My third “birthday”
Sunday, April 26th, 2015
Photography Credit: Nathan Welton
It’s been three years since I took a 50 foot ground fall while sport climbing in Turkey. The recovery process was horrendous, and it’s interesting to experience that I’m still progressing. The progression is no longer linear; the steps are smaller and harder to notice and appreciate. But looking back helps me notice that I’m still moving forward.
There are multiple “layers” that need healing to recover from a trauma like mine, and the physical part is just one of several.
I remember being lost in an ocean of unknowns as I laid in bed unsure if I would ever walk again. I was dying to get answers to all my questions and to hear from people who had experienced similar traumas. I wanted to get an idea of what to expect. Every injury is different, and every one effects a person differently — so I didn’t get my question answered before I had walked the steps myself. Nevertheless, I made a basic timeline of my progression over the last 3 years to maybe help some of you out there who are seeking for answers.
1 Week In: In Turkey, in and out of surgeries. Sleeping, eating, pooping, repeat. I am simply “existing,” sleepless but not awake.
2 Weeks In: Back in Norway at the trauma floor in Trondheim. More surgeries. Diagnosed with 13 fractures in both ankles, back, pelvic, and right elbow. I can wiggle my toes, fingers, and I’m learning to use my extremely uncoordinated left hand for everything. I started working out my functional arm with a 3 kg weight. Looking back, I realize that this was more for my head than anything else. I was desperate to feel that I had started my “fight” to win back what I had lost.
3 Weeks In: Just moved back to my hometown hospital in Molde, Norway.
5 Weeks In: Still in Aure, Norway. My brother brought me knee pads so I could crawl around. One day I sat in my wheelchair and held on to the back of a friend’s motorized wheel chair, and he towed me about 1km to a nearby town. “Danger is my middle name, baby.”
8 Weeks In: Transferred to a second rehab center outside of Oslo called the Cato Institute, which has a lot of great facilities.
Positive, big progression.
10 Weeks In: Now it’s starting to get real. I’m learning to walk again. I’m training 6-8 hours every day and am psyched!
11 Weeks In: I can walk! I had my first climbing session on an indoor wall with shoes 6 size bigger than normal. Can walk a few meters without crutches.
“Nightmares about falling, but I’m finally allowed to work out, and I can focus my energy.”
3 Months In: First time climbing outdoors, but only on TR. I’m crutching through the forest and I climb 5.11.
I’ve accepted my situation and I’ve left behind all expectation of grades, or sadness over once being stronger. I’m surprised I’m not more scared. I’m experiencing pure, almost overwhelming, gratefulness.
4 Months In: Focusing 90% of my training toward training for climbing. First time lead climbing, only steep routes. REALLY scared of falling. Like, terrified.
5 Months In: I take a climbing trip to Kalymnos. I can crutch to the closest crags and I sleep in between pitches. I can climb steep routes only. I projected a 7b (5.12b). I do rehab exercises every day. I try to practicing falling on steep routes.
6 Months In: I climb Moonlight Buttress as my 6 month anniversary. I top rope the pitches and realize I will be able to send it one day.
8 Months In: I take a trip to Thailand, climb a couple of 8a routes (5.13b), and then climb my first two 8a+ routes (5.13c). They are extremely steep and I know I won’t hit anything if I fall.
1 Year In: Bad! I thought I was back to square one…
1.5 Years In: Getting ready to spending the fall of 2013 in the Red River Gorge, and I fall in love again with my road bike. It is the only thing I do where I don’t feel the slightest bit limited by my injuries. I feel light and fast.
20 Months In: I go back country snowboarding for first time again! The conditions in Rocky Mountain National Park are pure powder, but it hurts to have a lot of extra weight pulling on my joints, so only go a few times. I stop all intake of pain killers for longer periods at a time.
2 Years In: I’m in the Red River Gorge for another season for my 2nd year anniversary. I am starting to climb vertical routes again, without excessive ankle pain. The pain has evened out and I’m limping less. I can go days without pain killers, sometimes even while climbing, but I usually have to take Ibuprofen while climbing or in the morning when the pain is at its worst.
2.5 Years In: I can snowboard and it hurts way less. I still can’t carry heavy loads. I can hike longer hikes, I can go days without pain killers, and I can go for the onsite without being too limited by fear.
3 Years In: I spend my 3rd Year Anniversary with a group of new friends in the Sikati Cave in Kalymnos. I walked 45 minutes along an extremely uneven goat trail carrying a 20 pound pack of camera gear. Getting there hurt, but it was worth it. I got to climb a whole bunch of amazing routes. In general, I don’t have to “break in” my ankles on the first pitch of the day anymore. The morning pain is usually gone within 30 minutes of waking up. I’m climbing without limitations and projecting the hardest route of my life. I’m on and off pain killers for periods. Amazingly, I don’t limp. Most people wouldn’t be able to tell what I’m been through. Life is damn good!
-prAna Ambassador Rannveig Aamodt