You wouldn’t believe a large, beautiful, nearly level granite boulder would spell disaster, would you? I certainly didn’t. As we came up over the crest of the hill, reaching the halfway point, I thought, “Yes! We’ve reached the tamer part of the trail without any major injuries!”
I happily stepped onto that big, beautiful, nearly level boulder when all of a sudden I slid and toppled over to the right. As I was going down, I heard a snapping sound and felt a lightning bolt of searing pain explode in my left ankle leading to sudden pins and needles in my left big toe. Immediately I began to yell, “oh my God! Something’s wrong!”
My two favorite people came running to assess the situation as I examined my left ankle. I sat and cried for a minute as I worked up the courage to examine my ankle. The nurse in me was relieved when I saw there was no blood coming through my sock. I pressed on the outside of my ankle and felt crunching, but it actually wasn’t painful so I went to my favorite coping mechanism next, DENIAL. My favorite people helped me stand up. I could stand on my foot, but walking was pretty painful so I sat down again to cry and feel sorry for myself for a minute. “Well, at the very least, this is a bad sprain.”
The next thing to flood my mind was how the heck to get off that mountain? Sure we were at the beginning of the tamer section, but it is still 1.5 miles of challenging terrain.
Then I started to cry as I anxiously considered the ramifications of immobility in the coming weeks ahead. My whole life revolves around mobility. No work means no pay.
I’m so thankful I was with my favorite people. They brought me back to the present as we made a plan to get off the mountain. I was under the impression that self rescue was the only way to go based on stories of the high cost of search and rescue. We decided to push on, me sliding slowly and carefully down the steep section in a 3 limbed crab walk. But with me stopping every 5 minutes to cry anxiously, we didn’t get very far. My favorite second son finally insisted on calling 911 to see if search and rescue would hike up to meet us. Admitting the mountain won this time, I sat there listening to half a conversation.
“My mom rolled her ankle and fell. She can’t keep hiking. Can you send help up the trail and meet us? Really? Really!? The sheriff said since it’s going to be dark soon, he’s going to call for the helicopter. Well we don’t have $10,000 for a helicopter. Really? Oh wow! He says it’s free!”
45 minutes later, we sat in awe as a helicopter came towards us. Every hiker stopped to watch the show. The helicopter came right to us, hovered for about 5 minutes, turned around and flew away. I rightly guessed they were making an assessment on how best to proceed. After another 15 minutes they returned. They hovered as close to a safe spot as they could and a search and rescue volunteer hopped off. He came down to me with a giant red sling. His name was Brian. He helped me get into the sling, affectionately called the screamer because well, people scream when they’re in it. Then we got all hooked up to a thick cable and away we went, flying off into the sunset. We were dangling 100 feet under the helicopter as it flew to the trailhead. The trip took less than 10 minutes. And no. I did not scream. I’m not afraid of heights. 🙃
At the bottom, a friendly EMT checked me over from head to toe. My heart rate and BP were elevated. Adrenaline. She took off my shoe and sock. My ankle was the size of a soft ball. No bruising though. My heart soared as I continued to believe it was just a sprain. She was so friendly and kind. She carefully wrapped my ankle with a kerlix, a splint, and ace wraps. The only thing they didn’t have was a set of crutches. They offered to take me to the nearest ER, but I politely declined. Too expensive for a non-emergency. Urgent care would be the place for me.
Jeff from the Pinal County Sheriff’s department helped me into his truck and drove me back to my car. On the way, he told me to spread the news about the free helicopter services provided by the Pinal County Search and Rescue Posse. They are a 501c, not for profit organization. All their equipment and funds come from donations. So awesome! I will be adding them to my giving list when I get back on my financial feet. They are real life heroes. All volunteers. Amazing.
Shortly after getting to my car, my people arrived. They flew off that mountain! On foot! It was well after sunset when we left the wilderness. By now we were all famished so we hit the drive through of In N Out for burger 🍔 and headed home 🏡. Since I was convinced my ankle was only sprained, I decided Urgent care was going to have to wait until morning. The day ended with me thanking God for catching me once again and believing things were going to be okay, thankful for all the love I was shown by strangers and friends alike.
To be continued…