Teresa Hukari makes painstaking progress

By ESTHER K. SMITH

News staff writer

January 3, 2007

The year 2006 was a life-altering one for Teresa Hukari, a Hood River native who was injured last March in a freak skiing accident in Idaho.

Her injuries included fractures to several vertebrae and spinal cord injury, leaving her with very limited use of one arm and no use at all of her legs. Hukari spent seven weeks in the intensive care unit and neuro-science wing of a Boise hospital and several months in an acute rehabilitation center in Denver, and is now a month into an intensive program at Project Walk, a spinal cord injury recovery center in Carlsbad, Calif.

For someone who was used to a life of climbing, skiing, kayaking and cycling, the blow was hard. But she has attacked the challenge with guts and determination and a host of cheerleaders in her home towns of Ketchum and Hood River.

Teresa’s brother, Bruce, is head cheerleader during this three-month workout in Carlsbad, having taken time off from the “pear/apple/cherry/blueberry thing” he does with another sibling, Brian. Bruce also posts regular updates to a web log, including the good, the bad and the humorous:

“The other really bad news, though, is that I may be going to prison shortly, because I’m going to have to hunt down and kill the person who gave me the cold I woke up with this morning,” he wrote Dec. 21.

“I’ve been washing my hands like a newly crowned member of the OCD club and trying to keep my distance,” he wrote a few days later. “I know what you’re thinkin’ — ‘it’s just a cold, lighten up, Francis’ — but, just a cold, when you can’t cough, can barely blow your nose, and are a little preoccupied with trying to make a non-functional body function again, it’s a distraction she doesn’t need, and one we’ve hopefully dodged.”

Teresa occasionally posts her “one-key hunt-and-peck-athon” entries, such as a reply to a friend’s posted comment Dec. 31, where she was wished a new year full of progress:

“As to the new year, thanks for the encouragement. From my view, it’s still hard to envision. Without outside perspective and some gentle nudging, I might stay stuck in the trivial crap of each day. The not knowing what to expect or hope for is the hardest part.

“The constant support from the sidelines makes an enormous difference — as does the steadfast day in, day out lift I get from my trusty sidekick. As Bolt (Bruce) says, ‘You can get down, but don’t give up.’ So, I just keep listening to all y’all when I can’t muster it for myself.”

So she continues to “curse, spit, struggle and even sometimes smile my way back to some form of me I want to be.” After one Project Walk session, Bruce posted: “She’s been sore from some of the stretches and because she still has to use neck and shoulders to initiate every movement they ask her to try, whether it’s crunches, legs, obliques — it all starts with what she has working now: neck and shoulders. Her biceps are all Arnold-up’d, too.”

The costs associated with SCI (spinal cord injury) are staggering and ongoing, and insurance benefits are already halfway gone. The Web site offers a way for people to help with expenses by committing to a set dollar amount per month, whether it’s $10 or $100, in the “Coffee with T” program. Money raised will help with her monthly expenses, which include the cost of a full-time caregiver and an hour a day of physical therapy.

Last year’s May fund-raiser at the Crag Rat Hut raised a whopping $70,000, and other fund-raisers are planned, including a special showing of “Shrek” on the big screen at Hood River Middle School Jan. 27 (put on by Community Education) which will also benefit Hood River’s Noah Smith, also living with SCI-caused paralysis.

There are several ways to help out: Send a card or note to Teresa (through Feb. 28, that’s: Aegean #19, 910 N. Pacific St., Oceanside, CA 92054-1956) with moral support; donate to “Coffee with T-a-thon” by logging onto the Web site and pledging ongoing support with a credit or debit card number; send a one-time donation to Bald Mtn. Rescue Fund, P.O. Box 370, Ketchum, ID 83340, noting Teresa’s name; or just follow Teresa’s progress on the Web site and blog: http://web.mac.com/bhukari.

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