April 13th: 9th Annual Ms. Wheelchair Colorado Pageant & Benefit Car Show
April 13th: Outdoor Buddies Fundraiser Banquet @ the Wildlife Experience
May 10th: Kiowa Creek Sporting Club. Clay shoot for Craig Rehab
June 8th: Get Outdoors Colorado Denver City Park, Colorado
June 8th: Wild on Wheels Lakewood, Colorado
July 18-20th: Barta Boys and Girls Club Billfish Tournament Beaufort, NC
August 8-11th: No Barriers USA Summit in Telluride, Colorado
I was then transferred to Craig Rehab Hospital, to learn to live in a wheelchair. Anni never left my side and noticed I was not getting better, and the paralysis was inching it’s way up my core, something a spinal stroke would not do. She brought in another neurologist and insisted that new tests be performed and 3 days later we found a very rare blood cancer called Waldenstroms Macroglobulinanemia. I was now paralyzed at T4 from my chest down. I was rushed to another hospital and started plasmapheresis that night to start cleaning and thinning out my blood.
There was a theory that perhaps the blood cancer had caused the stroke. So I was put on a very high dose of Methatrexate, hoping that it would stop the cancer from penetrating my spine. I did a high dose, 24 hour drip followed by a week of an anti-toxin to rid my body of this toxic mixture, then 3 weeks of recuperation. I did this 3 times before my kidney and liver started to shut down. My Craig rehab days had expired meanwhile and now I was truly fighting for my life. I had now spent over 120 days in the hospital and from day one I had done nothing but decline. For a short period of time, I lost the faith of God, and I was prepared to put a bullet in my head and end life. It’s a terrible thing to say but it’s true.
My wife who is not only my hero, but my best friend, saved my life on more than 3 occasions. She marshaled my care like a general and she showed super human stamina, never leaving my side, there was a period of time, about 8 weeks, that there was nothing but bad news. At the end I couldn’t even pull a kids bow back at 10 lbs. I was dying and Anni saw that I had given up my will to live. Anni who knows me better than any human in this world, knew I needed to get my will back and informed the doctors that I would be going home in 3 days. This created quiet the stir as my care at this time was immense and Anni needed to be taught what she didn’t already know by then.
Upon getting home, I was overwhelmed with what Anni had accomplished over the last 4 months, one day a week she was driving home (6 hours round trip) to convert a two car garage into the most wonderful wheelchair bedroom and bath with beautiful views of the mountains and pastures. Everything is easily accessible: from my office to the bedroom, kitchen, living room and now my new trophy room. We are outdoors people and getting back to our ranch, and horses and beautiful views and hug my dog Ahi helped me to see all that I had to be thankful for. I was able to feel God's warmth, let the sunshine penetrate my soul, and accept the support of our friends in the Vail Valley. Mercifully, I climbed out of depression to hope and literally got better on a weekly basis.
Today I am paralyzed chest down and have had a successful colostomy and super pubic operation so I am now in complete control of these functions. Prior I was totally incontinent. This was demoralizing and disgusting. It’s been 2.5 years since my spinal stroke and I’m on chemo therapy bi-monthly. The doctors say that my blood counts are perfectly normal now, and that the cancer appears to be under control. Of course, I’m at great risk of pneumonia, blood clots, lowered immunity, pressure sores and a bunch of other things.
My TV show on VS/NBC sports is now in its 9th year and I’ve been informed that I’ve done 20 shows since I’ve been in my wheel chair. I only spent 15 days at Craig Rehab Hospital in Denver. I really got screwed as I got very little out of it, learned very few skills as most of my time was taken up with fighting the cancer. Oh well, that’s another subject. There is no way that in my life time I could ever pay my wife back for her heroism, I can only try. But I must tell you that I hunt and fish all over the world, I ski the top of Vail mountain and back bowls on my mono ski, I ride my horse Badger, I shoot the bow, pistol, trap, skeet and I’ve taken up scuba diving. I’m still the president of Barta Iso Aviation my family business where I buy and sell corporate aircraft.
I could not have done what I have done without Anni. Don’t make light of what I’m saying here, I decided to live at all costs, I’m not ready to die yet, I’m not ready to give up, the number 1 winning ingredient is ATTITUDE with a capital A, if you have a positive attitude, and a passion for life, you can pull yourself out of anything. Number 2 is never take for granted the relationships you have with family and friends and in my case literally is being married to a super woman. And the 3rd is your faith in God, with these 3 forces behind you, you are unstoppable. Do I enjoy being a paraplegic, NO, do I get depressed at times, yes, are there times I feel sorry for myself, absolutely, but the more I get outside, the more independent I can become, the more things I can do, the better I feel.
I can remember being in the hospital, and the president and vice president of Versus calling me on the telephone, I can remember them saying get up, get out of the hospital, and do your TV shows, we’re all behind you, and your show is doing great. TV is a tough business and that support will never be forgotten. It’s those types of calls that keep you going, one of my favorite slogans is, “if I can do it, you can do it”. It is my life ambition to inspire others, and I hope I am doing so. As a bow hunter, I understand how perishable life is. A wooden stick fired from my longbow can extinguish the life of a 1000 lb animal in minutes.
I’m telling you, if it can happen to me, it can happen to you. Enjoy every day as it is, take nothing for granted, and never miss the opportunity to help someone else. You just have to decide if you want to “hurry up living or hurry up dying”!