Monday, December 30, 2013

A Look Back at 2013

Whenever the new year rolls around, I'm usually not one to reflect on the year that was. This past year was a little different than most. This past year my life changed in a way I wasn't planning on, in a way I didn't want it to. I never wanted to become bionic. I never wanted to have to adapt to the "new normal". I don't remember much of how life was before I became bionic, but I miss it. I remember the days leading up to "the fall" in detail, but beyond that, I knew that we skied almost every weekend and worked a lot. I knew that we had a vacation to Mammoth coming up the next week and AT ski setups to buy. I knew that we had a lot of backpacking adventures planned for the upcoming summer. On February 23rd, I knew none of that was going to happen...

I don't really want to talk about what happened - I relive it enough when I close my eyes some days. If you live under a rock and forgot, here you go: Weekends Are Made For Skiing


I know that I was very lucky given what happened. Falling 15-20 feet. Landing on 'concrete snow/ice'. I could feel and move my arms and legs (somewhat). I could feel the pain in my back. As much as it hurt, I could FEEL and somewhat MOVE everything. Mike reminds me from time to time that he's seen people die falling from shorter distances. My neurosurgeon reminds me all the time that they weren't sure I'd ever walk again... and that he refers to me as his "star" patient now. Things could have turned out a lot different, but I'm grateful they did not. Even on the roughest days, I am still grateful that I'm alive and walking again. People ask me how I can have such a positive outlook on things given how much my life changed. It's not easy, but I know how much different things could have been. I was dealt some shitty cards, but I'm making the best of it. I could have just sat on a couch all day and been "woe is me", but that's not who I am. As hard as it was being in the hospital and dealing with using a wheelchair and a walker for weeks, I was determined to fight. There were rough days, but I always dug deep and pushed through. I couldn't give up on fighting because that would be giving up on getting my life back. Never giving up and settling for what was dealt my way on that February day has me where I am now - back to hiking, back to skiing, back to my adventurous life. 

Highlights of the Bionic Year

A lot of people mention "the biggest moment of 20XX" when they do a year in review. I think far and away, the biggest moment for me was being able to take two tiny steps the morning after my first surgery. They weren't pretty, nor were they easy by any means, but I took two steps. A lot of people weren't sure I'd be able to walk again and there I was, struggling to hold myself up with a walker, taking my first steps less than 24 hours after surgery. I was in tears because of how hard it was to move my legs and not really being able to control my feet, but I was taking steps. I will never forget that moment. 

One thing I've embraced from this whole thing, is how sexy scars are. They tell a story, and mine certainly do. Oh the memories of the hospital... and the drain in my back.

These will be sexy.

Just over 3 months after surgery, and two weeks after ditching the cane, I made it to the top of Moro Rock in SEKI under my own power. No cane, no hand holding, I made it up all 400 evil granite stairs on my own... and I even passed a person or two! The view of the Great Western Divide was extra sweet that day. 

No cane. No assistance. The smile says it all.

On the 6 month mark, which also happened to be Dave's birthday, we decided to hike to Piute Pass and beyond. We'd been hiking most weekends during the summer, alternating between short hikes (less than five miles) and longer hikes (10+ miles total). Some trips went well, some did not. Sometimes it was my back/legs not being happy. Sometimes it was AMS bothering Dave. Sometimes it was the weather. Regardless, we were out in nature and I was loving it. Any time in nature beats being inside any day. The hike to Piute Pass was my first time over the Sierra Crest since becoming bionic, and was my longest hike to date - 12+ miles. I was so happy. To think that I was told by my doctor at Health South that I wouldn't be walking unassisted until the 6 month mark or so... and to turn around and be hiking 12+ miles by that time. I think it proved just how much all of my hard work and having a positive attitude paid off. Major props to Chris and the entire Tehachapi PT office for getting me back to my adventurous self!

Soaking in the views over Piute Pass.

With all the positive that happened with my hiking progress, we did learn that I wasn't quite ready for backpacking yet. There are many factors that could have lead to that - taking a few weeks off from hiking, returning to work which has taken a toll on my body, just having an off week, etc. Regardless of what the reason was, I can at least say that I tried it this year. That's more than most were thinking I'd get. All I can do is try again, and I plan on doing that. I can't stay out of the backcountry for too long... EVO is calling!

My major goal for this year, which some weren't a huge fan of, was returning to skis. Once the snow started falling, my body started itching to get back on the slopes. It finally happened December 7th, less than 10 months after my last time skis. As mentioned in the last post, The Return to Skiing, it wasn't under the best conditions and might not have gone as well as I had hoped for, but I was back on skis. I still have a lot of work to do to get my body back in shape for it and to get my skills and confidence back, but it's a step in the right direction. Some would have given up on skiing after what happened to me, but one thing I've learned through all of this, you have to "DO WHAT YOU LOVE". For me, that's being in nature - hiking, backpacking, and yes, skiing. 

The smile says it all.

The Adventure Continues...

With as crazy as 2013 ended up being, I'm looking forward to 2014. I can't say that 2013 was horrible, it was definitely a very trying year for me (and others), but I definitely learned a lot about myself. Do I wish February 23rd never happened? Of course! At the same time, even through all of the battles I had to deal with and new ones I am dealing with, I don't think I'd be as strong as I am today without the events of that day. I've learned to appreciate the small things more. I've learned to never give up. I've learned that it's okay to ask for help (many thanks to those that have helped me learn this over the past 10+ months - you know who you are). I've learned to look at nature in new ways now. I could go on and on, but I think it's become clear through this blogging adventure just how much this whole situation has changed my life and made me stronger. 

Here's to many more adventures in 2014... Cheers!

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