Fravel, Math Teacher By Day, The Revenant By Night
January 20, 2017
Dan Fravel started the school year just like every other year, he met all of his new students, taught his A day College Prep Algebra Two and went home to his family. That night, he and his 13 year old son went on a motorcycle ride to visit their camp on Beech Creek Mountain. Fravel describes the disastrous next events best, “We were just about to crest a little incline in the road when I caught a glimpse of a 200 lb black bear running full speed thru the weeds about 4 strides from the exact left side of my bike. There was no time to react at the bear ran straight into the side of my left foot, engine, and front wheel.” The rest of the story is told from Gavin, Fravel’s son, as Fravel was unable to remember the events.
As both Fravel and Gavin went flying off the bike (Thankfully they have a kids must wear helmets rule), Gavin face planted into the stone road, resulting in cuts, bruises, and he was in total shock. Unfortunately, Fravel did not decide to wear a helmet. (He promised his wife he will always now.) Fravel explained, “I landed face first on the left side of my head, shoulder, side, and was knocked out, and laying face down in a puddle of blood. Gavin said he looked over at me and then looked at the bear 6 feet away. The bear was stunned and just walked away back where it came from.” He even described Gavin as his “Guardian Angel”. Fravel was unconscious for a while before starting to moan and groan, “Gavin said he told me to squeeze his hand if i could here him….of which I could do. Slowly I continued to moan until i came to, then tried to roll to over but it was my injured left side, so I rolled the other way and then rolled right into the ditch.” While Fravel was stuck in the ditch, Gavin attempted to call the ambulance but the phone had been destroyed in the crash. At that point they had only twenty minutes of daylight left, so they decided to try and get on the motorcycle coast it down off the mountain. Fravel said, “At the main intersection with the mountain road I was unable to get off the bike because of pain, when thankfully a truck came around the corner. The big stranger fella was able to help me off the bike and into his truck… [and] we made it to my parents house.”
When they were finally able to get to his parents house, they called the ambulance. The ambulance put Fravel on a stretcher, cut his clothes off and started him on pain medicine. Fravel thought he had broken ribs, but later discovered he had lacerated his kidney and spleen. The first week of the hospital visit he was on morphine. In mid September, he was nailed with a hardcore infection that landed him back into the hospital for another week. Fravel said, “So, the month of September pretty much kicked my butt, and I spent half my nights in the hospital. It was a very humbling and trying period mentally and physically as I lost 25 pounds. I was sleep deprived, in pain, and felt useless to my family. The support and prayers of family, friends, and colleagues was truly a blessing and really does help get a person through some tough times.”
As October came, the infection was gone and he could feel the internal body trauma and lacerations healing occurring. He could walk and start to be be productive but everything caused pain to him, even sleeping. The doctors promoted him to push his body to stay strong, but he was depleted and little hikes felt like marathons in every way. If he pushed his body too far in the day, that night his body would drop into fever temps and chills. Fravel said, “I spent most of October actively enjoying the outdoors as much as I could, the best mental and physical rehab that I could get… [and] taking on more activities with my 3 kiddos and wife.”
“November was great,” explained Fravel. “I now felt like a 70 year old real person finally.” Due to his body starting to heal more, he spent a lot of time at his family cabin with his 68 year old father who could work him into the ground. He was able to spend a lot of quality time with his family outdoors hiking and hunting. His endurance and strength was very weak at best, but he was very fortunate that given time, all of the major injuries would heal.
Fravel described December as a “turning point”. He said, “The kidney laceration had healed, the stent was removed, and finally my body was able to… regain some strength. My appetite came back, I started to be able to sleep most of the night and get decent rest… [and] my internal body trauma pain was less.” He was finally healed enough that he could teach again, but he was limited to teaching only his B day students. Mrs Neal and Mrs Sutherland taught his day B PreCalculus students, and until semester 2 starts, Mrs Gattis is teaching his College Prep Algebra two, Day A classes. His friends were very helpful in the recovery process as their “flexibility and compassion” allowed him to destress and focus on healing.
The holiday break is often a time that many people can reflect on all the positives in their life: their family and friends, their job, their passions, their health. This year, that all changed for Fravel, as he was just thankful to be alive as he said, “The Christmas break was a blessing for me to be alive and to be thankful for all the family and friends that the good Lord has blessed me with.”
Many people who were in such a serious accident can really question themselves and more often, their faith. They start to ask how God could cause something so terrible in their lives, but not Fravel, who never questioned his faith. “After Day 1, I never questioned who, what, where, why… everything happens for a reason and I am so thankful for every day of the fall I had to recover. Currently, the vibrations I feel in life are so strong and so positive that I would not change one single thing that happened to me.”
His current belief is an amazing and extremely positive outlook on such a scary and life-threatening situation. It is very easy to slip into a negative spin and think about the negatives of the time. “It has been a major challenge to get back to the point I am at now,” said Fravel, “and daily continues to be a challenge to slow the pace of life down so that my body can handle the mental and physical stresses of getting back to normal.” While he acknowledged his struggles with his injuries, Fravel realized it is much better to think positive rather than pointing out the flaws in life, and he continued to seek out the wonderful parts as well. “Life is great! My three children are healthy and happy. My wife and I’s relationship is strong and as fun as it has ever been,” said Fravel. “I can’t wait to plug completely in, but meanwhile I try to appreciate every single little thing.”
Although thinking positive was an important lesson for him to have during the recovery process, he learned one that many people do not learn that life is short soon enough, so we need to live everyday to the fullest and remember what is truly important. Fravel said, “Every day is not guaranteed, we are on borrowed time, so enjoy it all and always make sure to let your family and friends know how much they mean to you.”
Even with all of the lessons he learned along the way back to his normal life, Fravel, like everyone in a bear attack is still somewhat in shock. “I still have no idea how in the world a bear can come running through the woods and smash right straight into the side of my motorcycle,” said Fravel. “There’s not a day that goes by that i just don’t take a moment and smile and shake my head in disbelief… but Gavin and I have a crazy cool bond that will last forever from that wild ride on that August night.” He learned the most important lesson of all that August evening, “DO NOT TRY TO WRESTLE A BEAR WHILE DRIVING A MOTORCYCLE!!!”
Fravel also wanted to say thanks to all State High faculity, staff, and many students for their support and stopping by to welcome me back.