I’m back – slowly recovering from my hiking injury

I last posted here on Sunday, August 18th. I was home for 2 days after an 8-day stay at Whitehorse General Hospital following a fall during a hike on August 7th. The day following my last post, Cathy and I flew to Vancouver to meet a neurologist at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH).

While I have a ways to go yet before I’ll be out on hiking and motorcycling adventures again, the worst is over. Here’s a brief look at what’s happened to get me to this point.

Between Cathy, Air North, and a wheelchair, we got to Vancouver Monday morning. We had absolutely no idea what to expect at VGH – would we just be in and out for the test(s) I needed, or an overnight stay? I had brought what I’d need to stay overnight.

The taxi ride (a very long one due to an accident on the ramp from the airport) was awful. The movement caused the dizziness that is one of my primary symptoms to bring on bad nausea – I just barely kept my stomach contents where they belonged.

We got off to a very bad start at VGH. Although we had an appointment to meet the neurologist at the Emergency Department, it took about 5 hours to get to see him and 2 neurology students. Then, we were told this would be a multi-day stay to get all the tests done. We decided that Cathy would fly home the next morning, and she got a nice hotel across the street from the hospital. Despite the fact that they had no bed for me, I wasn’t allowed to join her – I spent that stressful night in a hallway in a back corner of Emerg. Late Monday night, a nurse brought me a sleeping mask (eye shades) and earplugs, which helped. I shot the first photo very early Tuesday morning while I was in a very dirty mood.

Murray at Vancouver General Hospital Emergency Department on Aug 20 2019

The neurologist had told me that they’d found nothing to indicate that any serious damage had been done by my fall. But I felt awful, and spinal injuries scare the hell out of me. The “what if” scenarios spinning through my head were never positive 🙁

At about noon on Tuesday (August 20th), I was wheeled on the stretcher to a ward in the Djavad Mowafaghian Neurosciences Unit in the huge Jim Pattison pavillion. A couple of days later, I shot this photo of the elevators that brought people to the unit. In the “small world” department, I worked for Jim Pattison for a dozen or so years back before he became uber-wealthy – he actually used to pop by the Overwaitea Foods warehouse to chat with us occasionally.

Djavad Mowafaghian Neurosciences Unit at VGH
Meals at the Whitehorse hospital had been very good – made from scratch, interesting, and large. At Vancouver, they were none of the above. How’s this for a dismal excuse for breakfast? I hear that’s the norm across BC now 🙁

A dismal breakfast at VGH - Aug 22 2019
On Wednesday, a couple of Physical Therapists came to assess me. We went for a walk, me with a walker, and things went badly. I got so dizzy and weak that they had to take me back to bed with a wheelchair.

Aug 22 2019
Having a wheelchair beside your bed, and a sign above the bed noting you as a fall risk, not to move without a walker or assistant, is very disheartening.

Aug 22 2019

On Thursday, I was determined to work this out, and was up and down the halls a few times with my walker. A nurse came by that evening to say it had been noticed how hard I was working.

That evening, the neurology team also came by and told me that I could go home if my final test on Friday, an electromyography (EMG), showed nothing significant as they expected. They were confident from what they and the other staff members had seen that I could heal at least as well at home. They were worried about how I’d be able to make travel bookings, but I assured them it was no problem. Within minutes of them leaving, I was booked on Air North’s Saturday morning flight home.

On Friday morning, my Physical Therapist graduated me from a walker to a cane. Much better! The tests that day all verified that no serious damage had been done in the fall – the neurology team were still confident that this would work itself out.

My final dinner at VGH – sesame ginger cod. This actually tasted pretty good, though a serving about double that size would have been more reasonable.

Aug 23 2019
On Saturday morning, my niece, Sari, picked me up at VGH, and drove me to the airport. The drive was much better than the taxi ride on Monday had been, but I still got quite nauseous. I had arranged for a wheelchair at YVR, and I had breakfast before Sari wheeled me to the security gate. She had to leave me there. I suppose I could have gotten an Air North rep to help me get to the gate, but I wheeled myself there – it was a very long way. At 10:15, my chauffeur arrived 🙂

Air North at YVR - Aug 24 2019
I normally love flying, but I just wanted this flight to be over. It was cloudy all the way, so there wasn’t even anything to take my mind off the situation.

Coffee on Air North - Aug 24 2019
That afternoon, therapy tool #1, the hot tub, was being readied (we get hot water delivered for it). It occurred to both Cathy and I that getting into it could be a challenge for a while, but it turned out to be easy. I had sunk the tub down into the deck so the rim is the perfect height to sit on and just swing my legs over. And OMG it felt good!

Hot tub being filled - Aug 24 2019
Cathy told me that if I was good and did what the medical team told me to do, she’d make my favourite breakfast, smoked salmon eggs Benedict. I did, and on August 25th she did 🙂

Smoked salmon eggs Benedict - Aug 25 2019
My Facebook post on August 26th: “It occurred to me a couple of hours ago that there are walkers with engines – they’re called lawn mowers. The non-motorized one – the wheelbarrow – was a lot tougher, but I’ve got this. I’ll be back in the mountains soon.”

Lawn mowed - Aug 26 2019
By August 27th, though I was having a quiet day after over-doing it the previous day, I felt almost ready to stop using the cane. The hot tub and home gym, a sunny deck and a trail for forest bathing and earthing were and still are my healing agents.

Aug 27 2019
This awesome shower in the late afternoon of the 27th was just what I needed to finish off the day right. After some pretty dark days, I was rejoicing at where I was.

Aug 27 2019
That night, I even went out and took some photos of the Milky Way (with a satellite crossing in front of it) from the deck.

Milky Way - Aug 27 2019
On August 29th I posted on Facebook: “I’ve seen this quote a few times recently, posted by friends who like themselves, and like being alone. So I made my own image with it. I need to get out onto the land for a few days very soon – perhaps this coming weekend if things continue to progress well. I may not do a lot beyond sitting on the beach, but that’s okay.” That possible getaway didn’t happen.

Aug 27 2019
Healing energy and meditation have been very important for me the past 3 weeks, filling countless hours of my time. In greetings, namaste has no direct translation. Of the meanings I’ve found, the one I use as my meaning is “I bow to the place in you that is love, light, and joy.”

Sept 1 2019

And here we are – Monday, September 2nd. While I’m basically functional, long walks and long drives aren’t possible. We tried to go to Skagway on Saturday but I had to get Cathy to drive after less than an hour. I’m improving slowly (with some setbacks) but my patience, particularly with summer rapidly disappearing, has pretty much worn out. It’s only been 32 days since I fell, and I’m improving far faster than initial conversations led me to believe might happen. During my final talk with one of my neurologists, though, she said that full recovery could take weeks or even months. Too much rest will retard my healing – I need to be active to some degree, and find my balance as to what works and what is too much. In 2 weeks Cathy is going to Europe for a month. It’s impossible to say what shape I’ll be in by then, but I have a great support network if I have problems.

I’m trying to focus on the fact that this could have been (and for a while looked like it was) so much more serious. But sometimes I think I need a new story – “I fell off a cliff – 63 feet it was. I’m lucky to be alive!!” Being this messed up by simply falling on my bum is just stupid. But I have no problem keeping in mind that some day I’ll be able to look back on this as just a bad memory – many people, including several friends of mine, aren’t that positive right now 🙁

Value every day, my friends – you just never know which one will be your last good one.

And value your friends. Their support, and their humour, have been a huge comfort to me over the past weeks.

Hospital gown humour

This will be my last “medical” post – back to having fun shortly 🙂




Comments

I’m back – slowly recovering from my hiking injury — 10 Comments

  1. It is good to hear that you are getting better and are able to get out a little. Dont over do it. Wishing for you a full recovery. Best Wishes Bruce

  2. good to read the good news. i’m curious about who your neurologists were since i visit the DM centre (can’t spell or pronounce it) once a year. from the outside it looks like a good medical facility but then i haven’t eaten their food nor slept in their bed. no doubt you are enjoying this late summer weather.

  3. This is all great news Murray. I am away until the third week in September, and leave again on Oct. 7th, but if I can lend a hand in the time I am home please let me know.

  4. Good to hear that you are healing. Your fur kids must have missed you. They are likely confused by your restricted activity. Soon the threesome will be back exploring!

  5. from near heartbreaking to quite heartwarming in one post…I had chosen not to comment to this post upon first reading it…but glad now that I went back to reread it and all the subsequent one’s. I toasted you that first day, while gimping around myself…

    my medical gaffe caused me to abort my AK travel plans for this fall.

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