My name is … Lara Fahnestock

Survivor of fall holds black belt in taekwondo

Joseph Rios
Posted 1/27/20

About me I've lived in Englewood for the past 17 years. I currently work at Denver Urban Gardens, where I support all of the volunteer garden leaders throughout the Denver metro area. We actually …

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My name is … Lara Fahnestock

Survivor of fall holds black belt in taekwondo

Posted

About me

I've lived in Englewood for the past 17 years. I currently work at Denver Urban Gardens, where I support all of the volunteer garden leaders throughout the Denver metro area. We actually partnered with Englewood to bring the Englewood Community Garden at 601 W. Dartmouth Ave. We also have two school-based community gardens at Charles Hay World School and Clayton Elementary.

I like to garden. I grew up in Pecos, New Mexico, a small town outside of Santa Fe, and being outside was the thing to do. Gardening brings back some of that joy of being outside. I like to experiment, but I usually grow tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, ground cherries and herbs.

I used to love to rock climb, but my life changed in the blink of an eye 26 years ago. I was on flat ground, at the top of a crag up Boulder Canyon taking down my top rope. I don't know exactly what happened, but gravity took over. I fell 85 feet, and I broke more bones than most people can name. I shattered my right foot, broke my right tibia and fibula, both my femurs, my pelvis in five places, my wrists, shattered my right elbow and smashed my nose. It was pretty intense. I spent nine weeks in the hospital and underwent lots of surgeries. I was in a wheelchair for months and spent years in crutches.

An awakening

I was lucky enough to meet up with an organization called Paradox Sports. They offer accessible climbing for people with disabilities. I went climbing with them in 2012, but I had to get a ride for about a half a mile to the base of the cliff. My foot wouldn't allow for me to walk on the trail to get there. I got to the base of the cliff, and there was a half a dozen amputees there. They had done the track with no problem.

It was just an incredible moment of an awakening for me to embrace the idea of amputation as a strength. My foot had never really healed, and my right leg was two inches shorter than my left leg. I had always thought it would be a failure if I couldn't heal my foot, but just seeing so many people moving so effortlessly with prosthetic was incredibly eye-opening. So, 18 years after my fall, I chose to have my foot amputated.

Black belt

I went rock climbing a couple of times after my fall, but it gave me more fear than joy. That's not why I used to do it. I did it because it was freedom. It was open space, and it gave me a clear mind. Strangely enough, that's something that taekwondo has given me.

I do taekwondo at Family Taekwondo in Littleton. I started taekwondo in 2013. At the time, my son was having a hard time focusing in school. He's easily distracted, has tons of energy, and we wanted to direct it a little bit. After talking to quite a few people, martial arts seemed the way to go. My daughter also did taekwondo, and after watching them, it seemed crazy I wasn't out there with them. My husband and I decided to sign up.

On Jan. 11, I received my black belt. It's still somewhat unbelievable. Every time I've put it on since earning it, I've taken a couple of minutes to hold it and look at it. Taekwondo was something I never pictured myself doing, but once I started, I couldn't stop. For me, it's really incredible, and it symbolizes what the human body is capable of. I think we discredit the body a lot, and we don't use it to their full potential.

A lot of me getting the black belt was having everybody around me who helped me through this journey. There's an incredible amount of pain in this world, and my story is intense, but it's not unique. There are so many experiences that people go through that aren't visible like mine — but by talking about it and sharing stories, we can collectively work through stuff.

If you have any nominations for My Name Is..., contact Joseph Rios at jrios@colorado.communitymedia.com

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