Spencer Is Back On Campus

Two months after his accident Spencer is back on campus studying for finals and preparing for his final semester before graduation. KWWL News caught up with Spencer. View the story here:

A Note From Spencer

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Dear friends and family,

It’s Spencer here, wanting to give you my own personal update. It’s been about 8 days since I’ve left the hospital in Iowa City and endured a less than pleasant car ride home to Highland Park to begin a long recovery. Armed with the tv remote, an Xbox controller and my laptop, I’ve claimed the living room as my new temporary bedroom with a hospital bed awkwardly sitting between the two couches. Each day is better than the one before. Each day brings me more energy and endurance.

I’m not able to get my back brace on and off by myself, and I can only raise the head of my bed to 30 degrees without it; so for now my parents are a big help. My mom has especially been incredible through all of this. She is a tremendously strong woman that has been constantly by my side, helping me keep my sanity through this all. I am trying to walk everyday so I can build up my strength and endurance. My legs are weak but I can feel the strength slowly returning.

I want to thank each and every person who has sent a card, a kind word of reassurance or goodies and gifts to me at the hospital. All of these gestures have helped me to feel supported and encouraged to work hard to improve. My roommates and friends have been incredible through this all. I realize how truly fortunate I am to be surrounded by such caring people.

I have been afforded a fortunate gift of not being paralyzed and for that I am so grateful. I am grateful and want to thank the first responders that attended to me when I fell because if they had not reacted so instinctively to calm me and to keep me from moving, I may have tried to get up and caused irreversible damage to my spine. Thanks to the paramedics and rescue workers for using their expertise to get me to the hospital quickly (even though they had to cut off my favorite jeans and pullover!).

It was my lucky day that Dr. Hitchon, my neurosurgeon was on call in the ER the night I fell. I benefitted from his years of experience performing many such surgeries. Thanks to the nurses and staff at the University of Iowa Hospital, who were exceptionally skilled in healing me; I am so thankful for each of them who cared for me. Thanks to my girlfriend Jamie, who has also helped me keep my sanity through this all, and was constantly by my side in the hospital. She has an incredibly calming nature, and I am so grateful to have her. I’ve got a couple long months ahead of me, but look forward to easing back into my normal life. I’ll check in with everyone periodically to provide an update on my recovery! Thanks again for all the support and good wishes.

Spencer Bean

Spencer is Walking

Spencer is up and walking 8 days after the accident. He even tried walking up and down a couple stairs! If he can get his pain under control, he is hoping to head home in the next couple days and start therapy. Just in time for Thanksgiving.

If you are in Iowa City tonight, some of Spencer’s fellow climbers are hosting an event at Orchard Green from 7:30 to 10:30. Stop by if you are around to grab a drink. Proceeds will be donated to the The Access Fund in Spencer’s honor.

The Access Fund is the national advocacy organization that keeps U.S. climbing areas open and conserves the climbing environment. Founded in 1991, the Access Fund supports and represents over 2.3 million climbers nationwide in all forms of climbing: rock, ice, mountaineering, and bouldering.

Check out the video below:


Spencer got his chest tube out of his left lung yesterday – another huge step forward. Today he had a special visitor, Looby, the therapy dog. Looby stopped by to say hello and see how Spencer was doing.
Spencer also had a Physical Therapy visit to do some exercises for his arms and legs in bed. He is starting to feel peppier. Spencer is beginning to crack jokes, whether it’s pretending to be passed out with his eyes closed and his tongue out (to scare everyone) or constantly going “Boom” as he hits his morphine button.
He’s also happy because he got another 50 notes to read today! The hospital has been printing them out in batches because there is such a large amount of them. Thanks again to everyone who has sent one in. The stack has grown to over an inch thick.
Spencer  is in a new room which is where he will be for awhile. The new address is:
Attn: Spencer Bean
200 Hawkins Drive
Iowa City, Iowa 52242
Tomorrow is a big day and Spencer is really excited as he is hoping to get out of bed for the first time since his injury. It won’t be an easy day, but it’s a huge hurdle to cross. Look for a great update tomorrow!
Just to get an idea of who much support Spencer has gotten, we’ve had over 6,000 people check on Spencer from over 30 countries. Pretty incredible, thank you again everyone, it has been a huge help during these difficult times.

Veterans Day Progress

Spencer was scheduled to have the chest tube out today, but he has too much drainage from his chest tube so they want to leave it in and check it tomorrow. He is slowly recovering and we are finally starting to get his pain under control with different medications. He received all of the cards that everyone created online this afternoon, it was a huge boost and got him to smile. The stack of cards was so tall, thank you everyone who took the time to create one for him.

We’ve been hearing more and more about those who witnessed Spencer’s accident and thank you for your quick reactions. We will continue to post updates on Spencer as they develop. Our entire family appreciates all of the support you have shown him during these difficult times. Just remember, every day that passes is a step in the right direction towards recovery.

Sunday Update

Spence had been scheduled to have his chest tube out this morning. The chest tube was put in to reinflate his lung after surgery. However, his hemoglobin is low from surgery and was not rising as the doctors had hoped so they gave him another unit of blood this morning. So hopefully it will be a good boost to gain some strength for the days ahead. It is ironic….Spence is A+ and I (Cindy) gave my A+ blood on the same day he fell! So what goes around comes around. Always give blood if you can, you never know when you might need it yourself.

Spencer is allowed to not wear his cervical collar when he is in bed, but he will need to wear it when he’s upright. He was measured for a TLSO chest brace. He will begin wearing that at all times on Monday when it arrives.

You always know you have friends and loved ones, but when something like this happens, you realize their real value in your life. We are all so lucky and thankful first that Spencer was not paralyzed but also that each of us have such a strong support system sending love, healing wishes and concern.

We are not a real religious family but rather spiritual. One of my sisters is a nurse in Michigan and has another nursing friend who sent out a prayer chain….in two days, the prayer chain moved across the world and my sister’s friend got messages from people praying for Spencer in Nepal, Ireland and received 200 emails from others asking how he is doing since they have been praying!! The world is really quite small and filled with good people.

Thanks to everyone for checking the website and sending your messages, emails, and texts. They are incredibly helpful and make each of us so appreciative for your loving support.

Contact Information

We’ve had a bunch of questions about where to send cards. Here is the address to where Spencer is staying:

Spencer Bean
c/o SICU
UI Hospitals and Clinics
200 Hawkins Drive
Iowa City, Iowa 52242

You can also create a card by clicking here and the hospital will print it out and give it to him

Surgery Update

Spencer is out of surgery. It lasted a total of 8 hours. They had to collapse his left lung to access his spine anteriorly. The neurosurgeon said that it is a miracle that he is not paralyzed. When they removed the bone fragments that were intruding into the spinal canal, they saw that the dura mater had scratches and if it were a mm closer he would be paralyzed. Because this irritation occurred, they needed to place a spinal fluid drain that comes out of his back and will be in there for at least 4-5 days.

The doctors also found a fracture in the C5 cervical vertebrae. They will wait until he can begin to sit more vertically so they can take some better x-rays. He is in good spirits. You know Spence is a chronic optimist and this will serve him well in the days to come.

He is in critical condition in the SICU and we are not out of the woods yet but we have been afforded a great gift in all of this and he will mend in time. Our family is all here together and we are strong and so is he.

Thanks to everyone for your good wishes, we’re very grateful! We’ve been reading all the texts and Facebook messages to him and he is loving it.

Bonus: Get a text message when we post an update about Spencer. Text “Follow CheckOnSpencer” to 40404


Spencer is in surgery at the moment; everything is going good. The surgery has lasted about 7.5 hrs so far. They are pulling out the bottom bone and adding a cage to hold the space. They need to get the bone away from the Spinal Cord. Then they will flip him on his side and add 8 screws along his back (4 on each side).

Want to give him a nice surprise? Create a card for him online (its quick and free) and they will print it out and give it to him. Just follow these instructions.

Climbing Accident

Last night around 10:30, Spencer was rock climbing when he fell from between 30ft – 40ft, we’re not exactly sure how high up he was. He remembers landing, then passing out for a couple seconds and waking up with everyone looking at him. He was rushed to the University of Iowa hospitals. Below you can see where he thinks he fell from.

After initially passing out, he has been conscious the entire time. He didn’t have any type of head injury and can move his arms and legs, however he did crush two vertebrae.

You can see two of the vertebrae got a little agitated.

You can see the piece of bone that has been pushed into his spinal cord, thats the gap between the two bones. Luckily it didn’t get pushed too far into the spinal cord so it didn’t affect any of his arm or leg movement. Next update, surgery.


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