Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Recovery Time!

Erinn enjoying the homemade sushi spread (much better then it sounds) at the "Welcome to Estes Park party." It was great to meet all the nice folks in our new community.
Talking beta with Kelly Cordes. Can't wait to take advantage of all the new climbing in the area. Particularly good bouldering and alpine climbing to be had, and Kelly and Tommy Caldwell to climb and train with!

One week after the accident. Note the walker, cast on the right arm, and gripper for getting things off the floor. Feeling pathetic!

Two months ago I took a serious fall while upgrading bolts in Rifle's Skull Cave. I fell straight onto my tailbone from twenty feet, and suffered a broken arm and fractured L1 and L2 vertebrae. The fracture of the L2 was a fairly serious burst fracture, so there were some scary weeks after the injury, where I worried I might be plagued by my silly mistake for a long time. Fortunately I progressed well, avoided surgery, and the doctors now feel I'll make a 100% recovery!

One of the frustrations during the last two months was trying to get my doctors to understand my injury within the context of climbing. I think it's fair to say that most folks outside the climbing community don't really understand technical climbing. When you say "climbing" people generally envision something like the footage in the Hollywood film "The Vertical Limit," seeing me busted up only confirms their assumptions.

A few days ago I finally spoke with a doctor who "gets it." My friends at Rock and Ice hooked me up with Dr. Julian Saunders, a serious climber and orthopedic surgeon from Australia, who writes the medical advice column in Rock and Ice. Speaking with Julian was the best medical experience of my life. He took his time to answer all my questions, and could put them all in the a climbing specific context.

After speaking with Julian I'm finally completely confident that I'll return to climbing soon, and with some hard work be stronger then ever. Within a month I'll be toproping and in another month back to leading and bouldering. It'll obviously take some time for my back to strengthen, and loosen-up after being locked up in a brace for three months, but Julian told me about a friend with a similar injury who achieved a personal best redpoint only ten months from the time of injury!

So it's time for the hard work of rehab. For the last few weeks I've been doing some light upper body weights, getting in the pool, Pilate's in my brace, and getting out for a two hour hike everyday. My motivation for climbing has never been higher, and I can't wait until I can ditch the brace and get on with some serious training!

I want to thank everyone who's been there for me during this trying experience. My wife Erinn has been there at my lowest times, even when I didn't deserve it. I don't know if I would have made it through this without her. All of my friends who offered their love and support. And of course Dean and Mike have been very supportive, assuring me that they'd stick with me while I try to get back to climbing. Thanks!


Jesse Cottrell said...

Glad I found your blog! I had just started climbing before I wrecked my mountain bike July 11 and sustained a burst T12 that required immediate surgery. I also can't get much info from anyone on recovery and returning to my old running & biking hobbies, but they did hint that I'd be able to climb before anything else. I've got a slower recovery because of the surgery but I'll be eagerly watching how things progress here! Good luck and hope you're back to your old self soon!

Anonymous said...

Hey Josh ,
You are probably almost recovered by now
seeing that it's October . Hope you recovery
is going well . One year ago last spring I broke
my neck c-6 and c-7 . It took a while to heal
but i have fully recovered . Hope it is going
well .
Todd Shaffer

Anonymous said...

Hi Josh

A couple months ago I broke my back in a climbing accident as well. Same as you, I sustained a burst fracture to my L2 and there are bone fragments embedded in my spinal canal. My doctors have forecasted a slow recovery time for me (bed rest for 12 weeks and then back brace for another 8-12 weeks). I think you got a much easier sentence! They also warned against climbing again for up to two years, but after having read about your experiences, it's given me confidence to get fit and hit the rocks again much sooner than expected. Thank you, I've been inspired!