FRUITPORT, Mich — A man who lost his ability walk after a hunting accident has not let his injury stop him -- now regularly hunting and advocating for safe practices during the season.
Geoff Newmyer, 36, broke his back and severely damaged his spinal cord when he fell out of a tree stand 12 years ago in Free Soil.
The family always went hunting in the first full weekend of October for the opening weekend of bow season, Newmyer said.
"We were just going back out to take our stands down, and I was coming back down out of a tree," he said. "A branch broke, and I fell from there about 12 to 15 feet."
Newmyer went through therapy at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids. The hospital sees around 10 people suffering spinal cord injuries from tree stand falls any given year, said Chief Medical Officer Dr. Michael Jakubowski.
"They're injuries that occur in people who are vigorous, healthy outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen, and they're life-changing," Jakubowski said. "There are almost always permanent aspects of the injury, even in the people who have some sparing and are able to walk on their own."
One year after his accident, Newmyer got married. He now owns his own plumbing company and runs an off-road wheelchair company in his spare time.
"I live every day as if I'm going to walk again, so that's what keeps me going," Newmyer said.
Working with Norton Shores Hunter Safety, Newmyer regularly advocates for safer hunting practices and safety in tree stands. He stands by the HSS-LifeLine rope.
"If you were to fall with a full body harness and a LifeLine, you're connected to the rope," Newmyer said.
These accidents are avoidable, Jakubowski said.
"If people [can be] 90 percent safe, with a little thought, you can be virtually 100 percent safe in this," he said. "It's not hard to do. You just can't take anything for granted."
Bow season ends in Michigan on Nov. 14, while regular firearm hunting season runs from Nov. 15 to 30.
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