Orem Man Suffers Traumatic Brain Injury in Park City Snowboarding Accident
On February 27, 30-year-old Orem resident Casey Fehlberg and a few of his friends suited up for a day of snowboarding in Park City, home to the largest ski resort in the United States. But what should have been a fun day on the slopes turned into a medical nightmare for the Fehlberg family after Casey suffered a near-fatal brain injury. Today, Casey is making a steady recovery, but progress isn’t easily won. Utah snowboarding accident lawyer Darwin Overson examines what went wrong to nearly claim Fehlberg’s life.
Utah Snowboarder Recovering from Head Injury After Emerging from Coma
“All of his nieces and nephews, and he has many, call him ‘Funcle Casey’ because he’s their fun uncle,” Casey’s father, Rondo Fehlberg, told reporters from KSL News in November. “He’s always the one having the most fun at every family gathering, the one doing the stuff that nobody else can do. That’s likely to change,” Fehlberg said, sitting beside the son who once performed as BYU’s mascot, Cosmo the Cougar.
In February, Casey and a few of his friends were snowboarding in Park City when disaster struck for the Fehlberg family, altering their lives forever. Casey, a passionate snowboarding enthusiast, decided to take the first jump after going through a few practice warm-ups.
“They had taken these jumps a couple of times, he could go higher, further, do more than anyone else. Of course he did,” said Rondo Fehlberg, “but this time it didn’t work out.”
Instead of landing on his board, Casey hit the ground face-first. The impact caused devastating damage to his brain.
“He had his helmet on,” Rondo Fehlberg explained, “but the helmet didn’t really help because he took a toe-side edge and went right face-down on the side of his face and his cheek.”
Snowboarding Accidents Can Cause Traumatic Brain Injuries, Even with Helmets
The brain can be damaged by internal problems, such as disease and infection. When damage is caused by external forces, like a physical blow against a hard surface, it’s called a traumatic injury.
“It’s kind of like Shaken Baby Syndrome,” said Casey’s mother, Mary Fehlberg. “His brain had ricocheted inside of his skull, and so they call it a severe traumatic brain injury, not just a traumatic brain injury.”
Fehlberg spent the better part of the next three weeks in a coma at University of Utah Hospital while his loved ones agonized over his future.
“Would Casey want to be here living this life, or would he want to pass on?” wondered his sister, Haylie Swenson. “Just even having that conversation was, it’s every parent’s nightmare, every sibling’s nightmare.”
Needless to say, Casey’s friends and family were overjoyed when, several weeks later, he emerged from his coma. But his ordeal made a profound impact on his physical abilities.
“Bring your arms up,” says a voice, possibly Rondo’s, in a video that shows Casey still connected to IV lines as he lies in his hospital bed. The footage then shows him slowly lifting one arm, his hand limp. “That’s the way,” the voice says.
More footage shows Casey going through an exercise with his doctors. They help to support his arms and back as he kneels on the grass, pushing himself up from the ground.
“This is a huge victory today,” the voice behind the camera says, “that they’ve got him kneeling.”
Ultimately, Casey spent a total of four months recovering in the hospital. Now 31, he continues to undergo physical therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy, which helps people develop or recover the skills needed for daily life. It’s been a difficult journey, but Casey isn’t ready to quit.
“I try hard. I didn’t like to try unless it was hard,” he told reporters in November. The injury damaged Casey’s ability to control the muscles used for speech, so his words are difficult to interpret.
The extent to which Casey will recover is currently uncertain. Doctors have said he may someday be able to achieve total independence, but for now, he is living with his family. Together, they are taking each day as it comes.
“[M]y thought this year,” said Mary Fehlberg, “is to send out Thanksgiving cards instead of Christmas cards. We have so very much to be grateful for.”
Contact a Park City Snowboarding Accident Lawyer
Casey’s resilience and determination are inspiring, and we sincerely hope he will make the fullest recovery possible. Yet his story reminds us all that snowboarding can be extremely dangerous, even for experienced snowboarders who are wearing their helmets.
Please be extremely cautious when you visit Utah’s slopes this winter, and know that if you or a loved one gets injured, you can turn to Overson & Sheen for help. Park City snowboarding injury lawyer Darwin Overson has over 33 years of experience handling personal injury claims, and can fight to help you get compensated if your injuries occurred due to negligence on the part of a ski instructor, ski lift operator, or other ski resort employee.
To speak with Darwin Overson in a free and confidential legal consultation, call the law offices of Overson & Sheen at (801) 895-3143.