From snowboard to keyboard
Editor’s note: This is the second of two-part series about miracles, small and large.
EAGLE COUNTY – When Steve MacCutcheon’s hands touch a piano keyboard, he feels God’s hands touch him.
He was dead, then he wasn’t. His brain was damaged, now it isn’t.
He was one of the world’s most promising young professional snowboarders, then he wasn’t.
He had never played piano, then one day he did and still does.
MacCutcheon will record his first album next month, contemporary Christian music about life and death and love from a young man who has experienced all that and more.
But before we can tell you that story, we need to tell you this story.
Steve “Speedy” MacCutcheon started snowboarding as soon as he could walk, and was competing by age 8. He won his first national championship at age 11 and began competing professionally at 15.
MacCutcheon soon headed to Europe to represent the United States on the international circuit.
MacCutcheon had won four national championships by the time he was in high school. He was one of those kids who conceived a trick and said to himself, “Yeah, I can do that.” And then he did.
He was working on his fifth national title when his world came crashing down from 30 feet in the air.
MacCutcheon was just 17, and competing in a national championship boardercross event at Copper Mountain on that fateful spring day, April 6, 2005. The sky was that striking Colorado blue.
“It feels like a cloudy day for me,” Steve said.
In the finals he flew over a jump, missed a turn and floated in mid air for as long as a man could. He may have nine lives, but unlike a cat he did not land on his feet.
MacCutcheon plummeted to earth, landing on his head from 30 feet in the air.
His brain was hemorrhaging in two places and his breathing had stopped. The fall shattered his shoulder and broke his elbow. Doctors restarted his breathing and placed him a medically induced coma and strapped him a stretcher for the helicopter ride to St. Anthony’s hospital in Denver.
His parents weren’t sure he’d leave alive.
“People were gathered around and praying right there at the base of the slopes,” said Pam MacCutcheon, Steve’s mother. “It was so chaotic. We just in shock. The accident and everything afterward was evidence of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.”
Doctors needed to quickly decide whether to drill holes in his skull to relieve the pressure on his brain. If they didn’t, MacCutcheon would probably die or live with significant brain damage.
His mother and others stood quietly by the life support machinery, praying, watching it keep her son alive.
Then, for no apparent reason, the pressure on his brain disappeared and he regained consciousness.
“He was on life support when he just lifted up,” Pam said. “We were so excited and amazed that we all ran out of the trauma room.”
The Flight for Life pilot was still there and he came in to see for himself.
“He told us he transported people regularly with those types of injuries, and that Steve was one lucky kid,” Pam said.
“It’s about the prayers and the love, and Jesus,” Pam said. “I can’t explain it any other way. Billy Graham says that no matter how long we prolong life, you’re still going to die. We need to prepare for that by trusting Jesus as our savior.”
It’s one thing to not die, but it’s quite another to recover. Steve is 100 percent, but it has taken five years.
Because they lived in Edwards and he was a teenaged professional snowboarder, Steve was constantly agitated to get back on his board.
“It was all I ever knew. That was my entire life’s goal; I wanted to snowboard professionally for as long as I could,” Steve said.
The family’s move to South Carolina removed snow from the equation, but not Steve’s frustration. Competitive snowboarding was over, he hadn’t finished high school, and all his friends were on their way to college.
One night he’d been throwing stuff around their South Carolina home, venting some that frustration.
His brother Michael is a songwriter and Steve had heard him play the piano.
Late one night when the house was quiet and Steve felt that frustration creeping back in, he got up, sat down in front of that piano and started playing. He had never played before – ever.
“I had no idea what I was playing. I just started to play this riff, then the chord structure underneath. I was making music,” he said. “I was learning the importance of music as a form of communication.”
It’s a God thing, Steve says.
He was playing only what he was making up, so they found a music teacher, Jo Ellen Langley, who helped him understand what he was learning on his own, playing by ear.
He plays constantly and got dandy on the keyboard. A church they were attending seated 3,000 people, meeting in what used to be Ronnie Milsaps’ theater. They were holding auditions for musicians, so he and Michael took a shot.
The next you know they were playing Sunday mornings in front of 3,000 people.
“It was God’s hand enabling me to do this,” Steve said.
They moved back to the Vail Valley, attend Calvary Chapel Vail Valley, and got to know John David Webster, one of Christian music’s top recording artists. That’s who Steve and Michael are working with next month to start on their album.
Michael is the singer and writes the lyrics. Steve writes the music. Michael was attending college in Boulder when Steve was injured. He hot-footed to Denver to be in the trauma room for the entire ordeal.
They were close before; they’re inseparable now.
“It’s a chain that’s not easily broken,” Steve said.
They’re launching a ministry to help people understand that when something ends, it might be the start of something greater.
Still, he had to know. So he got back on his board last year to see what would happen.
He was considering a comeback last year. Now he’s not. He fell, hit his head and the cracking sound he heard was God slamming the snowboard door and opening the music door.
“As I’ve seen through snowboarding, every effort of my own falls through,” Steve said.
“People are going through all kinds of things, and sometimes they think that everything is over. It’s not,” Steve said. “You overcome the devil with your testimony and I want to be faithful in that.”
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