Incline Village community rallies to aid school teacher in recovery following near-fatal crash
When Kevin Edwards moved to Lake Tahoe with his family in 2014, it fulfilled a childhood dream of his to live at the lake.
At the time, Edwards was exactly where he had envisioned himself being in his late 30s. He was married to the love of his life, Allison. They had two young sons he adored and a job teaching social studies at Incline Middle School. He was slowly becoming a recognizable member of the community.
When Edwards set off on his bike on Sept. 2, 2017, he planned to take a quick ride down to watch college football at his favorite barbecue spot in Incline Village, as he had done dozens of times before.
But, the ride almost cost him his life.
Edwards was involved in a near-fatal crash on Tahoe Boulevard, resulting in a traumatic brain injury. He was hospitalized for three weeks.
The 41-year-old middle school teacher has spent the last two years since the crash relearning how to walk, eat and speak. He credits his family, friends and the entire Incline Village community for his recovery.
‘First thing I remember…’
Edwards considered himself an avid cyclist, having picked up biking as a mode of transportation while living in Japan for several years. When he moved to Lake Tahoe, he naturally added mountain biking to his repertoire.
Edwards had experienced a few major cycling crashes over the years, including a situation where he broke his collar bone and destroyed a helmet in 2016. But, he was able to walk away from all of those incidents.
The day of the crash in 2017 Edwards set off from his home to head to Gus’ Open Pit BBQ in the heart of Incline Village. He still doesn’t know exactly what happened.
From what Edwards has been able to piece together from his wife and witnesses, a former student was one of the first people to find him after the collision and flag down a passing car. The couple from the passing car happened to be the parents of one of his students. They stayed with him until he was transported via ambulance to Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno.
Edwards was immediately placed in the intensive care unit, having sustained a traumatic brain injury, broken ribs and a broken scapula.
“I don’t have any memory of the day of the accident,” he said. “The first thing I remember was probably six or seven days after the accident. I remember seeing my brother who lives in Idaho and being surprised that he was there. That’s when I realized I was strapped in a gurney and it was not a normal situation.”
It wasn’t until nearly two weeks after the crash that Edwards began to understand the extent of his injuries.
“It was in the middle of the night and I woke up in the hospital and started crying like crazy because I finally understood how tragic my accident was and that I almost died,” he said. “It was pretty traumatizing.”
The crash physically and emotionally devastated Edwards. He felt like he couldn’t move his body properly and his mental cognition was, in his opinion, gone. He had to endure several surgeries to repair his skull after doctors had to remove portions of it to reduce the swelling in his brain.
“I couldn’t remember more than just a few minutes and I couldn’t hold conversations,” he said. “I just wanted to sleep all the time. It was humbling that’s for sure.”
He worked through weeks of therapy to regain his strength and mental capacity in the hopes of holding on to his career in education.
Edwards says his wife of 16 years saved his life. He added, “If it wasn’t for her I would just be a shadow of my former self.”
“I couldn’t communicate with people,” he said. “So she was with me the entire time. I had to rely heavily on my wife and our family and friends. But, among my family, the community of Incline Village deserves credit for helping rebuild my body, my brain and my life. On a daily basis, families of Incline Village visited my house providing time, comfort and delicious food.”
Allison Edwards said there have been some very difficult moments over the last couple of years. She said Edwards brain injury has created a new normal for their family.
But, having the help of their friends and family has been critical. She said most of their friends are also transplants so they all rely heavily on each other.
“I felt so fortunate that no matter who had our kids I knew they were safe and loved,” she said. “Every step of the way people were not only taking care of Kevin, but taking care of me. Tahoe has been a magical place for us. For him to be able to hike, ski and be outside I know that Tahoe itself — the place and the people — were a huge part of Kevin’s recovery.”
Edwards emphasizes that he desperately needed the help of his family, friends and colleagues to recover.
They helped his wife care for their young boys in his absence. They helped him slowly ease back into the classroom. And, they helped him rediscover his love of the outdoors.
Eric Harssema, a close friend of the Edwards family, said it was tough for all of their friends to see him in that condition and they all wanted to help out as much as they could.
“I think he is just so grateful to see this community of friends and family step up and make sure that Allison and the kids were taken care of,” he said. “We have to rely on our friends to get us through those tough times. There were definitely some ups and downs, but we somehow got through.”
Edwards just recently completed his first year teaching since the crash. He said it was the hardest he has ever worked as a teacher.
“Asking for help was never easy for me,” he said. “But, when I did ask for help so many people opened their hearts and homes. It really lifted me up to know that I live in such a wonderful community.”
Edwards extends his gratitude to his doctors, physical and speech therapists, Diamond Peak and the entire community of Lake Tahoe.
“I live in a wonderful community that was a part of my incredible journey,” he said. “Knowing there are people who would help lift my spirits and help my family is a big part of why I am where I’m at, which is still here.”
Angelique McNaughton is a freelance writer living in South Lake Tahoe. Find her online at AngeliqueMcnaughton.com.
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