Written by A.J. Evans, BAPA Special Contributor
Photos by Barb Dumler
These words rang out like a rifle shot throughout the BAPA community. My heart and the hearts of many who know Hoyt Foster, dropped like a rock. There was little information available when at 6pm on October 30, 2017, Hoyt had survived a twenty-foot fall from a ladder while adjusting a TV antenna at his home in the Nampa area. It wasn’t until hours later that information on the nature and extent of Hoyt’s injuries were made public. The positive news was he had survived a fall from a height that would have ended most people’s life, but not Hoyt, not today. The unfortunate news was he had been badly injured. At the end of the day, he knew he had been given a second chance by a power greater than him. Over the next several days, he would also realize the road back to a life of normalcy as he knew it would be months away.
I visited Hoyt in his room at St. Alphonsus Hospital two weeks after his accident and was amazed to see Hoyt sitting up in a chair resting comfortably next to his wife Jan. They were having a pleasant discussion with two of the many BAPA friends that had stopped by to visit. Visits that he truly appreciated. My first impression was he looked ok but upon closer examination, I could tell he was hurting, bruised, and overwhelmed. The injury assessment was extensive; broken right wrist that required a steel plate, screws, and brace, a broken pelvis requiring pinning, a skull fracture, and multiple contusions. While sitting and listening closely to his recollection of events, I was astonished he was alive. But something was different, something had changed or did I just notice for the first time an inner strength and resolve that I had never seen in one of my fellow pickleball friends.
He doesn’t remember every detail of the fall other than losing his footing at the top of the ladder, striking the ladder, then free falling through the air and landing hard on the ground. Fortunately, if there was any fortune to be had that day, the ground was soft from recent rain and cushioned the fall but just barely. A few feet either way would have been concrete. The arrival of the first responders, the ride to the hospital in the ambulance, and events over the next 48 hours were blanked in a heavy fog. He recalls the comforting voice of his wife Jan and a neighbor, the paramedics, and the nursing staff that tended to him at St. Alphonsus. To hear Hoyt describe it was like a dream, an out of body experience that made it difficult to distinguish reality from a bad dream. The pain of course was very real and excruciating. The realization that his life was going to change significantly over the next several months didn’t make matters any easier and began to weigh heavily on him.
As I sat and listened, I had a better understanding and appreciation for what this man had been through. There was an underlying calmness and spiritual strength that left no doubt in my mind this was a person that could take a punch, smile and say bring it on. Give me your best shot, I can take it. I would later understand that this drive, confidence, and attitude was driven by a deep spiritual connection and belief in God and with that, no fear. If you have every played pickleball with Hoyt or faced him across the net, you will have witnessed some of this inner strength and drive.
I learned that Hoyt and Jan had built their life around the Nampa community for most of their life’s, raised four children, and were very unassuming and very thankful for the life they were enjoying. More importantly, it was the friendships they had established with people through the pickleball community they cared about the most. Hoyt had worked for the Nampa Fire Department and in 1995, he pursued his passion for helping others by becoming an adult foster care provider and quickly learned he had a gift of caring for others. Even more astonishing was that after all that he had been through over the last two weeks, his primary concern was not with himself but how he was going to support his adult foster care family who depended on him for care, support, and love. My head was buzzing. How is it possible for someone to go through what this man had experienced, and show such unselfishness? Where do people like this come from? Why does it take a life changing event like this to learn that we have friends that care so deeply for others and give so much of themselves and expect so little in return?
It is difficult to put into words the respect and appreciation that I have for someone that displays such unconditional concern and love for others and to deal head-on with adversity like Hoyt is experiencing. On numerous occasions, he expressed his appreciation for the overwhelming support he has received from the BAPA community and admitted that without this support, the journey back would have been more difficult. He knows his recovery is going to be long, painful, and more challenging than anything he has dealt with thus far in his life. But he is a survivor and knows what he has to do. He knows others are counting on him. He knows there is a chance he may never play pickleball again and admits by the grace of God, he was given a second chance, one that he is going to fulfill as best he can. A carpe diem attitude that appears to carry him forward. My opinion as to his return to pickleball is that given time and proper healing, and learning more about this man than I knew within the last year, he will return, southpaw or otherwise. He has a true passion for the game and love for the people that play the game. It brings him an inner peace that he can’t find just anywhere.
I encourage the BAPA members that know Hoyt to keep in touch and let him know you are there should he need help. Hoyt cares deeply about all of us and is so very thankful for the support he has received to date. He has a long and difficult recovery ahead and I know your thoughts and prayers will be appreciated.
Dick Johnson competed in the 2017 USAPA Nationals in Casa Grande, Arizona, where he won the following medals:
Silver: 75 3.5 Men’s Singles
Silver: 75 4.5-4.0 Mixed Doubles
Bronze: 75 5.0-4.5 Men’s Doubles
After starting to play pickleball only 5 years ago, this year’s unique medaling Grand Slam was achieved by Dick winning medals in all 6 senior Majors in 2017 ( USAPA Nationals, US Open, Huntsman World Sr. Games, SSIPA World Championships, National Senior Olympic Games and the State Games of America). And, he has now done it for three consecutive years, bringing home 35 medals in those major tourneys (14 Golds, 12 Silvers, 9 Bronzes). Several of those medals were achieved by 77 year old Dick playing
down in age against younger players and up in skill level brackets.