|4/20/2010 1:12:00 PM|
Sisters man battles for recovery
|Melody Youngblood organized a fundraiser that netted $1,500 to help Gary Oldham of Sisters. photo provided
|Benefit concert helps injured Sisters man|
|By Kit Tosello|
Sisters locals gathered on a mild April night last Friday to help out a friend. Some folks know Gary Oldham from church; others ride with him on the Sisters Cycling Team. Still others were helped into a home mortgage over the many years that Oldham has provided that service to the community. All were devastated that their gregarious friend suffered a broken neck at Hoodoo Mountain Resort on April 1 (see related story, page 1).
They came to The Barn at Pine Meadow Ranch last Friday night to offer encouragement and financial support to the Oldham family. The rustic venue hummed with the down-to-earth acoustic strains of several talented Sisters High School Americana Project students: John Morton, Tanner Smith, Paige Bruguier and Melody Youngblood.
Wicker chairs and wooden benches placed at casual angles accommodated the crowd. Candles flickered; old and new friends mingled. Barbecued burgers, brownies and bundt cake were laid out. Oldham, in a full upper-body brace, took the stage briefly to thank the community and "to reflect on how awesome this place is that we live."
Outside, under a thin smile of a moon, a ranch dog barked and a chorus of baritone frogs crooned across the meadow.
Popular local singer-songwriter Anastacia Beth Scott mesmerized with her cover of Gillian Welch's wistful "Elvis Presley Blues." Anastacia told a captive audience that while she felt the Americana students could certainly "carry the show," planners tapped her for an "adult performance" to round out the evening. She paid a moving tribute to the memory of Doug Sokol with a soaring ballad, unveiled for the first time in the venue that was his brainchild.
The Sokol family hosted the benefit concert, which was conceived and quickly organized by Sisters High School senior, Melody Youngblood. Applause rose toward the end of the night when Youngblood announced that approximately $1,500 had been gathered in offering for the Oldhams.
Also performing was Brad Tisdel. The Rotary Club of Sisters donated supplies for the barbecue. Tracy Curtis and others provided baked goods.
Kyle Rood said, "Gary has been a father figure for me ever since my own passed away, so it was really special seeing these people come together for him." Indeed, Gary and Lora Oldham are known for their "no knock" policy among their children's friends.
"We have always wanted to be a place where kids can come and be fed and cared about," Oldham said. Heart-warmed by the outpouring of this small community, Gary added, "I sit here feeling like the luckiest guy on the planet. I came so close to losing everything."
Rotary Club of Sisters has set up an account for tax-deductible donations to assist with the Oldham family's medical expenses. Call 541-977-6545 for information.
Gary Oldham figures he's lucky to be alive.
The 47-year-old Sisters man was critically injured in an accident on the slopes at Hoodoo Mountain Resort on April 1. He has spent the ensuing weeks fighting for recovery from two broken vertebrae.
"Well, I'm coming around," he told The Nugget last Sunday. "I've got a bit of a road to recovery, but considering that there was a possibility that I might not be having this conversation, I'm doing pretty well. I'm lucky to be alive, actually."
According to Oldham, he was snowboarding at Hoodoo when a ski patrol skier collided with him.
According to Oldham's friends at the scene, the
collision created a resounding crack.
"I was knocked out for a few minutes, so I'm told," Oldham said. Coming to, he said, "I knew I was hurt. I could feel nothing from the neck down... I had just enough breath to push out the words 'I can't
Oldham's voice choked with emotion as he recalled that he believed that he was paralyzed. Then, feeling came back and that feeling was pain.
It turned out that the collision broke Oldham's C7 and T3 vertebrae. In addition, he was badly concussed. In fact, Oldham is convinced that if he hadn't been wearing a helmet he would have died from head injuries.
"No question, that helmet saved me," he said.
Oldham underwent surgery on his broken neck and is now at home recovering.
The recovery has not been entirely smooth.
Over the past few days he has lost more and more feeling in his right leg. He hopes it's just the result of swelling that will resolve itself, but he's steeling himself for the possibility that he will have to undergo another
However, Oldham told The Nugget on Monday night that it appears that if he does have to have another surgery it would be a comparatively straightforward procedure on his C7 vertebrae.
That news left him "the happiest guy in the world."
A mortgage broker for MetLife Home Loans, Oldham has obviously been knocked out of work - though he hoped to get to some quotes on Sunday. He is thankful for help from his assistant Cheryl White.
"I have a really great assistant," he said. "Cheryl White is just amazing."
Though he's insured, Oldham expects to rack up some serious expenses as he tries to get back to his accustomed active lifestyle. A group of young musicians led by Melody Youngblood raised $1,500 for him in a concert last Friday (see related story, page 8) and the Sisters Rotary Fund is offering
To assist Oldham through Sisters Rotary, contact Kathy Johnson at 541-
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