More from The Q&A: Chip Heuser
When I heard about the injury that Oklahoma pole vaulter Chip Heuser suffered last fall, I knew he needed to be a subject in The Q&A.
He did more than survive.
He lived to jump another day.
Here is The Q&A with Heuser in its entirety:
Jenni Carlson: I always knew pole vaulters were a little crazy, but when I heard about your injury, that crystallized it for me.
Chip Heuser: Funny thing about it, it was actually Halloween.
JC: No trick, no treat.
CH: Definitely not. I tricked myself into this one. We were doing a drill. It was a drill simulating the vault in the air called rope vaulting. The set-up we have requires an extra mat behind the pit itself just in case you carry too much momentum and overshoot the pit. So, of course, you probably know what I did. Forgot the mat. Overshot the pit. Landed from about 16 feet in the air directly on my skull. Fractured my occipital bone, had a contrecoup injury, damage to my poles. Was in the ICU about seven days, was released, then had a seizure and was put back in the ICU for another three days.
JC: Oh, geez.
CH: I had some hemorrhaging … but luckily, they didn’t have to operate. If they would’ve operated, I would not be vaulting. I’m forced to wear a helmet now when I jump, but it doesn’t keep me from wanting to jump again.
JC: You spout all those injuries off like you’ve heard the terminology a bunch.
CH: Well, I’m pre-med and my father’s a surgeon. But I had to learn a lot about my injury. I wanted to know what was going on inside my head.
JC: So, were you working with other guys the day of the injury?
CH: I was showing the freshmen how to do the drill. Being a senior, I’ve done it many times before. Just bad timing on my part, I guess.
JC: For you, then, this was just a normal day.
CH: We do crazy, crazy drills. You always come up with schemes to try to better yourself technically.
JC: What does that particular drill work on?
CH: Technique in the air. How you go up the pole and release, go over the bar, that kind of thing.
JC: Falling from 16 feet, that’s a long time to drop. Did you realize what was happening?
CH: Whenever I actually pole vault — run down the runway, plant the pole, swing up — I can always tell when I’m not going to land correctly. In this instance, I don’t remember much. I remember letting go of the rope, and that’s about it. I woke up about seven days later.
JC: After you were released from the hospital, you had a seizure?
CH: I was in the ICU seven days, released, then the next morning after the release, I suffered the seizure and went right back in the hospital. It was bad.
JC: It’s a miracle you’re here.
CH: They lose me once right after the initial impact. Then they lost me twice after the seizure in the ambulance.
JC: You essentially died three times. How do you even process something like that?
CH: The funny thing about it is I don’t recall much. To me, it’s not really …
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