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Injury, surgery, recovery, reality.

Original Post
phil broscovak · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2002 · Points: 1,576

(I wasn't sure what exactly to call this thread)

I was inspired by the Josh Janes injury thread and thought it would be appropriate to start a dialog about injury, surgery, recovery, rehabilitation, etc. Not just the physical aspects but the psychological aspects as well. Having had twelve knee surgeries myself I know a little about "The Process". And I can tell you from experience that climbers are for the most part A-type personalities who can endure more pain and discomfort than the average citizen can imagine. AND they are real likely to go off half-healed and do something NOT good for themselves. Some of the advice given to Josh was right on. Some was meant with good intent but faulty information. It was my hope that this thread could be an exchange of info and support to those who are facing some unknown future.

I am considering starting a lightning-strike survivor's thread, as I got whacked in Wyoming 2 years ago and have had ongoing difficulty. It would be good to hear some stories and I would love to hear from some long-time survivors.

respectful thanks. philo.

Dirty Gri Gri, or is it GiGi? · · Vegas · Joined May 2005 · Points: 4,115
phil broscovak wrote: I can tell you from experience that climbers are for the most part A-type personalities who can endure more pain and discomfort than the average citizen can imagine. AND they are real likely to go off half-healed and do something NOT good for themselves.
I've had the same observation, especially when I've been out with the more hardcore-like trad and/or mountaineer climbers. We (type A's) seem to be fighters, survivors and go-getters in one way or another throughout our lives which carries on to our climbing and our ability to deal with pain, illness, and/or injuries. Glad you survived your lightning strike Philo!

Take care!
G
phil broscovak · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2002 · Points: 1,576

So I have a young friend who is just about to have the pin removed from his wrist. He has been bouncing off the walls from not climbing. What would you tell him?

John McNamee · · Littleton, CO · Joined Jul 2002 · Points: 1,690

Tell him that he has one chance of doing it right. If he rushes it now, it could be years before he is back the same sort of form pre-injury. Got to focus on the long term here and not short-term gratification.

This is from someone who has broken bones, snapped both achilles and has been recovering for about 6 months from elbow surgery and recently had a setback from pushing too hard doing weighted pullups!

Do it right the first time and be patient.

phil broscovak · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2002 · Points: 1,576

Mike,
Thanks for your post. When I initiated this thread I was hoping for posts like yours. I myself had a serious accident in Morocco W. Africa in 1980. My leg got bent completely backwards at the knee splitting my lip with my own foot. I had to endure twelve knee surgeries in ten years culminating in a total replacement 15 years ago. It was a baaad blow out! I recovered and got back to climbing well each of the first eleven times which became progressively more difficult emotionally. By the twelfth surgery I was pretty whipped. I was also convinced that my life as I had known it was OVER! In despair I sold everything: rock, ice, big wall and mountain gear. I also sold both my road and mountain bikes. I retired from the greatest passion and drive of my life. It was like dying without the burial. Well to make a looooooonng story short I chose to unretire ten years ago. And whereas I had the technical knowledge and experience of over twenty years of climbing, I had the mental strength and focus of a raw newbie. It was terrifying, like Rip Van Winkle waking up a decade into the future. It has been a long and winding road to come back this time. I have developed a newfound respect for beginning climbers. And a contempt for the impatience of others. Anyway thanks again for your story and congratulations on your success! PEACE. philo

Dirty Gri Gri, or is it GiGi? · · Vegas · Joined May 2005 · Points: 4,115
Mike Morley wrote:.... I suppose my advice to someone recuperating from a major injury would be to be patient, but also to explore some other activities. Go visit an art museum. Take a class at the local community college. Learn French. The important thing is to do something and not feel sorry for yourself. You might even learn something in the process!
You guys will inspire others in such a positive way!

Very good advice Mike for anyone suffering a physical or emotional injury.

I haven't suffered any serious physical injuries, but exploring positive, healthy activities helped me quite a bit, as I was suffering as a homeless teen in L.A. I would have died inside (or worse) in the many depressing and dangerous situations I was in, if I didn't have something positive to grasp.

I thankfully met a boyfriend that showed me a world of reptile hunting and bottle digging, managed to finish high school and put myself through college.

For myself, and I'm sure many others, when you stay strong and make it through horrendous ordeals, other "little" life circumstances seem easier to handle.

Be strong, expose yourself to positive people and activities and find happiness!

Oh, and one more thing...HAVE A GOOD, LONG CRY! (at least once a year)
flynn · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2002 · Points: 25

Not to wear out a good word, but again...wow.

My own little story seems kinda feeble, but maybe it'll resonate with somebody. I'm 54, been in this mad game since 1982, never had a serious injury (knock on wood! quick!). But a couple of years ago, I started having some health issues that left me pretty seriously anemic, which destroyed my aerobic capacity. How anemic? Hiking back to the car from Lost Angel left me wheezing, even after three stops. As Josh experienced, I couldn't do anything! I felt like I'd lost the mountains; lost my life; lost myself. Avoiding depression was maybe the hardest work, unless it was not losing faith that I could and would recover. Things finally got fixed about 4 months ago, and it's been joyous and powerful all at once to discover that I have windpower again. I'm not all the way recovered, but it's close enough for now, and I can see it getting nothing but better. I've gotten back 'my' mountains, my life...my self.

Dave Brower · · cs co · Joined Oct 2002 · Points: 20
Mike Morley wrote:Ten years ago, I shattered my right femur. A 18"-long titanium rod, held in place with a couple 2" titanium screws, has substituted ever since. I was in a wheelchair for the first month after surgery, then graduated to crutches and eventually a cane. The muscle memory was lost, and my foot naturally gravitated to a resting position 90 degrees right of center. I had to retrain it to face straight ahead. It took a year to learn how to walk again. The hardest part was not being able to do anything active. I watched a lot of movies. I read a lot of books. Plus, this was pre-Internet, so I couldn't even live vicariously seeing what others were up to! To be honest, it was a daily struggle to stay sane and not sink into deep depression. During that time, I accompanied a friend in the Grand Canyon while he was doing research for his thesis project. He would later write an incredible book about it. I finally got the nerve to get on the sharp end again about a year later. I tied in and started up Sail Away in Joshua Tree, an old favorite that I'd climbed many times before. About 3/4 of the way up, my head got the better of me, and I backed off. The thought of injury and going through the recovery process again was just too great. I tried again, this time The Bong, a 5.4, with success. With each successive lead, I was able to regain not only physical but mental strength. It took a couple of years to get back to my former self. I suppose my advice to someone recuperating from a major injury would be to be patient, but also to explore some other activities. Go visit an art museum. Take a class at the local community college. Learn French. The important thing is to do something and not feel sorry for yourself. You might even learn something in the process!
This post speaks to me..This is my situation. 2 plates and 10
pins and screws in my ankle. 3+ years after the fact, and 3
surgeries later. Pain is my main problem now, my ortho says
if I get the ankle fused + rebuild w/hip bone in there is the
next step.
Problem is I DONT WANNA...I have some great vertical movement that
I don't want to lose. Things are working ok, I've gone back to work
at my tower job. I have climbed some on the tower and was ok,
but I stay on the ground and it's hard work on mountain terrain.
I can deal with it until about 3-4 pm then the thing
goes numb and aches for the rest of the night.

I could really deal with things a lot better when I had
real pain killers...4-5 of them extra streangth vic's a
few beers and joints and I can handle most anything..
they shut that off about 9 months ago. So it's just me
and my sometimes unbearable chronic pain to deal with.
hmmmm..?

As far as my mental state, don't ask, I won't bore you
do death other than say I was talking to the TV..crying
over sad commercials and stuff.
I need something, get out, even if it kills me.
I'm at a crossroads..do something or just whither into
a big blob of depressed pain.
Bill Olszewski · · Colorado Springs, CO · Joined Mar 2007 · Points: 11,252

Dave, man, whatever you do, don't turn into that blob. Surround yourself with good friends and other positive people. Consider a spiritual guide if the mental thing gets too tough. Look into holistic medicines.

Regarding the pain, what does your doctor say? Shouldn't it mostly go away at some point? I understand why they cut off the vic's - they as most pain killers are addictive. But there are some that aren't. Unfortunately, our government makes them illegal because they're worried that people will do them for recreation. Anyone have any suggestions short of using "alternative" pain killers (like the one everyone knows about, used in China for a couple thousand years and easily grown around the world)?

Whatever you end up trying, Dave, your recovery is like climbing: 90% mental. Keep a positive attitude and maintain mental control over any pain remedies you might try. Hope you get better soon.

Dave Brower · · cs co · Joined Oct 2002 · Points: 20

Thanks for the replys...

I need motivation more than anything and
your story inspired me. They wanted to put an 18"
rod in my femur too.

However I am so NOT a go-getter
type A person, I'm more like a type F.

I did get in a good 10 mile bike ride yesterday.
Reading this site yesterday for the 1st time since
it changed from Climbingboulder.com has given me some motivation.

thanks again, I'll try to keep posting on my progress,
perhaps that may help me.

crankenstein · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2005 · Points: 0

There are many stories here that make mine pale in comparison, but I can still relate to the pain and depression thing. I have an ankle that the ortho doc wants to fuse or replace and I feel the pain with every step. I haven't been able to commit to doing anything with it when the doc says that there is no guarantee that I will ever be as mobile as I am now. I can't bear the thought of losing my mobility. I've already had to go from being the one that carries the heaviest pack and hikes at warp speed to being the one who tries to pass off the load to my partners and hobbles to the crag. There are many days that pain and depression try to take over my life, but for the most part I manage it by taking a lot of glucosamine and motrin and by trying to work out in ways that do not stress my ankle. Over all, my point here is that the love of climbing and the out doors have made given me the incentive to keep going. I know I'm not alone in that respect.

Tim Stich · · Colorado Springs, Colorado · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 1,530
crankenstein wrote:... I've already had to go from being the one that carries the heaviest pack and hikes at warp speed to being the one who tries to pass off the load to my partners and hobbles to the crag...
Well let's do some hobbling in 11-Mile next month. I hear the approaches there suck, but you gotta do what you gotta do.
Dave Brower · · cs co · Joined Oct 2002 · Points: 20
crankenstein wrote:There are many stories here that make mine pale in comparison, but I can still relate to the pain and depression thing. I have an ankle that the ortho doc wants to fuse or replace and I feel the pain with every step. I haven't been able to commit to doing anything with it when the doc says that there is no guarantee that I will ever be as mobile as I am now. I can't bear the thought of losing my mobility. I've already had to go from being the one that carries the heaviest pack and hikes at warp speed to being the one who tries to pass off the load to my partners and hobbles to the crag. There are many days that pain and depression try to take over my life, but for the most part I manage it by taking a lot of glucosamine and motrin and by trying to work out in ways that do not stress my ankle. Over all, my point here is that the love of climbing and the out doors have made given me the incentive to keep going. I know I'm not alone in that respect.
Holy cow...you too !!
I dont wanna lose my mobility either. My ortho mentioned ankle replacement, but he said that if they don't work they often
have to amputate. However, there are days I feel like cutting
the damn thing off with a bow saw.

Climbing was the only thing I did well, I'm going insane tim,
insane !!
Dave Brower · · cs co · Joined Oct 2002 · Points: 20
Tim Stich wrote: Well let's do some hobbling in 11-Mile next month. I hear the approaches there suck, but you gotta do what you gotta do.
Your kidding right :) ??

(about the approaches)
Tim Stich · · Colorado Springs, Colorado · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 1,530
Dave Brower wrote: Your kidding right :) ?? (about the approaches)
Besides the Bastille, I don't think there are any closer approaches out there. Ankles are for climbing, not hiking, right?
Justin Dansby · · NC · Joined Mar 2007 · Points: 1,535

Dave let me know how the bow saw works. I'm also going insane, broke my fibula on 2/2/08. I just started walking again. My leg has atrophied to the point of looking like a skinny chicken leg. Crankenstein I feel your pain man, it sucks to go from being the first with the heaviest pack to the last one in line and unable to climb anything. I don't have it nearly as bad as you guys, but the motivation that one day things will work again in my ankle has led me to stay somewhat sane. I may not be able to climb at the same level for years or ever. But making it to the top of a 5.6 is almost as rewarding for me as a 5.10. Just my two cents. Hope everyone has a speedy recovery and good luck!

phil broscovak · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2002 · Points: 1,576

Chronic pain is a terrible nightmare. I had ten years of it including more than a few times where the bow saw came to mind. Sixteen virtually pain free years with an artificial knee has done wonders for me. But so has Structural Integration aka Rolfing. I would recommend to you who don't want to fuse your ankles that you look into doing the initial "ten series". The ten sessions work you head to toe essentially returning your body to it's original blue print. You might be amazed how well your body will work when it quits compensating for injury and fighting gravity.
Surgery should be the last choice even if sometimes it is the only choice. But Structural Integration can do wonders even indefinitely forestalling invasive surgery.

And Justin, You are only a couple months out from a major break. Relax, breath deep, take your time, heal right. Unless you are 80 years old. In which case, get out there and send before you croak!

Michael Schneiter · · Glenwood Springs, CO · Joined Apr 2002 · Points: 9,155

Great advice guys. Injuries suck but they happen.

A few years ago I broke my leg, the medial malleolus of my tibia on Tricks of the Trade. The accident is a whole other story but basically I broke it on a seemingly benign 5.7 pitch. Because I'm a runner I chose to have surgery just to make sure everything healed fine. In the past, every time I've been injured I've pushed myself hard physically during the recovery process; doing abdominal work, riding an exercise bike, lifting weights with a cast on my hand, etc. I had always been obsessed with not losing fitness while recovering. This time around I took a totally different approach, even though it was the longest period of recovery I had experienced before. I had two weeks on the couch, literally, with my leg propped up and about 2 months from the accident to when I could maybe start running and such.

From the beginning I just decided to enjoy the time off, which is kind of a foreign concept for me. I read a bunch of books, caught up on some movies, cleaned climbing gear, went out with friends on crutches, etc. My wife tried to get me to do exercises and I refused. About 10 weeks after the accident I was back at the local sport crag for the first time and I felt nervous about how I would climb, physically and mentally. Mysteriously, I felt totally fine. For the first climb, I led the bottom half of a route that I had never done before and is slightly runout and it's at my onsight limit (I mostly chose it because it was clean and dry).

While recovering I had read a lot of books about the psychology of sport and I think that's one thing that paid off. Another thought is that I came back totally refreshed from my recovery and not stressed out about my fitness. In the past, I would always get more and more stressed with each day about how much fitness I was losing. This time, I had the mindsight that my fitness was what it was and it would get better and back to normal. I'm sure people will disagree with me about this approach, but in this case, it worked for me. When I got back outside and mobile again I felt refreshed with a new energy for doing things. And, the time to think I had gave me a new motivation for life and for sport.

For my mind, I was really worried that I would "freak out" when I got back on lead or in a hairy situation. I've never had a problem with my mind as a result of the accident and went out and "tested" myself when I healed. I think a lot of it had to do with the time I spent thinking about the accident. Instead of thinking about how bad it was I thought about the things I learned from it and what I would do differently. I read books like the Rock Warriors Way and spent a lot of time thinking through climbs I had done and climbs I wanted to do. Hence, when I went back out on the rock I would have thoughts about my leg and I would feel "phantom" pain in my leg when I got above some gear. Instead of getting worked up I would just talk to myself about why I didn't need to be worried, evaluate the fall, tell myself how it was different than before, etc. I think I'm a stronger climber mentally now than I was before because I keep in mind how bad accidents can happen, do what I can to limit the consequences, and feel confident in my decisions.

Anyway, good luck to anyone recovering from a serious injury. It doesn't have to be the worst thing in your life. Looking back those two months seem like a tiny part in my life instead of the insurmountable amount of time it seemed like at the beginning of my recovery.

Dave Brower · · cs co · Joined Oct 2002 · Points: 20

Thats great dude. I'm glad you made it back to
recovery. My story is a bit different. I crushed
my ankle and leg so bad it was discribed as "cornflakes".
I've accepted that this will never recover fully and
the main problem now is what seems like never ending
chronic pain, yet finding the will continue on.

I tried on a pair of climbing shoes the other day,
for the first time in 3.5 years.
a set of boreals...After a minute the foot was in
agonizing pain,and I thought "shit! this is not going
to work". Then I put a shoe on the good foot, it too was
in agonizing pain. My feet had become fatter. So I dug
out a pair of 20 year old blown out Sportiva's, loosened
it up all the way and put it on and walked around on it
for at least 45 minutes...hooray...I might be able to do
this.

I know I can climb, I've climbed 75 ft. up a tower and
work the shit out of it daily doing hard construction work.
My bike has kept me in good arobic shape, and that doesnt
seem to hurt it much either. I'm like spongebob now
"I'm ready...I'm ready...I'm ready eddy eddy eddy eddy !"

Now the only other hurdle is the Wife, shes like
"YOU ARE NOT GOING CLIMBING !" ehhh well, she would say
that before the accident too. I'm considering making an
escape tunnel. cause I'm going out !!
I'm READY !!...for 5.4 :)

Michael Schneiter · · Glenwood Springs, CO · Joined Apr 2002 · Points: 9,155

Check out the latest podcast from the Dirtbag Diaries, about this very subject of injury and recovery, although focusing more on the rescue. Amazing story and really well done.

Dave Brower · · cs co · Joined Oct 2002 · Points: 20

Wow !! cool pics..
I must say I am just overwhelmed by the response
here, I am truely inspired by all
of you.

Thank you.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Injuries and Accidents
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