For the past six years, our end-of-year tradition at MUS Wellness has been to collect success stories from our awesome MUS employees, and share some of the highlights. We’ve just begun reading your stories, which are always inspiring and a great reminder of why we do what we do here at MUS Wellness.

I thought I’d get our Wellness success story season kicked off with a tale of thanks as we go into the Thanksgiving holiday. This one is from me, and it turns out to be a very different success story than any I would’ve envisioned at the beginning of the year.

On August 24th, I was riding bikes with a group of guys from MSU. We do a regular lunchtime road ride on Mondays and Fridays throughout the summer, and it’s always a highlight of my week. It was a beautiful, sunny Friday, and I remember feeling really good—the weekend was coming up, I was feeling fit, and I was excited about the transition to fall. Everything was great. Until it wasn’t.

I was going down a modest hill at around 20 mph, and I had a routine left-hand turn to negotiate. As I leaned my bike into the turn I felt and heard an awful skidding sound as the tire suddenly lost grip, and I was down in an instant. I landed hard on the back of my left shoulder. If I were in a cartoon, there would’ve been a big, colorful flash…

…and then I was aware of my head skidding along the pavement. Luckily for me there was a very effective Giro helmet between my skull and the ground. I had broken one of my cycling rules: “Always wear your helmet, but try not to use it.” Well, I used it, and I sure am glad I was wearing it. I sustained no head or neck injury whatsoever.

My left clavicle, however, was not so lucky. It was in pieces. As I lay on the pavement staring up at the beautiful big Montana sky, I didn’t know I had broken my clavicle, but I did have the sense that my shoulder was injured pretty badly. I knew my head was okay because I asked if my bike was alright. Turns out it mostly was, but later I would learn that I had a small puncture in my front tube, which caused my front tire to gradually lose air until it failed. Normally, you notice things like this during a ride without something so dramatic happening. It was just an unlucky thing. But I was fortunate to be riding with a group, and also fortunate that I didn’t take out any of them in my fall. They took care of me on the scene, called for help, and got me to the Emergency Room quickly.

I elected to have surgery to put the pieces of my clavicle back together, and I’m glad I did. My surgeon, who did a marvelous job, said most of the time these surgeries take 30 to 40 minutes. Mine took him 90. Yikes. Here’s the before and after:

For many of you who know me, you may know that I am goal oriented, and I write out my yearly athletic goals and post them at home and in my office. When I had this accident, I realized immediately that most of my goals for the second half of 2018 were going to be put on hold. But almost immediately, as in, while sitting in the bed in ER, I was formulating a new goal—be fully recovered and fully functional by ski season. I quickly added a second goal after that first weekend at home and realizing how annoyed my very physically active 6-year-old was with my new condition, and that goal was to be able to play with my kids normally again as quickly as possible. I had suddenly become a considerably less-fun, fragile, one-armed dad, and that was motivation enough. 

One of my 6-year-old’s favorite things, especially this time of year, is tossing the football with me. I did the best I could one-handed, but a couple of weeks post-surgery I got in trouble with my wife after Dax zipped a football over my head that I reflexively reached for with both hands and let out a yelp. My wife advised us to stick to soccer.

Fast-forward to today, and I’m feeling very thankful to say that my impromptu recovery goals are largely being achieved. For that I give credit to an amazing job by my orthopedic surgeon and staff, a lot of care from my wife and family while I was pretty helpless, and diligent rehabbing throughout the fall. Now I’m feeling strong and ready for Bridger’s opening day this Friday! And this morning, before he went to school, Dax had some extra time and we spend it pitching the football around, and I thought about how nice it was to not be limited, and what a gift movement is, even for such a simple thing as tossing and catching a ball in your living room.

As we go into the Thanksgiving holiday, I’m sure you have many things to count as blessings. If you can name health and freedom of movement as part of your list, please do so! They are one of the most common things we take for granted until we lose them, and they are truly wonderful gifts.  

For those of you running 5k’s on Turkey Day, hitting the slopes on opening weekend, heading to your favorite trail, hunting, or just walking around the block with a family member, be mindful of how wonderful it is that we get to do it!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Be well!

Neal

P.S. To share your MUS Wellness 2018 Success Story, write us at mtchallenge@montana.edu

One thought on “Feeling Thankful.

  1. Inspirational, Neal! I think recovery/rehab has to be the hardest mental process there is for an active “exerciser”. Thanks for sharing. PEACE, Myke ________________________________________

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