Chris Prange-Morgan—Climbing and Encouraging Others, Because She Can!
About a year ago I was directed to a blog written by a gal named Chris through a mutual online friend we have. Since then Chris and I have often connected on our blogs and through Facebook.
Chris’s energy, stamina and giving atitude impresses me and I wanted to share her story with you today as one of YOUR Stories.
Sharing one of YOUR inspiring stories each week (more links at end of post) has become of the highlight of my blogging and today only adds to that. I’ve enjoyed connecting with Chris over the past year, so I’m honored to have you ‘meet’ Chris today.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I live in Wisconsin with my husband Scott and two children, Jade (7) and Kai (6). Both of our kids are from China and were toddlers when we adopted them through “special needs” adoption programs. Jade has a bilateral cleft lip and palate….and is otherwise healthy as a horse and very bright. Kai had some very difficult challenges….many, due to orphanage neglect. He has several diagnoses: Autism spectrum disorder (PDD-NOS), Ideopathic Short Stature, ADHD, Developmental Trauma Disorder, Speech and language issues and a unilateral cleft lip and palate.
My husband and I both have backgrounds in the human services field (he in school psychology, and I in social work), which made navigating the “system” for our children a little easier than for a lot of folks. However, the emotional issues were much more difficult. Kai’s medical and behavioral issues became overwhelming, and I felt like I was turning into a “basket case” of a parent….Always on edge, running from appointment to appointment, and not doing a very good job taking care of myself.
When and how did your world change?
One afternoon, on November 30, 2011, I had decided to squeeze in an hour of climbing at our local climbing gym prior to taking my son to an appointment. (Rock climbing, hiking, camping, and the outdoors are passions of ours).
That day in the gym, in a moment of distraction, I had forgotten to clip into the auto-belay system prior to climbing, and slipped off of a hold 28 feet up the wall (my son was with me, but did not see my fall….).
As I laid on the floor waiting for the ambulance, I lamented to the manager of the gym as he held my head in place: “I can’t believe I forgot to clip in! Oh my god, I have been so stressed out! How could I do this?!” Of course, he kept reassuring me, but in my heart-of-hearts I kept thinking that this was more-than a wake-up call. Oddly, I never passed out despite the severity of my injuries, and had the presence-of-mind to give the gym manager my husband’s work phone number.
It wasn’t until I was in the ambulance that I began to realize just how bad of shape I was in. Luckily the paramedics had started me on an IV of Dilaudid early on, which kept pain manageable once the shock wore off. As the medical team in the ER cut of my clothing and I felt the bones in my pelvis not connecting (I explained the feeling as “marionette-like”), I thought to myself… this is going to be ugly.
When my husband arrived at the ER, he informed me that in the phone call he received, the woman at the climbing gym stated “the good news is that she’s still with us.” After lots of X-rays, CT scans and an ultrasound, the doctor came to inform us of the extent of my injuries:
“You have what is called a vertical-shear pelvic fracture….we are going to have to drill a hole through your femur and put your right leg in traction for a few days before we go in to surgically put things back in place. Your sacrum is broken, and that is an area where a lot of nerves pass through…we won’t know what we can do until we get in there. You have an L1 vertebral body fracture and transverse-process fractures, so you will need to wear a brace for some time. We are especially concerned about your ankle. Your fracture is really, really bad, and will require a two-stage reconstruction process. Complications with this type of fracture include degenerative arthritis, soft-tissue damage, need for further reconstruction, and amputation.” “Amputation??” I questioned…. “Yes” he replied… “you literally crushed your tibia. We’ll see what we can do.”
This was when my husband passed out and the nurses wheeled him into another room to monitor his vitals (I still get a lot of mileage razzing him about that).
SO…I guess one could say that my world literally came crashing down on that day.
What was/is your recovery like… physical, emotional and/or mental?
The recovering journey has been sort of a rollercoaster ride. After spending several weeks in the hospital and rehab, I was sent home to a hospital bed in our living room…on “forced recumbancy” for healing of my pelvic fracture, now held together by screws and metal bars (called an external fixator). I sustained some additional complications along the way, including a staph infection in my pelvic external fixator (necessitating removal), a blood clot in my popliteal vein (requiring the insertion of something called an “IVC filter” and blood-thinning medications), and soft-tissue necrosis (tissue death) at the site of my ankle injury, requiring a limb-preserving soft-tissue transfer surgery / graft (something called a free-flap) to save the ankle.
I worked my butt off in physical therapy.
Four months after my accident, I began walking again.
Seven months after my accident, I returned to climbing.
It felt great to get back on the rock!
By about August, 2012… nine months post-injury, the joint pain in my ankle increased to a point where walking became barely tolerable. An x-ray confirmed that debilitating arthritis had set in. My options began to narrow: Consider a fusion of the joint or an ankle-replacement surgery. In December 2012, the hardware in my ankle was removed to prepare for an ankle replacement…but in early February, 2013 it was determined that the bone-quality was still pretty pathetic. At this point, a bone-graft is being considered. We are in the “waiting game.” (update on the waiting game below)
My emotions have definitely run the gamut, from deep depression to immense gratitude….and everything in between. I’ve had days where the pain has been really tough…. where I yearn desperately to return to my “pre-accident” level of functioning. I’ve cried more than I have in my entire life, but I have also learned to appreciate more than I ever have before. Sometimes it is hard not to anticipate a setback. I think that mentally I’ve come to a point where I tend to brace myself for the worst….secretly hoping that I will be pleasantly surprised. I’m trying to shed that mindset, and to not dwell on “shoulds” or “maybes”. I find that focusing on the present moment….embracing all that “now” has to offer has been the most helpful in maintaining a positive attitude.
In what ways do obstacles affect you that others might not be aware of?
Persistent lower back pain is probably my most nagging obstacle…..and there are good days and bad days. The difficult thing about pain is that, although people can’t see it, it can be very debilitating at times. It is also so hard to predict how my body will feel from one day to the next, which can be a real drag. My right ankle does not “work” like it used to, and I have some sensory loss. I can’t raise up on my toes or squat down in the way most folks would, which makes me quite clumsy! Frequently I will use a knee-walker (we call it my scooter) if I need to walk long distances (or rely heavily on trekking poles when hiking). I don’t really like using the scooter because of the attention it draws, but it definitely beats ending the day in tears.
What goals do you have for yourself in the future?
To keep the laundry from piling up to the ceiling, to be a good mom to my kids, and maintain a good sense of humor! I hope to continue connecting with other folks who have had similar struggles and deepen my relationships in ways that are fulfilling and life-giving. I want to celebrate the milestones of my kids…..to look back at all we have overcome together, and celebrate how we have grown despite the challenges. I want to live in a way that speaks meaning and purpose, however that plays out.
Depending on my surgeries, I hope we can be climbing again…as a family, by the summer months. In the mean time, I find deep fulfillment in visiting patients in the hospital I spent time at this past year, as a volunteer through the pastoral care department. Currently we are working to develop a support program for survivors of trauma, and this development is quite exciting (the goal is to have things going by “trauma season” [yes…hospitals call it that!] which begins in April….after the Wisconsin winter has melted away and folks begin to enjoy the beautiful outdoors again.).
I also am on an advisory committee at Children’s Hospital of WI, where I do my part in helping to educate new medical professionals about the realities of raising a child with special needs. This whole experience has been oddly liberating, in the sense that I don’t feel the need to prove that I “have it all together” anymore….although that temptation definitely still exists (my body is quite the humbler that way.) Being an athlete, I’d always been a competitive and driven type of person….very self-critical. I am slowly learning to let that part of me go….and am trying to embrace a gentler, more accepting “me.”
Now you see why Chris inspires me! Not only does she do what she can with her own recovery, but she’s parenting those two beautiful children of hers through their own challenges, while in the middle of facing challenges of her own.
And while still recovering, she is volunteering at the hospital and
helping to develop a support program for survivors of trauma.
I’m so excited about the program Chris is helping with… it is needed at hospitals and trauma centers everywhere and I look forward to seeing it come to fruition.
As Chris noted above, she might be facing future surgeries—that time has come. She posted this update on Facebook yesterday:
CT scan today. Bone-graft surgery March 20, 2013, and hopefully ankle replacement 6 weeks afterward (hoping the graft “takes” well.) Will likely need to be “non-weight-bearing” for about 3 months…which would be mid-June. Ugh. Prayers and positive energy needed….
Folks, as you can see Chris has come a long way, but her recovery journey isn’t over… and as we’ve also seen she is always encouraging others, even as she faces challenges of her own, so let’s encourage her today.
Leave a comment below and/or visit her blog A Crazy Kind of Faith. Follow her blog to get updates on her surgeries and her recovery over the next few months.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~More of Your Inspiring Stories Shawn—Laces up and Runs, Because He Can!
Nik Toocheck—Running the World for Children, Because He Can! Russell Selkirk—Enjoying Life on a Roll, Because He Can!
Brian Simpson—From Disability to Marathons, Because He Can!
Beverly Shantz—Living and Laughing, Because She Can! Chris Kaag—Doing What He Can, Because He Can!
Troy Roland—Hockey and Running, Because He Can!
Running at Age 72 and Age 84—Because They Can! Living Each Day Well–Because She Can
Michele Lynn—Believed She Can… and She Did!
Consistency Helps Dawn do Anything—Because She Can! .