells Fargo account titled the Chris Arnis Benefit Fund has been set up to help the Arnis family. Information on the account and his status can be found at http://www.caringbridge.... The community is mourning the loss of ski patroller Michael Fosdick, 63, who died April 14. No one witnessed Fosdick's April 9 crash on the upper Rainbow trail. He was found unresponsive and was flown to Denver health. Fosdick’s son-in-law, Kelly Anzalone, said Wednesday that it was still unclear what caused Fosdick to fall, resulting in complicated fractures to his C1 and C2 cervical vertebrae. Before coming to Steamboat, Fosdick was a high school biology teacher in Eden for 20 years. “He had a happy life,” Anzalone said. Anzalone said Fosdick was an organ donor, and his donations helped more than 70 people. Fosdick’s memorial service is at 3 p.m. Sunday at Concordia Lutheran Church, 755 Concordia Lane.

— When Andrew “Hondo” Sanders woke up from a coma, all he could do was blink once for “yes” and twice for “no.”

On the closing day at the Steamboat Ski Area in 2007, the Steamboat resident was bombing down the See Me trail on his last run of the day when he caught an edge, flipped backwards and rag dolled for 80 feet.
Sanders’ third cervical vertebrae burst, and he fractured his fourth cervical vertebrae.

“My injury was so high that I’m considered done from the get go,” Sanders said.

Down the hall from Sanders at the Craig Hospital in Englewood was Dave Genchi, another Steamboat resident and backcountry photographer and guide who broke his neck in a freak accident while snowboarding on Buffalo Mountain. On the last run of the day, Genchi rode over hidden rocks and crashed. His helmet cracked in two. Genchi struggled to breathe and knew he had broken his back.

After quickly being evacuated, Genchi’s fifth, sixth and seventh cervical vertebrae were fused before he was moved to Craig Hospital for rehab.

“That’s a crazy situation when you end up there,” Genchi said.

The two busted up Steamboat boys would spend the next several months inspiring each other and other patients.

They pushed each other in the therapy gym. Genchi recalled Sanders struggling while trying to re-learn the guitar.

“I was like, ‘OK, he’s shooting for the stars,’” Genchi said.

The men were also trying to prepare for the next stage of their lives.

“The crazy part was what do we do next when you get out,” Genchi said. “You have to figure out how to make these changes and figure out how to be happy.”

Eight years later, on April 12, Genchi and Sanders had an unexpected reunion at the top of the ski area on closing day.

“There are quite a few people you would expect to never see,” Genchi said to Sanders. “You were at the top of the list.”

Sanders, 28, moved back to Steamboat in July. Genchi, 40, traveled to Steamboat from Florida to visit friends and to “close out my version of the season.”

“It’s a very big piece of the happy puzzle,” Genchi said.

The following Wednesday, Genchi and Sanders met to catch up on each other’s lives.

“In three hours, eight years ago, I entered the world of being a paraplegic,” Sanders said, looking at a clock in Genchi’s kitchen. “I call it my re-birthday, and I celebrate it like a birthday.”

At rehab, Sanders had a miraculous recovery and regained the ability to walk. He still suffers some paralysis, and his hand trembles.

“But if you put a guitar in it, I can play chords, and I can jam,” Sanders said.

Genchi is paralyzed from the chest down and uses a wheelchair.

“I have not allowed myself to be defined by my accident,” Genchi said. “I don’t talk about this stuff at all.”

After leaving Craig Hospital, Sanders moved back home to Fort Collins before attending the University of Colorado, where he earned degrees in sound engineering and film production. Sanders is building a music studio and developing the Steamboat Tonight and Colorado Tonight entertainment websites.

Twice a year, he gets one hour, 15 minutes to tell his story to students at the Auraria Campus in Denver. He has aspirations to provide a venue for others to share their stories.

“I want to take it to another level,” Sanders said.

Sanders has worked with a personal trainer with the goal of doing everything he did before. He can jog slowly now and do some rock climbing. This past winter, Sanders had a season pass and got 20 days of riding in at the ski area.

“The mindset to never stop, never give up, has been huge,” Sanders said.

In February 2014, Genchi got married.

He’s as happy as he could be,” his wife, Deb, said.

Genchi keeps up with the latest spinal cord research and has gotten back into photography, which has helped him to document his rehab experience.

“The ability to tell a story is never lost,” Genchi said.

It is also Genchi’s goal to educate people about backcountry safety.

A year after the accident, Genchi rode in a snowcat to the spot where he was injured.

“It was my way of slaying the dragon,” Genchi said.

Genchi is forever grateful for the support he received from the Steamboat community.

“Everybody here did a lot,” Genchi said. “There was a lot of support. I think that got me to where I am. There are people I will never know that helped me, but I’ve always been wanting to say, ‘thank you.’”

Sanders also returned to ride down See Me, where he broke his neck.

“It didn’t beat me,” Sanders said. “I’m not going to let it beat me.”

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland


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