HASTINGS, Minn. (WCCO) — When Hastings senior Dustin Erickson competed in the state downhill skiing competition last week, his doctors called it a miracle.
That’s because Erickson came very close to never being able to walk again, let alone ski. A freak accident and a matter of inches almost changed Erickson’s life forever.
Since he was 3 years old, Erickson has been on the ski slopes. Almost like a full-time job, sometimes he skis more than 40 hours a week.
He qualified for the state downhill ski meet as a junior and had high hopes once again this year. But on a June day last summer, Dustin tried a back-flip on the diving board at a friend’s pool. He missed and landed awkwardly on the board.
“Just felt really stiff and one of my shoulders stuck up like that,” Dustin said.
Dustin was sore and in pain, but wanted to sleep it off. When his mother arrived to pick him up, that changed.
“When he stood up at his friend’s house I said you’re crooked and his friends all laughed,” said Angela Erickson.
Angela Erickson rushed her son to a Hastings Hospital. Instead of having a sore neck and a concussion, X-rays revealed something far more serious, so Dustin was quickly sent to Regions Hospital.
“You watch your child rushed into the hospital strapped on this board and it’s just an incredible experience. Still to this day I don’t know what to think. It was a lonely, long night,” said Doug Erickson.
At Regions an MRI confirmed everyone’s worst fears. Dustin had fractured a vertebrae in his neck, but worse yet, one of his ligaments was almost entirely shredded.
“It was 70 percent shredded where they said 30 or 40 percent is lethal and you should be paralyzed,” Dustin said.
Which is why doctors were astounded that Dustin was even walking. He had surgery and went through months of rehab, not knowing if he’d be able to hit the slopes again. His parents and friends prayed for the best. In November, doctors did something they never thought they’d do, they cleared him to ski.
“She smiled and said you probably don’t think you are lucky but we don’t see kids like you walk out of this hospital,” said Doug Erickson.
It was Dustin’s first time back on skis. He ended up returning to state and just missed all-state honors.
“Seeing him at state was like the first time seeing him ski down the hill. It was emotional,” said Angela.
“I really feel blessed. My parents contacting people to pray for me helped and I really feel blessed,” said Dustin.
Angela Erickson said she hopes that Dustin’s story offers some hope to the families of Jack Jablonski and Jenna Privette. The Erickson’s believe all the people who prayed for Dustin played a major role in his unlikely recovery.