Hey there, Fellow Sojourner!
I can’t tell you how pumped I am that we get to talk about Sam Kavanagh’s episode again! In fact, he and I got to talking for so long the first time that we actually ended up extending his story into two episodes, so check out both Part One of Sam’s story in Episode 68, as well as Part Two of the story in Episode 69.
You’ll understand why we got to talking for so long when you hear all the elements in Sam’s story. While Sam and some of his friends were on a back-country ski trip in Montana, an avalanche struck. They had practiced avalanche response drills, so Sam tried to actively respond to the traumatic situation. He was only concerned about finding his missing best friend, who was somewhere stuck under the snow.
But as Sam started to try to search along with his other buddies, he realized that the bone in his leg was sticking out of his pants. He was losing too much blood, far too quickly, and they were days out from any kind of civilization or aide. Amidst his own trauma, the friends found Sam’s best friend, who had died in the avalanche. Reeling from unimaginable grief and from the fact that he could also die soon, Sam nearly gave up.
His friends did the best they could to staunch his blood flow, but it was still hours before a chopper could land and evacuate Sam out of the snow. In the middle of the waiting, Sam knew that if he closed his eyes and succumbed to sleep, he was never going to wake up. It was as if God was asking him what he was going to choose to do with his life. If he opened his eyes, he was going to have a massive journey ahead of him: a grueling physical recovery, the grief of losing his best friend, and all kinds of unforeseen obstacles. But if he closed his eyes, he was going to leave behind his wife and kids and a life to which he wasn’t sure he had given his all.
Obviously, he chose to open his eyes. But his mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual recovery were every bit as grueling as he anticipated. After multiple surgeries, Sam made the decision to allow doctors to amputate his left leg. He fell into a season of pitying himself, both for losing his friend as well as losing a part of his body that would prevent him from ever doing life the way he used to.
But one day his wife decided he needed to get back up on the bike, quite literally. She challenged Sam to get on the stationary bike trainer and just see what he could do. That day he only pedaled a few rotations. But that moment changed him forever. Sam ended up more than returning to biking and outdoor adventures; he ended up becoming a US Paralympian.
Listen in on this conversation to relate to Sam in his pain and to be inspired to face your own challenges head-on, like he did. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts about this one! A few months after the episode, I even got to meet up with Sam for coffee in Kalispell, Montana – a rare treat to be able to meet my podcast guests in person!
Listen to learn more about:
· What Sam learned from losing his best friend and nearly losing his own life.
· What the stages of trauma and grief looked like for Sam as he tried to piece his life back together.
· How a near-death experience forever changed the way Sam looks at the world and how he lives.
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Favorite Quotes from the episode:
o “You’re not going to overcome your pain because ‘Sam overcame his pain.’ You’re going to overcome your pain when you understand that your pain is real, it’s pain that needs to be embraced, pain that needs to be felt emotionally and physically, it’s pain that needs to be lifted up to God, and it’s pain that will probably take time [to heal].”
o “God talks about perseverance and patience. I think the pain, whether it’s mental, physical, or emotional, it takes time. But one thing you can do for yourself is really aspire to recognize those baby steps.
Links from our conversation:
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