Recovery from serious injury?

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Wyoming Bob
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Re: Recovery from serious injury?

Postby Wyoming Bob » Thu Mar 07, 2013 8:17 pm

Presto is right, a great thread . . .

Did my ankle last year, a "lucky break" that did not require surgery. Took 5 weeks to get out of the boot, 9 weeks to the first post break 14'er (Bierstadt) and 21 weeks to the first completely ache and fatigue free climb. My doc (Cheyenne Frontier Days' orthopedic) asked how I did it (climbing), what did I want in the way of recovery (more climbing) and after the boot came off gave me a verbal PT prescription "use it and don't do anything stupid."

I wondered. . . is the climbing gig up, does a 52 year old bone mend, am I going to get out like I once did. The standard questions. Hang in there and next year when you are out climbing and this is a fading chapter, you just might find that you came out on top, more confident in both climbing and other parts of life. Somehow after these type of events and recoveries, those little nits that used to mess up your day, just don't rate like they once did.
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(and btw, are we all running around with our X-rays in electronic form, I thought only a serious engineer geek would do such a thing :o
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Re: Recovery from serious injury?

Postby photog » Thu Mar 07, 2013 8:50 pm

SummitKathy wrote:
“Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body. But rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, wine in the other, body totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO what a ride!"” (Author unknown)

I believe this quote comes from Hunter S. Thompson. I am truly amazed at all the stories of tenacity and perseverance. The mountains we love have clearly created some tough characters.
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Re: Recovery from serious injury?

Postby anasarca76 » Thu Mar 07, 2013 9:28 pm

My worst injury is a broken clavicle, which doesnt even compare to your injury; however the limits imposed by the injury made me realize how much I love what we do! I used it as motivation to be more careful and attempt to be more health conscious overall, it ended up being a positive thing in the end :) I agree with everyone else that if you put your mind to it and rehab hard within the limits of rehabilitation you'll be back at it in no time! And since you will likely have a bit of time on your hands in the initial stages of recovery, might I suggest hitting up the "what are you reading" thread.


I think that some of the adventures in these books show the awesome things we can accomplish when we put our minds to it and they always seem to motivate the hell out of me! I just finished reading Endurance and WOW, that is an amazing story to stay the least! And as mentioned elsewhere in this thread, Joe Simpsons tale, Touching the Void is more along the lines of what your experiencing and is also truly amazing! May as well take the down time to enjoy some of the better stories out there :) I wish you a speedy recovery and keep positive!
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Re: Recovery from serious injury?

Postby Rarefied » Thu Mar 07, 2013 10:11 pm

Rarefied wrote:Speaking of climbing books, I seem to recall one of the mainstream ones describing a legendary 8000 meter mountaineer who had sustained some sort of terrible injury and then had gone on to climb still more ultra-high peaks.

It finally came to me. Doug Scott broke both of his legs on the Ogre in the Karakorams in 1977. Clearly it was not a problem going forward as he continued to put up world-class climbs over the next 20+ years. Here's an account:

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Re: Recovery from serious injury?

Postby audiotom » Thu Mar 07, 2013 10:49 pm

Wow, what an awe inspiring thread!

Photog. - it is a miracle that you survived the crash looking at the remains of your car.

What huge obstacles you have overcome, mine pales by comparison.

I went to grad school in Golden in the mid 80s at School of Mines
Getting transferred shortly after starting my career in geology / oil exploration was heartbreaking.

My intent was to come back to Colorado - today that would be switching to oil shale companirs or early retirement

Oh the bliss to be climbing again

Unfortunately my knees are getting the best of me. I took up running at 50, lost 40 lbs doing 5 miles a day. Then tore up my knees.

Two meniscus surguries and a third coming up end of March. I booked our summer climbing trip for july. Might only get one mountain. But I'm taking my son and we will have the time of our lives regardless.

First surgery I climbed Quandry 3 months later - without treking poles and strong prayer circle it would not be possible. The spectacular October climb in lightly dusted snow made for a good distraction from the pain.

Since, i've had very acute pain, can't run. Arthritus. Not bone on bone yet, thankfully but it feels like it. Dr says no running, and I wobble on my knees as it is.

Can't play heated games of basketball with my son, volleyball, etc. I'm going easy on them hoping I can at least be able to climb at some point. I need to lose weight to help the situation, vicious cycle. Perhaps I will really need to religiously push the therapy.

I realize my concerns are trivial in comparison, and until recently would never have slowed me down. Anyone with similar issues who is back up on the mountain? Breakthroughs in therapy.

Your conquests over incredible adversity are inspiring
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Re: Recovery from serious injury?

Postby MountainMedic » Thu Mar 07, 2013 11:43 pm

I am so sorry to hear about your injury. It's incredible (and tragic) how a single moment can come to define your life for so long. Unfortunately, I can relate to your situation very well. I moved out to Colorado right after college to take some time off before applying to medical school. I ran competitively in college, and half of the reason I came out here in the first place was to climb/run/ski/hike - do all those Colorado things.

In August 2011, I was hit by a car and broke my left ankle. The break itself wasn't bad, but my initial care was crappy and it healed funny, resulting in a chronic tendon tear. I'm now down 1/2 a tendon that's key to running. It took a year of rehab, but in August 2012, I was well on my way to getting my mileage back up to 60 mpw (highest I did was 30-something), and I climbed 29 14ers from May-August 2012, including some pretty big days, all sans pain (would've tried for 'em all if not for the next paragraph).

In August 2012, I was in a rockslide on Hagerman Peak. My right ankle was but a minor casualty, as one of my best friends was killed in the accident. I had a minor disruption of my syndesmosis and related ligaments, along with several broken bones in my foot and an avulsion fracture to the peroneal tendon sheath on my fibula. Certainly not as bad as your injury, but pretty darn bad. I was on crutches for 3 months. Six months later, I'm in CT doing rehab all over again. I go out drinking with my physical therapist. It's crazy to think I could run a 16:00 5K a year and a half ago - I just learned how to walk for the third time. In a strange way I'm almost glad I broke my left ankle - if I hadn't learned how incredibly depressing an injury can be but that there is indeed hope, I don't think I'd be holding it together right now.

I have a friend here who was paralyzed for two months after a T12 burst fracture from falling off a ladder. He's now a personal trainer, can run just like he used to prior to his accident, and is planning on starting medical school to become a spinal surgeon next year.

Your ankle will probably never be quite the same, and you'll likely have some considerable pain for the rest of your life. But if you do your PT, and, once you get the green light, really push it, there's no reason you can't recover even from an injury as nasty as this one. If you have a doctor who tells you you'll never hike again - find another one who will work with you. The surgery done on my left ankle was a non-standard procedure performed by a doctor who was willing to take a risk to get me running again. The first doctor I saw told me I could walk forever without pain, but that running more than a couple miles would kill. Just remember there IS a light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately, that tunnel is long, uncomfortable, and puts you out on a side not quite as bright as the one you came from. But it's still worth going through.

While I am a complete stranger, I sympathize with you and would be happy to talk ankle injuries whenever. I know how crazy you can go. Your family will be a godsend. Shoot me a PM if there's anything I can do!
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Re: Recovery from serious injury?

Postby lurker » Fri Mar 08, 2013 4:03 pm

Late August 2011, I tumbled down Grizzly Peak A, flopping through a rock band. I shattered my kneecap and cracked some ribs.

In the interview with the orthopedic he said "We can do this the hard way, or we can do it the easy way". I told him I did not plan on quitting the hiking and climbing game, so we took the hard way. There were only two pieces of my knee cap big enough to pin together, all the other little fragments the doc had to hand stitch into place and then he installed a wire collar to keep them together. The knee was immobilized for over 2 months.

My low point came while I was still immobilized. Drugged up, bored, unable to move, and uncomfortable resting in any position, all this while my friends were out climbing, made for some bouts of self-pity.

At my first PT session I had to re-learn how to contract my quad muscle. I asked my therapist if he thought I might be ready for late winter ice climbing. He replied that I'd be on crutches through the winter and lucky to walk without a cane by June.

Once I was able to start working on my own progress, I hit PT with a vengeance. Yeah, it hurt. (it still does) It didn't move right (and sometimes still doesn't). For almost a year, the knee/quad would occasionally buckle and could not hold my weight while descending a slope. Stairs were fine, but a grassy slope was treacherous.

It was frustrating, but it was so much better than lying around the house needing my family to wait on me.

By June 2012 I was on Lincoln and Democrat.

The knee still hurts and I ice it almost everyday. But everyday is another day to get a little bit better.
Now, the FEAR thing is the hard one to get over. Just over a year from my accident I was descending Wilson Peak with a few members I met up with and the fear of falling was very tangible. I moved very slowly and surely. I made every step and hand hold firm as I focused on the next step.

Ice climbing this winter was a treat and brought back all the thrills that had been previously muted with experience.

I had to learn to be patient (still working on this one) and somethings are out of my control.
But only I can make me better.

climb high, climb safe
The Mountains are Calling, and I must Go.
--John Muir
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Re: Recovery from serious injury?

Postby Sugar Madison » Fri Mar 08, 2013 4:37 pm

As others have said, the work you put in + your attitude go a LONG way.

I (severely) ruptured my L4/L5 disc last year (and herniated two others). I couldn't walk for weeks... spent 3 weeks lying prone on the floor for 22+ hours a day. Two surgeons said "surgery". One of them said running was basically out of the question, much less running ultras.

I am married to a PT, so I had the advantage of being able to poll many different PTs all over the state and country to find *the best* to lead my rehab. Turns out he was in Brighton, a fair drive away, but worth it. My two goals on initial evaluation: 1. avoid surgery and 2. run the Hardrock 100 again in 2013 (this was in September). He said "no guarantees on avoiding surgery but let's see what we can do... and running isn't what caused this and there's no reason you can't run 100s".

After 4 months of PT (2x week + 2-3 hours a day 7 days a week on my own) I ran again. At 6 months I ran a 34 mile trail race. Today I'm 99% pain free. No surgery. I've learned a TON about the importance of taking care of the stuff that is no fun to take care of: core stabilization, flexibility, etc.

Hang in there and keep us posted on the progress. At the front-end, where you are, it seems hopeless...but 6 months from now, it will be but a memory.
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Re: Recovery from serious injury?

Postby Johnson » Fri Mar 08, 2013 5:14 pm

Sorry to hear about your situation. I have been injured in one way or another for about 3.5 years of the 5 years I've lived out here. It is a real bummer. The above have great stuff to say. Take it slow. All the best.
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Re: Recovery from serious injury?

Postby climbingaggie03 » Fri Mar 08, 2013 11:18 pm

I can relate, in 2002 I fell 40 feet to the ground while rock climbing. I broke 3 metatarsals, pelvis, my scaphoid and dislocated my wrist. After the helicopter ride, the ICU and 10 days in the hospital, I still couldn't walk for 3 months. The only problems I have now, is a bit of arthritis in my pelvis (I know when it's going to rain) and I lost about 10 degrees of movement in my wrist.

My advice like many others is first take time to heal, don't push things. When the doc gives you the go ahead to start rehab, GO! I was riding a bike before I could walk (less weight to push the pedals than to stand) I still remember hobbling back to my wheelchair and being exhausted after riding 2 miles, within 6 months, I started racing and did 100 mile days whenever I had time.

If it's possible, I think having a Dr that is active and knowledgeable about sports medicine can go a long way.

It takes more work than most people can imagine, every hour of every day is a struggle and every thought is about getting stronger but you can do it.
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Re: Recovery from serious injury?

Postby TallGrass » Sat Mar 09, 2013 6:55 am

Submit a DR 2219 for a Temporary Handicap Parking Placard (don't drive with it still hanging off the mirror; don't park with it lying on the dash) through your local DMV.
TIP 1: You can often just mail it in and they'll mail them out, FREE, but as your doctor has to sign it...
TIP 2: Often you can get your doctor's office to fax one over, faster and still FREE. Call DMV to verify doc can fax w/o your sig and get name of person who says it's ok; often a non-issue as some disabled can't sign. Good docs will have a copy to fill out, but safe bet is to print one off and take in on first visit to be faxed over before you leave. Many DMVs do what they can to keep the hassle factor as low as possible for these.
It can be used on any motor vehicle used to transport you, even if you aren't the one driving. Looks like CO's max is 90 days (6 mos in KS :-D ), so put a reminder on you phone's calendar to re-apply/new 15-30 days before it expires. Sure makes errands easier when you can only use one crutch (not two, nor a chair) or hop to get to classes.
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Not sure if I'll do more 14ers. The trip reports are too tiring. :wink:
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Tiredness is the shortest path to equality and fraternity - and sleep finally adds to them liberty."
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Re: Recovery from serious injury?

Postby flylikeabeagle » Sat Mar 09, 2013 9:09 am

Wow, I found this thread very motivational. I'm frustrated dealing with a relatively minor hip issue made worse by carrying too much extra weight. Haven't sumitted a 14er in almost 6 yrs. My stories are getting really old. Hoping that will change this summer as I don't want to take my health for granted any more. I still have 19 more 14ers I at least want to attempt! Everyone's stories were so inspiring. All the best in your recovery and thanks for the kick in the rear!
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