Well, damn. I’ve never wanted to take myself too seriously, and enjoy laughing about the Sketchy Kelly days – as I did in my last post. Besides, perspective is good, and so it’s all the more ironic that my disintegrated leg and perhaps disintegrated climbing future happened in Hyalite, but didn’t even happen while climbing. While climbing, I was everything but Sketchy Kelly – I climbed well, placed lots of pro, even protected the easy exit ice, even backed-up our anchor.
Perhaps the worst thing about fracturing my tibia & fibula – with a “Pilon Fracture” and the tibia end “heavily comminuted” – pulverized, turned to powder – wasn’t just the pain, which definitely hurt, but the psychological impact of seeing my right foot and lower leg flopping from side-to-side. Surreal. Logistically, the problem is that it’s close to the ankle joint, which greatly increases the complexity of the repair and the long-term recovery prospect. I’m looking at a huge recovery. I’ll write more about the details as time passes – I’ll be having considerably more free time, which I’ll put to good use watching TV, writing, and, most importantly, drinking margaritas (hey, at least that part’s good, right? There we go, always looking for that silver lining…).
There’s a fair bit going through my mind and I’m a little loopy, a little rougher than even normal, so pardon the sketchy writing. For now, I know a few things:
-I’m grateful to have been with my good friend Steve Halvorson, who’s a longtime climbing partner, an ER doc, and teaches wilderness medicine and rescue courses. He did an incredible job splinting my grotesque, bones-grinding-together lower leg and getting me out. He could not have done any better, and his splinting and care surely help my long-term prognosis. It took four sans-painkiller hours of him pulling me, pushing me, lifting me, me pushing up, me doing sit-ups, and just keeping it all in perspective, but he got me out. Side note, along the lines of “Hey, anybody here order a pizza?” fairytales: Near the bottom of the canyon, close to the trail but with some hard, steep terrain to go, we heard voices. Steve ran out – 13 people from a Montana Wilderness School of the Bible outing, doing a snow camping and winter climbing course. I shit you not. My thanks to them, including Adam and Brooke, who were running the deal, and were professional, patient, and endured my filthy language without flinching.
Irony number 800 – upon seeing my friend Pete Tapley in the parking lot that morning – Pete was my partner in the Black Magic post from all those years ago – we joked how I’m smart to climb with a doc. Indeed. And just beforehand, in Cody, I climbed for three incredible days with Justin Woods, who’s a paramedic and also does wilderness med and rescue work. And so it would seem that I’ve been getting smarter… Go figure. Will post some about our three great days in Cody, climbing amazing ice in spectacular landscapes, and enjoying the wonderful hospitality of The-Cody-Man, Aaron Mulkey. In short, the thing that made me most psyched about Cody wasn’t just that we did some hard and scary climbs, but that I climbed so well, completely in control, and made them as safe as they could possibly be. Whereas I might’ve been able to do those climbs years ago, I couldn’t have done them with that level of control. Feeling in-control of yourself and of your outcome is a wonderful, empowering thing.
-Was so psyched. Not only on how good I’d been feeling, but on so many things in life finally coming together after a rugged 2009. Had two Alaska trips planned, and one Pakistan trip, for 2010 (had just learned of scoring grant money for the latter). But I’m still so fortunate. Everyone deals with things in life. Most of the time, it’s good, but sometimes it’s challenging. Challenge gives opportunity. While I’d be OK without some of these opportunities, what can you do? The randomness and unknowns of life add to its beauty.
-I don’t know, what’s irony? Just a funny way of looking at things. It’s not as if one causes the other. Shit happens.
-I’m grateful for having so many deadbeat, unemployed friends who are offering and able to drive my gimp ass around. Jenna is nearly out of days-off from teaching, after all of her med appointments this year, and dealing with my stuff is the last thing I want to add to her plate. I’ve got two appointments with excellent surgeons on Monday (in Bozeman they did a minor surgery to attach the external fixator – a gnarly cage-like thing to stabilize my bones; but it was too swollen to do the major surgery there, need to wait for the swelling to subside a little). We need to get this fixed soon, before the bone fragments auto-fuse.
-After the break, while sitting in the snow, looking across the gorgeous canyon, trying to breathe and to keep my pain and head together, I was grateful. I could see the slopes leading to climbs where I’d cut my teeth as a young Montana climber, places where I’d formed great friendships, places where friends were climbing and loving life at that very moment, climbs like Winter Dance that, still, 10+ years later, rank among my best days ever. To gaze across the blanketed white wilderness and appreciate all that I have, and all that I have had until then, even as life can change so quickly. I was also grateful to still be here, grateful for my friends both with me and since passed, grateful for everything.
-So, despite some confusion and uncertainty ahead, for sure I know that rehab, with hopes for an eventual full-recovery, will be a battle. Life changes, we all know this, and I know this more than ever after this past year. But I’m starting to get ready, down in my gut, getting ready for the fight.