‘They took out my entire spleen and the tail of my pancreas’: David Djité talks his horror-slam and its consequences - Onboard Magazine

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‘They took out my entire spleen and the tail of my pancreas.’

David Djité talks his horror-slam and its consequences

David Djite. Photo: Matt Georges

David, a Zurich native, started snowboarding at an early age – in fact he was just four years old when he took his first turns. Hooked from the first second, and with his grandparents owning a holiday apartment in Laax, it was a given that he would spend every free minute in the mountains.

When his buddies Max Buri, Kevin Bäckström and Tor Lundström hit him up about our Send Off Session in Levi, Finland, his team manager Alvaro Vogel put the wheels in motion and arranged for him and his team mates James Niederberger and Kent Callister to join the trip.

It’s the end of the season, you’re with the homies and the mood is chill. You want to kill it on that last trip and end the season with a bang. Not that kind of bang though. When David came out to Levi, he certainly didn’t expect to be leaving in a private jet.

It’s easy to forget sometimes just how dangerous this sport you love the most has the potential to be. A trick you normally do in your sleep can, if worst comes to worst, be the end of your career. David was luckier than that, but he nevertheless went through a whole heap of bad times after he caught his edge riding out after landing a perfectly executed backside 720. We visited him at home in Zürich, where he is slowly on the road to recovery, to talk to him about his rough last couple of weeks.

Let’s do a little rewind – how did you get into snowboarding in the first place?

That’s actually a funny story – my mom used to take me skiing when I was like three years old and she told me that whenever I saw a snowboarder I didn’t focus on skiing anymore. I was so pumped on it, that she and my godfather, Remo Rossi, who was one of the first skate- & snowboarders in Switzerland, introduced me to snowboarding. That was when I was four and it kind of changed my life. I slept with my first board, because I loved it so much.

So you came to the Send Off Session with team Slytech/Shred, which was James Niederberger, Kent Callister and Alvaro Vogel, who filmed. How did the first couple of days turn out for you?

I had a really good time there. But it was the last trip of the season, so my body was really tired and we went partying quite a bit, but that’s what it’s all about at the of the season. We filmed some really cool stuff, I wasn’t happy with everything, but we were doing quite well.

But then shit hit the fan…

I don’t really remember which day it was, maybe the fourth or the fifth. Me and Kent were hitting the jump in the afternoon because we needed some shots, so I did a bunch of tricks. I did a back 7, which is a trick you usually do in your sleep ’cause it’s so easy and I landed perfectly too. But when I was riding out of the landing, I caught my front edge and slammed straight on my face and upper body. I passed out and the next thing I remember is waking up in the snow, listening to my music. Alva was trying to help me because at the beginning I couldn’t breathe anymore. I got taken to the nearest hospital, which is still two-and-a-half hours away. At first I thought it really wasn’t that big of a deal.

It certainly didn’t look so bad.

The bail didn’t look bad at all, actually. I saw it on camera a bunch of times now. I couldn’t have been more unlucky, it was the shittiest thing that could happen. They told me I had a couple broken ribs and everything’s gonna be fine, no surgery needed. But the first hospital was quite a shitty one, it was more of a regional little station where they had four doctors for about 100 patients.

They told me something different every day, but it got worse and worse. After a bunch of tests they realised that I’d broke off the tail of my pancreas and that I needed to get surgery straight away, so the ambulance had to drive me another two-and-a-half hours to the next big hospital in Oulu, which is a university hospital. I was lucky enough that there was a pancreas specialist who did the surgery on me. He did such a great job, I’m super happy that he did it. They took out my entire spleen and the tail of my pancreas because there was liquid coming out of the pancreas which is really dangerous for the other organs. I also hurt my kidney and my left lung and had a minor skull fracture. The skull fracture wasn’t too bad, but I can still feel the consequences. I’m really slow in my head at the moment and I sometimes have problems focusing, but the doctors say it’s coming back. It’s also partly from the heavy surgery and everything I went through. In the end I spent about two-and-a-half weeks in Finnish hospitals in a lot of pain, but I’m alive and that’s all that matters.

Very true. Then you got taken back to Zürich?

The Rettungsflugwacht, Rega, flew me here. That’s a Swiss insurance where you pay 40 bucks a year and they pick you up wherever you are in the world if you have bad injuries or you’re really sick.

That’s pretty boss.

Yeah! They flew me to Zürich airport and brought me straight to the hospital, where I spent another six days, and now I’m here..

… chillin’ on your rooftop. Was that the worse slam you ever had?

Not the worst. I had way worse slams but the consequences are for sure the worst. But I’m just super happy that I can still walk and do all the stuff I wanna do.

Back 7, landed, to the harshest of scorps. Photo: Sam Oetiker

What’s the plan now? How do you get back in shape?

I started physical therapy last week and I’m really happy I can do it at the Swiss Olympic Center here in Zürich ’cause it’s the place where all the national team riders go to. I’m there two or three times a week and do the best I can. I can’t really do much so far, but as soon as the doctors give me the OK, I’ll start going to the gym again, too, so I can get in shape for next season. They never told me that I can’t snowboard anymore, which is good news, but they also never told me when I can actually get back on my snowboard. But maybe I’ll do a bunch of days on the glacier in autumn, just to get the feeling back.

So you’re excited to go back?

I’m really excited to go back, but I have a whole different view of snowboarding now. I never put a lot of pressure on myself, or if so then always in a positive way. But I just realised, now, that I need to start enjoying it a little bit more. Like sometimes just not doing stuff you don’t really wanna do. Snowboarding is still the biggest part of my life, for sure, but there’s other stuff coming later in life too. You need to be aware of the possible consequences, if you have a heavy bail.

It put everything a bit in perspective?

For sure.

Anything else you want to add?

I wanna say thank you to Alvaro for being the best team manager you could ask for, and to everyone who hit me up. I got like 300 messages and everyone was so nice to me, I really appreciate that. That’s really cool in snowboarding, we’re one big family and everyone cares about the others. Basically just a big thank you to everyone, my sponsors, my family and friends.

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