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Guest Article: Karl Moritz tells his story; from crash to recovery

Posted by on May 31st, 2011 at 11:33 am

Publisher’s note: Back in July 2010, southeast Portland resident Karl Moritz suffered a harrowing crash while riding through Ladd’s Addition. It remains unclear what happened in the seconds before Karl collided head-on with a car traveling in the opposition direction; but what is clear is that the crash changed his life forever. Karl sustained many severe injuries and was in a coma for three weeks.

Many people have written to us wondering what happened to Karl. We’ve kept in touch with his wife Staci, who tells us that his recovery is, “coming along well.” “The support we felt from the biking community last summer was truly amazing,” she wrote via email a few days ago. Staci also wanted to share Karl’s story, written by Karl himself. “Writing the update for your blog was important to his recovery, emotionally and psychologically,” Staci wrote us, “He worked really hard on it.”

Read Karl’s story below…

Karl Moritz
(Photos: Moritz Family)
    Hi, BikePortland.org.
    Some of you may remember me from last summer. My story was carried in this blog, as well as on the evening news. On June 29, 2010, I was bike-commuting home from Beaverton to Hawthorne when, while riding through Ladd’s Addition, I was hit head-on by a car and dragged underneath for thirty feet. I sustained severe injuries, lost consciousness at the scene and was not expected to live. Survive I did, and I am delighted to have this opportunity to write a bit about the events of that day and my journey to recovery.

    I would first like to thank my wife, Staci, and our three boys. Words cannot express my happiness to still be here with them. The accident obviously affected me, but also affected my family dynamics. My three boys do not have their ‘Papa’ in the same capacity as before and the effects of my accident have reverberated throughout my relationships. We are repairing what was lost with lots of love, dedication and hard work. I would also like to thank my extended family and all the people who have helped my family and me throughout this horrific experience, including the emergency response team, police, doctors, nurses, therapists, Nike (my employer), friends and kind strangers. Thank you to all of my visitors. It means so much to me to have friends like you.

    “When I finally awoke from the coma and was able to speak, I remember asking “Why am I in the hospital”? My Nurse told me I was in a bicycle accident. I could not believe it.”

    I would like to give you a little history on my bike riding experience. For the past fifteen years I have been commuting to and from work at an average of thirty to fifty miles every day, pending route. I also try to fit into my schedule as many area century rides as I can. This accident was the first accident I have EVER been involved in. I practice safe bicycle riding. I always wear my helmet, bike shoes (worn at correct tension) and appropriate clothes. My bike has front and rear safety lights. My helmet has a ‘bike type’ rear view mirror. After each and every ride, I review all aspects of my bike for correct safety and make adjustments as needed. If my bike is not in top riding condition, I will not ride it! I have a neighbor who owns a bike shop. If I ever have a question, he is always happy to advise and help.

    Staci and Karl Moritz

    The only witness to the accident was the driver himself who, according to the police report, was a male in his early twenties. He stated that I was headed south on SE Ladd Ave., when my bike jerked and turned to the left and I fell off. At this time, I can neither confirm nor deny this accounting of events. Down on the street, I started to sit up when the driver apparently did not have time to stop or to turn out of the way. There were no other moving cars in either direction and I was by myself and not passing another bicyclist. At impact (approx. 20-25 mph) my helmet and shoes were knocked off my body. I truly believe that my helmet saved my life. So, if you ride a bike, wear your helmet! The car drove over me and dragged me underneath for 30 feet. After stopping, the driver got out and went back to his car to check on me, then called 911. I am sure he was horrified at my condition.

    “Though many of my injuries have healed, there are others that may not. I will never be the same… I can’t complain. I can’t wait to get back to work and on my bike! I have many miles to catch up on!

    I was then taken to OHSU hospital in an unresponsive state. I was comatose for 3 weeks with 6 fractures to my spine, 2 factures to skull, 3 fractures to my right Leg and I had 13 titanium screens to hold my pelvis together. My wife was told to prepare herself for my death. How would she raise three little boys under the age of seven alone?

    When I finally awoke from the coma and was able to speak, I remember asking “Why am I in the hospital”? My Nurse told me I was in a bicycle accident. I could not believe it; I thought that I always rode so safely. My closest friends from college days, Dorian, John and Brian came out to see me. Dorian is also an avid bicyclist and he picked up my bike from the Police station and told me that my bike was in excellent condition. The Police investigation of ‘the bike’, found no fault in the bike and its working components. The Chain did not come off, the tires had correct air pressure, the wheels were true, brake pads with correct braking surface area and the front fork and steering with correct tension (no play).

    I was in three different Hospitals over three months, I had to get around in a wheelchair until doctors approved that my spine had healed enough for me stand up and bear weight. Following a final CT of my spine, I was approved to walk with the use of a cane, three weeks prior to my release. My therapist helped me to re-learn how to walk and climb stars with a cain. Now I am walking four to five sets of three neighborhood blocks at a time, every day, without a cane. I have full mobility with no pain. It’s true, if you don’t use a muscle they will get weak. I am trying to get back my overall strength by doing as much as possible as I can to get back to the fit person as I was prior. I am still working with a speech therapist, as re-learning how to speak has been the most difficult part of my therapy. It’s been a long ‘road’ back to recovery, just taking every day as it comes and I thought that recovery would happen a lot faster. Though many of my injuries have healed, there are others that may not. I will never be the same. However, considering the extent and severity of my injuries, I can’t complain. I can’t wait to get back to work and on my bike! I have many miles to catch up on!

    And I will!!!

    Sincerely,

    Karl “Kajomo” Moritz

Thanks for sharing your experience with us Karl. We are all pulling for your recovery.

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Comments
  • jeff May 31, 2011 at 11:52 am

    Karl, thought about you the other day while rolling through Ladd’s addition. We have not met, but please know your accident changed some of my individual past riding behaviour. I”m much more cautious around oncoming traffic. Keep up on the strong rehab.

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    • A.K. May 31, 2011 at 12:41 pm

      I ride through Ladd’s on almost every bike ride, and I often think of this crash as well, even though I too have never met Karl. It’s amazing how little separates a “safe ride” from a ride with a crash, and things can change in an instant.

      I’m very glad to hear Karl is recovering well, it certainly could have turned out much worse!

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  • 9watts May 31, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    Thank you Jonathan and thank you Karl for the update. Wow.
    Karl, I’m glad you have recovered so much already, and wish you continued rapid progress.
    I also particularly appreciated your attention to describing your riding habits and the condition of your bike as found after the accident. There was lots of speculation here and probably on other forums about what might have/must have gone wrong with the bike. Curious indeed.

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  • 9watts May 31, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    I look forward to a future without cars.

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  • Caroline May 31, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    Karl, this update is so wonderful to hear, and so inspirational. Best of luck to you.

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  • SilkySlim May 31, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    Great to hear from you Karl. Our neighborhood isn’t the same with out you.

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    • Karl August 2, 2011 at 5:16 pm

      Hi, Thank you for all your post. I truly miss my house and the neighbourhood, please say Hi to all. I dropped by to say thank you,bot no one home at the time.
      Cheers, Karl

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  • Elliot May 31, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    I too think of Karl whenever I ride through Ladd’s since hearing about this last year.

    This is an amazing story… thank you Karl, and your family for sharing it with us. The courage and determination of you, Staci and your sons since the crash is awe-inspiring. I hope your recovery continues to go well.

    Thanks Johnathan for passing this on.

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  • wsbob May 31, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    Karl Moritz story is a great, inspiring example of ‘rolling with the punches’. Quite the model too, for those of us aspiring to be safe riding, regulation abiding people on bikes in traffic.

    The mystery of how he actually came to fall from his bike to the ground is hard not to think about. A rock in the road? Some kind of seizure?

    It’s just very hard to conceive what would bring a not intoxicated, safe riding cyclist on a well tuned bike suddenly to jerk their bike one direction or the other at 20-25mph to fall off the bike. Commendable that Moritz is willing to give the driver of the motor vehicle the benefit of doubt.

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  • peoples republic May 31, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    Karl,

    It’s great to hear of your amazing recovery. Many blessings to you and your family! I hope you are able to ride again very soon.

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  • rootbeerguy May 31, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    i was wondering how you were doing. that is a good to know you have made good progress.

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  • Mark Hashizume May 31, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    I believe that Karl is the “everyman” bicyclist for he could be any of us who are riding out there. Jonathan, thanks for giving Karl an opportunity to share his update. Karl, continued good healing.

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  • Rebecca May 31, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    Karl,
    I truly admire how you’ve chosen to focus on your recovery and moving forward instead of dwelling on the crash and all its difficult repercussions. With your inspiring attitude and the strength of your family and friends around you, I am we will be welcoming you back to the bike boulevards soon. Wishing you all the best.

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  • commuter May 31, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    I am an avid cyclist and use this route on all my bike rides and it is probably one of the few spots that I feel safest during my rides…its is really scary to read about a cyclist with so much riding experience having such a tragic accident. At the same time I cannot believe that the driver wasn’t able to stop sooner. Do we know anything about the time of day or if the driver was distracted? I will now probably not try to pass other cyclists when a car is heading the opposite direction.

    Karl,
    Thanks for sharing with us. I wish you the best and speedy recovery.

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    • wsbob May 31, 2011 at 1:32 pm

      Not that you’re suggesting he was passing, but Moritz says in his story:

      “… There were no other moving cars in either direction and I was by myself and not passing another bicyclist. …”

      It’s hard to tell what exactly happened from Karl’s story alone and what he relates from words of the person driving the car. One way I’m reading it, is that according to the person driving the car, Moritz just fell to the ground off the bike. The car then impacted Moritz and proceeded to roll over and drag him.

      The person driving the car appears to be maintaining that the car did not knock Moritz off the bike. In the absence of info suggesting otherwise, Moritz is graciously resigned to accept that conclusion.

      What’s done is done. Pays to be wary though, even on what would otherwise appear to a very safe to negotiate quiet neighborhood street grid.

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  • 9watts May 31, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    “The person driving the car appears to be maintaining that the car did not knock Moritz off the bike. ”
    Since the bike was deemed to be in perfect condition that must be at least partially true, even without any witnesses.

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  • Bumpy topped May 31, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    I also think of Karl every day when I ride on this portion of SE Ladd.

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  • Kasandra Griffin May 31, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    I am *so* glad to hear that Karl is ok and getting better! The accident made a big impression on me when it happened, and reading this story of his slow but determined recovery brought tears to my eyes.

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  • Joe May 31, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    Karl thanks for sharing with us, I know you will be back on the bike soon. heal fast. enjoy life man..
    Your story choked me and I ride for you..
    peace,
    Joe

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  • skip May 31, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    What a great surprise, seeing this. I’ve often wondered how Karl Moritz (and his family) were doing. Thanks so much for updating. It always seems really slow and long to the person recovering, especially when the brain’s been hurt, but I’m amazed to hear about pain-free walks already. Really great news.

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  • Joe Rowe May 31, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    Hi Karl. I am so glad you are with us. Your story has brought tears to my eyes. Happy and sad. Thank you for sharing your joy and pain. Hello Staci and sons too!

    How can the bike community help you? Is your USBank fund still open? Do you have paypal?

    On another note….Have the police pulled the cell phone records of this guy? Did they do a blood test on the guy?

    A drunk driver smashed me and my bike when I was 10. I had a helmet and was thrown to the side. I can only imagine his story if he was the only witness. My witness chased the guy down, it was a hit and run.

    Just recently a family member was murdered in his own home near Seattle. The alleged murderer lived in Portland and had his cell phone on, which tracked his whole trip like a GPS.

    I’d also like to know who spread all the bogus information at the time of your crash? Broken chain, no driver fault, passing the group of riders? Jonathan reported this, but did not state his sources. I doubt Jonathan started these blame the bike rumors.

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  • Andrew May 31, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    Like many other commenters, I was actually thinking about you while riding just yesterday. I hope you’ve got the card we sent after the crash. Be well, and I hope you’ll be back in the saddle soon!

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  • cyclist May 31, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    The Police investigation of ‘the bike’, found no fault in the bike and its working components. The Chain did not come off, the tires had correct air pressure, the wheels were true, brake pads with correct braking surface area and the front fork and steering with correct tension (no play).

    This bears repeating because a lot of you seem to be implying that the driver was at fault. The bike was undamaged, so the likelihood that the driver knocked Karl off of his bike is near 0.

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    • 9watts May 31, 2011 at 5:21 pm

      Well, it does seem clear that the driver didn’t knock Karl off the bike–I don’t know that anyone accused him of this. But what is less clear to me is why, if Karl had time enough to fall off (& clear of) his bike and sit up before being run into/over, perhaps the driver was going faster/paying less attention than should have been the case. Fault is a complicated thing and maybe, following Karl’s lead, not the most important thing to focus on at this stage, tempting though it may be.
      As we’ve had ample opportunity to witness here, driving in a car can–in and of itself–precipitate all sorts of carnage, even if no fault is found. Remember Reese Wilson and the woman who ran him over? I think everyone agrees that Reese wasn’t doing anything wrong.
      We know that the precautionary principle and the automobile-under-power don’t run in the same crowds.

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    • John Lascurettes May 31, 2011 at 11:59 pm

      Karl didn’t implied a single thing other than statements of facts. He also clearly stated that he doesn’t know why he was off his bike and hit by the car nor who was at fault. Any implication of driver fault was of your own imagination, Cyclist.

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    • wsbob June 1, 2011 at 12:45 am

      Mysterious collisions like this one, where a person on a bike is said to have just happenened to jerk their bike as a car approached a car, causing the rider to fall off the bike into the path of the car…are inevitably going to raise some questions about whether the person driving the car may have done something that would have caused the person riding the bike to fall down.

      Especially when the account of how the collision happened, is the driver’s alone.

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  • rider May 31, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    Hi Karl,
    Glad to hear you’re doing so well given the severity of your injuries. Keep up the fight as we’re all looking forward to seeing you back on the road.

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  • Joe Rowe May 31, 2011 at 9:57 pm

    Did the bike avoid severe damage? If yes, that proves nothing about blame on the cyclist or driver.

    I’m talking about propaganda damage. Who fed the media all the rumors? These rumors pushed the “story” that the cyclist or bike was to blame, and the car driver was not to blame.

    Yes, the driver is innocent until proven guilty. That does not mean the cops show up and drop the ball. I feel the ball was dropped here. Why?
    A) The cops published the driver’s word as if it was the true story.
    B) The media somehow published false facts that Karl had a broken chain and was passing cyclists.

    It should be standard procedure to collect blood, urine and cell phone records in any injury crash where there is no independent witness.

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  • Ellen May 31, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    Please fix typo in letter, cain>cane. Thanks! Karl’s story is a fascinating one.. Comas from sports injuries rarely have such an outcome. I’m really glad that Karl will be able to ride again. The tragedy is tinged with triumph.

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  • noah May 31, 2011 at 11:01 pm

    This story made me think of Karl Hugo. Anyone know how he’s doing?

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  • RRRoubaix June 1, 2011 at 7:02 am

    Very inspiring, Karl- keep up the great work and we’ll look forward to hearing from you as you get back on your bike!!

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  • Paolo June 1, 2011 at 9:36 am

    The story as told by you is nothing short of amazing, there is, however, one part that is truly off the chart – your demeanor & mindset. Very inspiring, I’m sure your kids have probably bumped you up to “super papa” status…. Stay strong my friend.

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  • Eileen "Lanie" June 1, 2011 at 9:45 am

    Thank you, Karl, for forwarding me this article. Your journey this past year has touched so many people, you truly are such an inspiration. I can’t wait until you get back to doing what you love :)

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  • commuter June 1, 2011 at 11:48 am

    As I was riding through Ladds this morning, I kept on thinking about Karl and his accident. In the 13yrs or so I’ve commuted through this way, I’ve never had an issue with road hazards on this stretch but a few came to mind.
    First off, in the dark winter months, this section can get kinda sketchy mainly because it is poorly lit even with really bright halogen lights which I use. I’m not even sure if the street is lit and if it is most of it is blocked by those wonderful trees. There can be a lot of debris, branches, wet leaves from the surrounding trees. As we all know, wet leaves can be extremely dangerous, your bike can literally fall over if you hit them at the right angle. Black ice is another hazard that comes to mind and is impossible to spot in the dark.
    Secondly, I noticed the road reflectors installed on the yellow lines before and after the pseudo roundabouts. These can also be extremely dangerous when hit from the wrong angle and in wet conditions. I’ve accidentally veered into them once while adjusting something and had to counter steer to avoid crashing.
    Anyway, I’m not trying to come up with the explanation for what happened but rather trying to think it through mainly for my own sanity. For all I know Karl was riding in broad daylight in the summer.

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  • David Guettler June 1, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    Karl, I was riding maybe 10 seconds behind you on that day. While I was pretty caught up in my own day with its own problems, I wasn’t paying too much attention to you, until I heard the sounds of the crash. I did see you go under the car, and was so horrified that my mind played tricks on me for a few days afterwards, I still am not sure of what I saw. Unfortunately, I was not much help in trying to reconstruct what happened.
    But so happy to hear about your recovery.

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    • Karl June 6, 2011 at 2:18 pm

      Hi David, Thank you for your post,thoughts & concerns. I would like to talk to you at sometime? I am sorry you witnessed the accident! Let me know if you are available to connect via phone or email?
      Ride safe, “Kajomo’

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  • Steve B June 1, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Karl, you are an inspiration to many of us. Thank you for sharing your heart-wrenching story. Your recovery is a reminder for me to stop worrying about small hardships and be grateful for every day on this earth. Godspeed in your recovery!

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  • Dan Hawk June 1, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    Karl, I also ride through that same stretch twice a day and think of you often. I am so glad to hear that you are alive and recovering well. I also have three children under 7 and your story is a good reminder for me to value life and to be safe as best as I can every time I’m riding.

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  • Steve Holmberg June 1, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    Karl,

    My thoughts have been with you and am incredilby impressed by your recovery.

    We miss you here at work.

    All my best,
    Steve

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  • Mom and Dad June 1, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    Dear Karl, Your amazing story has been so vivid to all of us as we have relived every moment over again. All of us are so thankful and greatful that you are making great strides every day and know in our hearts that all will be well. Love and the very best always. Mom and Dad

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  • Carol Carpenter June 2, 2011 at 5:45 am

    Karl, I don’t know if you remember me from ECGlass or not, but thanks to Facebook, I’ve been following your progress and praying for your recovery. You are an amazing person and your strength is obvious. There are lots of folks cheering you on. My best wishes to you and your wonderful family.

    Carol

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  • Brian Stewart June 2, 2011 at 10:41 am

    Karl,

    I’m proud, impressed and thankful for the steady progress you’re making, and the positive outlook you maintain. Bouncing back from such a horrific accident will continue to take time. You are indeed courageous my brother! I’m also moved by the support you have in the cycling community out there. (Keep it up people!) I’ll holler at you soon. Love you man. ~Brian

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  • Mary Morrissey June 2, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    Karl, I’ll say this again……….You ARE the perfect example of human strength, human spirit and human will to survive. Reading this article bring tears again – but I’ll take these tears of JOY anytime.
    Love ya more………….

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  • Scott Atwood June 5, 2011 at 9:33 am

    Hi Karl. My life is very changed by your accident. It has honestly made me pause and enjoy many moments that may have otherwise passed me by. When my child asks me if I have time to play ball .. the answer is Yes more often than not — because of my appreciation for what is here now…at this very moment…is to be cherished. Truth be told – you are a friend of mine (not just a fellow biker) and I know and love your wife and children….so Obviously your recovery means more to me (and my family) than the casual biker that reads this blog….but I think from the comments I have read thus far it is obvious that your accident (and the light that it shines directly on the fact that it could have been anyone of us that day) has somehow been a strange gift to many others. BUT HOLD ON !!!
    This article is about your Recovery !! Congratulations to you and your lovely family ! We are celebrating today … and what a beautiful day it is. Keep up the hard work, buddy. When June 29th rolls around in a few weeks — believe me, it will be a day to CELEBRATE your amazing recovery and hopefully laugh a bit at the worries we all had for you one year ago. We love you guys!
    ~(Scott, Katie and Walter)

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  • Barbara Davis June 7, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    Karl I am so happy you are recovering. Take care of yourself. I am so proud of you.

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  • CW Teh June 11, 2011 at 7:48 am

    Hi Karl,
    we are so glad to hear your speedy recovery.
    we miss you alot and enjoy working with you …..
    hope to see you soon again ….

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  • Craig Babcock June 20, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    Hey Karl,
    So glad to see you the other day! I was amazed by how much you’ve recovered since the accident – we’ll be tossing back pints at the 9# hammer before you know it.

    Cheers!

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  • Joe Simmons June 23, 2011 at 11:45 am

    Karl,
    You are truly amazing and inspirational. There not words enough to express my sorrow and grief about this ‘event’ – nor can I adequately express my joy and thankfulness that you are making such great progress in recovery. I am honored to know you. We are all cheering you on and celebrating your progress. You are the strongest, toughest, kindest, and wisest Human I know. God’s grace and wisdom is with you.

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  • Dorian Tranks June 24, 2011 at 9:07 am

    It is really hard to write this comment without crying all over again. It makes me sad to read that you do not think you will ever be the same. Yet, I know that this is a reality. But the fact remains that you are with us; that you will continue to be a very important person in my life as well as your family and friends; and that your healing, emotionally and physically, continues. Your survival and recovery has been one of the most important events in my life. You have made such a huge impact on me, before and since your accident. I am so grateful to still have you. June 29th will be a special day for all of us as we will celebrate your survival. I love you very, very much brother.

    Dorian (Cheba)

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