Volume V Issue XXXVII


Erin Brady Worsham: Breathtaking Metamorphosis
  by Associated Press / Knox News


A Time For Every Purpose
  by Anne Voegtlin


A Dose of Strength
  by Jennifer Basye Sander


I Turned My Life Around
  by Shelly Sundholm


Dunk Not
  by Joseph Walker




Let's Become Fearless
  by Mark Reiman


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Seattle Washington USA


MUFFY DAVIS: Skiing Over a Mountain of Challenge

Muffy Davis began weekend ski lessons at the age of four and remembers spending most of her "ski time" drinking hot chocolate in the lodge. Hot chocolate must be very good for you because in just three years she found herself on the Sun Valley (Idaho) Ski Team and improving quickly into one of the brightest young skiers on the mountain. Two years later her family made the 70 mile move from Twin Falls to live full time in Sun Valley.

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Picabo Street (left) and Muffy Davis were good friends and each other’s toughest competition from their earliest days on the Sun Valley Ski Team

Muffy became an honor student at Wood River High School with a stated goal to win an Olympic gold medal. She also became good friends and the head-to-head competitor with a very talented classmate by the name of Picabo Street.

"Both of us always wanted to win real bad, each pushing the other to be our best," said Muffy from her Sun Valley home. "She is a year older than I am, and I always had to be 100% to beat her, and vice versa. I know I wouldn’t have been as good a skier without Picabo to compete against."

When Davis woke up Saturday morning, February 18th, 1989, she had no idea that a turning point in her life was only hours away. She had been named to the US Olympic development ski team, and training directly with the US Olympic ski team in Sun Valley. They were skiing a new downhill course early that morning and Muffy was the the third skier, and the first female, down the run. As Muffy blew down Bald Mountain at 55 mph the course made a sharp turn and simultaneously crossed a "cat" track (a machine used for grooming ski areas). Unable to hold her line in the rough snow, she hurtled off the course and hit two trees, one after the other. Davis hit the first tree with her back fracturing her spine and the second tree with her head, shattering her helmet. The helmet most surely saved her life.

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After hitting two trees, Muffy lies in the snow attended by the ski patrol.

She had broken her back at mid-chest level, T6-7, in spinal geography. Ski patrol got her off the mountain, then an ambulance took her to the hospital where her father, a radiologist, was the first to read her x-rays. "It was a serious compression fracture. You wake up from surgery and, you know, you try to wiggle your toes...you expect them to move and they don’t. That’s when it kind of hit me." She was paralyzed from the mid-chest down, complete paraplegia.

Within days Muffy was transferred to a rehabilitation hospital in Colorado for what would become a three month stay. Her mother sold her interest in a real estate office and moved to Colorado to stay with Muffy full-time, while her father visited on the weekends.

Muffy recounts her first days and weeks in rehab and trying to come to terms with her accident. "First, there was denial, then anger...at life, not at anyone in particular. Then came depression. I thought, ‘My life is over. I’m never going to ski race again...never have another boyfriend.’ I just wanted to die sometimes."


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An ambulance prepares to rush Muffy to the hospital.

Then, one night, Muffy had a revelation, a defining moment, that changed her life again, but in a very different way. It changed her spirit.

"One night I was having a lot of sadness, a lot of real anxiety about my accident. And then a dream...or vision...a Higher Power came to me. What I was told or what I understood was that this accident happened for a reason, and there was a lot to be learned and gained from my disability. And once I had learned and gained it all, I would walk again. Ever since that moment there has been this real sense of peace."

"When my mom came in the next morning I said to her, ‘I know you’re upset about this but I’m okay with it and you need to be, too. We’ll just take each day as it comes...no regrets...and we’ll learn all that we can from it.’ The accident basically renewed my relationship with God."

Muffy Davis was just 16 years old.

The small, close-knit communities of Sun Valley, Haley, and Ketchum, known collectively as the Wood River Valley, encircled Davis with its love and support. She sat in her hospital room on Easter Sunday and opened card after card, present after present, reminding her that, "... there was a hundred people to help me if I needed it." Several months after Davis returned home to Sun Valley she drove to the nearby grocery store to buy some food, also prepared to practice the labor intensive process of pulling her wheelchair out of the car and transferring herself from car to wheelchair.

"There were so many people asking me if I needed anything or if they could help," she recalls. "It was really hard to tell them that I needed to learn to do it for myself."

Then there was Gretchen Fraser, a role model and true inspiration to Davis. Fraser won the gold medal in the slalom at the 1948 St. Moritz Olympics, making her the first American, man or woman, to win an Olympic medal in alpine skiing. Even before the accident Fraser, a Sun Valley resident, had been sending her supportive notes and messages. Then, as Muffy began recuperating in Colorado, a package arrived from Fraser containing a gold, four leaf clover broche with three radiant sapphires in the middle. This spectcular gift had been given to to Fraser after her stunning Olympic victory by Averell Harriman, then president of the Union Pacific Railroad. To her knowledge only one other like it exists, owned by the late-Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

"She wanted me to have the same good luck, love, and support that she had enjoyed. She helped me realize that the power and value in things comes from giving to others. She shared not only the pin, but her life with me. Gretchen is the epitomy of a great person as well as a great athlete." After a short pause she added, "If I can touch just one person the way that Gretchen touched me in my life, it will have been successful."

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Ski racing was still in her blood when Davis graduated with honors from prestigious Stanford University in 1995.

Muffy Davis went on to become Wood River High School’s homecoming queen and eventually the Valedictorian of her graduating class. She entered Stanford University and graduated in 1995 with a 3.5 GPA and a degree in human biology, with an emphasis on the psycho-social aspects of disability. She was presented with the alumni association’s only award, the J.E. Wallace Sterling Award for service to the Stanford community.

But, even with so many incredible accomplishments and obstacles overcome, one important challenge still remained in Davis’ life: to ski-race again.

The adaptive skiing aparatus for paraplegics is called a mono-ski - a bucket seat mounted on a motorcycle shock absorber, then attached to a single ski. Outriggers, using the technololgy of forearm crutches, are attached to ski tips and used for balance. She had been told that her level of paralysis was so great that she probably would not be able to successfully operate a mono-ski. And certainly no one as severely injured as she had ever raced successfully. That was all Muffy Davis, whose skiing nickname is "Guns" for her powerful biceps developed from years of weight training, needed to hear for adequate motivation.

"The same mountain that at one time had been my freedom, my release, now was my challenge - a huge obstacle. On [Bald] Mountain my life had been changed forever. My goal wasn’t really to race, but just to have the mountain (back) to express freedom and emotional release again."

The turning point came the day that Davis drove her truck alone to the ski area parking lot, got the mono-ski out all by herself, and proceeded to ski all day.

"That day I knew I had come full circle. The mountain that had started out being my freedom had become a great obstacle...and now it was my freedom again." She continued, "Life isn’t fair. Everyone encounters pain. But I truly believe that we are strong enough to handle everything that comes to us....but support is crucial and you have to give yourself time to heal."

"I don’t know if I would have discovered (this) level of happiness...if I hadn’t been challenged to discover what is really important by experiencing my disability."

1998 was Muffy’s third season disabled ski racing and her first on the US Disabled Ski Team, and was highlighted by winning the bronze medal in the super giant slalom at the Paralympics in Nagano, Japan. In 1999 she won three gold medals at the World Cup Finals and was honored by the Paralyzed Veterans of America with their Outstanding Skier Award for her skiing accomplishments and her outstanding public service. She finished the ‘99 season with two gold medals and a silver at the Canadian Disabled Nationals in Banff, Alberta and is currently in training for the 2002 Paralympics, which will take place side-by-side with the Winter Olympics, by competing in this year’s World Cup races in the U.S. and Europe.

Davis takes both an optimistic and a philosophical view of the current advances in spinal cord research. She is encouraged by the exciting developments that could help her walk again one day.

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Muffy Davis is preparing for the 2002 Paralympics. Her chances for a medal are good if her current World Cup gold medal success is any indication.

"But I don’t live for that day. I live for today...with hope that maybe that day will come, but enjoying and appreciating each day that I have. If a cure is found, that’s great! But if I live the rest of my life in a wheelchair, I’ll have no regrets. My life is full and I love who I am and what I’m doing. That’s what I focus on."

"You know," Davis concludes, "life never goes exactly the way we plan it. But if you’re flexible and willing to roll with the punches, you can accomplish whatever you set your mind to...if you give yourself enough time and are willing to work hard enough."

When Muffy Davis was just 15 years old, she was asked in a school assignment to briefly describe the essence of who she was. With prophetic wisdom beyond her years she wrote, "I am about success through determination. I am here to live the best I can and through that, lead others into the best they can be."


You can watch and listen to a recent interview with Muffy. Just click here: http://www.entertainmentstudios.com/everywoman/index.asp?ID=1486

or email her directly at: muffy@micron.net



mark.gif (4144 bytes)Mark Reiman
is co-founder and editor-in-chief of Incredible People Magazine.  You can e-mail him at Mark@IncrediblePeople.com


Hope      Courage     Determination      Compassion
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