If I won the tickets to Frankfurt, I would take with me my best friend Michele.
On October 2nd, 2013, Michele was riding her bike on the Chadburn Lake Ski Trails when she went over the handle bars and broke her neck and back in 2 places. She was riding along on her bike having a great time and then suddenly she was on the ground, laying in the cold mud, unable to move or feel anything below her chest. I have been a Paramedic, Ski Patroller, Lifeguard and First Aid Instructor in my home town of Whitehorse for over 20 years. Being a Medic in the town you live in, guarantees that you are going to know your patients, and I have been there and shared the agony and fear with thousands of people who I knew well and am somewhat close to. It is a part of my job and something all medics have to accept. I have held literally hundreds of people by their heads to control their spine after an accident. But none of them felt anywhere near this time.
This call also had a tremendous effect on the rest of the paramedic team that responded to it too, as Michele is also a Communications Officer for Yukon Emergency Medical Services. Everyone there that day was working on a good friend. As I held her head and stared into her eyes from inches away, I thought about how active Michele is. How many great hikes and bike rides and skis and canoe trips we had done. How many times she had invited me to do “the stairs” on Black street with her. Michele is a verb, she never sits still. Despite having 2 jobs and being the mother of 2 teenage girls she almost never misses a workout and was forever showing up at my place with gear and a plan to do something fun. Even while we were doing some fun trip, we would be busily making plans for the next trip. Always fun and always moving! And now I was laying on my belly in the freezing mud, holding her C-spine and watching her get negative results on nerve function tests…. Michele looked up at me and said “I can’t believe this going to be my life now”.
I am a professional rescuer with decades of experience and I pride myself on always being able to “Turn on the Numb and get the Job done”, I know first hand that in the middle of all that is going wrong the Paramedic should be the last one to be losing control, and that the patient needs you to be calm and confident and positive. But as I lay there tears began to fill my eyes, decades of experience failed me and I had no idea what to say . And that is when the real miracle of my best friend was shown to me. With mud and blood all over her face and her left eye beginning to swell shut Michele looked up at me, smiled (Michele’s smile stops time and makes me forget to breathe anyway) and said “I am glad you are here with me”. Then she reached up and tousled her hair, put her hand on the back of mine, and said “How does my hair look?”. Even laying there broken, she was able to sense that we were all having a rough time and crack a joke to ease the tension. Michele is a beam of Sunshine like that, all the time. Her strength and spirit showed through then and they have never wavered since. Throughout the rough ride back to the road, treatment in the Emergency Department, and flight to Vancouver (all staffed by devastated friends of MIchele) she kept her spirits and the spirits of those around her up too.
Michele spent 5 months in Vancouver at Vancouver General Hospital and then the G.F. Strong Rehabilitation Centre. The first few weeks were the hardest and scariest while we waited to see how much sensation and movement she would regain, if any. Michele was incredibly lucky and her spinal cord was not severed, just severely pinched. That, combined with incredible surgical knowledge and talent, her indomitable spirit and fantastic attitude make an unstoppable force, and by the time I made it to see her in November, Michele was able to stand with the help of a couple physiotherapists. Her recovery started then and has continued ever since.
By Christmas she was doing 2 physio workouts a day and walking 7 steps between the parallel bars, before turning and walking 7 steps back again. Michele came home at the beginning of March. She is able to walk with crutches for a couple blocks, holding my hand (my favourite!) for a block, or even all alone with no assistance for half a block or so. She is still hitting physio hard and working out as well and she continues to improve every day. She recently found out she won the Gert Vorsteher Award (google it) for her great attitude and being a fantastic peer during her rehabilitation. In typical Michele style she is looking to spend the money on a Cattrike (in ATOMIC ORANGE!) and a Sit Ski, not only so she can get back out on the trails, but also so that when she has recovered enough that she does not need them anymore (and this looks to be soon!!) she can donate them to the cross country ski club and bike club so that anyone else who needs them can use them too. Michele and I have dreamed together many times of touring Europe on a bicycle, but if I win, for this time, We will find a nice beach somewhere (Portugal? or maybe somewhere on the Mediterranean ) with good swimming, snorkelling and maybe even Scuba Diving (we both love to dive!) and just chill for a while. She has had a very rough winter and I think she has more than earned some time in the sun. Thanks for the amazing contest and I hope to be hearing from you soon.