The following is a guest post from Lisa Boice. Brace yourself for a traumatic yet entertaining read. We would also recommend reading her thoughtful blog, The baby aspirin years and following her on twitter at @MsBoice.
There was an expletive. More than one, in fact. I had just slipped on an icy section of the snow and fell. But it wasn’t the crash landing that caused me to start cursing. It was the fact that I was staring at my right foot that was facing the wrong direction.
We were hiking on the Emerald Pools trail at Zion National Park in Utah where it had just snowed the day before and Steve, my husband, stooped down to look at my foot and then he looked at me. It wasn’t a comforting look. My fearless husband, the former soldier in the Royal Canadian Army, did not have a poker face. For the first time in our marriage I saw the look of fear in his eyes. I knew it had to be bad.
It was the day after Thanksgiving and the trail was busy with holiday travelers. Immediately a man and his 10-year-old son approached us. “Everything all right?” the man asked.
“No,” Steve said. “Can you get help?”
“Absolutely,” and the man and his son wasted no time and cautiously hurried toward the trail head, which was only about a 20 minute hike. It wouldn’t be long, I thought, though the snow-packed trail makes hurrying a little slower than usual.
More hikers approached us with “Are you okay?” and “Do you need us to call for help?” Several left polar fleece jackets and down jackets for me. It was a chilly 20-degrees Fahrenheit, which was cold and unusual for Zion and we were concerned about hypothermia. I wondered, would I do the same for others? I was deeply touched in the compassion strangers had for me.
“We need to move her,” said a woman who came upon us. “We need to get her into some sun.” I couldn’t stand because my ankle was dangling and I feared that with all the snow and ice around it was just too slippery to try to hoist me up and lean on others while I hopped on my other leg.
We took my camera bag/back pack and laid my leg on it and used one of the down jackets a passerby left me and I laid on it as the woman and her hiking companion–another woman–each took an arm of the jacket while Steve kept the foot anchored on the bag and was going backward as he and the women dragged me toward the trail head.
Two young men in their 20s also came upon us and helped drag me. It was getting colder and we were worried that in about two hours it would be dark and I’d be in trouble. There were times that my rescuers would slip and slide and my foot would fall off the camera bag. More expletives. I kept apologizing for my potty mouth, but my rescuers assured me it was okay.
After about 40 minutes and being dragged about 800 meters (so said my Canadian husband who always speaks in metric), a Park Ranger arrives.
How on earth is he going to get me out of here? I thought. I soon realized that he was sent to just make sure it wasn’t a bee sting or something else minor before he called in the Search and Rescue team. He was the scout.
He checked out my ankle and then called on his radio for a team to come up with a stretcher, blankets and an air boot.
Another 20 minutes went by as we waited for the Search and Rescue team to arrive. The Park Ranger asked for details for his paperwork and I kept talking and actually was trying to keep a good humor about everything. I was worried about going into shock or succumbing to hypothermia, so I figured if I talked a lot I could keep my senses about me.
The team arrived. They immediately threw the blanket on me and the ranger began the task of removing my hiking boot so he could put on the air boot. I was terrified for the additional pain I was about to feel. I don’t know what this ranger did, but I actually didn’t feel a thing. “You must have done this before,” I said to him.
“Too many times to count,” he said.
Once the air boot was on the pain lessened significantly. It’s amazing how wonderful your limbs feel when everything is held in place.
The ranger and the Search and Rescue team lifted me onto the stretcher and then I asked, “Are you carrying me out?”
“No,” the Park Ranger Scout said to me. “We put it on this wheel–it’s like a mountain bike wheel–and we roll you out of here.”
You’re not going to fall are you? What if you guys slip too?” I asked.
“We have clamps on our shoes. Nothing can make us slip,” he assured me.
I was assured. I had no other choice than to be assured.
The two young men went on their way, but the two ladies who were with us from the beginning stayed with us as Search and Rescue wheeled me down the trail and then loaded me into the ambulance. Both Steve and I thanked them. I know I asked for their names and they told me, but to this day I can’t recall them. All I know is that two women who had plans for a lovely day hiking spent their afternoon helping us instead.
As I was being loaded into the ambulance I noticed a black SUV drive up and a woman passenger with a camera against her face takes a photo of me.
I laughed. “Are you kidding me?” I said to Search and Rescue Scout who stayed with me in the ambulance.
“It’s all part of the National Park experience for some,” he explained.
I guess I’m no different than a mule deer.
The door closed and my husband drove our car to meet us at the hospital in St. George, Utah, which was an hour away. That hour ambulance ride totaled $2,300 but I only had to pay $230 because I have pretty stellar medical insurance. I don’t know how those who don’t have medical insurance would have covered those costs.
In the end, I was okay and grateful we were on a busy trail with many Good Samaritans, a great Search and Rescue team and good care at Intermountain Healthcare in St. George, Utah. I had broken my tibia and fibula and had the option to have surgery in St. George or at home in Salt Lake City, which fortunately was only a five hour drive away. I opted for home.
The surgery resulted in a plate, five screws and two pins and four months of physical therapy. I haven’t been back to Zion National Park yet, but I will one day hike Emerald Pools again. Just not in the snow.