Editor’s Note: As of Aug. 18, 2016, Dr. Jonathan Myers and the rehabilitation team met their goal to raise $125,000 for the “Borah for Balance” campaign. Photos of Dr. Myers and the climbing team from the Aug. 17 climb can be seen on the St. Luke’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/stlukesidaho/
Climbing Mount Borah would be a feat for anyone. It will be an even bigger one for Dr. Jonathan Myers.
At age 22, he sustained a cervical spinal cord injury in a car accident.
“My whole body felt like it was on fire,” Dr. Myers recalled. “I couldn’t move and thought I was trapped. And then I realized, it’s not that I’m trapped. I’m paralyzed.”
Despite paralysis from the neck down, Dr. Myers remembers having a deep feeling that he was going to be OK and would eventually be able to walk again.
Prior to the accident, he had been accepted to the University of Iowa’s medical school, but deferred admission for a year to complete his rehabilitation.
He spent three months in an acute rehabilitation unit in his home town of Des Moines and then completed an additional eight months of out-patient rehabilitation before starting medical school the following year.
The accident had a profound effect on Dr. Myers’ burgeoning medical career. The young physician had planned to pursue family medicine, but felt the experience would help him better relate to patients dealing with similar life changing injuries and illnesses.
He found himself drawn to the field of medicine that helped him after his injury: physical medicine and rehabilitation. After completing a residency in the specialty at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, he came to St. Luke’s Magic Valley in 2009, where he serves as the medical director of rehabilitation.
Now, 16 years later and after rehabilitation of his own, Dr. Myers is walking with the help of a brace on his leg and making big plans. Dr. Myers plans to climb Mount Borah, Idaho’s highest mountain, Aug. 17.
“I think Mount Borah is a challenging thing for most people,” he said, “but for someone like myself, it will be particularly challenging. I expend about 80 percent more energy per step than someone without my type of physical impairment.”
Dr. Myers’ perspective speaks volumes about the type of person he is. For him, the endeavor is mental, rather than physical.
“Despite my impairments, I can do it,” he said. “Everything in life is a question of will, not ability. If you want something bad enough, you can accomplish anything.”
The climb is motivated less by a personal goal and more by a vision for the rehabilitation program and the Magic Valley community it serves. Specifically, Dr. Myers and the rehabilitation team at St. Luke’s are climbing Mount Borah to raise awareness regarding balance rehabilitation and the funding necessary to bring a Neurocom Balance Master System to the Magic Valley.
“The Balance Master is part of the standard of care for balance and vestibular rehabilitation,” Dr. Myers said. “It is a state-of-the-art device that allows a treating therapist to rehabilitate patients with balance and vestibular disorders.”
The equipment is available in Boise and Salt Lake City, but Dr. Myers believes patients should be able to rehabilitate close to their home, just as he did after his accident.
Like Mount Borah’s summit, the cost of the equipment is steep: $125,000 to be exact. And just as summiting will require a team effort, so too will the fundraising efforts. The team is naming their capital campaign “Borah for Balance,” and will be looking to the community to help reach the goal. They hope the climb will inspire others to donate and raise awareness of the need for the equipment.
Donations will be accepted by the St. Luke’s Magic Valley Health Foundation and are tax deductible. Donations can be sent to: P.O. Box AK, Twin Falls, ID 83303, or made online at stlukesonline.org/mvdonate. The team’s progress can be followed on twitter: @borah4balance
“Reaching the summit demonstrates that we are committed to bringing this device to the Magic Valley,” Dr. Myers said. “I don’t give up. I have never quit anything in my life. I won’t quit this.”
Update: As Climb Date Approaches, Donations Get Campaign Closer to Goal
As reality sinks in regarding the Mount Borah climb on Aug. 17, Dr. Myers knows it is not the time to doubt himself or his abilities.
“I’ve been doing training climbs for the last six weeks. The longest one I’ve done is about 3 ½ hours,” Dr. Myers said. “I’d love to do longer training hikes, but I have to balance these against my professional and personal responsibilities. This climb of Mount Borah takes an average person 10 hours round trip so I will need a lot of endurance to succeed. Bottom line, there will be considerable suffering for me on this one. There’s just no way to escape it.”
The capital campaign called “Borah for Balance” is well on the way to meeting the goal of raising $125,000. Impressively, to date, over $98,000 has been donated or pledged towards the campaign with more than 122 donors.
“Originally, I proposed a brownie bake sale. But at $0.25 a brownie, that would equate to selling half a million brownies,” Dr. Myers joked. “I thought having someone with a physical disability climb this mountain would be more impactful.”
And it has been. The community has taken hold of this fundraiser and helped to make it successful. Along with Dr. Myers, 28 climbers are signed up to make the climb.
“This has been so rewarding already. I cannot believe all of the interest and support from our community. It has truly been heartwarming,” Dr. Myers said. “We have also received very generous donations from individuals all across the United States and even a few from Europe - what a testament to social media and the selflessness of so many individuals. I should also point out we have had a few very generous corporate sponsors including First Federal Savings Bank of Twin Falls (our lead corporate sponsor) and Rehab Systems (our official orthotic and prosthetic sponsor). Additionally, the employees and physicians at St. Luke’s collectively donated over $20,000 over the past few weeks. It has just been marvelous to see the outpouring of support from everyone to make this dream a reality.”
As the date approaches, the team will have a special sendoff event on Tuesday, Aug. 16 at 12:30 p.m. on the St. Luke’s Magic Valley patio.
You can also follow the team’s progress the day of the climb on twitter: @borah4balance.
Just as he remains optimistic about reaching the summit, Dr. Myers is also optimistic about reaching the fundraising goal.
Michelle Bartlome is the public relations manager at St. Luke's Magic Valley.