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Lessons learned from my disability during COVID-19

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By Bella Butler EBS STAFF

To close out the Big Sky Ideas Festival, Outlaw Partners’ VP of Events Ennion Williams moderated a panel discussion with TEDx speaker Rob Balucas and Lane Lamoreaux as well as documentary filmmaker Seth Dahl on living with a disability through a pandemic. 

While the term “new normal” is a recent addition to the general population’s vocabulary, Balucas, who was paralyzed from the waist down in a cycling accident, has been familiar with adjusting to a sudden disruption to regular life. 

“You learn through the rehab process that you’re going to do something that’s uncomfortable and not fun,” said Balucas, who spent six hour in surgery following the Sept. 5, 2015 crash in Marin County, California on an infamous stretch of Lucas Valley Road. “And it’s gonna seem like the impossible the first few times.” But through the support of medical professionals, friends and family, he said, all of a sudden the impossible becomes normal.

Lamoreaux, who had already experienced a life-altering challenge after suffering severe physical trauma and the loss of his leg from a paragliding accident, had plans for surgery and medical treatment derailed when the early days of the pandemic favored only some urgent procedures.

After undergoing a rescheduled surgery to relieve pain, the former U.S. Marine, wildland firefighter and smoke jumper experienced complications with virtual aftercare appointments, which led to further complications.    

Now a filmmaker, Lamoreaux also gave a nod to the professional opportunities that COVID-19 has opened up for him. No longer able to continue physically fighting fires, he’s found a niche creating training videos for fire agencies and other national departments. 

Dahl has been documenting Lamoreaux’s recovery and journey back to flying in his feature documentary “Flowing Air,” slated for release later this year. While funding for the film took a hit during the pandemic, Dahl said time makes things sweeter, and Lamoreaux’s is a powerful story that needs to be told.

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