on feburary 6th, my entire life changed. this is what happened, how i’m dealing & why i’m walking away from everything i thought i loved.
the desert. its crimson landscape has been, for me, an winter oasis for the past 4 years running. when my husband hits the conference tours there, i always accompany. long days spent hiking, exploring & soaking in winter reprieve. warmth permeates the region. its beauty always astounds, starkly so during the freezing months back in georiga. the juxtaposition exotic & strangely serene.
last year, i rehabbed both knees of hyper-mobility: a dangerous state in which my overly lengthened ligaments & tendons were allowing my strong leg muscles to pull my knees into painful misalignment. it was quite the learning experience.
i hiked camelback for the 4th time this year. my favorite hike. i bouldered up, then back down, the echo canyon side, reflecting on healing. how wondrous a process. this is the last photo of my good right hand, naturally- a free standing hand stand at the summit of camelback mountain:
surely, we are fearfully & wonderfully made.
the next day, feburary 6th, i planned to rest. to take a gentle bike ride to papago park- nestled smack dab between the botanical gardens & the zoo. i grabbed sandwiches & the comp bikes from our snazzy scottsdale hotel. the valet staff laughed as i demanded helmets… they aren’t required by law there.
off we went, the husband and i. his first time being free from speaking engagements to actually adventure with me. so excited was i to show him this landscape i had come to know & love, one that he had only ever seen from windows- windows of conference halls & planes & after-party rooftop bars.
a touch under 7 miles, on flat ground- a biking path off the road was our gentle route.
when finally i saw the tunnel approaching- above it in stone letters: “papago park”. my enduring child-like excitement kicked in & right before i took off (on a heavy steel bike, in an unfamiliar place) i heard siri say, “take a u-turn in 20 feet.”
i gained speed in the tunnel, bursting forth back into the desert heat on the other side- only to, as instructed, hang a quick, tight u-turn. i went into a tunnel, under a street. that u-turn would take me back across that same street. biking paths have metal barriers that prevent cars from accidentally using them, those metal barriers are primarily used at intersections where the paths cross the roads. you see, what i failed to realize was: beauty would grab my attention.
it was beauty’s fault.
surrounded by the flora of the desert, i didn’t have a clear line of sight. immediately overcome with the glory of the botanical gardens- the pause i took was fatal. by the time my centrifugal force yanked me tightly around the sharp bend, on a bike much heavier than that of my own, i couldn’t correct my trajectory in time. i didn’t see, wasn’t looking for, couldn’t anticipate those metal barriers.
the irony is: they are meant to keep the paths safe.
BAM. i have no recollection of the moment. trailing behind me, i heard my husband yell- then, i was on my feet. like a damn cat, i tell you.
piecing it back together, this is what happened:
i was able to slightly correct, in an effort to miss the barrier- but not enough. my right hand pinky knuckle slammed straight into the metal. shattering my 5th metacarpal on impact. the resulting force propelled my right elbow into my rib cage, cracking my 7th & 8th ribs. somehow, by the grace of nature, for all my athletic ability, functional strength, agility, reflexes & flexibility- i jumped off the bike & landed on my feet.
screaming, my husband: “ARE YOU OK?!”
there was a golden instant, shock has a way of kindly blinding you. the only pain i felt immediately was from my thoracic contusion. i quickly scanned my midsection, surely i had impaled myself. searing pain. difficult breathing. but, no blood.
“I’M OK. OH MY GOD, I’M OK!”
“IS YOUR HAND OK?!”
i hadn’t even thought to look at it. when i did… my right hand, my dominate hand, ballooning into something other worldly.
what i remember is the cold. an immediately wave of ice went through my veins. sweet, blessed adrenaline overdose. my logic told me, you are in the desert. it is hot, you are cold. something very bad just happened.
still standing, i stumbled to my husband. i succinctly stated, “i just broke my hand. you need to call 911. i am going into shock. i am going to lie down- you need to get a jacket & block the sun.”
the rest of the day a blur. confirmed, nasty, jagged, impact-fully-fractured 5th metacarpal. no need to xray the ribs, as long as you can breathe there’s nothing to be done but manage the intense pain. an orthopedic hand surgeon, absolutely necessary. referrals, narcotics, tears.
we flew home early.
my x-rays looked different, the pheonix one & the atlanta one. a bone, literally half crumbled, completely unstable, moving around in my palm. pain, heavily medicated & still searing. so hot it felt almost cold with heavy hurt. surgery, definitely necessary. one orthopedic hand specialist- referral to the senior surgeon.
my dominate hand, shattered.
in my post op appt, my surgeon told me he could have put in more screws, but “there was simply not much to screw into”. a bone, turned dust. what all the drs have remarked on in amazement is that: it was only one bone.
“you should have broken at least one of your forearm or upper arm bones & definitely torn your rotator cuff.”
“most adults pass out completely with this bad of a break.”
“how exactly did you land on your feet?”
“you didn’t fly over your bars?”
lucky. apparently i’m one lucky, strong, very agile woman.
a lot has happened since then. so much i still can’t fully comprehend it. what i know is this:
the biomechanics of my right palm are forever changed. i am not promised a full recovery. the functionality of my hand is slowly returning but, weight bearing is a whole other animal.
weight bearing, the bulk of which constitutes yoga. not just my passion, my pleasure but also my primary profession.
my sweet medical team had to sit me down, tell me i was being too positive, unrealistic. you see, normally the maximal load a person’s hand will ever take is to bear their own body weight. something i used to do, joyfully & daily. the density & tensile strength needed to weight bear for any prolonged period of time will take at least 6 months if not a year- and even then, the shorter the time the better & vigilant icing. i will have more bad days than good days for at least 6 months. chronic inflammation is dangerous & must be keenly managed.
i was in total denial. i was still trying to instruct. for 4 long weeks i was trying to make it ok.
it is not ok.
the irony is: my yoga practice has taught me how to let go, to live without expectations.
reality awoke me, 3 weeks ago. my body is mine, i answer only to myself for the ways i care for it. looking down, i had the stark realization: this is now my hand. it is on me. i must learn to love it. to care for it, as it is now. to truly see it for what it is. i don’t get the old one back.
my yoga practice taught me how to let go of my yoga practice.
to accept. to let things change. it’s all a part of the vinyasa flow. this synergistic practice we share, the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. my quality of life being more important than my profession. it taught me to honor myself, so that i may truly learn how to honor others. that there is a value in every one. namaste. we are the same light.
i am not promised a full recovery. if i am to heal & to what ever capacity i can best- i must commit to the rehabilitation process. i must do it for myself, not for anyone else. i must take the timeline pressure off, not try to hurry this. i must be here, now. when i have good days, i need to enjoy them for what they are. knowing also: that i have the time to rest- to not work in an industry predicated on the continual use of my hands for others. this heart breaking decision- it is not selfish, it is wise.
i keep hearing the soft whisper of aslan, “courage, dear heart.“
to that sound, i cling.
i have had a life changing injury & i have decided to let it change my life.