Nicki and Donnell Burch just opened Hard2Kill CrossFit on Airport Road this week. The business name, Hard2Kill, has special meaning to the couple. Almost 7 years ago, Donnell was involved in a motorcycle accident and sustained injuries so severe he was not expected to survive.
At the time of the accident, Donnell had been employed by the Asheville City Schools. On Tuesday, April 9, 2013, he stopped to workout at the gym before heading home to Nicki and his young son, Skylar. Donnell recalls leaving the gym and driving south on Hendersonville Road. That is all he remembers of the evening. Donnell’s motorcycle was struck head on by a car. He was thrown in the air onto the path of oncoming traffic where he was run over by a truck traveling north.
His injuries were so serious that Donnell was pronounced dead on arrival at Mission Hospital. Medical personnel worked to revive him. He remained unresponsive in a coma for over 3 weeks. Nicki says the doctors were not optimistic. Even when Donnell regained consciousness, they gave him a 60 percent chance of surviving. Several times in the two months he spent in the hospital, he went into cardiopulmonary arrest requiring a medical team to begin resuscitation.
One night while Donnell was in the hospital, Nicki says she was asleep at home and awoke suddenly. “Something shook me,” she says. The next morning in the hospital, a nurse told her that Donnell had ‘coded’ in the middle of the night but had, again, survived.
Donnell endured 11 surgeries before beginning 3 years of physical and occupational therapy. Nicki says the first surgery after the accident was especially critical. Donnell had suffered an aortic dissection where the inner layer of the aorta, the large blood vessel branching off the heart, was torn. His surgeon explained to Nicki that Donnell’s aorta was hanging on by a thread of tissue, and the operation had a slim survival rate. Donnell pulled through. “I knew if God brought him through that first surgery, God would continue to heal him.”
“I really believe I’m here for a reason,” Donnell says. “God left me here to do things I did not think I could do.” He hopes through Hard2Kill CrossFit to be a roll model. “If you have faith, work hard, and stay on the right path, you’ll be able to do great things.”
A year after the accident, Donnell returned to the gym. Coaches modified workouts so he could rebuild his strength. “I couldn’t even touch the floor,” he says, “but the coaches said ‘don’t worry about it — keep strong and keep your head up,’ and they were right.” When he could not lift a barbell, he lifted a PVC pipe. His efforts to jump rope began with just holding jump rope handles and ‘imagining’ the sensation of jumping the rope.
As he recovered, Donnell mentioned to a friend that he would like to eventually tackle a 5k running race. In 2015, he ran the 1-mile kids’ ‘fun run’ that was part of a race at Carrier Park. “The kids beat me, but I finished,” he says. In September of that year, local resident and friend of the Burches, Dolly McClean, organized a 5k for Donnell, and he completed the 3.1 mile course, just 2 years after his accident. Donnell subsequently completed the 4-mile Resolution Run McClean organized on New Year’s Day in 2016.
Donnell is currently the varsity basketball coach at Veritas Christian Academy and teaches middle school CrossFit. He continues to work hard at regaining the strength and speed he had before the accident. Through the ordeal, Donnell never gave up. “I leaned on God a lot, and He got me through.”
Hard2Kill CrossFit will be managed by international CrossFit competitor, Carey Blanton. Blanton, an Appalachian State graduate, also graduated from Enka High. He will compete this spring in Egypt at the ELFIT Egypt CrossFit Competition, a sanctional event where the top athletes will receive invitations to the 2020 CrossFit Championships. Blanton will manage programming, create training plans and support members with sports nutrition guidance.
He, and the Burches, hope members will find Hard2Kill is the best hour of their day.
The Hard2Kill CrossFit team says they support people of all ages and in all walks of life, from their 20’s to their 70’s. “All of the exercises can be modified to create a safe workout experience,” Nicki said.
Despite everything the Burches have endured, they are grateful to the community for its ongoing support. “CrossFit is known for support and encouragement,” Donnell said, “as well as for helping people reach their goals.” More information on Hard2Kill CrossFit is available on Facebook and by calling 828-585-2403.