Race to Recovery

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SALT LAKE CITY – For newlyweds Austin and Jill Patten, their two month anniversary was a little different than most. They now lean on each other for strength after a life-altering accident. 

After completing several marathons, half marathons, and a half Ironman triathlon, Austin completes his biggest race yet – the race to recovery. 

He recounted the incident that took place August 17th that changed his world. After dropping his car off early at the shop that Saturday morning, he planned to ride his bike home. It was like any other Saturday for triathlete Austin. It wasn’t until he was coming down Fort Union Blvd. headed toward I-15 that a car started heading for Big Cottonwood Canyon on the same road. As the sun came up over the mountain, the driver opposite of Austin started turning left, and clearly didn’t see him. 

“I started obviously slamming on my brakes, skidding, trying to swerve around, and I screamed ‘no, no, no, no, no’. I remember instantly screaming, ‘It hurts. I’m paralyzed. I can’t feel my legs,” so I knew instantly I was paralyzed,” Austin shared. 

Jill shared her side of the story, “I heard a female voice telling me, ‘you need to come – your husband’s been hurt.’ And it was just this ‘oh my gosh.’ I immediately thought, ‘okay, he’s dead.’” 

Luckily, this wasn’t the case. Yet, things didn’t get any easier for Austin and Jill. To give perspective, Austin compared this feat to training for a race and how it takes the exact same mental and physical capacity. 

He said, “I’ve done a half Ironman, and that’s a brutal race. The training I did for that translates perfectly to this. Every other day I have some sort of therapy for at least three hours, and each of those four workouts feels like a marathon. But, you gotta keep going. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Now, I can’t move my feet, but just keep lifting one more time. Keep rolling one more time.”

The newlyweds both shared how the accident has only strengthened their marriage. Jill shared, “This experience has definitely strengthened us because we have to fight to communicate and we have to continue to try to understand where each other’s at.” 

Above all, Jill is the one person Austin looks forward to seeing – the one person that gives him strength, just as he gives her strength in other ways.  

Through tears, Austin said, “When she gets here, all I want to do is give her a hug. It’s the part of the day I look forward to the most – when she shows up. I just want to give her a hug and every time I start to cry.” 

While their story is tragic, Austin and Jill have seen the good in their situation and have expressed gratitude for all those that have visited, donated, and supported them throughout this trial. 

Now that Austin is discharged from the hospital, he said he plans to complete a full Ironman using his arm strength. To give an idea of just how difficult this is, that is 140 miles using pure arm strength. 

But, if anyone can do it, it’s Austin. 

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