Finding Theo

Finding Theo – A Father’s True Story of Loss, Courage, and Discovery

Dr. Craig von BuseckBy Dr. Craig von Buseck14 Minutes


CVB: So this was a major turning point in your life. Your son, Theo Krause, was riding a bike on a Colorado mountain trail, then he dropped into a ravine. Tell us what happened after your received the call?

Timothy Krause: Yes. He was biking with three friends on a weekend trip. He was trying to catch up to his friends because he had stopped to take some pictures. They dropped into this ravine down low and were shooting along the path when he lost control of his mountain bike and was thrown head first – I would say 20 feet or so – into an aspen tree. He was wearing a helmet that most certainly saved his life and his brain, but the impact broke his neck in three places. In fact, a shard of backbone stuck into his spinal column. As he laid there, he couldn’t move his arms and legs.

A guy came up and found him and dialed 911. That man turned out to be the son of an Iranian immigrant. He was on that trail that day because he was a cartographer. He specialized in making maps of mountain biking trails. This was his favorite trail and he was creating a map for it. He was doing this because his mother, who was dying of breast cancer, had counseled him before she died to do the thing that he loved the most.

For me, this was the first inkling of something special about Theo’s story. Who else in Colorado could call 911 and tell them with exact pinpoint accuracy where they were located in the wilderness. Theo laid there for several hours before a rescue team arrived.

CVB: It was that remote?

Timothy: Yes, it was pretty remote. It was four or five hours that he laid there before the rescue team made it up the mountain to him. A care flight helicopter had to find a place to land and they found a bluff in a precarious situation. They hiked up the bluff to deliver Theo to the helicopter. They flew into Grand Junction where a Yale Medical School spinal surgeon examined my son. He told Theo it was pretty bad and that he would never walk again.

CVB: So he knew right off the bat.

Timothy: Yes, right away he explained that this is what it was going to be. But he said, “We’re going to do our best to maybe get you the use of your hands with a repair operation.”

In the meantime, one of Theo’s friends called our house in Dallas, Texas, to tell us what happened. My wife’s cell phone rang – her name is Georgia. She said, “Tim, come here. Ted has been hurt.” He was called Ted at the time, but today he’s known by Theo. That began the worst night of our lives. I can remember very well that I was in the study trying to figure out what to do next. My wife was literally grabbing the toilet bowl, not knowing whether she’s going to pass out or throw up.

We were a long distance away and it’s kind of one of the key aspects of the story for me. As a father, you can move sharp objects out of their way their whole lives; you can send them to the best schools; you can keep them out of harm’s way and put the band aid on their knee when they’re hurt; but the day comes when, as a parent, you realize that something has happened that you can’t fix. It’s only going to be them that can fix it. What’s extraordinary about that lesson though is that other people can help. And that’s what happened.

Ultimately, eight weeks later, Theo walked out of the hospital.

CVB: Wow.

Timothy: He’s not a hundred percent, but he’s better than 90%.

CVB: That is a miracle.

Timothy: Yeah – what else would you call that? But my discovery was that this was where the miracle started, not where it stopped. When I asked Theo if I could write about this, he said, “Okay, just don’t make it a hero story.” So we agreed to make it a bit of a thank you for all these people who did something nice.

I went out and I looked up the guy who found him. I also talked to these Swiss German women who were on vacation, but stopped at the accident scene and sat there for four hours, stroking his hair and keeping him awake. One of them turned out to be a registered nurse who had a heat blanket with her. I found the rescue team leader. I found the flight paramedic and the pilot. I found his surgeon and a spinal specialist at the rehab hospital. I talked to his therapist. I also tracked down his friends who later, when he was dealing with some pretty serious depression and was thinking about committing suicide, came in and helped talk him off of the ledge. I saw on some online videos that before the accident his identity was tightly wrapped up in extreme sports. He was a pro snowboard instructor at Vale. He loved the outdoors and sports, and still does, thus the attraction to Colorado.

I started to talk to these people and the stories that they had to tell were just extraordinary. They had dealt with their own adversity in life. Theo’s final specialist at the rehab hospital had lost his eye to cancer as a nine year old boy. That was what redirected his path to where he found his way to spinal specialization. These stories started to stack up with these people and I thought, “Wow, I need to write this down.”

Nearly all of them said, “We were headed a certain way. Something happened in our life that redirected our path. And I found my way to the thing that I was supposed to be doing.” And the thing that they were doing was what Theo needed.

CVB: And isn’t it the point that he needed all of them?

Timothy: He needed them all.

CVB: Exactly. And we need all of them at certain times in our lives.

Timothy: We do. When I started thinking about this, I titled this book “Finding Theo,” which is short for Theodore – the Greek means “God’s gift, or a gift of God.” This is a story of my son, Theo, being found on the mountain. But it’s also the story of Theo finding his way after this terrible thing had happened. It’s also the story of all of these people, shall we say, finding their own Theo in life – their gift and who they’re supposed to be, through their own adversity.

And by the way, it’s also about his dad, who wrote the book, finding a little bit of his own way – even late in my career. So it’s many layers of finding Theo, you might say.

To me, it’s also about the goodness of people and the way that the real miracle is if you work through your own adversity – which is going come to you – and finding your way to the thing that you are supposed to be doing. We will all encounter situations where that’s important. If we pay attention, and we see it, and we act on it, something important will happen. If enough people are doing that across time, something really extraordinary might happen.

CVB: It becomes exponential. Two can pull more than each one separately.

Timothy: They don’t even have to know that they’re in that game, or believe that they’re in that game, but they are. And that’s the way the world was made to work.

CVB: There’s great power in that. Now you talk about the sister of a Columbine high school victim, right?

Timothy: This is another one of these extraordinary stories. There’s a video that you can search for on the web called ‘the boy in the window’. A lot of the newsreels showed a kid hanging out the window and the authorities are helping him down. That kid is Patrick Ireland. He had been shot in the head and was taken to the hospital ICU. He was then moved to the Craig Rehab Hospital in Denver and his younger sister, Maggie, sat there by his bedside and watched all of this. She became completely taken by the work of the physical therapists. Now Patrick went back to his high school, became valedictorian, and is a successful Colorado businessman today. Maggie told me, “I wanted to be a physical therapist and I wanted to work at the Craig Rehab Hospital.”

CVB: Because of that incident.

Timothy: Yeah. So she set her life on that path and her first year out of school, she was Theo’s outpatient physical therapist.

CVB: Wow.

Timothy: One day, Theo was in therapy with her, and of course her name is Maggie Ireland. He was joking around with her and said, “Hey, Maggie of Ireland, will you teach me in Irish dance? Will you teach me an Irish jig?” And she said, “Yeah. Okay. That would be good for your dexterity.” So twice a week he would go to therapy and she would teach him another step of an Irish jig. When I interviewed her, I discovered that in addition to this story about her brother, Maggie was also Miss Colorado in 2007. Maybe you could guess what her talent might have been. It was the Irish jig.

CVB: Sure. Sure.

Timothy: When I made that connection, I thought that’s another one of the stories I have to tell. This is what we wanted to do. We wanted to get our story to people who have experienced loss in their own life and are dealing with that. Or maybe it is the parents of children who have experienced loss and are facing this challenge of not being able to fix their children’s problems.

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