Just weeks after the plane crash that killed his partner and their pilot, a Tahoe man is being released from a South Bay hospital with some new challenges and a brand new outlook on life.
The strain is visible on Eric Raptosh's face as he maneuvers from a wheelchair to a seat using a small board with holes bored into it. It's now part of his life and something he's had to learn in weeks of physical therapy.
"This journey has been quite incredible," Raptosh said, his voice cracking.
Raptosh is 55. He's the only survivor of a July plane crash near Lake Tahoe that killed his husband Peter Jackson and their pilot. They were flying between their homes in Idaho and Truckee. Raptosh suffered severe injuries to his spine in two places and to his head.
"I don't have any recollection of taking off, after that you wake up and you're wondering who you are," he said.
He underwent at least eight surgeries at a Tahoe hospital before being sent to Valley Medical Center for rehab. He had trouble remembering words, putting together sentences, even doing simple math problems. Physically, he couldn't move his legs.
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"We like to focus on what is possible and we focus on rebuilding lives," Dr. James Crew, head of the Rehab Center at Valley Medical Center said.
That meant putting Raptosh in the hands of a team of doctors, nurses, physical therapists and mental health specialists. Raptosh says it wasn't always easy.
"It was like here are all these cheery people dragging you through hell," he said.
But, every bit of effort paid off in ways he could see and feel. And that helped him stay positive, instead of veering off into a dark place.
"I feel like today I'm in pretty good shape and I'm ready to go. I feel like I have a second chance at life and life is just starting," Raptosh said.
Dr. Eddie Chaw oversaw Raptosh's care at Valley Medical Center:
"Personally I feel like Eric has far exceeded expectations as far as his head injury, his ability to communicate and have insight into his current condition," Chaw said.
Raptosh is being released from the hospital Wednesday. He'll return home to Truckee and continue his rehabilitation.
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