Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Accidental Aftermath: An Interlude

After being released from Washington Central Hospital, Susan and I drove to Bellingham to stay at Kari's house for ten days until a scheduled follow up appointment back in Wenatchee. Friends came to visit and talk, and it was great to see them all again. My speech was obviously slowed and some words seemed to be just out of grasp, but worse was not remembering details of the conversations a day later. The only thing that seemed to come easily was sleep—fourteen hours or more a day!

The drive from Wenatchee to Jackson was interminable, even with an overnight near Spokane; Susan did a great job of driving the distance. The next few weeks were a blur of sleep and...what? Not much else. As I wasn't moving much, I had almost no appetite. Even recovery was a passive activity. Motivation was severely lacking.

My head seemed to return to normal gradually over those weeks and months; the last effect I noticed was in trying to read aloud—I could read to myself at a normal pace, and I could speak at a normal rate, but there seemed to be some mechanism just not in synch while trying to read aloud. The words would just not form. Concentration spans gradually lengthened to where books again became enjoyable.

Physical effects gradually diminished as well. Being able to roll over or be on my side while sleeping brought major improvement in comfort. My broken ankle, although the slowest injury to heal, was always the least painful, even in the hours after the accident.

Climbing was my raison d'ĂȘtre and I had no Plan B; no work, no other hobbies, and a relationship gradually growing distant. But I was still among the fortunate ones; the accident could have easily been much worse, and I had maintained my own health insurance after leaving work. The bills for those few days in the hospital totaled over $22,000. No insurance and my trip would have been severely curtailed.

I wish I could say that the recovery phase has been good for me, and that I've learned value in slowing down and that I took the time to learn Spanish, or organize my photo albums, or done something. But I didn't learn any lessons, other than that recovery sucks, plain and simple. Even the blog has suffered; what might be a chance to further the craft of writing took a holiday. I view the blog as a way of keeping track of the various places I visit, the people I meet, and the events experienced; nothing worth writing about has occurred in the past few months.

The one exception to “nothing” was attending a Wilderness First Responder (WFR, pronounced Woofer) class from November 30th until December 8th in Jackson. With only one day off, the class was 8 hours a day of first aid techniques especially tailored to meet the needs of those who travel a bit off the beaten path. This is the type of training Susan utilized in the hours between my fall and the arrival of the E.R. doctor who was part of the evacuation team, and even until arrival at the ambulance and advanced medical equipment. The information in the class, the presenters, and my fellow students were all stimulating, and did wonders for me personally, in just getting me up and motivated to do something every day. The class gave me additional insight to the care I received from Susan in those first critical hours and the ability to in turn provide that same care to someone in a similar situation. The class also gave me renewed appreciation for the professional manner in which Susan acted. She was, in a word, awesome.

As I write this, 2009 is drawing to a close. I am in South Florida visiting family for the holidays and will return to Jackson the first week of 2010. As soon as I return to Jackson, I'll leave again for warmer climes, this time to Vegas to see Sam and Brie until I need to return again to Jackson for a doctor's appointment on January 20th. At that point, almost 3 ½ months after the accident, I should be able to begin walking without the hard boot. I have tried not to look ahead to that day...but it's getting close enough to let myself fantasize about long walks in the snow, some cross-country ski trips, and gradually increasing both the distances and slope angle till I'm back amidst the vertical world.

1 comment:

  1. Steve,
    It is great to hear from you. Thanks for sharing. THis too shall pass and the life you have grown to love and desire will be back to you soon. It does take way too damn long but it will reappear and your spiritis will be lifted.
    I feel the same way about recovery. I thought that I would do all these things that I have put on the back burner for the past couple of years while tackling the world with all my outdoor passions. Yeah, that has not happened, not a shred of activity. If I have found something to do it was out of sheer desperation from the overwhelming thoughts of wanting to walk, run, bike, squat down and relieve the tension in my back. I realized that these old hobbies are not my true passion anymore and I know how I want to live my life, healthy and active.
    All my thoughts are with you in this time.
    Enjoy the desert!