In the blink of an eye, life forever changed for Kara Brouhard, who, as a 5-year-old girl in 1986, was seriously injured by an out-of-control skier at Sunlight Mountain Ski Resort in her hometown of Glenwood Springs, Colorado. While she survived the freak accident, Kara suffered devastating injuries that ultimately changed the course of her life. The disaster left her with a traumatic brain injury (TBI), partially paralyzed, legally blind, and having to learn how to walk and talk again. Now 36 years later, and at the age of 41, Kara and her mother Alice have adjusted to their “new normal” with the help of the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center (BOEC) and its year-round programs.
Kara doesn’t remember much about that fateful day, but what she does recall is truly frightening. She recollects sitting down with her dad to eat some snow on the last run of the day, a big bang, and then just a black space, or a “black room” as she refers to it. The kindergartner stopped breathing immediately and was airlifted by helicopter from the ski area to the largest trauma hospital in the area in Grand Junction, where she endured multiple brain surgeries and a two-month coma. During this time, Alice and Kara’s late father, Jim, were not sure whether their daughter would live or die.
“It was the worst day, and then the worst time of my life,” remembers Alice. “So much shock and panic, and then the gut-wrenching grief as we didn’t know what the outcome would be.”
Luckily for all involved, Kara did survive, albeit with a host of medical issues. In addition to her TBI, Kara suffered from left side paralysis (hemiparesis), peripheral vision loss, and a seizure disorder that began a parade of therapies and doctor appointments for many years to come. Something that Alice was grateful to do, simply because it meant her daughter was still alive.