Live life for what it’s worth’

By By Ana Breton

By Ana Breton

Dale Lund has told the same story so many times, he said, that he no longer cries.

It’s the one about how his son’s life changed forever during what was supposed to be a celebratory outing.

“It’s just hard to compare it to anything else?there was so much sadness and anxiety and uncertainty that day,” said Lund, U professor of gerontology and sociology.

He talked about that day-Sept. 30-calmly and with a soft, reflective tone-one that he has used time and time again to explain what happened.

His son, 28-year-old Matt Lund, drove with several of his best buddies to a friend’s wedding at a remote ranch in rural Wyoming. Because the ceremony was a two-day affair, Matt Lund and his friends stayed overnight at a ranch house 20 miles from Lander, the closest town.

Although Matt Lund, who was working on his doctoral degree in economics at the U, was miles away from where he lived, he felt like he was right at home in the open range.

An avid outdoorsman, Matt Lund finished high school early so he and two of his closest friends could rock climb through Europe for five months.

Searching for the highest climb, the trio propelled through France and then scaled two of Germany’s most dangerous mountains: Stone Love and Ghetto Blaster.

After their adventures in Europe, it was only natural during the friends’ trip to Wyoming for them to trade in their suits for shorts and head outdoors.

The group of friends found a pond near the ranch and decided to take a dip.

Dale Lund does not remember whether his son was the first or last to dive into the water-few of the friends wanted to talk about it-but after Matt Lund dove, he did not come out from the water the same person. At least not physically.

When he dove into the water, Matt Lund hit his head on rocks, resulting in what doctors call a C-7, a spinal injury that paralyzed him from the chest down.

At first, his friends thought Matt was joking, but when they realized that he was in danger, they rushed to rescue him.

“I’m convinced that if he would’ve gone down one more time, he wouldn’t have come back up,” Dale Lund said.

But getting Matt Lund the medical help he desperately needed was not easy.

One of the party called an ambulance, but it was unable to reach Matt Lund because the ranch could only be accessed by four-wheelers.

So Matt Lund’s friends decided to do something about it themselves.

They carefully taped him to the top of a banquet table from the wedding and, with the help of several friends who stabilized him on the homemade gurney, transported Matt Lund in a truck.

Until they were able to reach the Lander hospital, Dale Lund said his son was conscious and “remained in good spirits, joking with his friends to reduce shock and to keep them from being paranoid.”

When they reached the hospital, the Lander staff realized Matt Lund’s injuries were too severe for the small hospital to handle. All the AirMed helicopters at University Hospital were occupied, so Matt Lund waited until a small plane was located, which eventually flew him into Utah, close enough for an ambulance to drive him to University Hospital.

Throughout the eight-hour ordeal, Matt Lund’s family was in agony, waiting to hear again from his sister-in-law, who was present at the time of the accident and remained with him the entire time.

Matt Lund’s wife of three years, Brooke Lund, started driving to Wyoming when she was first notified of the accident, but two hours in, she drove back after she was told he was being flown back to Utah.

From 2 a.m. to 7 a.m., the Lund family waited, drinking coffee to stay awake.

“It’s hard to compare it to anything else,” Dale Lund said. “We didn’t know if it was permanent, or if something was going to happen to the plane or even when it was going to be over.”

Two months and two surgeries later, Matt Lund is undergoing three types of therapy to help him regain strength and sensation so that, in the future, he can partake in everyday activities like writing and dressing himself.

Visiting the Union last month was hard for Dale Lund, who accompanied his son on a few outings.

“Going to places you’ve gone before-but in a wheelchair-is different,” Dale Lund said. “There’s an emotional sadness when you realize that you were there before, but fully functional.”

And although now Matt Lund takes three times the amount of time it used to take him to do everyday things-such as showering-he said he knows one day he will be fully independent again.

“He doesn’t want to hear stories about people happily living in wheelchairs,” Dale Lund said. “If there is a chance that he can walk again, he will do anything he can to get it.”

To support him along the way, his family members are there for him, at least one meal a day.

“They give me a lot of support,” Matt Lund said. “With them here, it’s easier to keep focused on what’s important.”

Other things on Matt Lund’s mind are his career in economics and how he will act as an adequate father to his six-month-old daughter, Reagan.

Since Matt Lund’s wife, Brooke Lund, quit her job as a hairstylist to care for Reagan, the couple has solely depended on the graduate fellowship Matt Lund received this year as income.

But with medical bills quickly piling up, the Lund family does not know how long the $10,000 fellowship will last.

Dale Lund said medical costs for his son have totaled to more than $300,000 thus far. Because he does not have insurance, Matt Lund has to rely on Medicaid.

Even if he had student insurance, Dale Lund said, it would have been used up by now.

When he comes home in December, Matt Lund and his family also face costs-estimated at $20,000-to remodel their home to make it fit for wheelchair use.

“People say that I should be more upset,” Brooke Lund said. “But I’ve always had this feeling that everything is going to work out.”

To help him even more, Matt Lund’s friends have been cleaning, raking and keeping up the Lund’s house and yard.

They also created the Matt Lund Fund, which plans activities exclusively for donations.

The last two activities, which have been sponsored by Black Diamond Gear and The Front, both rock climbing companies, have raised more than $7,500.

The next fund-raiser will be held on Thursday at Club Vegas. A time for the event has yet to be determined. More information about the Matt Lund Fund can be found at www.mattlundfund.com.

Dale and Matt Lund’s friends keep a blog tracking Matt Lund’s progress at mattlundupdates.vox.com.

Matt Lund reminds people to always be grateful for what they have. “You have to live life for what it’s worth,” Matt Lund said. “You can’t take the little things for granted.”

Mike Terry

Matt Lund’s wife Brooke holds their daughter Reagan at the University Hospital on Friday.

Mike Terry

Matt Lund gets support from his wife, Brooke Lund, while he attends rehabilitation at the University Hospital for a diving accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down. His therapist encourages his wife to accompany him in a wheelchair during therapy.