Injured biker eager to return

By Andru McCracken


Chantelle Grafton and her husband Warren want to make one thing clear: they love Valemount.

Chantelle fell off a feature called the Sky Berm on Moby Dick at the Valemount Bike Fest on June 15 and has been unable to breathe on her own since. She will likely never regain movement in her arms or legs.

“It was a three foot drop and she landed just in the wrong way,” said Warren during a telephone interview last week.

In Edmonton spinal surgeons at the University of Alberta told Warren that if Chantelle did survive the injury she wouldn’t want to.

“They asked me to tell her that,” said Warren.

Although she received no brain damage (her helmet worked perfectly), she crushed three vertebrae and damaged her spinal cord.

Her mind was sound but Chantelle couldn’t speak. To communicate Warren held his finger to a sheet with the alphabet on it and Chantelle would blink. A turning point for the couple was after the tubes were moved from her mouth to her throat.

“I went in the room and she smiled at me and everything changed,” said Warren. “It went from ‘we’re not surviving this’ to ‘it’s not even a question.’”

Chantelle’s situation is dire, but there are positive signs.

“So far everyone is blown away. She can swallow, trigger breath and talk. She probably didn’t think she would be doing this good at this point,” said Warren.

“She’s not nearly as concerned about herself as she is about everybody around her. She doesn’t want to be a burden on me or her family.”

Friends of the couple have been raising funds to help them deal with what lies ahead. Warren expected their insurance to cover many of the costs they are facing, but a clause that insures them against loss of limb is not the same as loss of use of limb.

The couple has raised $106,000 on the fundraising platform GoFundMe and there is a local Valemount sticker fundraiser called Strength Through Community. For $50 people get a sticker and a chance to win prizes ranging from shuttle passes to a new cruiser.

There is also a Benefit Bash being held this Friday night at the Legion featuring the local band the Drunken Midnight Howlers.

Warren said it all helps. He believes that the outpouring of community support is because other mountain bikers understand that it could have been them.

“One, northerners are just good people, and every mountain biker fully realizes that Chantelle drew the short straw.”

Chantelle worked for the Ministry of Forest Lands and Natural Resource Operations as a planner. Warren runs a hydrogeology company.

The Graftons are now waiting to see how Chantelle’s vertebrae heal. A lot hangs in the balance. If they fuse together, she may be able to move her neck and control a wheelchair in that way. If not, it limits the kind of chair she can use.

Chantelle is lucky to be alive after she crushed 3 vertebrae in a 3-foot fall at the Valemount Bike Park in June. / SUBMITTED

Chantelle has two medium term priorities, to return to work, and to get to next year’s Bike Fest in Valemount.

Warren believes it is because Chantelle wants to let people know she truly loves the place and doesn’t hold the bike park responsible.

That conviction has been tested. Lawyers for the pair wanted to know where the accident happened with a view to suing the bike park or bike park operator.

“I had to tell them three times that we will never even consider it,” said Warren.

Chantelle was only available for a few words through the use of a speech valve in her respirator. Her voice is warm and natural.

“The bike fest and beer fest are our favourite,” said Chantelle. “The support has been unreal and it makes us feel more connected to the town. We are really grateful and we have no regrets. We can’t wait to come back next year.”

Humour has been part of their strategy for dealing with it all

“There are broken neck jokes aplenty,” said Warren, who said Chantelle started calling him ‘waterboy’ after just a few days.

She wanted to make sure the Best Western keeps an accessible room booked for them during the event next year.

Warren called their journey since the accident a rollercoaster.

“You have some wins and you have some losses. If anyone can pull this off we can,” said Warren. “It is a weird way to think about it. We look at our lives and our support network. We can do it. For sure.”

The couple did have one request of the Valemount Bike Park, in line with the dark humour they’ve been using to get by: they are asking the park to name the drop after her.
held this Friday night at the Legion featuring the local band the Drunken Midnight Howlers.

Warren said it all helps. He believes that the outpouring of community support is because other mountain bikers understand that it could have been them.

“One, northerners are just good people, and every mountain biker fully realizes that Chantelle drew the short straw. Chantelle’s crash wasn’t that bad, it was just right.”

Chantelle worked for the Ministry of Forest Lands and Natural Resource Operations as a planner. Warren runs a hydrogeology company.

The Graftons are now waiting to see how Chantelle’s vertebrae heal. A lot hangs in the balance. If they fuse together, she may be able to move her neck and control a wheelchair in that way. If not, it limits the kind of chair she can use.

Chantelle has two medium term priorities, to return to work, and to get to next year’s bike fest in Valemount.

Warren believes it is because Chantelle wants to let people know she truly loves the place and doesn’t hold the bike park responsible.

That conviction has been tested. Lawyers for the pair wanted to know where the accident happened with a view to suing the bike park or bike park operator.

“I had to tell them three times that we will never even consider it,” said Warren.

Chantelle was only available for a few words through the use of a speech valve in her respirator. Her voice is warm and natural.

“The bike fest and beer fest are our favourite,” said Chantelle. “The support has been unreal and it makes us feel more connected to the town. We are really grateful and we have no regrets. We can’t wait to come back next year.”

Humour has been part of their strategy for dealing with it all

“There are broken neck jokes aplenty,” said Warren, who said Chantelle started calling him ‘waterboy’ after just a few days.

She wanted to make sure the Best Western keeps an accessible room booked for them during the event next year.

Warren called their journey since the accident a rollercoaster.

“You have some wins and you have some losses. If anyone can pull this off we can,” said Warren. “It is a weird way to think about it. We look at our lives and our support network. We can do it. For sure.”

The couple did have one request of the Valemount Bike Park, in line with the dark humour they’ve been using to get by they’ve asked the park to name the drop after her.

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