Baumann was well enough in February to go sailing off the Florida Coast, and healthy enough this spring to take a trip to Cuba with a group from Northwest College.
That’s a dramatic improvement from the situation he faced a year ago, when the 65-year-old Powell man was months into a year-long recovery from severe injuries he suffered when he was struck by a vehicle in Florida.
On Feb. 2, 2012, the eve of his planned sailing adventure from Apalachicola, Fla., to the Florida Keys, a pickup driven by an 85-year-old man jumped the curb on a street in Apalachicola, striking Baumann as he walked on a sidewalk in front of his hotel.
He never even saw the ocean, he wryly admitted.
Instead, he spent weeks in a hospital and more weeks in a rehabilitation center in Florida, followed by months of recovery and physical therapy in Powell.
The accident “crushed the right side of my hip and pretty well destroyed my shoulder; three out of four muscles were torn out of my rotator cuff,” Baumann said in an interview this summer. “I have metal in my shoulder and quite a bit in my hip.”
Baumann said he was fortunate to have a talented doctor in Florida who repaired the extensive damage caused by the accident.
“My orthopedic surgeon used to be a mechanical engineer, and he decided to work on people, so he went back to school,” he said.
After several weeks in Florida hospitals, Baumann returned to Powell. Here, after three months in a wheelchair, he began the hard work to increase his mobility and strength.
A year after he was hurt, on Feb. 27, Baumann was ready to try his Florida sailing trip again. Last year, his wife, Mary, spent her vacation at Baumann’s bedside in a Florida hospital. This time, she was able to go sailing with Baumann for the first two weeks; his brother and sister joined him later.
“When I got down there, I stood on the spot where (the accident) happened and kind of faced the demon,” Baumann said. “I checked into the same hotel. People remembered: ‘Oh, I remember you. We felt so bad for you.’”
This year was different.
“We launched and sailed right out,” Baumann said. “The year of pain was behind me.”
Instead of sailing to the Florida Keys, as he had planned the year before, he made small sailing excursions, all from Apalachicola.
“I was out on the gulf for about five days myself,” he said. “That was quite a challenge. I found myself never really out of sight of land. Porpoises would come up beside me and look at the boat, then would disappear. ... I got caught in a couple of tides. It was a little scary, but it was fun. Land-lovers don’t realize about the ocean. It looks quiet, but it’s going to get you if you’re not careful.”
Looking back, Baumann said he believes his plan for a three-month sail to the Florida Keys the year before probably overran his abilities.
“This was plenty of water for me. I was very happy about it,” he said. “It turned out, in some ways, better than (the original plan). I got to know one place rather than a lot of places. I got to know the people down there; it’s a nice little community sort of like Powell.”
On his return trip, Baumann brought his boat home. Later, he took it up to Yellowstone Lake, where he has enjoyed several sailing trips this summer.
“Overall, I’m doing really well, and I’m happy with my medical treatment and recovery,” he said. “I still have good days and bad days, and my hip is not what it used to be, but that’s expected.”
Baumann credits his recovery to medical science, physical therapy, walking and swimming — and to good health insurance.
“After spending three months in a wheelchair, I really appreciate being able to walk,” he said. Still, “I can’t walk long distances — only about a mile. (But) 10 months ago, even, I wouldn’t have been able to do this well.”
Last year, Mary drove him back to Powell. He was in a wheelchair, facing months of recovery, and he had to leave his boat in Florida.
This year, “when I pulled in safe and sound in the driveway, I felt like I really completed the trip.”