Addressing Injury (April 25)
What follows is a lot of detail about me going to get foot pain checked out, so… Not as much about the natural wonders of the trail journey, more of a me kind of post. This one might be more interesting for family or an especially curious friend, than anyone else 🙂
My foot pain did not go away with a night’s rest, unfortunately. In the morning I packed up my gear and limped up the trail, stopping for a break once I got high enough in the mountains to have phone service. On the way up there, I noticed how the clouds covered the canyons and desert below, like a sea of clouds with peaks sticking up through the cloud layer. Needless to say, it was really beautiful.
On a whim, I researched “stress fractures” on my phone, and read about how starting intense activity like backpacking or marathon running, can sometimes instigate stress fractures. I started to feel guilty about hiking long days to begin with, about carrying a musical instrument with me and scoffing at expensive ultralight gear. But I had felt so good! I thought mournfully about hindsight always being 20/20.
I resolved to hike as gingerly and slowly as I could to the nearby post office, and send some extra weight back home, then reevaluate from there. A few miles later, I realized the post office was closed, due to the Sunday date, and I decided the next step was to go get some answers at an urgent care.
What followed was several hours of me researching various shuttle and transportation options, with no luck. Long story short, I finally limped a little further to a campground and the campground hostess’s RV, explained my situation to her, and asked if she had any ideas of what I could try next. She took pity on me, and kindly, kindly, kindly drove me 40 minutes down the mountain to an urgent care. Unfortunately the urgent care was closing in the next hour, and not taking any new patients that day, so I was given a list of places still open for a few hours on a Sunday.
The list was very limited, and I ended up at the local ER, where the ER staff treated me with kindness and curiosity. (Also, it was very interesting to be on the patient side of the health care system, and not in my more frequent role on the other side of things. Whenever asked what the trouble was, I kept telling everyone, “I think I have a stress fracture”, and noticed that they never repeated my hasty self-diagnosis, and instead said, “She’s here for foot pain.” I had to laugh a little at that one.)
Also, I was so dirty! There was nothing really to do about that, but it was mildly embarrassing. I took my sock off for them to examine my foot, and my toes were black with desert dust, ha. They sent me for an x-ray, which contrary to all my fears, came back negative!!!!!!
Turns out I was dealing with a sprain from a recent fall that I could barely remember.
Elated that I wouldn’t need to get off the trail for weeks of recovery, I made a silly decision. I decided to walk the short distance from the hospital to a nearby hotel, using a busy freeway to get there. As I walked, I thought, this is really unpleasant with these cars zipping by, but at least it’s a short distance and there’s a wide shoulder. I was almost to my exit when I heard someone pull up behind me. I looked back and saw a police officer getting out of his car.
He approached and said, “What are you doing?” And then, where are you going, and where are you coming from? I let him know my story, and he told me that I couldn’t walk on the freeway, it was too dangerous. I could understand the reasoning, but I told him I hadn’t realized that. He looked at me for a minute, then he said, Well, I can give you a ride to the hotel, and we put my pack in the trunk and started off. I was thankful for the help- he could’ve handled that a few different ways, I guess. On the way, he even said, I wanted to long-distance hike, at one time, and he asked me a few questions about the trip so far.
In the hotel that night, I told mom and dad all the news, and how elated I was that it was just a sprain, and there was a long pause. I said, “Knowing it’s not a fracture, I feel better already!” And, “I’m so relieved, I just kept telling the hospital staff how relieved I was!” Then we had a “whoa now” chat, and they said, “We are researching some stretches you can do for foot sprains”, and, “It says here that it can worsen if you don’t take it easy”, and “Why don’t you get an ace wrap tomorrow?” And, “Are you icing and elevating it?”
I’m glad I have good advisors watching out for me.
The next day, I weaned down my pack weight and sent all the unnecessary gear I could think of, back home. It was quite satisfying. I sent the banjo ahead to reconsider later.
My foot felt better, walking slowly around town the next day. I decided to head back to the trail and cut down my mileage, and keep closely monitoring the discomfort.
Over the next few days, I’m happy to say, the foot pain gradually subsided, and eventually went away altogether. Since then I’ve been more thankful than ever for this gift of being out here for this time.
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