Fabrication is the cornerstone of the custom truck world. “Fabricate This” brings the minds of fabricators to the pages of your favorite magazine. Our goal is to publish as many pertinent questions and answers as possible. If you have a question, send it in and we will do our best to answer it.
The editors have given me free reign to tell a personal story in this episode, so I’m not going to be shy. As many of you know, I had a paramotor crash this summer that put me in the ER for neurosurgery. It has changed many things for me, including how I think about our work in the shop. I’ve had a lot of time to think about those moments that led up to the accident. I tell myself not to mull over questions of whether I could’ve turned hard left or hard right as soon as the engine went out, and possibly avoided the crash completely. Speculation doesn’t do much good since history has written itself now. The facts were this: I was flying above the field and trees around my grandparents’ farm as I’d done many times before. As I came over their roof under power and ascending, the engine stopped. I was headed straight for the trees, and within seconds I collided with them about 40 feet up. I dropped straight to ground, landing on my butt. My legs went numb.
If there’s one thing I learned it’s that the real trauma of an accident isn’t just to the person it happens to, it affects everyone they know. My phone was in the pouch of the paramotor when I came down. It was turned off during those first two days at the hospital when it was unclear if I would ever walk again. When I did turn it on, I was astonished by how many people had been reaching out to me. There were literally hundreds of messages from people with genuine concern for how I was doing. It really forced me to consider the effects of the accident and how it wasn’t just limited to my immediate family and me.
Prior to surgery I was able to move my legs to some degree. I assumed this meant I was home free, but as they were prepping me for surgery, the doctor walked in and told us there were pieces of bone buried in my spinal cord. When he removed those, there was no guarantee where and what would stop working in my legs. When you’re the guy lying in the hospital bed, this is like getting hit with a piano falling from a second story building. But there was nothing more to do than say some strong prayers and hope for the best.
There are no two ways around it. I got lucky. There were three guys that all came in to Vanderbilt ER about the same time with very similar burst fractures in the lumbar area of the vertebrae. The same surgeon worked on all of us. Two of them came out of it in wheelchairs, and I did not. I’ve spent the last two months recovering: from learning to roll over, to sitting up, to taking very small steps, to eventually walking somewhat normally. To say this has changed me is an understatement. I’m more conscious of how fast things can change from a sunny afternoon to a hospital bed.
Within two weeks of my accident, a fellow shop owner and friend, Curt Hall, suffered a spinal injury while working under a vehicle. His injury is worse than mine, and it put him in a wheelchair, but he’s lucky to be alive.
You don’t have to be engaging in crazy activity to end up in a dangerous situation. My injury wasn’t in the shop, but I’m looking at things much differently now that I’m back. Curt was under a vehicle in a position I’ve been in more times than I can count. There’s nothing crazy about it; it’s just a normal day at work. It’s easy to forget the simple fact that most of us are working underneath 2-ton objects suspended only by jack stands or a lift. Especially in the case of air ride, being smashed under a vehicle can happen in seconds because a fitting or airline blows out. Getting an extra jack stand may seem like a huge annoyance when you’re busy, but it may just be the thing that keeps a truck from crushing you.
Curt and I can both attest: Accidents can happen fast. By all means, have fun doing what you do, and don’t be scared to push the limits and tackle big things, just remember: It’s best to plan for the worst.
THANKS FOR READING.
To submit a question for the “Fabricate This” column for either Bob Grant or Eric Saliba, please email Fabthis@streettrucksmag.com, or contact them directly via Grantkustoms.com for Bob, or Friendlychopshop.com for Eric. Stay tuned next month and keep the sparks flying!