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‘The heart of a lion’ – rodeo accident victim in recovery

Bronc rider recovering in Foothill Medical Centre in Calgary.

WILKIE — Sixteen-year-old Sandy Cooper-Black, grandson of Jim and Sharon Cooper of Senlac and of Bev and Joe Wagner of Wilkie, is in the spinal care ward at Foothills Medical Centre, recovering from a rodeo injury. Cooper-Black broke his neck when he was bucked off a saddle bronc at a rodeo in Brooks, Alta., Dec. 30.

Transferred from Brooks Hospital to Foothill Medical Centre in Calgary, he underwent emergency surgery. Following the surgery, he was on a breathing tube so was unable to speak. Mother Glenice said he had to use an alphabet board to spell out words.

When, three days later, he still wasn’t breathing on his own, some members of the medical team suggested a tracheotomy. Although there was a 95 per cent chance this would be necessary, one doctor pointed out Sandy could be one of the five per cent who wouldn’t need that intervention.

Glenice said Dr. Godinez strongly believed in Sandy, and quoted him as saying, about Sandy, “He has a heart like a lion and the strength of an island man.”

The breathing tube was removed and while, according to Glenice, it was a “scary 24 hours,” Sandy came through and was moved out of the intensive care unit in only six days.

Godinez recently came to see Sandy and Glenice and was moved to tears by Sandy’s progress in such a short time. Godinez said, “He [Sandy] is truly amazing.”

Nevertheless, Sandy faces a long recovery process.

The family lives on a ranch between Consul and Maple Creek and both communities have stepped up with fundraisers to help them out. Support has also been received from the Unity and Wilkie communities. Sandy’s stepfather, Dan Black, told John Gormley on CKOM radio, “They had fundraisers over at Gravelbourg even, and they wouldn’t even know who Sandy is.”

If you also wish to donate to Sandy Cooper-Black and the family as they navigate new territory, renovate their home and purchase equipment, there are several ways to do so. There is a GoFundMe account: and donations are also being accepted at Cypress Credit Union. You can contact the credit union by calling 1-877-353-6311 or 306-662-2683, and by email to

Family friend and musician Colter Wall has announced all proceeds from his Western Swing & Waltzes and Other Punchy Songs would go to Sandy. Spencer Streichert has organized a comedy show at The Tea House in Calgary for Feb. 1 with 100 per cent of the ticket sales being donated to Sandy.

For updates on Sandy’s condition and announcements about other fundraisers such as art and clothing sales, you can follow Sandy Cooper Community on Facebook. The Facebook page also allows you to post your own message of support and encouragement as he continues on the long road to recovery.

The latest update was posted Jan. 20 and said, “Over the last 2 weeks Sandy has made some great progress. He has graduated from one physio session to two sessions each day and has been working so hard to make improvements each day. The grit, determination and positive attitude he has been bringing to each new day is astounding. He is thriving on the positive support of his family, friends, and communities who are visiting, sending messages, writing notes of encouragement, and cheering him on from near and far. His spirit and humour has won the hearts of the entire spinal ward and the staff at the Foothills Hospital are cheering him on as well. Thank you everyone!”

Glenice and Dan said family friend Brad Wall was able to put into words what the family is feeling. Wall shared with the Sandy Cooper Community: “I do have some thoughts this morning that I want to respectfully share with you about faith and prayer and our friend Sandy Cooper, his great family and some amazing things I have borne witness too here lately.

“For those of you following, cheering supporting young Sandy Cooper’s fight for recovery - you no doubt have been encouraged by what seem to be amazing developments - maybe even small miracles. (If any miracle can be small that is…)

“Anyone who knows Sandy knows that first and foremost - his indomitable spirt, amazingly positively attitude and old-man strength are big reasons for these miracles. The love and support of his family and his friends and community is another reason I am sure. And then there is the skill of the surgeons, the care of the frontline staff providing care and those leading his physio - still more reasons for his progress…for small miracles.

“And there have been some of those. The family was told there was only a 5 percent chance Sandy would breathe on this own. And he was breathing and - soon enough- talking and surprising the Docs. His movement and mobility after such a surgery and the very serious spinal cord injuries stand out among these miracles as well. More recently there was the hope and prayer that he could remain in Calgary for his recovery and that was not an assured thing by any means. It became a focus of the prayers of many.

“These are some of the very positive developments ..miracles to which I am referring.

“And so I think it is important to acknowledge one other reason for them: the power of prayer.

“There have been prayers for Sandy - some general and some very specific - offered up all over this continent, from an Ottawa suburb by a woman of great faith who has never met nor may ever meet Sandy - to a large prayer group in a church in San Antonio where Colter’s drummer Russel and his wife Rebecca attend.

“Thank you all for your prayers. I acknowledge the author of those small miracles here on this page and thank him for his faithfulness.

For Sandy’s cause let us continue to petition heaven for his strength mental and physical - and for recovery and restoration in his body. Let us do so with the apostle Paul’s advice in mind - to ‘pray unceasingly.’

As Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote "There are more things wrought by prayer than this world dreams of."

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