Nature's Bakery

A Rock Climber’s Worst Nightmare – Part Two

I woke up in a bubble of light: I was confused, but had a vague idea what had happened. I remember Nathan holding my bloody head in his lap. I could hear myself screaming, and I remember drifting in and out of reality. When I was alive, I felt intense pain in my feet and back and legs. When I drifted, I barely screamed at all. This went on for several hours, throughout the rescue and until I arrived at the emergency room.

I woke up after surgery and looked down over my mummified body, and then, just barely, I was able to move my little toes. I heard a loud relief from Nathan and nurses in the room who had feared that I had been paralyzed.

I learned I had three compression fractures in my back. I had broken my pelvis, both my ankles, and many small foot bones. The ligaments in my ankles were stretched and torn and had ripped small pieces of bone off the bones they were attached to. My right elbow was broken into many small pieces and my triceps tendon was torn halfway off. I’d also smashed up my front teeth.

For days I laid there in a haze of pain and drugs, but some things I remember very clearly. One day a nurse came in after work with a home cooked meal of bone soup that was supposed to help heal fractures. She sat on the bed and fed me, and we felt so connected despite the language gap. Another day, I woke up super thirsty. Nathan grabbed a bottle from the back table thinking it was water. I took a huge gulp and suddenly began gasping for air, for it was actually disinfectant. I guess what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and I'm still here.

I was a healthy and strong athlete, and had spent the last few years climbing around the world, yet there I was, bound in by a body that didn’t work, and in tremendous pain. I couldn’t go to the bathroom alone, I couldn't wash myself, I couldn't even roll over. I’m right handed, so I couldn’t do much of anything with my left.

Even still, I had an enormous sense of gratitude that overshadowed everything. Every small thing that I normally would take for granted became a huge gift —to have my back scratched, to have my hair washed, just to lie on my stomach. It was like all the colors were slightly stronger and all emotions were more intense. I was taking a journey to my very core.