From WHL and CIS championships to Sledge hockey championships and some terrible times in between, Kieran Block has seen a lot in his young life.
After surviving a 35-foot fall from a cliff to the rocky shore below, Kieran went from convincing himself that death was imminent to a new outlook on life. He’s taken the time to write a book about his experience during and after the fall, and I was lucky enough to sit down with him and talk to him about the book, life and his story. Here’s part of our conversation:
The first thing that people who pick up your book are going to notice is the 65 quick hit style of chapters fascinating format, where did that idea come from?
When we looked at writing this book, myself and my writer Michael Belzil, we didn’t want to follow the regular paradigm of an autobiography. One book that I really enjoyed reading myself was a “Brief History of Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson. In that book he talks about all these different stories, explains where the story came from, and has all these fun stories that give you brief looks at different things while following the same linear line. My story is anything but linear, especially when it comes to going from: learning to walk, to the mental aspect, to sledge hockey, and so we had all these different ideas that we wanted to put in the book without being disruptive to the story. Also, people don’t pick up books and read as much these days, especially with Facebook and the internet. So we wrote a story that you could pick it up, read a chapter, get something from it, enjoy the message and then put down the book and keep going with your day and you’re not going to be lost.
The other idea we took it off of was a sitcom. If you look at a Seinfeld or a Friends, where you could literally turn it on wherever you are and enjoy the show.
So now if we can talk about the incident itself. You were at the U of A playing for the Golden Bears…?
I had just completed my first year and so I had just been accepted into the Faculty of Education and I was excited. I had a plan and everything was going according to plan. My plan was over the summer to work two jobs, save up, prepare and get ready for school. So me and the girl I was with and some friends had planned to go out to Jasper and do some camping. We had decided to go out to Horseshoe Lake and go cliff jumping. I didn’t know that I was going to have some big changes that morning when I woke up. It was the fourth spot we had mapped out. We jumped off the cliff and I was the first on in so I swam around and wanted to go again. My friend was behind me and I thought I had gotten to the same spot. Without waiting (being an eager 22-year-old) I was ready to just get back into the water. I was competitive and so when my friend was yelling at me from the water I thought he was just yelling at me not to jump to keep up with my amount of jumps.
So I ran and jumped, and as soon as I put my foot on the edge, I just saw the rocks and I thought “This is it”.. that I had maybe 4 or 5 seconds left in my life.
I landed in the rocks in a way that my legs were able to be in the water and the rest of my body out. It probably saved my legs. If I had landed a little farther out, I might have drowned. If I had landed a little further back, purely in the rocks, the water wouldn’t have been there. That water acted like a big bag of ice. A lot of miracles that day and that’s what I try and focus on instead of the misfortunes because I can’t change what happened so I try to use the positive things that happened and move forward.
What kind of lingering issues do you have to deal with today?
I still have chronic pain. You know, you break an arm, or a leg, or you cut your hand, it hurts for a week, two weeks, maybe even a month and then it goes away. When my pain wasn’t going away after five and six months I started to worry if I was ever going to escape this pain. It has been a tough journey, even to this day I’ll still get some nerve pain or shooting pains but it’s not anywhere near what it was.
Then it was just learning how to deal with the change of my legs. Every surgery I had, it would change everything, the gait of my legs, the way I walked, the pressures on my legs, and even up my back.
This just learning to slow down. Simple things like pulling on your pants in the morning. I used to get really frustrated that my right foot would get stuck in my pants. I couldn’t bend my right foot down to pull them up. Those things still get me every once in a while.
Who is Kieran Block now?
I think really I am a man of many talents. Being a teacher, a sledge hockey player, a stand up hockey player, and now an author. I just keep finding little pieces to add to the puzzle. I talked about it in my book, when I shattered my legs I realized that I couldn’t just be a hockey player. So that’s when I started branch out and started to look at some other things I could do. That’s where I got on into the motivational speaking, teaching (I was already on that path), but there was still always the dream in the back of my mind that I would end up playing pro hockey.
I have been pouring into myself and my identity over the last ten years and I assume that it’s going to continue to grow over the next 10 years.
You’re friends with Oilersnation’s own Wanye Gretz, The Squire, and Mandeeeeez, what has that been like?
Well, you know, Wanye has one of my old kindergarten pictures that he may have tracked down. I am excited to see that and show some of my kids at my school for the silliness that all kids can be. I don’t have too much dirt on those guys, but I am excited to see everything those guys have done and everything that they’re doing. To have an impact on the community like Oilersnation does, it’s just awesome to see.
Where can people find your book and you?
It’s been a two and a half year project, so a lot of work went into that. My personal website you can sign up there for the book as well as get in contact with me. We do have our own website going now, www.theupsanddownsofalmostdying.bigcartel.com and people can order the book there. You can contact me at @kieranhc23 on twitter or @kbubbs23 on Instagram, and then also we’re on Facebook. We self published because so many other people out there, as a nobody like us, they (the publishers) take quite a bit off the top. Once we cover our costs we will look at the bigger spots.
Thanks to Kieran Block for taking the time to talk to me and for letting us share his incredible story with Oilersnation.