Let it

Believe everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it.”
Harvey MacKay

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Injury (Part 1)

I suppose it's time to write this down. I've missed a lot.
First, the catch-up:

On July 14th, it was the 3rd annual Butler Bolt- an unofficial race/ fun run put on by Mark Robbins. Aaron and I rode to the trail head up Big Cottonwood Canyon with Katie and Chris and their friend. It's a steep and beautiful course and I was quickly left behind on the uphill. I cruised down the downhill like I was made for it and had an amazing time. It was so good to be up in the scenery of the mountains.

On July 16th, it was Katie's birthday. Most girls might want a shopping and spa day with their girlfriends, but she wanted a birthday run... with me. I was honored. We ran up The Dude in the heat of day, we chased horny toads, got lost (as is our usual m.o.), ran out of water, I got a cactus stuck in my leg (which Katie removed for me after she had laughed properly), and we generally had an amazing time.

On July 18th, I snuck out for a solo 5k on the BST in the wee morning hours. I'll admit I didn't have the best attitude about it, but it was just enough to lift my spirits. The sun coming up through Steed Creek canyon as I ran through meager stream was a moment that in hindsight, I'm glad I noticed. It was a moment that would have to sustain me for the coming months.

The day was full of plans. Aaron was going to go summit Lone Peak with friends Chris and Steve. He'd be gone until early morning, at which time he would shower and leave with his brother Matt to volunteer at the Larry's Hole aid station of the legendary SpeedGoat 50k. I didn't plan on seeing him until later the next afternoon. I had received word on Monday that the Heber Valley Half was cancelled, so my weekend was all freed up. Our friend Jennilyn (whom I can't keep up with, so we've never really run together), had invited me to go bouldering and camping in Little Cottonwood Canyon with our kids. Yes, this Jennilyn. Her husband was supposed to go on a climbing trip, and we both thought we'd rather play than be lonely. I was stoked and very nervous to finally get to go climbing with Jennilyn. I had never really bouldered. Jennilyn has been climbing for years and the opportunity to learn basics from her was exciting. This beside the fact that I love the girl, and we rarely get to just hang out. I planned on heading down to meet Jennilyn at Tanner's Flat campground as soon as I had everything packed and ready. I had a cooler bag full of food and a van packed with camping equipment and kids. Jennilyn got off work later than anticipated and took longer to pack than expected (just like I had), so by the time I got to the canyon, she was still working on it and I was on my own to go grab us a campsite. But I couldn't. Because there weren't any. We were too late. Both legal campsites in the canyon were full. I called Jennilyn and headed back down the canyon. She said to meet her at the Park n Ride and we'd figure out a course of action. We discussed our options- from setting up tents illegally, to camping in her back yard. Until we threw up our hands and said, "Let's just go climbing. We'll figure it out later." We drove just a few miles back up the canyon, parked roadside, changed into our climbing things and packed the crash pads, equipment and food down a trail to The Riverside Boulders. We got set up and let the kids get their climbs in. I went to strap into Aaron's climbing shoes, but Jennilyn recommended I use Ben's because they were a size smaller.  They were uncomfortably tight, but that's how climbing shoes are supposed to be. Then Jennilyn began to teach me basics. This is when I learned that I suck at bouldering. How was I going to get any better at it unless I kept trying though? The longer we were at it, the more hot and swollen my feet got despite taking the shoes off between sets. The canyon air got cooler and we began to be eaten alive by the rampant mosquito population. I was uncomfortable and frustrated with my slow progress. The kids were ready for a change of scenery. So we packed everything back on our bodies and headed further from the river- across the road and up a bit of a trail to what are known as the 5 Mile Boulders. We set up and played around. We set the kids to gathering firewood for a back yard s'mores fire while we picked our "problems" and took turns spotting each other. Jennilyn sent some sweet ones that I couldn't dream of completing, and did a great job of encouraging me through "warm up" routes. These are the routes that most climbers use as warm ups. They were my problems.... that's how awesome I wasn't. But I never gave up. Even though I'd felt off all day. Even though I knew something was looming and just not right. I kept trying. And I succeeded sometimes. Jennilyn and I were having a really good time, but I was also really glad when we were running out of light. The shoes were so tight. My feet were killing me. I, the barefooter, with my strong arches and proud toe splay, was supremely uncomfortable. But I strapped them back on and I went for one last send.

Jennilyn was so encouraging and I made it further up than I had before. She urged me to aim for the top, but I had an unexplained moment of being absolutely done and declared it aloud. She stood there above the crash pad with her arms in the air, the perfect spotter. I came down a little- to about 5 feet above the ground, eyed my landing spot, and hopped to the pad just as I had done plenty of times in the day. Jennilyn caught my hips and I made a perfect two-footed landing except for the explosion in my right ankle. It was blinding, mind-numbing, excruciating pain and I began to yell desperately. She couldn't understand why I was yelling or what had happened. I know for a fact that I let some profanities fly as I sank to the crash pad, sobbing. I couldn't gulp enough air to make it go away. I couldn't relay much information at all. I didn't understand anything but the pain as Jennilyn mothered me in the kind of voice you would use on frightened animal or enraged child, petting my hair and attempting to calm me. When I could form consonants again, we discussed my injury and inability to even attempt weighting it. It was swelling and oddly dislocated. I fought the instinct to hyperventilate my way into shock or unconsciousness. Jennilyn offered me some Aleve, which I eagerly and gratefully accepted as we pulled out cell phones and called out for escape options and information. She kept reassuring me that it might just be a bad sprain, but deep down I think I knew it was worse. The last light of the evening was fading. The mosquitos were feasting even more ravenously, but the irritation was lost amid the pain and my children's tearful attempts to cuddle and comfort me. My husband was many miles and thousands of vertical feet away, on foot. I felt completely incompetent to make decisions. The next emergency person I usually call is my Dad, but he and my Mom are far away in Hawaii. So I reached out to the two next most fatherly, knowledgeable men in my life, and through dropped calls and delayed texts began communicating with my two big brothers, Steve and Mike. Jennilyn had better cell reception in the canyon and took over some of that communication. She had already called her husband Ben, who by some blessed miracle had not followed through with his Idaho climbing trip and was at the top of the same canyon we were in, climbing with a friend. They came to get us and oh, so carefully fireman carried me down the trail to the cars. I remember cracking stupid jokes to try to break the mood and distract myself. I'm sure I acted like an idiot. Ben and Jason were gracious and forgiving (and strong!) angels. The three uninjured adults got the kids and gear to the cars as a plan came into order. We would take everyone to Jennilyn and Ben's house where Ben would put the kids to bed. Jennilyn would drive me to my brother Mike's chiropractic office in West Valley, where Mike would meet us for an examination and x-rays. Every jiggle or bump of the car ride was excruciating. Knowing we would beat Mike there, Jennilyn stopped to get us Slurpees. I think that Sprite Slurpee was the most refreshing thing I have ever consumed. We didn't have to wait long for Mike at his office. I opened the car door and sat helplessly, covered in dirt and chalk, trying to adjust to the fact that I couldn't move on my own, when Mike and his muscles strode over and lifted me princess style, carrying me steadily back to the x-ray room. The pictures were clear. It was definitely a talus fracture.

Mike had no experience with this. I did not want to go to the ER. I HATE the ER. He tractioned my foot as other things were obviously out of place, and Jennilyn held me as I sobbed like a baby. Then he fashioned a tape cast to get me through the night, gifted me a bottle of herbal anti-inflammatories, and sent us off with the recommendation to get in with a doc as soon as I could in the morning.
Thank you my brother!! You are the very best. I know it wasn't easy to leave your wife and kids and new baby late at night to take loving care of your dirty, broken baby sister. I love you. Thank you so much!

Jennilyn drove me back to her house. Ben met us at the car and carried me inside. The kids were sprawled all over the futon and couch in the living room. Ben dragged a mattress into the middle of the room and they settled me in for the night with an ice pack. It was 1 am and Jennilyn had been up since 3 am, summiting mountains! She retired to her bedroom, after assuring me she would sleep with her phone just in case I needed her, because the swamp cooler was so loud, she'd never hear me otherwise.
Finally stationary and able to think a bit, I got on my phone and started texting Aaron and my parents. I had let Aaron know that I was hurt, but nothing more than that. So I gave him details as he came down Lone Peak. He was still hours from finishing, and asked if he should come get us on his way home. I told him there was no point. The kids were asleep as I was as comfy as I could get for the night. So he should just continue with the original plan until further notice. Then my in-laws called me from Russia. Yep. From Russia. They had heard I was hurt and wanted to check in. Then I texted my parents in Hawaii. Then my phone died.... just as the original Aleve wore off.  It was past 1:30 am. I tried to sleep as the minutes ticked by, but the pain was too much. I tried to get up and crawl to where pain meds might be, but even shifting the pull of gravity on my ankle made my calf charlie horse and I had to bite my thumb to keep from screaming. No adult could hear me- and I felt awful that Jennilyn had been so tired. I didn't want to wake the kids. They were dead asleep and calling out in their dreams. I had traumatized them. So I sobbed as quietly as possible, rocking and praying for strength and relief. I have given birth 4 times without pain medication (once medically induced with PIT). I'm no stranger to pain. But that pain has purpose and structure. This agony was the worst I have ever experienced. Sometime in the night, my stomach realized it hadn't eaten more than a snack since breakfast the morning before, and the aching need of ravenous hunger broke through the pain. Blessing of blessings, I looked around to find myself lying next to the cooler I had so meticulously packed the day before. I didn't have the will to dig for more than what was on top. And so I pathetically stuffed my face with cold grapes and chocolate dusted almonds as I sobbed.  When the hunger was dulled, I took to gazing out the window as I rocked, guessing at the time, willing the sun to rise and bring my relief. Around 5 am Ben's alarm went off. He had planned to go climbing again. He snoozed it, and my heart ached for 20 minutes until he got up to use the bathroom. I waited for the sounds of him emerging from his room after dressing, and when he made his appearance on his way to the kitchen, I called out to him. My voice was raw and tired from the stifled cries. He didn't hear me. I called again and again, and he carefully went about packing his food for the day. I incredulous that he could not hear me. I was both impressed and dismayed at how courteously and quietly he moved about, so as not to disturb anyone. The swamp cooler roared on as I tried desperately and unsuccessfully to get his attention. Until he walked out the back door, never knowing that I needed his help. I cried out in anguish as the door closed. It was finally enough to wake Talon and Saia. They gathered around to comfort me and I immediately sent them to the car to get my running pack where I knew I had some ibuprofen stashed. I took it gratefully and counted the seconds until it kicked in and I could drift off to sweet oblivion. I slept for about 45 minutes before the kids woke again. Jennilyn emerged from her bedroom inquiring how I felt and was horrified that I had needed her and not been able to communicate it. She went about making breakfast for the kids and we discussed whether we would still go up to the SpeedGoat finish line as we had planned. I finally requested a phone charger cord and plugged my phone in to find messages from Mike. They were disturbing messages. "I've been researching your injury and you need surgery, right now." What?? How could this be? Talk of permanent damage and immobility to the joint got my heart racing. What to do next? Where to go? I didn't even know what and who my insurance covered! I needed my husband, and at this point I had sent him a car ride, tram ride, and hike away to the top of yet another mountain, with a commitment to aid racers and no way to get back to me for many hours. The gravity of the situation hit me like a ton of bricks, and the tears that I'd thought I was all out of returned with a vengeance. As I ugly-cried, Jennilyn put her arm around me and started talking sense. We'd call an orthopedic surgery clinic. They would know what insurance they accepted. We started calling only to find that none of them were open on a Saturday. The ugly cry took over again and Alicia, my bestie, by get-things-done girl, called me. I sobbed on the phone to her. She responded with, "Stay there, I'm coming." And hung up.

While I waited for Alicia, Jennilyn moved me into her bedroom where the rowdy kids would not accidentally land on me. This was no small feat, because Jennilyn is not a large body. I feel like a giant in comparison, really. My big brother Steve and his wife Natalie showed up from Heber City with crutches for me. Craig- a good friend and one of the founders of our incredible trail running community, showed up with an all too generous care package from my favorite boys at TAUR. A gift that made my jaw drop. These early acts of care and kindness will live in my heart forever. I have the best of the best in my life and I am so so grateful! They laughed and talked with me for a while- a welcome distraction. Then Alicia came, packed the kids and our stuff up and took me off Jennilyn's hands.

I can never thank you enough for being there for me. For having the patience to teach me in the first place. For holding me in my time of need. For keeping it together when I couldn't. For understanding what my broken heart needed to survive and heal in the weeks to come. You are a true friend, and a hero to me for far more than your copious running and mountaineering talents. I will love you forever. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, sweet friend.

Alicia shuttled the kids to her mom's house in Murray, where their cousin was waiting to play with them in the big yard. Normal kid things that they needed to distract them from the trauma of the previous day. Then she took me to the local Instacare. "Stay here." She said as she got out of the car. I exhaustedly obliged. When she got inside, she pulled out her phone and showed the man at the desk a picture of my x-ray, then stated, "My sister in law broke her talus. Is this where we need to be?" Another blessing: The orthopedic specialist was just about to leave and agreed to take a look at the picture. "She destroyed that bone!" He exclaimed. "She needs surgery, you need take her to the ER."
And without having even left the van, I was off to the IHC Emergency Room.

I'll spare you the detailed account of 6 hours of waiting with Alicia and her baby, being shuffled from room to room, forgotten in the hallway outside the CAT scan room, and eventually casted, scheduled for a Monday surgery, and given a prescription for narcotics. Going to pick up the prescription and having to crutch into the local Walgreens only to find the pharmacy had closed, and after a moment of panic, finding they had left my prescription at the front counter.

As we drove back to "Grandma Darcy's" house, we got a call that Saia was not feeling well. We returned to the house, and were settled into a dark, cool basement bedroom haven. It was late afternoon by then. My kids crawled into bed with me and I realized that all but one of them was fevered, covered in mosquito bites, and unwell. We gave them medicine and essential oils and put them to sleep. We got word that Matt and Aaron were finally on their way home, and would get our van from Jennilyn's and come get us. Aaron had not slept for days. He joined us in the bedroom, kissed me, curled up on the floor and we all slept. 30 minutes later, we packed up the van, and with Matt and Alicia's help, headed home. Home. It felt like we'd been gone for a week. Nothing sounded like more of a relief than my own bed. My own space. My own family.

 Thank you doesn't cut it.  You are my soul sister. You are my rock in times of need. My rescuer, my best friend. I love you more than if you were a part of me.  Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

 Thank you so much for providing a haven for my children. No questions asked, no hesitation. You were there for us and I am so grateful. I am honored to call you family. Thank you.

To be continued.....
(Coming up: Surgery)


  1. Kristyan, thank you for writing this all down so honestly and beautifully. I know it's been so hard for you! Thank goodness for wonderful family and friends; you are so blessed.

  2. You sweet little ray of sunshine. From your screams of pain to your narcotic-induced psychosis spells, you were full of laughter and such a positive force to be around. I wish I could've done more, or taken some of the pain away (or at least frickin gotten you some meds while I was dead asleep that night!!) I love your inspiration. It just eeks out of you. :) Thank you for the kind words.