Feature: Life appraised

By on April 29, 2015

Michael Pruett’s miracle on Millward Street

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Jackson Hole, Wyoming – Christian folks call it being broken. Its a state of arriving at the end of oneself, of coming to an epiphany that commands people to surrender the throne of their lives to a higher power. The principle is themed throughout the Bible in scriptures like: Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth and God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. In popular culture, the attitude can be found in song (Jesus, Take the Wheel by Carrie Underwood) and on bumper stickers (Let go and let God).

But regardless of your religious leanings, many of us can identify with a humbling experience that reminds us of our powerlessness, our fleeting existence.

Michael Pruett believed in God. He said his prayers. He went to church on Sundays at River Crossing. But he also remained prideful. He trusted in his own abilities. In the summer of 2012, Pruett finally surrendered during a horrific accident that saved his life by almost killing him. His experience moved him enough to write a book about what happened. The Hard Road: What if Almost Dying Was the Very Thing That Saved Your Life? came out Tuesday.

During most of my adult life, my success defined me, Pruett admitted. My value as a person, and especially as a man, was reliant upon my financial ability and triumph as a businessman.

When his real estate business faltered, Pruetts faith in his own abilities was shaken. When problems in his family life began taking root, doubts again nagged him. Still, Pruett was humming along to the popular bluegrass song: I Aint Broke But Im Badly Bent.

Broken came on July 15, 2012 the day he says he should have died. A motorcycle accident left him lying in the road with a broken back, a broken neck and a broken ankle. His skull was cut wide open. Statistically speaking, the unconscious real estate broker shouldn’t have ever opened his eyes again. He certainly couldn’t expect to ever walk again should he even pull through, doctors told his wife.

But some mysterious circumstances were seemingly at play. Why were EMTs taking lunch at the Brew Pub when the horrific crashed occurred just outside? Why was a Wilson-based ambulance fueling up at that moment just a few blocks away? For the next 10 days Pruett would lay in a hospital bed helpless to save himself. Ten days of surrender for which Pruett admits he cannot take credit for.

_SES2349 (1)Planet Jackson Hole: What was your life like in the weeks and months leading up to the crash?

Michael Pruett: I didn’t see it then but looking back I saw things culminating to this event. I was struggling, financially. I was having difficulty in our family with the girls. I would say I was going through some pretty tough times. I had written Dawn [Pruetts wife] an email earlier that summer that I had a feeling that something was coming up that summer that was going to challenge our marriage and challenge our relationship.

PJH: Take us through that fateful day.

MP: [My wife and I] went to a church picnic that morning. It was a beautiful bluebird Jackson Hole summer day. We wanted to go out for a motorcycle ride. We jumped on the bike and went through the park on a four and a half hour ride. I got a call while we were in the park to show a property. We came back home and I dropped my wife off. There was this big, awkward moment when she got off the bike and I said, goodbye. There was this kind of uneasiness.

PJH: Why was that? How was it different from any other time you left Dawn to go to work?

MP: I don’t know for sure. I cant explain it other than it was uneasiness. My wife had it and noticed it as well. It was a normal goodbye. Ill be back shortly, I said. The showing went great. I remember pulling out and heading down Millward. That is the last I remember.

PJH: And the crash?

MP: From what I can piece together after the fact, from the police report and what my friends told me, I was going down Millward. There was a truck coming up Millward. He didnt see me. He turned in to go to the Brew Pub and there was nothing I could do. I couldnt swerve around him. I couldnt stop in time. The only thing I could do was drop the bike. I ended up underneath his truck and got drug for a while. I was knocked unconscious. There were EMTs at the Brew Pub at the time who were on me within minutes.

feature 4PJH: Tyler Dunn was one of the first responders. He said you kept calling out for your wife.

MP: I dont remember but Tyler told me later on that I was saying, My wife, my wife, wheres my wife? I call my wife, Lover. I kept asking for her, probably thinking my last memory, that was she was on the bike with me.

PJH: Any glimpses of the afterlife? Were you brought into heaven and told your time is not yet up, or something like that?

MP: No, I didnt have any of those experiences at all.

PJH: Well, the $64,000 question is: Why do you think this happened to you?

MP: That is a question Im still asking myself.

PJH: You strike me as a guy who was always the rescuer but never the rescued. For once in your life you were truly helpless.

MP: I think thats a pretty accurate statement. The outpouring of this community was humbling. Ive seen it. Ive been on the other end. Ive been here 20-plus years and Ive been on the other side where we do fundraisers for people in need. This community pulls together like something Ive never seen anywhere else. This was my first experience on the side of having it happen to me.

My company has been outstanding. During that time they were amazing. They stood by me, helped out where they could. There were certain people like Richard and Edie Lewis and their team that took over my business and did all my showings. David Neville did the same thing. My business didnt miss a beat when I was gone. I had four real estate closings in one day while I lay helpless in the hospital. I was dumbfounded. I hadnt ever had that many closings so close together! And I had nothing to do with it. I take no credit for it whatsoever. I cant. I was out.

feature 3PJH: And your takeaway?

MP: This taught me a lot of lessons. For me, personally, its taught me that I was not in control of a lot of things. Things can change instantly and dramatically in this life. It really made me question: What am I living for? What are my priorities? Whats really important in my life?

I think the things I thought were big in life are no longer as important as I thought they were. And I think the small things in life [are] much more meaningful. Its little things. Relationships, the moments you have with people. My faith has grown from this.

My priorities were messed up. I will very humbly tell you that my finances had become an idol for me. [Money] gave me self-worth. It gave me confidence. It gave me security. It made me rely on myself. This lesson has taught me that my focus and attention should be my faith and my God.

PJH: Others have come to a similar awakening after a near-death experience this new lease on life insight. Yours includes a decidedly spiritual aspect. You could have easily treated this second chance as a reason to live life to the fullest now. But you are giving your testimony. You are praising Jesus. Thats courageous. Are you worried about putting some people off sharing your faith so openly?

MP: I want to give credit where credit is due. And credit is not due to me. I want to give credit back to God, for what hes done in my life and other peoples lives around me. Ive had several people come to me and tell me certain things about their faith or what this has done for them. I dont know how this will impact peoples faith. Thats really up to them. I hope this story can relate to people on a very real level and a very spiritual level as well. Maybe at some point they will ask themselves the same very important questions: What am I living for? What do I believe in?

feaure 5PJH: You were inspired enough to write a book.

MP: What sparked me to write this book is, during my recovery Id be walking around town and people would stop me I mean four or five times a day in the grocery store or the post office. They would say something genuinely kind about being so glad about my recovery. But then, instantly, they would share a story about something that happened to them, or their spouse, or child, or someone close to them. I heard story upon story upon story about other people. What I found out within a couple of months is this is not my story. My story is happening all over.

It also made me realize that God is interacting in peoples lives on a daily basis. This is the God of the universe, and hes taking the time to be involved in the details of our lives. That in itself is miraculous to me. And I think that people are hungry for God in todays world. To see him, to know him, and know he exists. And this is my small effort to share that God does love everyone and is involved in your life. All you have to do is open your eyes and look for him.

PJH: So you thought you had a story to tell. Thats still a long way from being a published author.

MP: I had written down pages and pages of notes. Quite frankly I didnt know if other people would feel this was a story worth telling. I met with a team from Red Arrow Media led by the books ghostwriter Vanessa Chandler. After she heard all the events that we went through, she agreed this was a pretty miraculous event and felt it was a story worth telling. A story that people would not only be able to relate to but be able to share in their own lives.

I wanted this story to come from an objective viewpoint so Vanessa started interviewing all the people who were involved in this from my wife and children, to my close friends, to my doctor, EMTs and medical professionals to get their perspectives. That way it tells the story from a lot of different angles and youll see that in the book.

PJH: Was there ever a time in the writing process where your objectives or vision was compromised by Vanessa or Red Arrow? Specifically, were you pressured to tone down the religious angle?

MP: Very little. We really were on the same page. When I went to write this book, I think the goal was to reach a lot of people and touch a lot of people. But to be realistic about the fact that faith does play a part in this story and to show that.

PJH: Promotional stills and videos were made for the book. In one of them you are lying bloodied on a road, reenacting the crash scene. Was that a little freaky?

MP: It was a lot of emotions at one time. I’ll say that. It was exciting. It was fun to reenact. KGB Productions did the video. They did an outstanding job. I remember one scene where Sam Pope took that one shot of me on the ground and he pulled back and said, Wow, that is so realistic. Thats almost creepy realistic. I didnt want to see that shot until it came out as a completed product. When I did finally see it, it did take me back. Its a very traumatic and dramatic shot.

PJH: The shot of the crash scene on the cover of the book is obviously not Millward. It probably better fits most peoples impression of Jackson Hole, though.

MP: Exactly, and it was more practical. We couldnt stop traffic on Millward in the middle of the day. So we went up to the end of Fish Creek Road and did it during late fall. We did take a little creative license on the location.

PJH: Just for the heck of it, what ever happened with the bike? Do you still have the motorcycle? Ever ride it again?

MP: The bike got repaired to almost new condition. I toyed with the idea of keeping it but I ended up selling it. I did ride it again a little but just to get back on. When you get knocked off a horse you want to get back on sort of a thing. But I had a helmet on this time.

PJH: Answer this: What if you had survived but were paralyzed for life? Dr. Meic Schmidt, the University of Utah neurosurgeon who operated on you, said 80 to 90 percent of patients hes seen with your injuries never walk again. Would that have been less of a miracle?

MP: Thats a great question. I have asked myself that very question a thousand times. The answer is I hope that I’d be saying the same thing that was miraculous that I had survived, and all the lessons I have learned I still learned. I hope that I would be saying the exact same things as Im saying now.

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