Idaho man pinned by tree during camping trip recovering in Utah

Brian McDermott punctured a lung, broke eight ribs and crushed his L3 and L4 vertebrae.

BOISE, Idaho — The McDermott family did not expect their ninth camping trip of the season to end in tragedy.

“I just heard what sounded like a thunderclap,” Nicole McDermott said. “And I opened the camper door … then saw the tree on the ground and just heard people screaming saying Brian’s under there.”

Brian is Nicole’s husband – the couple and their two kids were camping at Ponderosa State Park on Aug. 19, when a storm suddenly broke out.

Nicole said Brian was outside putting everything away when an uprooted tree hit him across the back – trapping him. He was life-flighted to Saint Alphonsus Trauma Center, where they realized he had a punctured lung, eight broken ribs and his L3 and L4 vertebrae were crushed.

Brian was transported to a rehabilitation center in Utah on Friday, where he will stay for at least a month relearning how to walk. Nicole said he has already regained some feeling in his legs.

Balancing Brian’s injury with everything else in life is a concern, she said. Currently, Nicole is taking some take off work to support her family.

They hope to visit Brian in Utah as often as possible, she said.

“It’s like a really huge array of emotions, just a lot going on in every facet,” Nicole said. “It’s just been really hard on everybody.”

Brian is an avid outdoorsman – biking, triathlons and marathons are all part of his life. Sustaining such severe injuries, Nicole said, has been scary.

Despite everything, she said Brian’s humor is out in full force.

“He’s so silly, I said, ‘you know, a lot of people love you.’ And he responded with, ‘I’m surprised’,” she said. “He’s still Brian, which is great. That’s all I need.”

The family is doing their best to stay positive – the couple’s two boys are back in school and playing flag football. Nicole said that helps keep their minds off of the traumatic accident.

“My youngest son said, ‘Mom, I don’t think I want to go camping again,’” she said. “But I know things will change … you can’t take us out of the woods.”

There is a GoFundMe to help cover Brian’s medical costs. Eventually, Nicole said she foresees Brian working with other people recovering from spinal injuries in the Treasure Valley.

She said there are not adequate inpatient and outpatient options in Boise, which is part of the reason Brian is recovering in Utah.

“I don’t want anybody to think that his life has been taken away from him,” she said. “Because that’s not how we feel. I think that he’s gonna make something really incredible out of this, and the sky’s the limit.”

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