Saturday, August 15, 2009

Just call me Jill ... It's a long story.

It was Jill that "came tumbling after" in the nursery rhyme ... and I can now relate! My latest of adventures involves a canyon, a fall, and new experiences in wheelchairs. Why? Well, even though I have always had a love for nature, a renewed interest in getting out of my comfort zone to experience it has motivated me to HIKE! (I talk about a little bit in my "I'm A Girl Scout!" blog.)

But for the personal side of the story ... and so I don't have to tell the story over and over ... here's what happened, and a few pictures to share the moments with you.

It started in Italy this spring. During a stay in the Cinque Terre area where there is a lot of hiking, a very long impromptu hike from a sanctuary down to the village of Riomaggiore had me wishing I were more hiking-equipped! Inspired by seeing other hikers with what I thought were ski poles, and later educated by my Girl Scout sisters about the value of trekking poles ... I bought some for my own birthday.

Colorado was my first opportunity to try out more prepared hiking ... no Birkenstocks, now multi-terrain hiking shoes. Add my fancy, shiny telescoping trekking poles and unmarred water bottle to my camera bag and I am SET! Mountain vistas as well as altitude left me breathless in every way!

Nevada is the next stop, and I've got Red Rock Canyon, Mount Charleston, and Death Valley on my list. After visiting the Red Rock Conservation Area outside of Las Vegas one evening when I have a few extra hours, I came home with photos like this:

Red Rock Canyon

My first free day, I decide that a proper backpack will help carry cameras and a babushka will help keep my head from getting sunburned. And I set out for Mount Charleston all by myself while everyone else is busy with a conference. Sadly, my GPS leads me to a national park area that is not actually Mount Charleston ... so with the little time I have left, I decide to revisit the nearby Red Rock Canyon.

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After enjoying my secret place, I attempted to climb down ... and ended up slipping into a slidey-flip that broke in my new backpack quite nicely! As I was lying there, I had visions of being airlifted ... NOT an enjoyable thought. I remembered how I had a short window of time when I broke my elbow that I could still move. So, just in case I broke something in my foot, I figured I better get moving AND FAST!

Hoping that I had only sprained my foot, I got back up and winced back to the slope so I could retrieve my trekking poles and camera nestled on a ledge. Thanks to plenty of adrenaline, my "canes" and determination to NOT be airlifted, I was able to slowly hike back up to the observation area and get in my car.

The 13 mile loop at low speeds turned out to be a godsend. I practiced braking with my left foot until I was confident I could avoid whiplash by concentrating really hard. Before tackling the highway, I stopped to see if I could put weight on my foot - it had been balloning quite a bit as I drove. NOPE! OK - I was beginning to think that I may have broken it now. I decided I better get medical attention instead of just returning to the hotel.

My GPS was helpful ... somewhat! The first two places no longer existed, and the third was private and couldn't take my insurance (or even help me inside - though they did bring a wheelchair to the car). Finally at the local ER, I sat there for hours in another wheelchair. I should have mentioned chest pains ... everyone who did - even though they were talking, smiling, not even acting as if they were in pain - went in before me.

Lamaze actually helped somewhat! It was the only thing I could think of to try and stay calm in the midst of the pain. By the time a bed opened up and they brought me back for x-rays, my memory starts to fade ... I remember the x-rays and WOW did it hurt. I also remember holding tight to the railings, shaking and shivering, desperately trying to keep my teeth from clattering.

I also remember my "Special K" finally able to join me. Originally, I had hoped to be bound up and on my way in time to still make the Blue Man Group event. I had visions of the day in junior high that I slipped and hurt my ankle while getting ready for a family trip. By the time we were to Hutchinson, I was IN PAIN and my ankle was big. We stopped at the ER there and found I had broken it ... so they splinted me and gave me crutches and pain pills, and we headed on to our first big event: The Oak Ridge Boys!

Anyway, he gave away our Blue Man Group tickets and was more of a doctor to me than anyone had been yet! He got my leg iced and raised up, asked questions of the medical staff and by the time we left, he was my wheelchair chauffeur.

A friend who was speaking at the conference kept me company the next day, which was very special to me. And we even went out for supper, wheelchair and all. I don't know if that was wise for me yet ... but amazingly when news of my situation spread, we were issued new Blue Man Group tickets ... and yes, I wanted to go!

All in all, I was amazed by how different the world was from a wheelchair. I now know what it is like to be short. And I now realize that our "handicapped accessible" world is just a small step toward true accessibility. In fact, I would like to have whoever approved airport bathrooms actually try to navigate them in a wheelchair! They may change a few things.

I came home to more tests, crutches, a fancy brace, and a bedside nurse named Little Miss M. My norwegian bones did a magnificent job of holding their own. So a severe sprain with a good bit of internal bleeding is "all" I walked away with. I am graduating from two cructhes to one this weekend ... and in a few more weeks, I should be able to wear all my shoes again.

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