'No disabilities, just abilities' - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

'No disabilities, just abilities'

Quick launch program helps Osborne spend a lot of time on the water

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Posted: Tuesday, August 5, 2014 12:00 am | Updated: 1:02 am, Tue Aug 5, 2014.

COEUR d'ALENE - Despite a hockey accident which nearly took his life 34 years ago, Russ Osborne will be the first to tell you he is blessed.

"There are always people who are worse off than I am," he said. "I am blessed. I have no regrets."

Osborne played semi-pro hockey for the Spokane Americans back in 1980. He was injured in a game against a Kimberly, British Columbia, team.

"I had pro scouts checking me out," he said, adding he was 16 years old when the life-changing tragedy struck.

During the game, Osborne was working the puck up the sideline and got body-checked into the plexiglass wall near the team box. His head hit a steel frame that held the plexiglass sheets together.

"They had no padding on them," he said. "It shattered my helmet."

It also caved in the left side of his head, broke his jaw and shoulder, and sent him into a four-month coma, where his heart monitor flat-lined for nine seconds on one occasion.

Osborne said the doctors told his parents that if he lived through the ordeal, that he would likely be a vegetable when he woke up.

He underwent three brain surgeries, and his jaw is wired up. He has a steel plate on the left side of his head.

"The whole left side of my brain doesn't work," he said. "I don't know how I am smart. God wanted me here."

Osborne still has the use of his left limbs and gets around on his own pretty well. He lives by himself in a 5,000-square-foot home on Spokane's South Hill.

He even raised his 22-year-old daughter by himself. Osborne also has a 28-year-old son from his first wife.

Along with his mind, Osborne said he is grateful his reproductive parts survived the accident too.

The Press caught up with him Monday at Hagadone Marine on Blackwell Island. Osborne was taking advantage of the marina's quick launch program, where customers can call ahead to have their boats waiting for them when they arrive.

"He is here almost every day," said Brant Wilkening, a lot attendant at the marina. "He is a really interesting guy."

Osborne said he has been boating on Lake Coeur d'Alene since 1987. He has a customized red Harris FloteBote, with all of the controls left of the steering wheel.

The former athlete said he misses playing sports the most, but he has also found a way to channel this competitiveness: He races stock cars at Stateline Speedway.

Osborne has two Pontiac Grand Prix NASCAR-style race cars. Those cars have automatic transmissions, with shifting controls on the left side of the steering wheel.

Osborne said he straps his right leg back to keep it out of the way and uses his left foot to operate controls. He has been racing for the past nine years and has placed in the top 10 racing class for each of those years.

On his rear windows, he has his motto stenciled "No disabilities, just abilities." As a "true Christian," he also has: "Have Faith in God" stenciled on his back bumpers.

Osborne said from the time of the accident he has always looked ahead and worked toward doing the things he can do with his body.

At age 17, one year after his accident, he started driving a car.

"It just comes natural to me," he said, adding that he has never smoked, drank alcohol or done drugs. "Racing is my drug of choice. It's kind of a rush."

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