Snow+Rock customer Jamie Hull takes the time to write in and tell us his story – battling back from a major burns injury in 2007 with ambitions to ski again:
From Fire to Snow – By Jamie Hull
Once upon a time – or so it felt like – I was just an ordinary guy living a life-long dream of learning to fly. However, my dream and the man that I was, were literally destroyed as I went up in flames on 19th August 2007.
I had actually achieved around 30 hours of PPL flight training, of which around 6 hours were solo. But on that day in Florida, USA, during one well-rehearsed, routine training flight, the light aircraft that I was flying sustained an engine fire during flight at an altitude of around 800 feet. I was forced to attempt an emergency landing.
In a state of utter terror and initial panic, I flew the aircraft to a lower altitude in preparation for a hasty landing. However, I quickly realised I was never going to make it because the flames had internally breached the front of the cockpit and, by now, were licking my face and ears by the time I was close to ground level.
Having shut down the engine, I made the most radical decision of my life and got out onto the left wing and jumped as I was approximately 15 feet above the ground. This felt like my only option as the cockpit had rapidly become a blazing inferno and the fire was consuming me. The aircraft subsequently piled into the ground around 60 feet away from where I lay, heavily winded and badly burnt. Following a rapid emergency response by the authorities, I was airlifted by helicopter to hospital, but the damage was done… I suffered life-changing 60% third-degree burns. I spent over two years in various burns’ units in the USA and UK.
Lying in a hospital bed for so long, I never honestly believed I would get the opportunity to live an active life again. Head-to-toe in bandages – open wounds, extreme pain and discomfort had become daily features of my life. I longed to be well again and get back out there in the world, doing the activities I used to love, including skiing.
It took a long time in healing, surgery and rehabilitation, but around 5 years on, in April 2012, I was asked if I wanted to go skiing again. Prior to my burns accident, I had been an active Reservist with the Army, and through the Help for Heroes charity that has greatly supported me, I was invited to take part in the City-Ski event at the fabulous resort of Crans-Montana, Switzerland. I tried skiing for a couple of days in hired ski-boots, but I found them all too uncomfortable and heavy. It is also worth mentioning that following my burns accident, my feet were both partially paralysed with foot-drop, due to deep burns to my lower limbs, thus having damaged the muscle and nerves in my shins.
A well informed gentleman, who I met in Switzerland, suggested I try the custom boot-fitting service at Snow + Rock. As I was looking for a solution to find greater comfort and stability on the slopes, I made a quick enquiry back home and an appointment was swiftly made for me to attend the ski-boot specialists at the Covent Garden branch of Snow+Rock. On first impressions – it has to be said – I was impressed. I met their Technical Supervisor, JP, who took me through the step-by-process of creating my perfect custom ski boots. My foot moulds were taken and custom insoles were soon produced; the correct boot was found for me and then also specially moulded in a hot oven, to match the contours of my feet, thus providing me with a more accurate, comfortable fit. After less than a couple of hours, I was delighted with the result. For the added comfort and luxury, I even opted for the Hotronics heated insoles to complement my new Solomon Impact 100 CS custom-fit ski boots.
The service at Snow+Rock was exemplary and has given me the chance to realise that I still have potential – that I can still be somebody again on the slopes – wherever in the world I may choose to roam. Only this time, I know I’ll be a whole lot more comfortable and happier as I hurtle down the next snow-filled panorama. Now I’m confident that I can still achieve my dreams of skiing and Snow+Rock has ultimately helped me to realise that such dreams can even help to overcome life’s traumas!