A couple days ago was my 3 year anniversary of being bitten by a puff adder, and I posted this picture on facebook as a reminder to myself that I STILL have a leg and how grateful I am to be living the life I have now. Well I got numerous responses on the photo and people asking me how/what/when/why. So I thought I would repost this article I wrote for the ROAR in the Winter 2011 issue that answers all those questions and more : )
“My sneakers are looking sad and with a full nine months of use they are looking worn and shabby but nonetheless loved. No longer a shade of pink but rather a heather grey and dirty brown, I have worn these shoes like no other. But you’re probably wondering why on earth I would write about this. Well those shoes have been through a lot. And I feel a blog post is what I owe them. Nine months ago I bought them, excited about my trip to South Africa and the runs I would get out of them to the beaches, the safari animals I would walk with them in and the backpacking that it would travel with me for. But instead of doing all that it took me on a journey like no other. A journey where I was wearing the sneakers on the day I was bitten by a snake, the day I took my first step, the day I went back to school, the day I graduated (well half the day) the day I moved to Hawaii, the day I started my first job and recently the day I ran for the first time in nine months. And it might be because of all those ‘first’ days of momentous occasions that I was having such a hard time buying myself a new pair. But I did. So the sneakers are now retiring but before they do that I will let you in on the day they became my better half.
I had the day off from work on February 3rd 2010. I remember exactly what I did. I woke up and told David we needed to do something different. By noon I had just finished making brownies, cookies and BLTs for lunch. Around 3 o’clock we decided to do something before I was going to come home and cook the whole house a family dinner. I wanted to go to the beach, David proposed a hike, we compromised and decided to do both. We were getting good at this whole relationship thing. It was warm, and I felt hiking in South Africa made it appropriate to wear shorts and sneakers. Big mistake. One because the snake bit me right above the sneakers and two because I wore those shorts for two weeks. We parked the car at the bottom of Chapman’s peak and started our way up an unpaved trail, and four meters into the hike it bit me. I thought it was a bee sting, it was sharp, stung and felt small….but heavy. As I tried to move my ankle I looked down to swat what was hurting me and what I saw changed my life. A puff adder was hooked onto my leg; it pulled it self out and what I thought felt like 10 minutes was a mere second. I can’t decide if it was out of shock, disgust or if it really was the venom but my eyesight got blurry, I felt sick and mad that I had to go to the doctor again. (I had been a few times already for being sick that first month) I looked at David and I saw anxiety, he told me not to move and that he would carry me. Being a damsel in distress at times I felt like this would be the best opportunity to get away with getting carried down a mountain. As soon as he picked me up I began to go in and out of consciousness. I recall feeling sick, nauseous and that was it. I was out. What I thought was 1 hour was actually 16 hours and as I woke up in Intensive Care it hit me just how nasty of a snake it really truly was. What happened in the next 10 days was a series of events that consisted of lots of tears, a bucket of joy, a dollop of anxiety, a splash of honesty and a whole heap of hope.
My mother flew down from Norway to help David and I deal with our sticky situation. I guess being bitten by a snake is rare but loosing a limb and dying from it isn’t. My mother being the optimist she was told me everyday to look on the bright side. David being the realist took the burden of asking a million questions a day to the doctors. The questions I didn’t want answers too, and let’s be the honest the questions my mother was avoiding. With the support and love of my family and friends I was able to leave that hospital in high spirits. And with the help of a button and an on call nurse and surgeon I was able to leave the hospital with a leg and a bag full of vitamins and pain killers. But what was the magic to this scenario? Well it was patience. Patience from my doctors deciding that we should wait 5 days rather than amputate it then and there, patience from my mother to not call my father to come down, and patience from David to wanting me home.
Intensive Care was a dream. I had three course meals, massages, daily baths, and endless people to talk too. What was challenging was coming home. Realizing that I had no strength and pain in my left leg and the inability to walk was a struggle. In the next 7 weeks I challenged not only myself but everyone in that house. I was lucky enough to go to physical therapy three times a week, and have wonderful housemates who carried me from the bed to the dinner table so I could still enjoy a meal with the family I had there.
And as my trip came to an end, I put on my sneakers and walked on to the plane. Devastated to be leaving what I had in Cape Town but excited to see where these sneakers would take me. I went home, graduated from college, moved to a new state and started my first job. And along that long path I wore those unfashionable shoes to every function, class, errand and even some parties so that I could heal my leg. And it’s healing every single day.
…So in honor of all those who supported me and who wrote me words of encouragement I will now go on a run. Because the feelings I get from running now are more powerful and deep than before. I now know that the small pain in my leg is not true pain but true love to remind me of how lucky I am to be here.”
Although I wrote this 2 years ago it’s still how I live my life. Patient, aware and grateful.
Thanks for all the love everyone : )