Teen honored as ‘hero’ after dangerous fall

TUCSON-A 16-year-old boy, who fell from a mountain while rock climbing, has been awarded December’s Kids Wish Network’s Hero of the Month for University Medical Center for his bravery and positive outlook.

Eli – accompanied by four of his friends – was out hiking at Pima Canyon when he saw an area of the mountain that seemed easy to climb. Eli was the only one who started to ascend, while the other boys hiked around to the other side. Losing his footing on the side of the mountain, Eli fell between 30 and 50 feet, and then rolled an additional 20 feet.

“No one saw him fall. Although he doesn’t remember the accident now, when he arrived in the emergency room he told his Dad he was only 2 feet from the top when his foothold broke off,” said Eli’s mom, Chris. “He was found by his friends clutching a bush that prevented him from rolling off another steep embankment, no doubt saving his life.”

Eli sustained serious injuries from his fall and if not for the quick thinking of his four friends, Eli’s situation could have become much worse. They heard him screaming and ran around the mountain to help him. Eli’s femur was snapped in half and he was bleeding heavily from his head and his leg wounds.

“The boys used their t-shirts to try to staunch the bleeding. Another friend raced back to the top of the mountain trying to find cell phone reception to call 911,” said Chris. “The reception was spotty, and it took a while for rescue to get a GPS bead on the cell phone. In the 3 hours before Eli was helicoptered off the mountain, the boys gave Eli all their water and kept him from going to sleep by talking to him about the Beatles.”

Eli was admitted to the hospital at the highest trauma level. He had a low and unstable blood pressure and an acute lung injury. He was placed in a chemical coma. He had a broken femur, cracked ribs, various gashes and scrapes, a contusion on his brain’s frontal lobe, a torn neck ligament and two fractured vertebrae. He also sustained a serious concussion.

While he was receiving treatment, Eli’s child life specialist informed Chris that she wanted to nominate Eli for Kids Wish Network’s Hero of the Month.

“I thought he was the perfect Hero of the Month,” said UMC Certified Child Life Specialist Heather. “He has had such a positive attitude throughout this. He was always very willing to do all the rehab with no complaints whatsoever.”

Eli was honored with a Hero of the Month certificate, medal, t-shirt and a $500 gift card to Wal-Mart. Despite being honored with the award, Chris said that Eli thought his friends were the real heroes.

When Eli fell, some of his hiking gear was crushed and broken. He said he was excited about being able to replace the lost items. His mom said the idea of replacing the lost items – including a hiking backpack with water bladder, a wallet and a digital camera – brightened his spirits.

“The award helped by giving me hope of going back to the way things were before the accident,” Eli said.

Chris said that Eli was very surprised and pleased to be nominated for the award. She said it was very nice to have something positive to focus on.

“The outpouring of love and support from friends, family, health care workers and Kids Wish Network has really helped us make it through the challenges of this difficult time,” Chris said. “Thank you so much for offering this special program, and for choosing Eli for this honor. We will be sure to pay forward the kindness you’ve shown.”

Kids Wish Network’s Hero of the Month Program was designed to help little heroes who have had to face some of life’s unfortunate experiences. These children do not have life-threatening illnesses, but rather face some very sad or extraordinary circumstances. These children must be in residence or have been treated through one of our Hero facilities nationwide. If you know of a hospital, program or facility that may benefit from our Hero of the Month program, please call (888)918-9004.

Kids Wish Network is a nationally recognized non-profit organization dedicated to infusing hope, creating happy memories, and improving the quality of life for children. For more information on Kids Wish Network, visit their website at www.kidswishnetwork.org


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