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Friends bond online in support of rider

Extreme-sports world uses Internet to come to the aid of Murray, who broke his neck in July crash

August 03, 2007|Dan Arritt | Times Staff Writer

First of all, thanks for all your support, it really has been unbelievable. We have been aware of various rumors floating around and so I am going to update everyone as often as possible. . . . First, he has suffered a very serious spinal injury. He has crushed his third, fourth and fifth cervical vertebrae and consequently suffered some damage to his spinal chord.

Less than 24 hours after Stephen Murray broke his neck in a horrifying bicycle motocross crash June 22 at the season-opening Dew Tour event, the extreme-sports community discovered a huge benefit to the Internet, using its worldwide reach to distribute facts and collect funds.

On the message board, a website used by BMX enthusiasts around the world, Murray's family and friends have provided descriptive up-to-date accounts of Murray's recovery and its obstacles.

Murray was attempting a double back flip in the final round of the BMX dirt-jumping competition in Baltimore. It was his trademark maneuver, one he had successfully completed dozens of times, including his first in competition en route to winning an X Games gold medal in 2001.

Murray, a 27-year-old who moved to Southern California from England nine years ago to pursue a career in BMX, launched himself into the air on the course's last ramp, but bailed out at the jump's apex. He landed head-first on the dirt and lay motionless.

"He didn't get out of it the way he wanted to and ended up in a bad position," said fellow BMX pro Ryan Nyquist, who witnessed the accident. "Most definitely, the worst crash a lot of people have seen."

Murray had to be resuscitated during the ambulance ride to the University of Maryland Medical Center. The announcer of the event and Murray's close friend, Paul Roberts, made the calls to his parents in England and wife, Melissa, who was home in Corona with their sons, Seth, 4, and Mason, 1.

Some sensation in his right wrist and left shoulder gave everyone a huge lift. However, he developed further complications later in the day with his breathing. . . they decided to do a bronchoscopy. The results of this were that they found lots of [crud] in his lungs. . . . They believe that this is due to inhaling lots and lots of dust from digging and riding trails over many, many years. Sort of similar to that of a miner's lung.

Pneumonia is common among spinal-injury patients in the weeks after their hospitalization. Murray's bout set in just before the Fourth of July.

His spirits were lifted when he received his first visit from someone outside his immediate family. Travis Pastrana, an X Games superstar who lives in nearby Annapolis, Md., visited Murray and left feeling encouraged.

"I was really happy to see that his mind is there," Pastrana said. "I have a couple friends that, they're back pretty good physically, but their minds are not there. That's the worst, in my opinion."

Other early visitors included Wade Martin, the president of the Dew Tour, who flew in from Chicago, and Brian Foster, a BMX legend and one of Murray's early idols.

A group of fellow riders sent a DVD with well wishes from an event in early July at Whistler, Canada. The gesture brought a smile to Murray's face, but he expressed disappointment that there was no footage of the competition. Soon after, he indicated that he wanted to see his fateful crash.

As more family members began to arrive from overseas and his pneumonia began to subside, plans were hatched to fly Murray to Denver and Craig Hospital, which specializes in treatment of spinal injuries.

This is a difficult e-mail to write but we want you to know the facts. . . . After being prepared for the journey Stephen was happy to be leaving the Shock Trauma unit and there were smiles all round. . . . Five minutes from the airport, his heart rate started to drop and then briefly stopped. CPR was administered and within a minute he responded. He was then rushed to the nearest hospital.

After taking a few days to get accustomed to his portable ventilator, Murray made the successful journey to Craig Hospital. Vans and Rockstar Energy Drink helped defray the cost of flying Murray's family to Denver and securing accommodations.

At the same time, fundraising efforts around the world began to move at light speed. The Christopher Reeve Foundation was one of the first to contact Murray's family, BMX dirt tracks that he regularly visited in Perris and Riverside held benefits and his hometown track in Buckinghamshire, England, also held a fundraiser.

Once again, the Internet played a vital role in spreading the word.

"He's just one of those guys that everyone likes," said Brian Deegan, a former X Games gold medalist in freestyle motocross. "If something happens to someone in this event, it's like a gang, man, you support your buddy."

An online auction was also organized by Dew Tour officials and contributions included autographed memorabilia from fellow X Games stars Dave Mirra, Ryan Sheckler, Shaun White and Pastrana.

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