Overcoming Physical Setbacks
I have always been an athletic person, ready for whatever activity comes my way. So when I broke my femur at age 28 during a trail race in October, well, that made me have to restructure a few parts of my life. First of all the plans to hike the AT were already in motion. I had bought my pack, sleeping bag, tent, etc., so that was one issue. Secondly, this happened only five months before my planned departure. Thirdly, I was looking at months of limited pay; which puts you in a tight spot when you are trying to save money for an extended “vacation.” Finally, well, I broke my freaking femur! That’s just the biggest bone in the whole entire body, in case you were wondering, and yeah, it hurt like hell.
Well, how the heck did you break your femur?
That, my friend, is a great question, which still seems to escape the knowledge of most of my doctors. They can only chock it up to the fact that I had a stress fracture; and left undiagnosed or treated (ie., rest, and maybe stop all your running, Craig) it became weaker and finally snapped. Now when you break a bone it should be easy enough to tell what happened, right? Not exactly. I was carried of the trail because I couldn’t walk. So off I went to the ER complaining of knee and upper leg muscle pain. Well, they took an X-ray of my knee; all looked good and they sent me home with crutches. A week and a half later when I went to physical therapy they immediately took an X-ray and found they my femur was snapped in two!
So doc, can I still hike 2,192 miles next summer?
This was my first question when they told me I broke my femur. Well, actually I told them they needed to make my hip bomb proof because I was going to hike 2,000 next summer. Basically the doctors couldn’t believe I had been driving and crutching around for ten days on a broken femur. A day later I was in surgery getting my femur bolted back together. That was just the beginning; next were seven weeks of crutches with no driving. Then another seven weeks of physical therapy to get me back to hiking shape.
Recovery and training was next on the list
Before this injury I was all set to be in shape for the AT. I was running trail races and figure I had all winter to hit the gym and come spring I’d be ready. Well, that didn’t happen in the least. I finished my physical therapy on Jan. 25. Which meant I had just under two months to train for my March 20 departure. Luckily for me I had an amazing PT family that got me jogging by the end. So I swam, jogged, hiked, lifted, anything to start building the muscles back up. To keep my goal in mind and remember how far I came I got a tattoo of the X-ray.
I’ll say this, though, when I hit those stairs of Amicalola Falls; I thought to myself, “Oh boy, maybe I am not ready.” I chock that up to first day jitters though. That day I meet a few guys and we hiked a solid 12 miles, a good start to our crazy adventure.
A realization of one’s own ability
In the end you just have to buckle down and try it out. Today I am over 450 miles in and feeling strong. There are still the usual knee flare-ups and sore muscle but it’s worth it. I do my PT stretches every morning at lunch and any troubled area I massage at night. You learn to understand you body and when you need a break take it. So don’t let your ailments bring you down, find an activity that fits your lifestyle; then get out there and crush it.
“You don’t often get to see all this neatness in one place, but that’s what I call nature.” -Neature Walks
Special thanks to Dr. Campbell and my physical therapist Kristen at UPMC and Susquehanna Health. I would not be here today on this adventure without your help. Also shout out Cate for being with me at the hospital (it’s not a time when you want to be alone all drugged up on morphine). To Brian and Tracy for being my caretakers for two weeks when I could barely walk. Plus the countless friends that drove me around when I could not and took care of me though it all. I am truly blessed to be here and to have the friends and family I do. I always knew they were great but it’s these situations that really bring it to light.
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