Monday, October 20, 2008

Backpacking Again!

This past weekend we joined friends from Osprey and their spouses on a 16 mile loop trek through Fish and Owl canyons in SE Utah. One year ago this would have run of the mill - hardly extraordinary. My memory of Owl canyon was that it is, as canyons go, relatively simple to descend. In fact, a few years ago, Mar and I did a day hike down to Neville's Arch and back - 9 miles of relatively straightforward canyon trekking.

Hardly the case this time. First we did everything we could to maximize the ease of the trip. Marilyn carried a small pack with less than 18 lbs. in it, while I carried the rest of our combined gear. The descent into Owl involves some steep slickrock, rockhopping, and steep and loose sandy hillsides. It soon became apparent to both of us how different this all has become. Every step for Marilyn requires careful and deliberate placement. Progress was slow and arduous. We carried her pack for part of the descent to make things easier. In the end, that first day was right on the edge of what her current abilities are. We had only made it in about 3.5 miles over the course of 6 hours and we seriously considered not continuing the trip with the group.

However, Marilyn was fairly adament in her desire to keep going. The second day was relatively straightforward, hiking on a sandy trail and in rocky and sandy washes. The last day involved a steep climb up slickrock, sand and rocks, culminating in a 15 foot crack climb out of Fish canyon. All handled superbly and without the frustration and slowness of the first day. So - things keep improving and I think we can both say that we are grateful.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Pikes Peak Challenge

13 miles, 7400' elevation gain, 9 hours. 11 months post injury.

Thanks to all who donated. We raised $2,560 for the Colorado Brain Injury Association!!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


the quality of being resolute; firmness of purpose.

On Labor Day we hiked about 10.5 miles total on a local trail. About halfway into the hike I noticed that besides the hiking pole in her right hand, Marilyn was carrying a large tree branch in her left hand. I asked her whether we should have brought two hiking poles. She replied that she wasn't trying to use the branch as a hiking pole but rather as a way to help her strengthen her grip and control the general spasticity of her left arm. Later in the hike, we had a tricky stream crossing. Marilyn slipped and banged her shin hard on a rock. With wet feet and a bruised shin she asked if we could hike one mile further in. (This after 5 miles of hiking). We eventually finished the hike and drove back home at which time she decided it would be a good time to try riding her cruiser bike again. With helmet on she pedaled up and down the street - no problem. Determination.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

A False Summit

Gareth and I, in Denver this weekend, were able to actually reach the summit of the 14er Mt. Sherman. It was challenging but for me a huge huge physical accomplishment - Pike's Peak down the road -more blog later - I realized my experience with the bike accident is similar to false summits - you think your getting to the peak - as I did think literally and figuratively before this accident - I was nearing the top of my life game - only to find after a random bike accident, there was more and more uphill to go - and that is when, at the false summit, you have to make the conscious decision to go for it up or go down without tagging the summit - I am going through this to get to my summit -figuratively - as I did yesterday, literally. I'll write about the Craig Hospital visits later... Marimule.

Interesting that we celebrate "Independence Day" and this year my lack of Independence is so overwhelmingly difficult, and so prominent in my daily life that next year, I will treasure being independent on 4th of July, nothing to do with how the historical first Americans took land/life/homes from Indians to gain freedom from the Brits!

If you have 10 dollars you can donate to our team for the Pike Peak Challenge please do, more medical/public awareness of these injuries need to happen...nothing for my expenses but for my cause...

Pikes Peak Challenge

Friday, June 27, 2008

Prayer Flag

Connie George, Sponsorship and Climb Coordinator for the Breast Cancer Fund, donated a prayer flag honoring Marilyn's recovery. This flag was carried to the summit of Mt. Shasta by guide, Cathy Ann Taylor on June 18, 2008 as she led 33 breast cancer survivors and supporters on the Breast Cancer Fund's Climb Against the Odds mountain expedition. We are amazed and honored that in the midst of battling this public health crisis, our friends at the BCF took the time to think of us...

Please support their efforts:

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Life Prayer

It has been too long and anyone reading still - thank you. Well, as expected, my life keeps on swirling with new unanticipated events - 2 weeks ago a severe downside where negative things in my personality showed up - in a survivor mechanism disguise - I want to, but can't blame head injury on these things... thanks to some supportive friends, I am getting through this by ceasing the negative aspects... except poor Gareth is being overwhelmed by my depression that past monsters made the unwelcome return and were brought to my attention and, even though gone now, they stirred up concerns and increased my paranoia immensely - now it feels like anyone can be out to get me. The phrase "adding insult to injury" has taken on a new meaning - I managed injury by breaking my neck, C2 and C7, and occluded arteries that supply my brain with O2, and paralyzed my left side, I managed to cover the injury with one that is absolutely the worst experience - no awful life ending illness but a life sparing hell - a life of torture that doesn't seem to be ending - and recent events have added insult after insult to the injury - Compassion - it is challenging in this day and age - but giving compassion comes back to you. My apology and my favorite - yes high school, love poem from a book called Life prayers to my love

I will fight this and my life will be strong again.

I love you,
Not only for what you are,
But for what I am
When I am with you.

I love you,
Not only for what
You have made of yourself,
But for what
You are making of me.

I love you
For the part of me
That you bring out;
I love you
for putting your hand
Into my heaped-up heart
And passing over
All the foolish, weak things
That you can't help
Dimly seeing there,
And for drawing out
Into the light
All the beautiful belongings
That no one else had looked
Quite far enough to find.

I love you because you
Are helping me to make
Of the lumber of my life
Not a tavern
But a temple;
Of my every day
Not a reproach
But a song.

I love you
Because you have done
More than any creed
Could have done
To make me good,
And more than any fate
Could have done
To make me happy.

You have done it
Without a touch,
Without a word,
Without a sign.
You have done it
By being yourself.
Perhaps that is what
Being my best friend means,
After all.

- R. Croft

Thank you my love...

Monday, June 2, 2008

Pikes Peak Challenge

Marilyn and I will be participating in the Pikes Peak Challenge Hike For Brain Injury Awareness on Saturday, September 6, 2008. We will be hiking Barr Trail on 14,110 foot Pikes Peak. When we finish, we will have hiked 13 miles and 7,400 vertical feet to the summit to join other hikers and supporters in celebration of brain injury awareness and prevention.

In the United States a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) occurs every 15 seconds. Based on national estimates, there are more annual incidences of Traumatic Brain Injuries than Multiple Sclerosis, Spinal Cord Injuries, HIV/AIDS and Breast Cancer put together. It is estimated that 17.8% of our American Soldiers are returning home with a TBI.

In this country there are 3 million persons living with breast cancer and public spending is $295 per person, 900,000 persons living with HIV/AIDS and public spending is $18,111 per person but there are 5.3 million persons living with disability from TBI and public spending is $2.55 per person! Research into treatment of TBI receives less than one penny of every Federal dollar spent on medical research.

If you would like to support our endeavors to make a difference, you can donate directly to us online at This is a special event of the Brain Injury Association of Colorado and may print a tax deductible receipt for your donation. All proceeds go to the BAI of Colorado.

You can also join us on the hike by registering at

Our team name is fittingly 'MariMules'.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Living after you Die

Marilyn hasn't written on the blog in quite a long time. Not because she is recovered but she is so busy recovering. I don't write as often. Not because she is recovered but because I am so busy learning how to keep things going in our new life.

That gets exhausting. This week we are taking a break. And the first opportunity that break has allowed is the chance to mourn. Here is what Marilyn told me this morning.
"I realize more and more each day that the person I was is gone. So many people tell me you didn't die and look at how you are getting better. But the Marilyn before all this is gone. No matter what I do I can't get her back. And I miss her."

I miss her too. And that truth - stated by her - has lurked and crept around us in the shadows for the past seven months. Without her uttering those words, we would never cut through the "recovery stuff" - PT, OT, ST, psychotherapy, acupuncture, medications, MRI's, CT scans and face it.

That f**ing accident took so much from us that day - many plans, many dreams. And it ended a life. Sometimes you have to take a break from learning to accept the new and mourn the loss.

Monday, May 12, 2008

I Am

" I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become." - Carl Jung

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Long Time, No Blog

I realized today that it has been almost a month since we last posted. There are many reasons for this, some good, some bad. No time wasted here on spinning either side of the coin - here is where April 22 finds us. Since our initial foray into the desert we've had two more canyon adventures. This past weekend we camped out again and hiked nearly five miles round trip. Marilyn's walking is becoming more and more solid - a week ago she even walked the entire "beanfield" (in mud and snow) above town. Her cognition and speech becomes clearer and more concise each and every day. I have no doubt that she will not only be able to work as a Nurse Practitioner again, she will be able to excel and increase her knowledge base with the passion she did before. Demonstrated by her success at whipping through online CME's (Continuing Medical Education). In the weeks since our first return to Craig hospital, which also coincided with her 37th birthday her progress has been solid and strong. Not coincidentally, she started acupuncture again and in my observations this has been one of Marilyn's most important and effective treatments throughout her recovery.

Last week we returned to Denver for an eye follow-up and some testing and follow-up with the neurologist who followed her from very early on in her injury. All positive news with her eyes slowly getting better, though double vision still plagues her and her neurological recovery continuing strongly. However, we've realized that these trips are very cathartic for us both. Not only do they mark progress, they lead us to confront the depth and gravity of what has happened. Marilyn's path to recovery, though always positive in prognosis, has been shrouded by clouds that only clear with time. Each visit has pushed the clouds back a bit more and we learn more about what to ultimately expect when all this is "over". It's far from all good.

Note the quotes - it's never over. And that is some heavy shit to assimilate. In aid of that, our personal spiritual quests and need to draw on pure faith has become an integral part of this process.

For both of us, another corner has been reached. The transition from patient to post-recovery. Returning to work, leaving therapy behind. Not being stamped as the girl who had the horrible accident. Me not being stamped as the partner of.... And to a degree, it is happening. I'm looking forward to the day when we strike up a conversation with someone who has no idea this happened. Sympathetic looks, while well intentioned sometimes only salt the wound. The inevitable double edged sword. Incredible community support means that few in the community don't know about this. And let's face it. This blog is the most public of forums. But if this can be a tool for people who might have to or are facing this type of situation, then it is worth it. If this can be a tool for others to better discover their inner paths, I'm glad. If all it did was keep Marilyn's family and friends appraised of her status, thus easing their concern and grief - success!

We're only halfway there. The next six months will be the hardest of all as she exits the support system of therapy and rehabilitation and we try and gain some semblance of our old lives back. The promise of either of our lives getting easier and not having to work as hard once we reached this point, has turned out to be an illusion. So it goes - the ramp steepens and we'll each run twice as fast to keep pace. I say "each" only to underline the fact that we each have very different jobs to do. At least we're doing it together!!

When it's all put into perspective, Marilyn is very, very fortunate (note that I didn't write "lucky") to be where she is today given the extent of her injuries. I'll take that today. But if I had the choice of fast forwarding six months or even better, rewinding six months - I'd take it in an instant.