We’d like to introduce you to Ethan Parsons.
Written By: John Smigaj
Edits: Kaitlin Barnhart
A 19 year old outdoor enthusiast living in the panhandle region of Idaho. Three years ago, 16 year old Ethan could be found mountain biking, four-wheeling, hunting, you name it - if it was something that could be enjoyed in the outdoors, Ethan was game. In 2016, Ethan picked up his first fly rod and began realizing a new passion in his outdoor pursuits. As he began to enter the lifelong journey into the art of fly fishing, October 2017 showed up and changed everything.
In October 2017, Ethan began experiencing episodes of dizziness, light-headedness, and periodic numbness in both his legs. These symptoms began to grow in frequency and soon Ethan was struggling to get up from his desk at school and was losing consciousness without warning. In January 2018, Ethan lost 90% of the use of his legs and all feeling from the waist down. Not knowing what was causing these episodes, Ethan’s Mother Brenda began scheduling doctor visits with specialists to undergo testing and determine what was happening with her son.
Doctor visits began adding up and still no concrete diagnosis was provided as to what was happening. The next steps were determined to be an MRI and spinal tap to try and get answers. After the MRI, Ethan’s doctor informed him that he would be reviewing the results and would quickly return to start the spinal tap. After being gone for quite some time, the doctor returned and informed Ethan that a spinal tap would not be possible as the procedure had a high likelihood of killing Him.
Ethan was diagnosed with Chiari Malformation; a condition in which brain tissue extends into the spinal canal. It occurs when part of the skull is abnormally small or misshapen, pressing on the brain and forcing it downward. On top of this, the MRI revealed a benign tumor in front of the malformation.
To this day, there has been no solution offered for Ethan to regain the use of his legs. Ethan’s single mother Brenda is doing everything in her power to continue seeking specialists and is desperately searching for a solution for her son. Realizing that He could not just sit back and wait for life to pass him by, Ethan has taken it upon himself to get back outside and pick-up where he left off in his outdoor pursuits.
When I asked Ethan how he found the positivity and motivation to get back out there, he said;
“Through it all, my peace has been to still be outdoors. The one thing I could still do was fly fish!”
Talking with Ethan, his optimism and positivity are truly overwhelming. And when I saw pictures and video of Ethan in his wheelchair, fishing in canoes, drift boats, and even wading – I was blown away and couldn’t wait to talk to him. Ethan even sent me a video of him learning to “snap-t” spey cast from his chair! If you’re like me and have complained about your lack of access to water, or lack of time you have available to fish, or how your “line weight” just wasn’t right for that type of cast, etc…talking with Ethan will humble you. It certainly did me.
Fast forward a bit to October 2020. As I mentioned, Ethan had reached out to Trxstle and shared a few pictures and video of his fly fishing adventures. When I saw them, I was so moved by his perseverance and positive attitude, I knew I wanted to talk with him and learn more. I had a long conversation with Ethan and his mother, and learned a little more about all they have been through and where they are at today. It was abundantly clear that Ethan was determined to get outside, learn more about fly fishing, and was NOT willing to just let life pass him by.
“I stay positive and have had to learn to accept my life. I love to get out there, it keeps me motivated to keeping going. It teaches me patience and balance in life. It’s been one of the best things for me hanging with people that have done it all their life and have fished different rivers. They have taught me some incredible things, not just about fishing, but about life”.
The image of Ethan in his chair, casting his spey rod has stuck with me to this day. Ethan is such an inspiring individual and He has truly changed my outlook on fishing, and life in general. I am proud to say that Trxstle, along with a few other incredible brands in the outdoor industry, have banded together in just a few short months to come up with a way to assist Ethan and get him enjoying the outdoors in a more meaningful way.
Here’s what’s happening.
We have partnered with the incredible folks at GRIT Freedom Chairs and have purchased one of their brand new, state-of-the-art, Spartan series off road wheelchairs. The GRIT Freedom Chair is a manual, all-terrain wheelchair built for every type of adventure. Developed by MIT engineers, this easy-to-push, lever-driven wheelchair comes armed with rugged mountain bike wheels, a big, sturdy front wheel that doesn’t get stuck, and trail handles!
With the GRIT Freedom Chair safely landed in the Trxstle shop, we got to work outfitting the chair with essentials that we feel will aid Ethan in getting out on the water and enjoying his time to the fullest.
Up first, we outfitted the chair with OPROS 3rd hand rod holder that they graciously donated to the cause. Being able to hold your fly rod (have a third hand) is handy for anyone out on the water, but by equipping the holder to the chair itself, Ethan now has the ability to securely store his rod while he moves from spot to spot. OPROS also donated one of their all-new landing nets. Their long handled net, which is made from a hockey stick, is incredibly beneficial for Ethan to land his fish safely from his chair.
The folks at DRYFT waders also showed tremendous support and donated a brand-new pair of their new Session SEEKR wading pants! These pants are a great fit to keep Ethan’s lower half dry while he safely navigates the water’s edge. And with the pant style fit, they are easy on and off for Him as well.
Because the GRIT Off-road wheelchair is built using mountain bike components, our friends at PEDRO’s Bike Care Products have donated an incredible care and maintenance package to Ethan to keep his new wheels running great and looking fresh for years to come. The package includes tools, cleaning supplies, and eco-friendly lubricants appropriate for use on an off-road wheelchair.
Trxstle put together a collection of useful items to support Ethan's fly fishing obsession. The new magnetic nipper system keeps nippers handy and easily accessible with magnetic mounting. A Big Water Case and NRS ClampIT quick mount will hold flies and important everyday items in an easy to access waterproof storage location. The collection is rounded out by a complete package of all Trxstle apparel and accessories.
Thanks to The Mayfly Project, North 40 and The Montana Fly Project, Ethan is also getting a brand new spey rod and reel setup. This will allow Ethan to use a Spey style casting technique which is better suited to the seated position he fishes from.
In addition to helping secure the rod and reel, The Mayfly Project has also shown a tremendous amount of support in connecting Ethan with local guides and mentors to teach him more about spey casting as well as take him on guided trips, ensuring he'll get to experience some of the best fishing opportunities in the area.
We'll be meeting up with Ethan in Idaho on the weekend of February 6/7 to deliver this package in person. We'll be joined by the Mayfly project's, Kaitlin Barnhart, and local guides/mentors to help get the details situated and ensure Ethan is plugged in and ready to hit the water in his local region. We hope this package provides convenience and increased accessibility to fly fishing and the outdoors to a young man who absolutely deserves it.
Ethan, thank you for sharing your story with me/us. You are an absolutely incredible person and I foresee nothing but exceptional things in your future. With your attitude and tenacity, the sky is the limit!
If you or someone you know is familiar Ethan's condition and thinks they may be able to help Ethan with recovery, care, or treatment, please contact John Smigaj at firstname.lastname@example.org - John will put you in touch with Ethan and his Mother, Brenda. We urge you to reach out if you think you or someone you know can help. Please share this incredible story and see if there's someone out there that might be able to lend a helping hand for Ethan. Thank you.