Mugshot Monday - “Pipes Bro. Big Guns.” original coffee mug by Stephan Wold w/  Colombian Heavy Pedal Roast by Peace Coffee.

Stephan Wold sent me this coffee mug — he made it specifically for a Mugshot Monday. But that’s only half the story. And I smiled, then I cried, then I smiled again when I typed it up below. Let me explain.

I recently got back in touch with with Stephan — he’s an old friend from my college days (‘89-‘93) in Eau Claire, WI. He was one of the many awesome local Eau Claire skateboarders I befriended when I was there. Over time, I lost touch with him — I had moved to Minneapolis, and I heard he went to the west coast.

Here’s a photo of my friends Ryan Zepaltas (another EC local, left) and Stephan from back in the “old days” in Eau Claire, WI.

At some point, I heard some rumors that Stephan had been in an accident — a really bad accident that left him paralyzed. I couldn’t confirm much. I wondered if he was alright.

Thanks to the internets, I got back in touch with Stephan and we followed each other on Twitter. We’re both huge Packers fans so it was fun geeking out about their super bowl run.

Then Stephan sent me the coffee mug he made, and there was an illustration of a guy in a wheelchair on it. And then I found him on Facebook and added him as a friend. And there was Stephan, in a wheelchair.

So I wrote to Stephan and asked what had happened and he sent me details. I smiled when I started reading the email Stephan sent me — he was stoked that we got back in touch, too. Then I cried when I got to the accident. It’s such a gnarly thing to happen to someone. But then I read how Stephan pulled through the recovery, and I smiled even bigger. 

Stephan’s story is really inspiring to me, and rather than re-tell it, here is what he wrote:

Karl, Sorry for the short story! There’s way more but I’d never put you through that in one email.

It’s been ten years since I was in that forklift accident. September 21st 2000 was the night I was reborn, as I like to say.

I was working at a winery named LaCrema on graveyard shift. Ryan [Zepaltas] had worked there too — he got me the job there. But I was going another crush (or harvest) by myself.

The night I got wrecked I was outside alone and everyone was inside eating at about 1:00am. It was raining outside and I was driving the forklift dumping garbage. The garbage truck was always parked on top of this embankment.

I did that run a 1000 times before but that night the front of the lift fell off and I lost my load while turning on the embankment. The forklift just flipped like a bolt of lighting. I got pinned underneath it.

I pounded three vertebrae: T12, L1, and L2. I broke most of my ribs on my left side, punctured my left lung, broke my pelvis in three pieces, snapped my femur in half, and tore my spine into pieces. Plus I suffered a bunch of surface wounds. One of them looked like somebody took an ice cream scooper of flesh out of my hip. There’s a big chunk missing from my chin, too. These days, I look like Frankenstein without my clothes on with all the zipper scars.

I spent twenty-six days in a coma. But I came out of it. I was a living hell in there. I did about a month in Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital in Santa Rosa, CA.

Then I got to take an air ambulance back to Minneapolis to be closer to my family. I did some time in Abbot North Western and then I did all of my rehab at Sister Kenny. Those two hospitals are connected together. Its like four hospitals there in Minneapolis all connected with tunnels.

Shit man, I woke up in a diaper with people feeding me. It was like being born all over again. But in ten years I went from being in a diaper to going back to California where I went back to school to learn graphic design. I got a job working for CafePress.com as a design assistant. And then, I just worked my why up to Jr. Designer, then Mid-Level Designer. So it’s all cool.

I got married in 2003. I LOVE my wife! We were together before I got wrecked. We’ve been through a ton of shit together. She’s an awesome woman!

We bought a house and we have a dog and a couple cats. Next summer we hope to adopt a child. I’m looking forward to it.

When I was in the clink — I call the hospital the clink because its like jail — I did all my crying there. Every night I would listen to this tape Ryan made me. One side was the Beatles ‘Let it Be’ and the other side was The Rolling Stones ‘Let it Bleed’. There were a few lines in those songs that really helped me pull through.

One was on the Beatles, and was “nothing’s going to change my world, nothing’s going to change my world”. And the other was from the Stones, which is a Robert Johnson tune ‘Love in Vain’. The line was “it’s so hard to tell it’s so hard to tell if all your love’s in vain”.

I knew that the act of walking didn’t make me, me, so f*ck it. I wasn’t going to dwell on that. I just needed to heal and get out of that place and go home.

I love my life. I drive all over. My wife, Jessica, and I have driven back to Wisconsin a few times. I’ve seen the Grand Tetons and tons of beautiful places.

I listen to tons of Rock and Roll and a little old Country music. I heard so many beautiful albums that those albums alone have made life worth living.

I have no regrets, no sorrow. I love life, my friend! Its great to be in touch with you! And I still can’t believe that the Packers won the Super Bowl!

- Stephan

An amazing story. Here’s a more recent photo of Stephan:

And as it turns out, the wheelchair art on the mug was originally used for a Foundation Skateboards deck model (pic here). How cool is that?

This is an awesome gift I received from Stephan. And I’m not just talking about the coffee mug.

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