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.