Friday, April 12, 2013

K is for Kalispell

Kalispell, Montana

The story that I am going to tell you about Kalispell, Montana will have very little to do with the city itself. I will not tell you about the tourist type things that can be done there. I won't describe the scenery (well, maybe a bit of that). But it is the story of a vacation ruined. The story of a broken leg!

I have talked about this some before on other posts in this blog. I had a really good friend who was a traveling nurse. Her name was Nanne. My husband and I would often go visit Nanne, and her husband Gary, when she was on different assignments around the United States. This time they were staying at a little place  called Browning,  Montana. Browning is the largest community in the heart of the Black Feet Nation Indian Reservation. She worked at one of the Indian hospitals. Right near where they lived was one of the entrances to Glacier National Park.

Our visit was taking place in late January and early February. Can you picture what Montana was like at this time of the year? They were staying in a little cabin located near a motel because this was the only facility her agent could find that would accept pets and smokers. But they didn't mind. And it was rustic and cute. We booked another little cabin next to them and settled in for a two week stay.

This was just not the time of year that most people visited Glacier National Park but we did drive around admiring the scenery and looking at snow. Wow, what snow. Deep snow! Lots of snow. I had never seen that much snow. Kansas gets snow. But not snow like they get in Montana.

On this cold, clear day, February 4, 2004, we decided that we wanted to drive around in the mountains. So we packed up  their jeep and off we went. Along the road, I spotted some really colorful snow formations off the road. Pinks, yellows, blues dripping into icicles. I wanted a closer look so I talked Gary into pulling over and I climbed over the snow drifts at the side of the road and made my way up to these beautiful formations  That is me above getting a closer look. I am not really sure, to this day, why this ice was colored like that. I made my way back towards the road and once again had to step over the snow drift to get back to the jeep. When I went to step over, my left leg slipped out from under me and my right leg sank into the snow and twisted. On my way down I heard a sound that I never want to hear again in my life. I felt the pain. And I screamed. And screamed. And screamed. I was positive that I had a broken leg. My husband was there instantly by my side. As was Nanne and Gary. Cars whizzed by on the highway right next to us. My husband was saying "Paula, you did NOT break your leg" Then he was telling me to get up. My friend Nanne, a nurse like me, was assessing my leg and telling me she did NOT think it was broken but to wait for Gary to bring the jeep as close as he could and they would help me into the back seat. 

They helped me into the back seat and I knew that I would have to quit screaming for the sake of my poor husband who was beginning to look stressed. Nanne and Gary were in the front seat trying to use a cell phone to find out where the closet hospital was. There was no cell phone coverage here in the mountains  And no one stopped to help us. I still think about that. There was a time when people saw a screaming woman lying on the ground surrounded by people (well, if 3 can surround) that someone would have stopped. But not anymore. So Gary took off driving. He knew that somewhere ahead of us was Kalispell.

Once we got to Kalispell and located a hospital it was time to get me inside. Getting out of the back seat of that jeep was almost as awful as giving birth without pain control. I am not kidding. Once into the ER, with my boot worked off and my jeans and tights cut off, it was apparent that I HAD a broken leg. I almost wanted to turn to my husband and say "Ha, I told you so!" But I was in too much pain and he was feeling too bad at this time for me to rub it in. I have rubbed it in plenty since then though. 

Three agonizing attempts were made to place my leg in a cast so that I could fly home. I needed surgery according to the doctors there. Only thing that would fix this would be a rod and screws. My leg was broken at the knee and also at the ankle. The doctor described it as 2 breaks but said that there were many little breaks around the knee area and only surgery was going to fix me up. So, I was sent to a room for the night and surgery was scheduled for the next morning. Little did I know, until it was all over, that the doctor caring for me was really a "hand specialist" (the "leg specialist" was on a ski trip). 

After surgery, and one day of recovery, the plans were finalized for the flight home. I could walk with crutches, but no weight bearing on my right leg. They placed it in a cast to keep it stable until I could get home to a surgeon in my town. At the airport, I was hand 'frisked' to make sure I wasn't a terrorist. And they took away my crutches. We were living in a post-911 world.  We were bumped into First Class, as there was not room for my leg in the rest of the plane. Here I am in First Class for the first time ever, I am zoned out on Dilaudid, the dreamiest of all pain medications, and I can't even grasp that I am flying in style. 

After a four month medical leave of absence from work, three surgeries later to remove and reinsert screws and remove them again, I was able to return to work. And this is why I will never forget Kalispell, Montana.
Nor will I ever forget my friend Nanne. May she RIP!



22 comments:

  1. Oh my goodness, that must of been so painful.

    I love the colorful snow formations :)

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    1. Yeah I loved them too! They are what got me into trouble!

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  2. Wow, you and Nanne did have some adventures, didn't you?

    I love that colored ice! I probably would have done the same thing. I'm really curious now as to what colors it like that. (probably something innocuous like garbage thrown out of a passing car, lol)

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    1. Yes we did! And I miss her terribly bad

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  3. Oooopzzzz!!!.... I know the pain of a broken leg... Had experienced...But those ice looks beautiful :)

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  4. I can't even begin to imagine the pain you must have felt! But if it felt like giving birth without pain medication I have a pretty rough idea, and holy cow! And that would totally be me too, to rub it in my husband's face :P

    -Cole
    Young Mommy Memoirs

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    1. I still stick it to him after 9 years :)

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  5. OMG!

    I would totally milk it though. I'd be like, "I could sure go for some ice cream right now. Too bad my leg hurts from when I broke it. Hey you remember when I broke my leg so bad it needed surgery and you didn't even think it was broken?"

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    1. LOL. I still milk it every once in awhile.

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    2. I tripped one morning in my yard getting into my car to go to work and shattered my ankle. I was in tears & mine kind of laughed it off and told me to go to work. When I called him an hour later all I said was:

      You may want to stop by the jewelry store on your way here. But if you decide no to make a stop in the hopes of getting here before I meet with the surgeon, the ER doctor said he'll be able to remove his clipboard with very little pain.

      It was like 8 years ago, but you'd be surprised at how often it hurts when there's only piece of cheesecake left. lol

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  6. Replies
    1. It was terrible. And I puked with Demerol, Morphine and Lortab. They hooked me up to a Dilaudid pump. That is some good stuff. But what worked best was....Darvoct and Percocet alternated!

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  7. That must've been scary. I've broken my arm once and thought I was going to die. And ouch ... three surgeries ... sorry.
    Silvia @ Silvia Writes

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    1. It was even scarier because we were so far away from home! Thanks

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  8. Ok, you really need to put all these stories together in a book for your children and grandchildren. What a crazy adventure you had! I hate that you had to have all the surgeries, but you definitely got an exciting story out of it. I'm still wondering though, why was the snow so colorful?

    Oh, and I'd definitely be rubbing it in my husband's face too. :-)

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    1. That is why I write here! And I am still wondering about that snow myself.

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  9. OMG! Wow, I can't even imagine. Man, all of the post breaking-leg stuff seems intense. Too bad you didn't get to fully enjoy first class. I hope to one day fly first class' I don't want it at the expense of breaking a leg and being put back together with rods and screws though.

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    1. That was only just the beginning. I was non-weight bearing for 4 months. And caused a bit of problems with my job and started a whole other problem and it just went on and on! Yeah, me too, I want to fly first class without a broken leg

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