A group of friends and teammates never expected their hiking trip to end like this.
Jonah Tuttle, a sophomore general education major from St. George and a player for Dixie State University’s Men’s Rugby Club, suffered a severe brain injury April 17 after a longboarding accident, and he’s been hospitalized in a coma ever since.
Brock Goodwin, a freshman exercise science major from Pago Pago, American Samoa, said he was with Tuttle and several other friends when, after they spent the afternoon hiking in Snow Canyon State Park, Tuttle decided to longboard down a hill.
He looked like he had control at first, Goodwin said, but he started to pick up speed and landed on the side of the road when he attempted to round a corner.
“We ran over to him, and he was out at that point,” Goodwin said. “He was already struggling to breathe.”
Tuttle was life-flighted to the hospital and received brain surgery that day because his brain was swelling. The top right portion of Tuttle’s skull was removed, revealing bruising in his brain. The bruised portion of his brain was also removed. In addition to losing a portion of his brain and skull, Tuttle also suffered severe road rash.
Tuttle received a second, more minor surgery the next day to drain excess fluid from his brain that was contributing to more swelling.
According to the blog “Just Wake Up Jonah,” an attempt to wake Tuttle from his medically-induced coma failed April 19. However, Tuttle responded to stimuli April 20, grabbing a nurse’s arm as the nurse checked his temperature, furrowing his brows and moving his feet when the doctors probed them.
On the blog, Tuttle’s family members said his condition has been touch-and-go since his initial surgeries.
“It will seem that we have made some progress, and then we will be slammed in a nose dive to the ground,” Tuttle’s mother wrote Sunday.
Members of the DSU rugby team have been among Tuttle’s biggest supporters, and several of them have been spending the night in the hospital’s ICU.
“I’m so grateful that those men stayed while my siblings, parents and I went home to get a little sleep,” Tuttle’s sister wrote on his blog.
Goodwin said Tuttle always had a smile on his face, and one of the most important things about Tuttle’s personality is his positive attitude, said Ben Jones, a junior business administration major from St. George.
“He’s always positive and chill,” Jones said. “He’s always there, even if he’s injured. He’s strong, and he stands up for what he knows is right.”
The Men’s Rugby Club played semi-final game Saturday and defeated Salt Lake Community College 40-17. The team honored Tuttle and his family by performing the Haka, a traditional war cry dance. Bracelets and T-shirts were available for purchase to help Tuttle’s family pay for his medical care.
Over $5,000 has been raised for Tuttle’s medical expenses so far on his GoFundMe account.