Alex Higgins: Lamoille Canyon Accident Survivor

How would you react if your life was suddenly changed forever? You’re just working, playing, living as usual and then…boom! Your entire world is flipped on its head, in an instant! What would that do to your mind, heart, and soul? Would that have an impact on your faith? Would it alter how you love and relate with family and friends? Would you be willing to adapt and move forward, or would you simply want to give up on life? If your life looked 180 degrees different tomorrow than it does today, what would that mean for you? Be honest; think about it. Moreover, as you philosophize over this for yourself, prepare to read about how someone’s story was altered forever, in a moment.

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Today, we’re talking with Alex Higgins. Alex has a unique story AAT wanted to share because it’s one involving the reality that things can change so fast for someone; we may wake up believing our story is going to be written out one way, but, at the end of that same day, it can shift in a completely unexpected direction. Alex may understand this better than anyone as his life changed forever due to a tragic accident one Summer day. However, before Alex tells us the story of what exactly happened to him, let’s let him, give us a little bit of his background. “I born and raised in Elko; my dad has owned a business here since 1969 (Higgins Interiors). After high school, I moved to Reno for four and a half years and went through two and a half years of massage therapy school to get my license before moving back to Elko. The massage business didn’t work out, so for five and a half years, before the accident, I worked at Western Nevada Supply. I was a counter salesman and irrigation specialist.”

Thank you, Alex. Now, would you mind telling us about the day things took a nasty turn for you? “July 28th, 2000, my best friend (since first grade), his wife and I went to O’ Carroll’s (Bar & Grill) in Lamoille. He said we each had about a six pack of beer. We were on our way back to his house, near the Horse Palace, and we were both on brand new 2000 Yamaha motorcycles back down Lamoille canyon; he and his wife were on his bike, and I was on mine. They told me they were going about seventy (mph), and I was passing them, so I had to be going about seventy-five or eighty (mph), and I went off the bottom corner at eighty mph. I went into Ruby Dome Ranch field, missing a telephone pole by ten feet. I went four hundred and seventy-eight feet from the road and wrapped myself up in two hundred and fifty feet of barbed wire fencing. It took my friends about fifteen minutes to find me; when they found me, I was wrapped from my chest down in barbed wire. They called 911. A week before the accident, the hospital got access to a life flight helicopter; I was the first life flight in that helicopter. My heart stopped nine times on that life flight. When they were finally able to stabilize me, they had to fly me from Elko to Salt Lake University Hospital. I crushed the end of my right radius, ruptured my spleen, and suffered a severe brain injury. I spent three weeks in a medically induced coma because I guess the body heals a lot faster when it’s shut down like that. I spent three and a half months in hospitals; I had my twenty-sixth birthday in the hospital. I had to learn how to walk, eat, swallow water, and talk. I don’t remember one split second of the day before the crash or the three and a half months while I was in the hospital, not one split second. Everyday day, for the first month, my mom told me my family had to reintroduce themselves to me because I couldn’t remember.”

Wow, that’s a very intense story, Alex. What does life look like for you now, eighteen years after the accident? What would you like to see for yourself in the future? “After the accident, my parents got lawyers to help me get social security disability, and then I still get long-term disability from Western Nevada Supply; that makes up one hundred percent of my income per month. For entertainment, I play pool and darts; I play a lot of darts. The first weekend in October will be three years since I’ve worked. I’d like to find a job, that will work with my social security and disability. I’ve put in all kinds of applications around town.”

Do you still enjoy living in Elko, Alex? “Elko’s the best town on the planet; I love it. I love all the outdoors stuff.” That’s fantastic to hear; how do you stay so positive about your reality? What is the driving philosophy behind your life now? “Every year, on the anniversary of the accident, I go back to the same corner I went off of. I stand on that corner and swear at it up one side and down the other. It’s venting, big time. But, everything now is about respect and appreciation; treat people with respect and respect what life is all about. I mean, I can walk. Every day, I’m thankful I can even open my eyes.”

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See you around, Elko!

 

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