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On October 16, 2020, I went to Moab with a friend from school over fall break. On my very first-day of dirt biking, I had a major crash that sent me flying off the bike. I ended up dislocating and fracturing my hip. I first went to the hospital in Grand Junction and was later airlifted to Children’s Hospital in Denver. 10 hours after crashing, I had my hip reset and then the next day, I had another surgery to install 7 screws, 3 plates, and an orthopedic spring. It was my first major injury, putting me on crutches for over two months and even longer without kayaking.

In the hospital, I hit an emotional rock bottom. It felt like my whole world had come crashing down. I was off the water for three to four months at least and I certainly wasn’t going back to World Class. I blamed myself for the accident and was furious at myself for getting injured. How could I be so careless to try something so dangerous? I felt depressed to be separated from my sport and my friends. I didn’t know a time in recent history where I wasn’t kayaking every day. I felt like I had lost apart of myself and I didn’t know what I was going to do for the next quarter of a year. My cooping methods included I balled my eyes out for hours at a time, calling friends to feel less lonely, and at times punching the bed. I felt like a turtle stuck on its back in the hospital bed. I despised having to lay still completely flat in bed for a week with an unfulfillable itch to move. The nights were the hardest, where I was left completely alone in my thoughts, where I fell into a spiral of negativity and frustration. All I wanted to do was sleep, the one place I could be numb from my feelings. Between the uncomfortable hospital bed, IV, and laying flat on my back, sleeping was one of the many things I couldn’t do.

I clipped the side of my Pelvis, causing the femur to come loose from the socket.

My movement for the first month of the injury my movement was extremely limited. I had a hard time sitting up on my own, and couldn’t sit at the dining room table for long periods. At first, I had a hard time coming to grasp my new reality. I couldn’t walk, bend over, or even get dressed without help. Going from full independence to being completely dependent, was more frustrating than I could imagine. I loathe not being able to do things for myself, having to ask for help for the simplest of tasks. I feel so pathetic and helpless not even being able to pick my pen off the ground on my own. Over time, I’ve come to accept that this is the way things are going to be for now. I also have had to learn to be patient because my family can’t always drop everything to help me and when they can, they do things differently than me. And sometimes, they full-on forget to complete the task I had asked of them.

The bit of my injury that stung the most is no kayaking. Unfortunately, sitting in the boat is the perfect position for me to re-dislocate my hip. To watch my whole family head to the river every day without me, was only a constant reminder of what I was missing out on. I was very envious and would get upset when one of them complained about something trivial like the water level, temperature, or that it was “just Little Falls”. Even the dog would leave me in my chair in the living room while she went to nap in my bed that I can’t sleep in because of the stairs. It’s been two months since I’ve been in a boat and a day doesn’t go by when I don’t miss it. Furthermore, kayaking is more than a sport to me, it determines where I go to school, who my friends are, how I spent my time. Without it, I feel like there’s a big part of my life missing, a hole, a void that can’t be filled. Over the past two months, I’ve had to creatively channel my energy into doing things differently and to explore other interests. I found out that the busier I can keep myself, the less I find myself dreaming about all the laps I’m missing out on. Being busy has helped to keep some of the FOMO at bay, but not all.

The chair where I spent most of my time during my injury, mostly due to the fact that it’s the most comfortable place to be.

With all that 2020 has thrown at me, the one sense of normalcy I had this year was being able to return to World Class. The first quarter was epic. I felt I had found my stride. I was a returning student and confident in my paddling abilities and myself as a student and a person. I had finally found my place, where I felt I belonged. World Class is like my second family and I was gutted to not be able to return for the second quarter. I was not only back to distance learning (like the end of last school year because of the pandemic), but removed from my classmates and teachers. My friends did their best to stay in touch via text and FaceTime and phone calls, but it just wasn’t quite the same. As the quarter went on, I felt as though I became more separated from the rest of the group. They had moved all moved on and I felt left out. As they were growing closer, I felt I was growing further apart and out of the loop. I also had a lot of jealousy and FOMO towards them for doing all the things I couldn’t: kayaking, traveling, and being together.

The turning point for me was about four weeks into my recovery, when Thea, one of my teachers told me, “Every day you’re another day closer to being back.” Those few words completely changed my outlook and allowed me to see my situation more positively. At that point in my recovery, I was also settled back home and was starting to get into some form of a routine, and was starting physical therapy and school. I don’t think her words would have been nearly as well-received if I wasn’t where I was in terms of recovery. I was in a better place mentally and physical therapy showed me physically that I was healing. Recovery didn’t seem so far away and for the first time, I was able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The most important lesson I’ve learned from this injury is the importance of a positive outlook. There’s nothing I can do to change my situation but, I can change my outlook. I am using this time to catch up on the things I can’t do at World Class: to spend time with my family, catch up on some reading, and study for my SATs. Taking an extra effort to find joy in the little things has been essential to keeping my spirits up, whether it be watching the dog fail to catch Fat Gus the squirrel every morning or a trip to my favorite bookstore. Whenever I start to get down I just remember every day I am another day closer to being back!

Focusing on being grateful for the things that I have, helps to put my situation into perspective, and gives me a more positive outlook. I’m grateful for my health, the support of my family and friends, to have a roof over my head, and accommodating school, and the high quality of care that I have received since my injury. I have learned that when I focus on the things I have, then I feel more fulfilled whereas when I focus on the things I don’t have, then I feel incomplete. Gratitude is a powerful emotion. It is both satisfaction and fulfillment. Whereas jealousy and FOMO leave me feeling empty and pitiful. Gratitude is a more positive way of thinking. Acknowledging the things that I have and being thankful, reminds me that I still have all the things I need to be truly happy.

As an athlete, going from my athletic best to immobile has been challenging not only physically, but emotionally. It feels like someone has taken a sledgehammer to everything I’ve worked towards in the past year: technique, strength, endurance, and physical shape. It’s terrifying to think that I may not even be able to roll when I get back in a boat. Yet, I see my recovery as a challenge to get back to where I was before. With a literal spring in my step, I am determined to come out the other side victorious.

It’s now been around eight weeks since surgery, and I will hopefully get cleared to bear weight in a matter of days! I started PT a few weeks ago and I’m working towards regaining the strength I’ve lost to atrophy. I still have a long road ahead of physical therapy but, I’m determined to start walking again and to make a full recovery as promised by my physicians. I have been keeping myself busy between school by embroidering, fixing gear, reading, and spending time with my family. World Class has been extremely supportive and I couldn’t be happier with the distance learning program they have put together for me. It’s been a big change to learn in this new and custom platform, but I’ve settled into a nice rhythm and am proud to be finishing off my semester strong!

I never thought I would get to this point. Thanks to everyone for the long calls in the hospital, countless amounts of books, love, and support. I am especially thankful for my family, I wouldn’t be able to make it through the day without them. I can be irritable at times and they always are there for me. It truly made all the difference in the world to not have to go through this alone, and I consider myself lucky to have a loving group of people who got my back. I hope to see everyone on the river soon!

All the best,