Tag Archives: recovery

N is for Never too Late

I know I started the alphabet challenge waaaaaaay back in, what, April? May? And then I was spirited off to Hawaii and got swamped with work and blah blah blah – the next thing I know it’s the middle of summer and I still haven’t passed the letter ‘N’!

Return to Newcastle Island

I wrote about our first trip to Newcastle Island here. I had so much fun on that trip that I returned to Newcastle the following week to re-join Rosario and Denis aboard their Whitby 42, Counting Stars. 

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This is not Counting Stars. But it is a good example of how not to leave Nanaimo… These guys were all fine – they waited for the tide to return and then floated off… A tad embarrassing, though. This spot traps sailors in full view of Nanaimo Harbour, the cruise ship dock, and Newcastle Island. 

We sailed from Newcastle Island down to Clam Bay (between Kuper and Thetis Islands), where we anchored for the evening.

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A light breeze meant we were able to practice flying the spinnaker. 

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There’s nothing quite like the special calm that descends on a peaceful anchorage in the evening. This is Clam Bay in the Gulf Islands of BC. 

The Sylvester family lives nearby and Craig (Greg?) paddled out to the boat with a selection of carvings, including a hummingbird by his sister, Tamila (I’m not sure if I’ve spelled the names right and some googling is not turning up any further information… If you happen to know the Sylvesters and the location of a website, please let me know…).

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The next morning we continued down to Poets Cove on Pender Island to take part in the Bluewater Cruising Association Rendezvous. Just off Galliano Island we spotted three killer whales moseying along, too far away for photos with my phone, unfortunately.

The rendezvous itself was great fun, with quite a collection of boats showing up from all over the south coast (actually, from as far away as Mexico!) to gather for food, drink, and sea shanty singing.

Here’s our team practicing our sea shanty…

I had a flight booked back to the mountains, so had to leave part way through the weekend, which was a shame because I was having a LOT of fun singing, feasting, and meeting lots of sailors. Alas, much work awaited me…

New Books

Deadlines are deadlines and Dani and I were busy putting the finishing touches on two new books in the Orca Origins Series. Happy Birthday: Beyond Cake and Ice Cream should be out in the fall of this year. Christmas: From Solstice to Santa will be out in the Spring of 2018. Deadpoint, the climbing novel which will be part of the Orca Sports series should be out early in January of 2017. Perhaps the best part of writing these new books has been the research. From digging through family photos to interviewing various people to climbing mountains, reading some very cool books, and stumbling across some nifty corners of the internet, at every turn we learned lots and had fun while doing so.

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Forgive the terrible quality of this photo of a photo – this is my mother and her brothers and sister (and a cousin?) in Germany. Note those are real candles on the Christmas tree! No fire hazard there, I’m sure. 

Hard on the heels of those books are three more, currently in the research and writing stage. One is a biography for kids about Elizabeth May (more on that soon), a handbook for young activists (which will also feature profiles about some pretty amazing kids who are making real changes in the world), and a picture book about climbing. Oh, and then there’s another in the Orca Footprints series which, at its heart, is about love, community, and cooperation. It’s been interesting starting to research this one – my reading has taken me to distant places like the Congo where researchers are studying bonobos in order to learn more about what it means to be human. More, too, on this in a future post.

Also in the works (I may be done with text edits?) is a picture book that’s been picked up by Holiday House in New York. Subject matter? Bricklaying and baseball. And feminism. At the moment the search for an illustrator is on – I’m very curious to see who is selected and how he or she will tackle the artwork. Stay tuned…

I think that’s it for the children’s book projects. Whenever I can, I’m also working away on an adult memoir/popular science/medicine manuscript tentatively titled, The Dissolution of HW, which is about the nature of personality and my mother’s struggle with Pick’s Disease.

In the ‘waiting to see how it all turned out’ department, there’s Scylla and Charybdis, which may be out before the end of the year with Pearson. A retelling of part of The Odyssey, it was both challenging and fascinating to find a way to stay true to Homer’s story but still be accessible to a contemporary audience. Very much looking forward to seeing this when it comes out.

Never too Late

And, finally, in the ‘it’s never too late’ department, it’s never too late to set some crazy goals. I will mention ‘Navigate around the world’ again here just so you know I haven’t forgotten about this project.

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Approaching the crux on a pumpy 5.11a at Sunshine Slabs. Missed the clip right at the crux near the top and came flying off, but I will be back! (And by flying off, I mean, I fell as far as the previous clipped bolt… and, because this is a pretty steep, overhanging kind of climb, I didn’t really hit anything – just dangled for a bit until I gathered my thoughts and tried again. Never did make it all the way up on this particular afternoon, though I climbed it on toprope a few days later, which means I can get up there. So, leading this one is definitely within reach… And if I can lead a 5.11a, could 5.12 be far behind?)

And, I’m going to state publicly that before I die I am going to Nail a 5.12 climbing route. 5.12 is a grade of climb that’s decently challenging and which, though I sort of had this as a streeeeeeeeetch goal, I really doubted I could accomplish it until very recently. Two things changed my mind. First, I’ve been going to a physiotherapist and a personal trainer who are working together to develop a program for me to deal with my ongoing shoulder (torn labrum) and elbow (after effects of the dislocation/ligament shredding) issues. The results have been amazing and I’ve been seconding routes of various types in the 11s without suffering any terrible after effects. I’ve also made huge strides recently in the leading department and just last week successfully led my first 10d. Suddenly, it looks like I might get to 5.12 before old age and infirmity get to me. So there you go, I’ve gone and made a public declaration of my intentions! That’s the first step, right?

Scrawny Arms? Me? Really?

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Exactly two weeks after the accident I was at physio having my arm manipulated by the most wonderful Mark. He was twisting and turning, pulling and pushing, lifting and separating… Which sounds grim, but actually doesn’t hurt – much. I have regained a lot of twistiness in the forearm, which is good – no numbness or tingling in the fingertips – also good. He warned me that I might experience stabbing pains or other weird and unpleasant things if the bone chip (or possibly chips) floating around in the elbow joint drift somewhere they don’t belong and get stuck…

Then Mark started flexing and extending the arm, seeing how much range of motion has returned. This, apparently, is an area where we can do some work… I have been stretching the arm, but Mark pushed it much harder than I had dared and I commented that obviously I could do better between now and next week’s appointment. “I can push way harder than I have been.” We had just been talking about my one-armed climbing exploits and he looked me in the eye and said, “With an attitude like yours you’re either going to have an exceptional recovery or do yourself permanent damage.”

I couldn’t argue with that. Yep, it is our strongest character traits which are both our greatest assets or biggest liabilities, depending on circumstances. 

Mark took some measurements and we continued the stretching, finishing with a session of electrical pulses delivered to either side of the joint while the arm was held down under a towel-wrapped heated weight – all to encourage more stretching. While I was pinned to the bed by my trapped arm Mark informed me the the Extra-Small size of special brace we were trying to order was still going to be too big for my tiny arm! Say what? When people look at my arms they don’t generally lead with a comment like, “Oh you poor little thing – look at those tiny arms… ” What could this mean? Women don’t injure their elbows? Or they injure their elbows but don’t bother with the high-powered braces? What about teenagers? Children? And what about muscly short people like me? Weird. Just plain weird.

Rather than settle for the less good softer brace (remember, I have a date with the Rocky Mountains later this month…) we have ordered the high-tech brace and will see if there’s a way to fiddle with it, add padding underneath, etc. so I get the most possible protection while I get on with my life. Though, why I would bother with these scrawny arms I don’t know… I mean, how can anyone with toothpick limbs consider tackling mountains? Hmph.

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Onward and upward!!

A Climbing We Shall Go

So it turns out that the double dislocation of my elbow was the lesser of two injuries.

Swelling and bruising on about Day 5

Swelling and bruising on about Day 5

Because it was a double dislocation (both bones shot out of place) apparently the risk of re-dislocating is slim. This is good news. The damaged joint capsule should heal nicely in about 12 weeks, which I had thought was terrible news until I visited my physiotherapist who informed me that I had done some major tearing damage to (possibly complete destruction of) the ligament that essentially attaches the top part of my arm to the bottom part.

“You should know by Christmas if it looks like that’s going to heal on its own,” he said blithely. I nearly fell off the examining table!

“Christmas?”

“It takes at least eight months to heal an injury like that.”

“Eight months?”

If it heals. If the ligament is so far gone it can’t knit itself back together, then reconstructive surgery is an option – a procedure called Tommy John Surgery. The procedure seems to be fairly common in pitchers who regularly rip apart their elbows and, oh joy, within a year of the surgery the prognosis is pretty good. I could barely keep reading when I learned that this surgery requires removal of tendon from somewhere else in the body in order to create a new connective bit in the elbow – where on earth would they find a spare bit of tendon to use?????

“What about climbing?”

To his credit, he didn’t laugh at me or say (like the orthopedic surgeon) that climbing was out of the question. We discussed options. There are some pretty good braces out there – terribly expensive but which limit the lateral movement of the elbow joint and prevent hyper-extension during the extended healing time needed for the soft tissues to repair themselves. I suspect there wouldn’t be a lot of pulling power in the left arm, but having a second arm is kind of essential when climbing, if only to pinch and grip and balance while moving the other, fully functional arm into a secure position. Or, is it? It occurred to me that other people had likely dealt with arm injuries, that there are para-climbers out there who climb with fewer than a full complement of limbs… I asked about immobilizing the injured arm and climbing with the other one and we decided that there was no harm in trying as long as I was securely top-roped and didn’t do anything foolish like bouldering.

IMG_4091Which is how I wound up stuffing an oven mitt into the pocket of an ice-holding wrap designed for icing an injured knee, wrapping that around my elbow for padding, stuffing all of that into the sling they gave me at the emergency room on the first night and then securely fastening the sling and padded arm snugly across my torso. I was a bit worried about falling off the wall and catching the sling on a hold, getting hung up and dislocating my shoulder or hanging myself or something equally ridiculous, so my wonderful climbing partners helped me squeeze into a very tight t-shirt so all loose bits were covered and I was unable to move the sling, my arm or get caught up in anything in case of a tumble.

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Add the two of us together (Charlotte has a broken foot) and you might wind up with one decent climber!

Add the two of us together (Charlotte has a broken foot) and you might wind up with one decent climber!

In the end I was so trussed up it felt like I was wearing  a straight jacket and couldn’t even manage to tie in by myself.

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Once securely fastened to the top rope, it was do or die time. I faced the wall and started up.

What a disaster that first wall was!! My whole body went into panic mode because I could not get my head wrapped around the idea that in order to go up I was going to have to balance on my feet and let go to reach up for the next hold with my good hand. Surges of adrenaline soon had my legs quivering and the effort of hanging on for dear life with my poor right arm soon turned it into jelly as well!

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I was horrified at how hard it was, how my body was completely betraying me by panicking, how I couldn’t at all translate my usual ‘power up the wall’ climbing style into something that would work with one arm. By the time I got to the bottom I was faced with the realization that either something fundamental had to change in the way I was tackling the wall or I was going to have to find another hobby to occupy myself during the long road to recovery.

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I confess that once I got to the bottom I felt so awful and my legs were so quivery I was ready to quit and take up tiddly winks.

I sat down, had a drink, took some deep breaths and considered my options. Quit? Take a very long (two year?) break? Or, try again. I’m no spring chicken. I might not be around in two years. I decided to try again, this time on the feature wall with the cool landscaping.

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Things definitely improved after this. I stopped trying to leap and lunge and relied more on solid footholds, balance, and more strategic stretching. On the next wall (no photos), I was able to relax enough that I could just stand, balanced on two decent footholds and let go of the right arm, let it hang beside me to shake out and recover a moment before continuing right to the very top. By the end of the evening I was feeling like maybe there will be a way to safely climb while the arm heals and THAT was a fabulous feeling, indeed!

Of course, I couldn’t have done any of this without the support and encouragement of our fantastic group of climbing ninjas – Justine, Meagan, and Charlotte. Charlotte, who has been recovering from a broken foot for what seems like forever, also tackled a wall tonight and scampered up using her two good arms (stronger than ever as a result of all that crutching and wheel-chairing she’s been doing), her good leg, and her knee!

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Go Charlotte!! We proved tonight that three functional limbs are more than adequate to get up to the top!

Poor Justine, being the only fully functional one of the evening was really made to work hard by Coach Meagan, who pushed her hard as we invalids ‘took time to recover’ between climbs.

Justine showing off her ballerina-esque style as she floated up to the top of a route as part of her series of 100 uninterrupted moves up and down and up and down the wall...

Justine showing off her ballerina-esque style as she floated up to the top of a route as part of her series of 100 uninterrupted moves up and down and up and down the wall…

Though it’s really, really tempting to rush back to climb more tomorrow, good sense tells me a rest day or two would be a good idea before trying again. The first hurdle (giving it a try) has been conquered. Continuing to rest and give the injured arm time to heal and the over-worked right arm a chance to recover will help with the overall ‘onward and upward’ strategy that will, with any luck, see me back out on some real rock before too long!

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Hoodoos on one of the recent trips to the Kootenays – such gorgeous places out there to explore!