Unexpected Events of Life and their Blessings
The Phoenix: There are times when life gets in the way. Sometimes its unexpected, but shouldn’t be.
For me it started out with a simple and innocent trip to Indian Creek. Its an old stomping ground of mine and a place I think of as home. The sunsets and stars over the Bridger Jacks never get old.
nighttime at the Bridger Jacks
camping at Indian Creek
No matter how often I see them. The trip was a partial success with attempts on “Learning to Fly”, a route that I had wanted to try for the last 3 years. It’s a beautiful overhanging finger crack with no feet. It involves 30 ft of one arm lock offs.
First Attempt on "Learning to Fly"
It was to set the stage for things to come. Jason had talked me into working a hard mixed route above Ouray. And was hoping to either work on a route on El Cap or return to Peru the following summer. Returning home, reality hit. On the drive home, I get a message that Sophi (my 4 yr old daughter) had an accident and had thrown up multiple times due to the pain.
I get home, my daughters eye was filled with blood. She had been hit by an elastic band, the type used for therapy. The next days were filled with trips to the eye surgeon. The outcome seemed promising, as soon as the blood drained. When it did, reality hit. With the blood drained froim the eye, Dr Mahanti asked Sophi what she saw, and the response was nothing. Reality was my 4 yr daughter was blind. Luck was a world reknown pediatric eye surgeon was only 2 hours away. Trips were made and surgery was planned. Before that was one last business trip to a medical conference.
I had only an hour before leaving for the conference. These conferences were always hell. Days that went too long. Needed one last workout. I fell. Not a bad fall, maybe 4 ft., but something was seriously wrong. Got on the first plane. A short flight but midway through the flight, the pain set in. The flight attendants could only give me an ice pack, no Ibuprofen, company rules. The connection,, t he longest walk possible in Phoenix was agony. It was bad. The passenger assistance carts wouldn’t stop. Getting on my flight top San Francisco I knew my leg was broken. On the flight I ask for a wheel chair. Embarassed, since this is the second time in my life I’ve been taken off a plane in a wheel chair. In San Francisco the wheel chair attendant helps me collect my bags but the trip to the rental car was on my own. I know know the fracture is bad. Getting the rental car I drive immediately to Walgreens for cruitches. I also call my orthopedic surgeon to make an appointment for when I get home. The medical conference was a blur of talks, ibuprofen, conference calls and alcohol to deal with the pain in the late evenings. I get homem, and thank you for US Airways for upgrading me to first class, my suspesions are correct.I go home in a cast.
first days in the cast
December arrives and my daughter is rolled into surgery. Nothing prepares you for when your four year old daughter is brought out. Eyes bandaged, and her body encapsulated in IV tubes.
Sophi hours before eye surgery to restore her sight
With instructions on how she is supposed to sleep and live for the next 24 hours I get no sleep. Trips to the surgeon, 2 hours away fill my life for the next couple of weeks, but she sees again. With mid December comes snow. With snow comes ice. Two weeks before my cast comes off I fall, and I fall hard. The cast needs to remain on for another 4 weeks. I continue to weight train like a fiend. Its my only outlet .
Come the middle of January, the cast comes off. The first thing I do is go and climb laps on a favorite route. Its cold as hell, but the laps makes me feel like I have control of my life.
Come mid-April life seems good again. Jason and I go do “Golden Spike” in Sedona. It’s a good 5.11d very physical route in Sedona. The way we did it was fun, bike down Dry Creek Road, do the hour plus hike, do the climb, minus the last pitch 5.9 pitch due to a late start and reverse it all. It was fun, and I start to feel like my old self. Shortly life has other options. Over dinner, my wife tells me she is moving out. A marriage is over. I am now a fulltime dad to two girls, ages 5 and 3, along with a fulltime scientist and part time climber.
In whatever time off I climb like a fiend. Trying the amazing “Pacing the Cage” and working on the multi-pitch 5.13 “Lifeline”.
Coming out of a meeting one Wednesday morning, usually a day of meetings hell, I get a call that my youngest as stopped breathing and I had to get down to the emergency room. Arriving I find my friend Marty as the nurse on call (his wife is Amaras normal nurse). Amaras lips are still blue, and they call in a helicopter to transport her to a facility with a pediatric neurologist.Thank god for Marty since his jokes diffuse an obviously bad situation. I am so thankful for him being his nurse A few last test, A CAT scan. Just before we are top load onto the copter the last tests come back. RSV positive! Find out that this year was a bizarre year for RSV, whereas it was running late and often asymptomatic. I spend a few days in pediatrics with my daughter as my daughter sophi has a sleep over with my climbing partner Andy and his daughter GiGi’s house (Thanks Andy, you are a lifesaver). Life returns to “normal”….
A few days later talking a picture of my daughters at a picnic I turn, I hear the sound of a shotgun going off, as does everyone around me, as I my legs collapse and I fall to the ground. Days later I am back at my surgeons office scheduling surgery. Needing a break I hike Mt Humpheries with my sister who has come out to help. It was slow, never knowing how much a nine mile hike on crutches could hurt.
Hiking Mt Humpherys days before surgery
It was also so good to be out in the wilderness, that I didn’t care. June 13th, finds me in and out of surgery. That night I find that I am still a single dad needing to feed my girls. Work is difficult on crutches (doing controlled delivery of pharmaceuticals I can’t gown up to go into lab), so I am stuck crunching data. I continue to train like a fiend. Life may seem like its lowest, in the midst of a divorce, raising two girls, working and in rehabilitation. It could be bad but my friends and climbing partners are always there.
I get a call from a friend Mike. Another friend has fallen the entire first pitch of Salathe, 160ft in all. It’s a 130ft of free fall to bounce off a slab to fall another 30ft into the talus. Calls and emails result. She “only” has a fractured jaw. How is it possible. At some point you forget about asking how, but are more then thankful.
first day back on Shotgun
Come August I can start climbing again. The weight training paid off. My first climbs are “Paradise Lost” and “Shotgun”. I am content.
November 2012 back at the Creek on Slice and Dice
December 2012….Its now been a year. I’ve made trips a couple of trips to Indian Creek, and working one routes I was working on before this all has happened. I am starting to feel as strong as ever I have ever been even though I am now approaching 48. I am still a single father of two young girls. I worry about what they want for Christmas, and if I actually know what I am doing raising girls. I’ve been on a total of three dates since the day my ex-wife left. I’ve also made amazing friends since, climbed with some old and new friends. I have also found inspiration for new things, routes that have never been done (thanks Jeff) .
Trips to Peru and Patagonia are in the making. Sometimes life can be found from the ashes, a Phoenix. Life may not be perfect, but as long as there is a future, there are dreams to be fulfiulled. I look forward to the future and everything it brings. It hasn't been my worst year, but it has taught me lessons that I will always remember.