Back on the job in Invermere after more than three months of recovery from a 20-metre climbing fall, I’m feeling like one very lucky journalist these days.
My rappelling mishap in Squamish resulted in a broken femur, a couple of cracks in my pelvis, a broken thumb, and a lot of breaks to the lower half of my face. But to be alive, still able to walk and without brain damage (though some may dispute that point) is an amazing stroke of luck. Missing out on most of an active summer is too bad, but that’s a great deal considering the range of outcomes I could have met with.
I’m down to one crutch now, having progressed through wheelchair, walker and wobbly first steps with two crutches. With luck, I could be back to walking like a normal human in two or three weeks. And having come back to the valley, I’ve had a chance to swim in the Lake Windermere most days so far, and to ride my bike on Westside Road. It’s a great feeling to gain back what you once took for granted.
I’ve always been a fan of Canada’s health care system, but never more so than right now. Had this accident occurred in the United States, I might well be contemplating bankruptcy by this point as my medical bills could have easily run close to $100,000. The orthopedic and plastic surgeons at Vancouver General Hospital did an incredible job of fixing my leg and pelvis, re-assembling my jaw, and getting my face back to way it looked before I used it to break my fall. I’m mostly back to normal already, and am going to make a full recovery within a year.
It bears repeating how lucky I was with this result. It might take until a Christmas turkey dinner before I get my jaw back into fine chewing form, but for the 34-year-old guy who was in the hospital room next to me, he’ll be happy if he’s able to fully wiggle his toes by then. He was paralyzed after rolling his truck—something I also happened to do over the past year, and walked away from unscathed — and was in hospital to sort out the post-accident internal bleeding that was crushing the breath right out of his lungs. Despite that, I remember how positive he was. Something very interesting happens to the human psyche when given no choice but to embrace a fierce optimism and desire to recover.
I’ve had to deal with so much less than that fellow. My struggle has been nothing compared to that of Ed Natyshak, a mountain biker paralyzed in Nelson after an accident in 2007. He still lives there, and now works as a fitness coach whose own willpower inevitably spurs his clients to dig a little deeper in their workouts.
It’s simply great to be back, and my gratitude for getting a second chance runs deep.
Greg Amos is the returning editor of the Invermere Valley Echo after a three-month absence.