Riverton Teen walked again against all odds; His artwork is state’s best
(Riverton, Wyo.) – Three years ago, Riverton High School Sophomore Holden Yorgason was playing middle school football when he was tackled. Hard. Stunned, he left the game, but despite the pain in his back, he returned to the game again. That’s the last time he played football. His T-10 vertebra was damaged, he soon developed a blood clot and lost all feeling in his legs. He was wheelchair bound. Fortunately, though, his spinal cord was only damaged, not severed.
“I was told that I would not walk again, so we went all over the region to do physical therapy; At the Mayo Clinic, at Colorado Children’s Hospital, at the Elkhorn Rehabilitation Hospital in Casper,” he said, “but the most beneficial was at Neuroworx in Sandy, Utah.” There he did work on a swimming pool treadmill, learning to walk again without bearing weight on his legs.
Yorgason said that from his wheelchair he progressed to crutches, then to a leg brace which he was in for two months, and then only support for his knee and ankle, or KAFO (Knee Ankle Foot Orthopedics). Today, he can walk, but he still has no feeling in his legs below his waist. He once broke a tibia and didn’t know it, but his leg swelled up and started to flop around. “I couldn’t feel it.”
The inspiration for his recovery, he said, “is my grandpa, who is legendary in our eyes. He’s 79-years-old and running his own ranch up at Meeteetse. And this was after he retired, he said he was going to relax, but he bought a ranch and he is doing what people his age don’t do,” Holden said, “he breaks mules.”
As a first year glass art student under Marianne Vinich at RHS, Yorgason chose his grandpa for one work. “Grandpa spends his time in the mountains, he likes that it is such a pretty place,” he said. The result was “Grandpa on his Ass,” a fused glass piece with glass and glue (gum arabic emulsifier), and mashed, granules, and chips of glass in mosaic colors that are layered. He used enamel paint for the mule and using the chipped glass, the river in the work has the look of moving water.
Holden’s work was chosen by Governor Matt Mead to represent the state in the “Celebrate the West” competition held by the Western Governor’s Conference. “WGA was just amazed by Holden Yorgason’s piece,” said Christine Ogsbury of the Western Governor’s Foundation, in a letter to Vinich. “It is so stunning, hes use of fused glass and the details and colors are captivating. His work is remarkable, and we are honored to have the opportunity to include his piece in our competition.”
Yorgason said he loved to draw as a child, and he continues the love of sketching out ideas for other glass pieces. “I had a lot of support from my family. I had a choice, either to take this and let it drive me, or feel sorry for myself. I decided I wanted to walk again,” he said. “I want to be a mentor, to help others.” In that light, he has been shadowing Scott Phister at Fremont Therapy since January.
But Holden also has his own shadow. Carson Lee, his best friend, helps out as much as he can and goes with Holden everywhere.
Vinich said Holden “is exceptionally humble, he’s kind and polite and one of the most attentive student’s I’ve ever had.” Further, “it is exhilarating to have a student absorb knowledge and do hands-on work; He is so willing to take direction. He’s not afraid to venture past the norm and explore new techniques. I’m over the moon with him,” she said. Vinich also noted that Holden is “always thinking about someone else, making gifts to share his talent with that always fits his personality. He didn’t make anything for himself this year.”
A member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Holden recently pushed and walked next to a handcart along the Pioneer Trail, from the Sixth Crossing on the Sweetwater River to Rock Creek Hollow. “I did 28 miles in two days,” he said. All that while not being able to feel his legs.
The Western Governor’s art competition will be held in Whitefish, Mont., on June 26-28.