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March 18, 2019, Derek Molinski broke his back and was almost paralyzed. It’s one year later and we caught up with him to find out what happened and where he’s at.
By Rob Lemay | @_lemay
Let’s get straight into it. This time last year you broke your back. What happened?
Yeah, I broke my back up Mt. Seymour. Hiked out of there, and drove right past Lions Gate hospital cause I thought I just tweaked it at first. I started freaking out on the way up the Sea to Sky highway, so I went to Squamish hospital and got x-rays. They were like: “Oh no, you’re screwed. You gotta get in an ambulance and go down to Lions Gate. Your back is broken.”
I got in the ambulance and got down to Lions Gate and waited till like 5 in the morning. I got an MRI or a CT scan. And they were like: “You’re pretty fucked. You’re half a centimetre away from being paralyzed.” When they told me that I started to trip out. I wasn’t really sure what was going on. The doctors weren’t giving me too much information at first. They were actually asking me if I wanted surgery. I was on all these pain killers and wasn’t sure. I tried to get a second opinion and eventually just sort of waited it out and started to see improvement. My left leg at first was really weak, but every day they would do pressure tests and it was getting better. After 5 days in the hospital, we decided on no surgery, and on day 7 I was good to go home. I could barely walk at this point, but I was stoked to get out of that nuthouse.
Yeah, it feels like a prison when you’re in a hospital for that long.
For sure. I was sharing a room with four other people and they were all going through some shit. But luckily I had a bunch of homies come by and visit me every day. That really helped pass by the time.
Did they allow you to eat? because you may have had to have surgery?
Yeah, but the food was unbelievably bad. My first meal was just a piece of bread and a hard-boiled egg. The painkillers made it really hard to eat anything. Luckily there was a Whole Foods close by and friends would bring me some dank-ass food.
At this point, you were still getting different advice from different doctors. How did you decide what to do?
The first surgeon I saw was pushing for surgery, but he left after 3 days and I saw a different guy, and the new guy told me he was pushing for no surgery the whole time. I wish I’d talk to him at first because he was so optimistic. He said: ”You’re young. You don’t want any metal in your back. You’ll heal fine”. The first guy sketched me out. He basically told me I was screwed for life.
What has your recovery like? How was it when you first got home?
I couldn’t do anything for 6 weeks. I was just lying on the couch and trying to go for small walks outside but even that was just taking baby steps. After the 6 weeks I saw the doctor again and he said it was healing up, but the bones won’t ever fully heal, it just is was it is. My muscles can get pretty tense around the area for sure, but since the start of this season to now, it’s been a complete 180. It’s so much better.
You stuck with all your rehab and you’re feeling better now?
Yeah, I did it all. After the six weeks, I hit physio pretty hard. I did some Chinese medicine, like acupuncture and had some laser therapy too. I also was getting massages. It would’ve cost so much, but I was covered with girlfriend’s extended medical up to $800 a month, and I was receiving medical Employment Insurance to help cover my other bills like rent and food. I started to go a little stir-crazy not being able to do anything, so I went back to work earlier than I should’ve. It was nice to get outside and do some mellow shit.
Yeah, painting houses could almost be like physiotherapy no?
You would think, but doing something so repetitive really isn’t the best. I just needed to do it for my soul and get out of the house. But after two months I started to push around on my skate a bit, super mellow styles, and when I took my first bail, even though it hurt so much, I just knew I was going to be fine. I started feeling so much better mentally. I definitely had started going through some depression being stuck on the couch.
Yeah, injuries weigh on your mind for sure. Especially with the season that you were having. You went on a rail trip with DC, and you were filming with DC at Seymour when you got hurt right?
Yeah, the DC crew had been in BC for two weeks filming backcountry. I got an invite to go up to the top Seymour for a sunset shoot. We got up there around 4 pm and built the jump. It had started to get a lot warmer and the snow was getting really heavy, so we even side-slipped the landing. I did a couple of methods I got hyped on, but still wanted to go bigger.
That was that beauty shot that Andy Wright took of you right?
Yeah, dude. Andy Wright is a boss. Anytime you get a chance to shoot with him just count your blessings cause he’s gonna get something good.
So what happened? How did you break your back?
Well, I was in the air and drifted forward a bit and thought it would be mellow. My board hit first, and I went for a tuck and roll but my head and shoulders got stuck in the snow and my body folded into itself. I didn’t think it was broken at first. I could move my toes. After sitting for 5 minutes we had to start to get down the mountain. The pain was starting to set in. Luckily Andy had some Vicodin or some crazy pain killer for me that helped and we made our way down the mountain. We got as far as Squamish and then I got sent back down to Vancouver in that ambulance.
So when did you first start to snowboard again?
First day of the season. Actually, I went up for a really mellow day in July up the glacier but took it so easy.
And you’ve had another good year though this season. You were out filming with DC again. This time In Minnesota.
Yeah, that’s actually when my back started to feel normal again. They invited me out there and I’d never been before. It’s a mecca for snowboard handrails. I was juiced to go and a little nervous to be honest. I took a few good slams too and my back held up.
You’re stronger than ever now.
Yeah totally and feeling better on my board than I’ve ever felt.
Sweet man. Any plans for summer? Are you sticking it out in Whistler?
I think I’m here for life dude. Painting and fishing in the summer and boarding in the winter. It’s hard to beat. Just can’t leave it.
Anyone you’d like to thank to finish this off?
Thanks to my parents, Steph, and all the homies for looking out, I love you all you guys.