PLEASE NOTE: Some images may be hard to look at.
On the morning of Saturday, January 11, 2014, I set out to Jasper, Alberta for a snowboarding trip that unknowingly would end in complete disaster. The snow was falling hard, as a storm was slowly sweeping in during my drive to the mountains but as I arrived at the hill the day began to grow brighter and there was not a single set of tracks on the ski hill yet.
NEARING THE END OF THE DAY, I DECIDED TO DO ONE MORE RUN ENDING IN THE FREESTYLE SNOWBOARD PARK. FLAILING THROUGH THE AIR FROM FIFTEEN FEET UP I KNEW THE LANDING WAS GOING TO BE HORRIBLE.
I spent a good six hours riding in waist-high powder, making up for the last six years of no snowboarding. Nearing the end of the day, I decided to do one more run ending in the freestyle snowboard park. As I prepared myself for the final jump of the day, I noticed I was quite fatigued from the day of boarding but that quickly changed when a favourite song of mine came on through my headphones. I crouched down and gained speed towards the jump. As I let off the tip of the kicker, I then realized my perception was way out and I had hit the jump with too much speed. Flailing through the air from fifteen feet up I knew the landing was going to be horrible. I lost my balance and was leaning forwards as I came closer to the ground. On impact, my left leg touched down first and I heard a loud crack through the deepest parts of my ear canal. I tried to stand up but fell back down and was in incredible pain.
“David Ford brings something unique and powerful to the fitness industry. Not only is he the most accredited professional photographer in the industry today but he brings with him a sincere eye that searches out inspiring stories of competitors and athletes alike. David has been the Alberta Bodybuilding Association’s exclusive official photographer for almost two decades and has brought an enormous level of exposure to Alberta competitors. Stories like Aaron’s hit home for many people that sometimes have a hard time finding the motivation to take care of their health. I would like to personally thank Aaron for sharing his story with David. I encourage others to do the same. We all have a path to lead and it is when we share with each other and support each other that we are the strongest. I look forward to hearing more inspirational stories.” ~ Rodney Jang, Editor-in-Chief, Status Fitness Magazine
I then assessed my situation and patted down my leg, which then I realized I had a bone sticking out of my leg. In and out of consciousness due to shock and pain, it took nearly forty-five min for someone to finally stop and get help. I was rushed to the Jasper Healthcare Centre where my first of four surgeries was performed. They tried to put my tibia back in place for the travel back to Edmonton but were having very little luck. I was placed into an ambulance and then escorted to the Misericordia Community Hospital in west Edmonton, where I was then to undergo my second surgery of the day.
I WOKE UP IN COMPLETE CONFUSION AND ANXIETY REALIZING THAT EVERYTHING THAT HAD HAPPENED WAS NOT A NIGHTMARE.
The following morning, I woke up in complete confusion and anxiety realizing that everything that had happened was not a nightmare. I looked down at my leg and noticed many metal rods sticking out of my leg. They had installed an external fixator on my tibia to keep it in place until the swelling went down, to which they could then perform my third surgery. A week went by where I experienced some really low times in my life with depression, extreme pain, and a feeling of failure.
The pain killers were not helping my mental state, as I seemed to just fade and forget about all my problems surrounding me. I had spent the four years prior to my injury building myself and my body, so I could one day stand on stage amongst all my other competitors. I understood that this injury was going to be a long, and difficult process, and maybe one of the most difficult mental hurdles I’d ever have to overcome. A week later I was admitted for yet another surgery, where I had the fixator removed and three titanium plates mounted along my tibia to hold it together. I had found that I had broken my tibia in six places, dislocated my knee, injured my ACL, MCL, IT band, and meniscus.
“I have had the honor of photographing hundreds of physique competitions over the years and haven’t missed one Alberta Bodybuilding Association show since I began attending in 1999. I see many inspiring competitors take to the stage and reach out when I can to learn more about them and the journey they took to get to the stage. The moment I saw Aaron step on stage I knew there was something special about this moment. He had a genuinely grateful smile across his face. This moment was more than just competing to be the best he could be, it was an achievement. I had no idea what Aaron’s story was until he sent it to me. Wow. How many of us have excuses? How many of us don’t reach our goals because something gets in our way and perhaps we say maybe another day. Aaron, thank you for sharing your story and the accompanying images. You inspire me and I know you will inspire hundreds of those reading this success story. If you have a success story you would like me to consider, please email me.” ~ David Ford, Status Fitness Cover Photographer, ABBA Official Photographer
At the end of March, after months of physiotherapy and being wheelchair-bound, I was finally able to try and take my first steps again, assisted with a cane. I had no idea it would be so difficult to try and walk, as I had lost all the mobility in my left leg and dropped over fifty pounds in sixteen days while in the hospital. My road to recovery was an extremely painful experience, both mental and physical, but I had set myself a goal, that when I was able to walk properly and had healed enough, that I would finally work towards stepping on stage and competing in the Alberta Bodybuilding Association Margaret Logue Northern Bodybuilding Championships.
I BEGAN MY DIET AND TRAINING SO THAT I COULD COMPETE ON MAY 17 IN THE ABBA NORTHERNS CONTEST.
By mid-July, I was able to return to work on modified duties. I was also able to return to the gym and begin my journey to the stage. Months went by where I went through a lot of physical changes and pain in my left leg as I tried to gain the range of motion back in my left leg. By October I figured my leg was healed enough that I shouldn’t be experiencing any more pain but unfortunately my leg was still causing a lot of discomforts.
After multiple doctor’s appointments, we had found that one of the pins that went horizontal through the largest part of my knee, was protruding through the bone and pushing out my skin. On December 5, I was to finally undergo (hopefully) my final surgery, in which they removed one plate from my leg and the pin that was causing the pain. The plate stretched over 12” long, was shaped to fit my knee, and had nearly 2 dozen holes in it, where it could be attached to my bone.
[Aaron Mennear steps on stage after a serious snowboarding accident and achieves his goal.]
On January 1, 2015, I began my diet and training so that I could compete on May 17 in the ABBA northern contest. I went through many hard times in my journey, but looked back at my times in a wheelchair and used that to motivate me through the hardships of my diet and training. I pushed harder than I ever had in my life and dedicated every breathing second of my day to make sure I would be stepping on stage in 5 months. I had amazing support from family, and friends to help guide me through the harder times of my contest preparation. Thank you to everyone that stood by me through my accident and my show prep.