The Accident and maybe the end of climbing for me?
Could I potentially say; this is the best thing that ever happened to me? Almost dying and being a paraplegic for the rest of my life?
First Facebook post after the accident one week from August 19th in the hospital:
I wish I could’ve died in the moment of the accident. August 19th, having climbed safely for a long career, an oversight was made that caused me to plummet to the ground from 70 feet up, breaking my foot my leg and my back and yet unbelievably alive. Without a doubt in my mind I was a paraplegic from then on. Long story short, I was airlifted to reno and have gone through extensive, 3 out of the 4 operations needed to recover. The neurosurgeon, based on the MRIS, said I should not have any chance to walk again but the spinal surgeries were miraculously successful. Today I am waiting for a jet and bed to open up at Vancouver general Hospital to finish my final operation. defecating the bed and watching catheters inserted inside of you and having no ability to move because of the sheer amount of pain leading to constant screaming and crying and feeling like it will never end, all the while seemingly not even the morphine, oxycodone, phenteno tramdoll to help. But you know what? Death will always be overcome, and goodness will always have the podium. I have been overwhelmed by the amount of miracles from strangers and love from friends and family that have instantly materialized. I am definite not looking for social media success through this silly ‘like’ mechanism that fb created, but I do think posting it on facebook adheres to my idea of its use for acknowledging life changing events as a chronology: furthermore also to inform those few good friends that do care, who do not yet know.
In this rare moment I am happy to be alive, life is so beautiful more so are the people that can’t help but give. I have seen it so much.
Here’s to the next challenge,
2nd facebook post after my first checkup in the hospital after having been discharged for 2weeks, 6 weeks after the accident.
Showered for the first time in a month today! (New Personal Best) Full disclaimer: peed in the shower. Family troop who brought me to the hospital today for my first check up included a surgeon, a harvard MD., a vet (sis) and a nurse (mom). 6 months till I make a “full” recovery. 4 months until I learn to walk again. hey world! i’m coming for ya! friends, i love ya. god bless.
Why I’m writing all this?
A record. I’m 31 right now. I have 50 years left for my memory to fade. I’m not putting much thought into this right now, that brainstorm type of writing. I felt like if I have to put much thought into this, I would never write it. I’m in that ‘mood’ right now and I feel I should at least say something about this. It’s the best thing that happened to me. I would wish this on no one, the suffering, the extreme pain, the crying, and the wanting to die constantly the first few weeks at the hospital. But so much good has come out of it.
It was a miracle, that having fallen 70 feet, I didn’t die. The doctors all said I should’ve. Nobody lives. Nobody survives without being a paraplegic for the rest of their lives, especially when the spine is crushed L1,T11,T12. They took out the fractured bone pressing up against the spinal cord in the second surgery and installed screws/plates the second. My dad cried when he flew into Reno from Toronto and saw me lying there. No one knew how the second surgery would go; the risks were apparent. All said and done when sitting in Vancouver with my Doc friend alex who showed me the report and the CT scans, 90% of my spine was caved in, 10 more percent and my spinal cord would’ve been crushed forever. As bad as the injuries are/were, oh, how it could’ve been so much worse.
The grigri was installed backwards. I never did check. 15 years of climbing, so many big mountains, so many hard mountains, without an accident. Flying commercial planes, you learn to check everything: MULTIPLE times. My amazing climbing friends, trust me without reservation. When I climb, you sit at those anchors and check it all the while to make sure no pieces shift. When I belay you’re constantly checking to see if everything is right. When I place gear, it’s got to be reasonable, “perfect placement” is an art, it’s my art. Then it happened and after the fall, lead climbing, a sport route, with no helmet, I lay there thinking this couldn’t have happened, not me, this is not real. Quickly followed by how angry I was that I wasn’t dead given the indescribable pain that I was in. I knew it was bad, I didn’t black out but I almost did so many times; I knew it was very very bad. An hour later, the helicopters came that airlifted me out. I don’t remember anything more, it’s all hazy, the first few days.
You wouldn’t believe it. THe support, the friends the love that have come out of this. The meals that have been cooked for me every night. The gifts, the well wishes, the prayers, the hospital rooms that were decorated. The words, wow the words, that were sent via messages were powerful. A friend who slept by my bed in the ICU and bathed me, who changed my pee bottle and wiped my tears. My sister who flew in from hong kong, my friends who flew in from out of state, my dad who flew in to reno from Toronto to sit by my bed in reno for two week and when I could eat solid food, fed me cause I couldn’t & my mom who came to vancouver for 2 weeks to cook and care for me. Those that I thought were my best friends, my family, they came, they never let me down, they’ve been there for me. Those who I would’ve never had guessed came out of the woodwork. I wanted to die for the first 3 weeks, now I want to live, I’m better than ever.
The world; so much suffering, I’ll never understand it all. I understand it better though. I understand love better, and I understand friendship and care. My priorities have shifted. I can’t explain it but in many ways, as beautiful as life/world was before, it’s even more beautiful. I am not saying 12 months of rehab and the medical side effects of what happened and the psychological trauma won’t be difficult. I am saying the good that has come out of this is so much greater than the bad. I feel so lucky to be here, so blessed to have the support I do, and glad that through all the roads I have traveled before, they have taught me to carry my head high. Every small step and decision you make is a stepping stone to either make you stronger mentally for future challenges. I know spirit, determination and drive doesn’t come without practice, hard work and smaller sufferings.
Caleb’s Journal; I’m five weeks from the accident today. I am at home sitting on my butt a lot. A week ago, I started to take the walker to the washroom by myself a week ago; though I pee funny because my bladder muscles from the foley catheter haven’t recovered. I am looking at my foot as I write, and my mind wants to move my ankle but my foot won’t move. Well that sucks… doc says if I work/physio hard enough, it’ll move again.. weird. they’ve said high chance of early arthritis in the foot. we’ll see. I am motivated with all these goals I’ve set for myself, professionally, developmentally or otherwise; only goals that can be accomplished on my butt, of course. My back sorta hurts. I haven’t been getting great sleep. 4 hours a night. But I did get a memory foam mattress topper from IKEA yesterday. I love my friends, I love my family. and I am grateful. Kind of worried about my tiny left leg that won’t have been used for four months, 3 months from now, (and if I’ll ever run without a funny gait in the future) when I finally use it. I am going to spend the next half an hour working out my arms that used to climb 5.12 now with the red theraband. Red being the 2nd easiest resistance. ahhhh…. life. i’ll squeeze a few more years out of you.
The last alpine climb ( mount conness’ west ridge) before the accident. It was bliss.
Staring out after the best 5.8 in the world. Nutcracker in yosemite.
ICU after the fall, the first few hours.
THe external fixator, surgery one of four.
Medevac to Canada after 2.5 weeks of being in Reno’s Renown hospital.
The leg before the external fixator. Pilon fracture and shattered leg.
spine w/ hardware installed, after the 3rd surgery.
5 weeks after the accident, discharged from hospital, and this picture was taken after my first checkup. I was accompanied by my dear friends/family, nurse mom, DR. sister, DR Miller, Dr Choi. Here I am in good spirits and well loved.