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OUCH! Helping a young adventurer through injury
posted by John : September 12, 2015

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Well this sucks

I'm no stranger to injuries. I've got the scars to prove it and I think one of my toes is actually broken as I write this. However, I've come to understand the pain and how to work through it. Not so for my oldest young adventurer and it's tearing both of us apart.

If you read my confession about not being a family of pure adventure you might recall we have a serious ballerina in our midst. After a month at an out-of-town summer program and surviving a hardcore backpacking trip to Gothic Basin she returned to the simple joy of her nightly ballet class. On the second day, at the barre, she attempted a changement de pieds and came down in heap.

Subluxation is the technical term. The kneecap popped out of place, stretched tendons on its way to the side of her knee, then snapped back to place. She crumpled. The dancer next to her actually heard it. Phone call. ER. Brace. Crutches. Docs. PT. More docs. More PT. A month later and she's just now walking with an articulating brace and she's still not dancing.

Her first response was to the physical pain. However, as that was brought under control she began realizing the implications of the injury: No dancing. No auditions for performances on the big stage. No hiking. No playing in the yard with her brother and sister.

It's been hard.

I'm no doctor and the thought of her kneecap being where it shouldn't be grosses me the heck out. I can't do more than take her to see the doctor and advocate for her when she's too shy to do it herself.

I have tried to share my experience with her to let her know she's not alone. I've told her that although physical therapy hurts it's keeping her strong and will help her recover more quickly. We talked about being honest about when it hurts and when it doesn't because pain is the best measure for her and her doctors. I let her tell me about how she's feeling and held her when she cried.

Our adventuring has been toned down a little, but she's not being left behind. She knows we're all in it together. Right after the injury we headed up to a Rattlesnake Lake. Had she not been hurt we would have climbed the 1,200 feet to the ledge above the lake and looked down. Instead, we explored the exposed stumps that are normally submerged, but are now exposed by historically low water levels.

She struggled over the rough terrain on her new crutches and rested often. When it was too much I carried her. The other kids ran circles around us, stole her crutches when she was resting, and generally ignored her injury. It was no big deal.

Without realizing it, her brother and sister figured out the secret to helping her recover. An injury is just another adventure with its own challenges and its own victories. She's learning to deal with this adversity the same as she's learned to climb steep hills with a heavy backpack and push through storms.

She didn't choose this adventure, but she'll be stronger for it.

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