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Gresham man returns to slopes after recovery from brain trauma

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: THE VITAL LIFE FOUNDATION - Bill McMahon, of Gresham, receives instruction on sit-skiing at Mt. Hood Meadows ski area on Monday., Feb. 22.Bill McMahon was not doing anything unusual when his life was forever changed.

He was carrying a box down some stairs in his Gresham home, lost his balance, fell down five stairs and knocked his head against the cement.

“To tell the truth, I remember nothing,” McMahon said. “I drove myself to the hospital. The garage was all bloody. I drove there and my wife immediately cursed at me (for driving myself) and ran there immediately.”

While initial brain scans found nothing wrong, McMahon’s wife, Miriam, noticed her husband seemed foggy in the days after the fall.

Then things went downhill. McMahon lost his ability to walk, then to speak and was rushed to the hospital. Once stable, he began long-term care at Marquis Centennial, a rehabilitation center at 725 S.E. 202nd Ave.

“I couldn’t talk. I was falling out of my wheelchair all of the time,” McMahon said. “My wife and daughter and sister were afraid I was going to croak, but I proved them wrong.”

About two months after the fall, his thinking became clearer and speech and movement followed.

“I’m telling myself I’m going to be able to walk,” McMahon said. “But the neurologist is doubtful I’ll be able to walk free and clear without the use of a device.”

In early March he’ll be released from Marquis Centennial after more than a six-month stay.

To send him off in style, staff at Marquis Centennial thought McMahon would be the perfect candidate for New Chapters events, which fulfills dreams for patients at the rehabilitation center.

McMahon had been an avid skier for 37 years, so the Marquis staff reached out to Mt. Hood Meadows, where McMahon preferred to ski.

“Mt. Hood Meadows was more than open hearted,” McMahon said, as they offered to pay for him, his family, and Marquis staff to have a day on the slopes.

So on Monday, Feb. 22, McMahon was strapped into a sit-ski and took nearly a dozen runs down the mountain with the help of a sit-ski instructor helping him control his speed and direction.

“I like the fresh air up there, the smells up there, the pine and Douglas Firs, and just the smell of the clean air and the incredible blue sky when you happen to hit a sunny day, which we did,” McMahon said, when asked why he choose skiing for his New Chapters event.

McMahon said he’s very excited to go home, and he plans to look into the cost of a sit-ski so he can spend more time on the mountain.

“Nothing’s going to stop me,” McMahon said. “As soon as I woke up I started progressing much quicker than I ever imagined. Skiing gives me peace inside, so it’s still there from when I was up there. It gave me some of my life back.”