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Local nursery owner injured in snowboarding accident

Skyline Gardens and Ponds nursery owner Clay Juelfs won't be snowboarding or skiing for a while. He broke both legs in a Feb. 4 accident. Submitted photo

Local nursery owner and avid snow sportsman Clayton Juelfs said, "I've been skiing at Afton Alps for 44 years."

The 51-year-old started at an early age and said at one time he had such intense ski fever he spent the night in a parking lot waiting for the slopes to open in the morning. He and his ski buddies agree that if "your boots have a chance to dry out, you're not skiing enough."

To Juelfs' disappointment, his boots will be bone dry the next time he puts them on. He broke both legs in a snowboarding accident Feb. 4.

"The tip of my snowboard got hung up on the gate," he said about the run during which he was probably traveling 40-50 miles per hour.

The snow-sport enthusiast said after the board got hung, the next few seconds seemed like slow motion. He could see his legs twisting around unnaturally. Next came an explosion of pain.

Juelfs said Afton Alps owners got to him first and took him to the first-aid shed, sending away the children gathered around so that Juelfs' injuries wouldn't scare them.

Someone covered his legs. The ski patrol arrived and gathered around him.

"They started cutting my ski pants off," he said, lamenting that he'd been wearing his best, most expensive pair that probably had another decade or more of use left in them.

A savvy, sympathetic trauma nurse helped Juelfs save his expensive ski boots. Juelfs remembers when the boot came off, his foot "hung there" looking disconnected.

He begged someone to throw him in the back of a pickup truck and get him to the hospital. Juelfs began to wonder if he would make it until the ambulance arrived.

When it did, he told the paramedics, "Morphine, morphine!"

The emergency technicians gave him a first and second shot of something even stronger. Still in pain at the hospital, doctors gave him and a third, fourth and fifth shot of pain medication.

They found both bones of Juelfs' left leg snapped in half. His left ankle dislocated from his foot. Doctors found a spiral fracture in his right leg extending from his knee to his ankle.

At The Lutheran Home in River Falls last week, Juelfs and his wife Karen told about the five-hour operation Clay had, with Karen adding, "He still needs another surgery, maybe more."

Clay said for the first seven days after the accident, he didn't sleep at all, as shooting pain and cold sweats kept him awake. Finally he dozed, one night sleeping for four hours.

The problem with the long nap is that he missed taking his pills and awoke in excruciating pain. He and Karen agree that keeping a sense of humor throughout the ordeal, has really helped.

Doctors inserted a steel rod that sticks straight out of his leg. Though that will be removed, Juelfs expects to have some permanent "hardware" in his legs.

He asked his doctor, also a skier, to affix any internal fasteners so that they won't interfere when he wears ski boots or places pressure on the shin area.

Ironically, the name of his racing team the day of his accident was Crash and Burn, which Juelfs said he'll probably change. He also took the race number his buddy wouldn't: Thirteen.

He's cracked ribs and twisted an ankle before, but neither injury kept him off the slopes.

Reclining recovery

Doctors from Regions Hospital in St. Paul tell the family that it will be at least three months before Juelfs can think about putting even slight weight on his feet.

The dynamic family man would normally be working at the business he and Karen own between Hudson and River Falls, Skyline Gardens and Ponds, 148 County Road F.

Juelfs said 2009 marks the business' 25th year in business selling water and tropical plants, perennials, annuals, bulk mulch (18 semi-truck loads each year), landscaping, water gardens, koi ponds and food and related supplies.

Juelfs said he got quite a bit of pre-season work finished before his accident, and he has been touched by how his oldest son and many other loved ones have stepped up to help.

"Just the thought of all those people helping out..." he said, fighting back tears.

Juelfs said, thankfully, he does have some insurance.

Juelfs said after achieving the country's number-two ranking for his age group (just before his accident), he prayed for God to help him stay humble. He laughs thinking the broken legs are it.

He's never thought for a second of giving up his beloved skiing and snowboarding. He's taught the sports, done trick skiing and alpine snowboarding and raced competitively for decades. He met Karen at Afton Alps and the whole family also skis and snowboards.

He definitely plans to get back out there, "It's something about the adrenaline rush when you're about to go down the hill," he said and laughing, adds, "Yeah, I kinda like skiing."