Rough and Ready man seriously injured while camping | TheUnion.com

Rough and Ready man seriously injured while camping

A GoFundMe account has been set up for Rob Totoonchie, who sustained serious injuries when a tree branch fell on him while camping.
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To help Rob Totoonchie cover medical expenses incurred when a tree branch fell on him, click here.

It was windy the night of Oct. 26 — just about every northern Californian was unnerved by it.

But that didn’t deter Rob Totoonchie, an experienced outdoors person, from pitching his tent on a friend’s remote Mendocino property. Up for a quick visit for a friend’s birthday from his home in Rough and Ready, Totoonchie settled in for the night under a large tree.

But just before the break of dawn, a massive branch snapped off above him, crashing through his tent. Initially stunned, it took a few moments for Totoonchie to grasp what had just happened, but suddenly it was all to clear. He’d been seriously injured. A friend who had been sleeping nearby was able to call 911.

“I was barely conscious, but I feel like I remember the basics,” said Totoonchie. “It was too windy to be air-lifted out. A U.S. Forest Service truck was able to drive up the rough dirt road to get me, then I was pulled into a fire truck, then another fire truck, which took me to a basic life support ambulance, which transferred me to an advance life support ambulance. I didn’t lose consciousness until I got to the hospital in Willits, where I was put into a helicopter and transported to Mercy Medical Center in Redding. The whole trip lasted about three hours.”

Totoonchie’s injuries were determined to be severe. His pelvis was smashed and his lung had collapsed. His liver was ruptured and he had 11 broken ribs. There was also a break in his vertebrae, just above the sacrum. As word spread that he was in the intensive care unit, family and friends began making the trip north to offer support.

“I haven’t been alone since the branch fell on me,” he said. “No one had to show up here, but they did. It’s made the world of difference in my recovery. I’m extremely grateful.”

Despite the insurance Totoonchie has through his job at the California Solar Electric Company in Grass Valley, out-of-pocket expenses are expected to be significant, not the least of which are the costs of being life-flighted to Redding. Totoonchie, known for his generous and humble nature, was reluctant when his friends said they wanted to set up a GoFundMe account on his behalf. But when he learned he could return the money should he end up not needing it, he agreed.

“It’s a huge deal for him to be laid up like this, mending so many injuries at the same time,” said friend and co-worker, Lars Ortegren. “If you know Rob, you know what a good person he is. Estimated out of pocket costs are about $32,000. If you don’t know him, consider it a donation to make the world a better place, as that is what this man does with his time and his work. Share, donate, and keep the love coming.”

“Rob is an extremely healthy, active, and outdoorsy person — this tragedy has been a reminder that random accidents can happen to anyone at anytime,” echoed co-worker Akim Aginsky. “Rob is the type of person who is always helping others; a neighbor move, a friend paint their house, volunteering for the elderly. This terrible accident is an opportunity for everyone who has been touched by his kindness to return the love.”

On Friday, Totoonchie learned that while his recovery may take up to two years, he is expected to make a full recovery. He has since been transported to a Roseville rehabilitation facility and says he is “feeling good.”

“I can’t say enough about the guy — he’s a peaceful soul who’s easy to love,” said Totoonchie’s brother, Pete, a teacher at Nevada Union High School. “He is really not the kind of guy who is looking for a hand out. He was carefully researching GoFundMe, to make sure he could return the money if he didn’t need it. He is really taken aback and grateful that people were willing to step up on his behalf.”

Totoonchie’s accident has not impacted his passion for the outdoors. The only thing he might consider is being more aware of his surroundings in more “intense” weather conditions, he said.

Those who are interested in helping cover Totoonchie’s expenses can go to GoFundMe.com and search for “Rob Totoonchie.”

The GoFundMe had raised $17,643 out of its $30,000 as of Monday night.

“Am I optimistic? I didn’t die — that could have easily happened,” he said. “The biggest thing I’ve taken out of this experience is that having community around you makes the whole difference. This has given me a new lease on life. I recognize how much support I have and how lucky I am.”

To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at cory@theunion.com or call 530-477-4203.


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