The Summer That We Didn’t Go Backpacking

It all began on June 6th, when I wandered over to my house on my lunch break, as per usual, only to find that Mike had pillaged the leftovers for his own lunch.

“You didn’t leave me any potatoes!” I texted him, while rooting about for alternative options.

“I’m in an ambulance!” came the reply.

…. Wait, what?

After a bit of panic, and some incoherent texts from Mike, I ran back to the barn and told my boss that I had to go. She was awesome! Have I told you what a great boss I have? Anyway, she told me to let her know how Mike was doing, and off I went, headed for the PLC in Calgary.

En route I received a call from the Safety Guy at Mike’s work, who informed me that Michael had fallen off of a ladder, and done something rather terrible to his ankle, and that they were taking him to the hospital in an ambulance.

Oh fantastic. Well, at least he didn’t hurt his head.

When I got to Emergency, there was Mike, still on the ambulance gurney and laughing and carrying on. When I approached he leaned over and loudly whispered “They gave me the good drugs”. Oh did they ever!  And it’s probably a good thing too, because his foot and ankle were pretty messed up.

His foot was all wrapped up in a pillow, so I couldn’t tell how bad it was, but at least he was comfortable. The paramedics were absolutely fantastic, and we chatted and joked while we waited for him to get taken in.  He was still in his work coveralls, and even though he was jovial, I was worried about him. Fortunately, since he had come in on an ambulance, he was at the top of the triage list, so it wasn’t a long wait for us.

Severe Ankle Dislocation

One of the nurses came, and told us there was space for him, so the paramedics wheeled him into one of the curtained “rooms” in Emergency, while I hung back with Safety Guy, who had also come to the hospital. I figured Mike would want privacy while they reefed the foot back into place, and got him changed into a hospital gown. Safety Guy and I sat in the waiting area and discussed what had happened.  We were probably there for 15 minutes when one of the paramedics came and found us, and said that the nurses were just getting Mike settled, and that they had straightened his ankle. I thanked her very much for being so wonderful, and then Safety Guy and I went in to see how Mike was doing.

Even though it wasn’t a life-threatening injury, it’s always kind of difficult to see your partner in a hospital bed, hooked up to an IV and waiting to find out if surgery is in their future. The Emergency doctors were almost certain he would be going into surgery sometime that afternoon, so he wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything (thank goodness they gave him lots of morphine or he would have been unmanageable). He was in fine enough spirits though, and after filling out some more paperwork the Safety Guy left, and it was just Mike and I.

Spending many hours in Emergency is at least somewhat entertaining, and all of the nurses were really great. We saw a guy come in who had super glued his eye shut, while attempting to close a wound on his eyebrow, because he is afraid of stitches. That was kind of funny. Mostly we talked, or Mike dosed off and I watched the comings and goings of the doctors and nurses and patients.

Eventually they took him down to X-Ray, and that was kind of the highlight of our 7+ hour stay in Emergency.

Waiting For An X-Ray

I did keep busy texting everyone (especially Mike’s family) and keeping them up to date on the situation. When we eventually saw an orthopedic surgeon, he basically said that he needed to consult with another surgeon, and finally Mike was admitted to the hospital, as they were going to keep him overnight while they decided what needed to be done.  They were not certain when he might be going to the OR, so he still couldn’t eat or drink.

At that point, I made a dash for home to let the dog out and collect a few things that I knew Mike would want (namely his phone charger). I had been keeping my boss up to date on things as well, and when I got back to the farm, she met me in the yard and I filled her in. She was super understanding and had no problem with me taking the following day off as well, so that I could be at the hospital with Mike, in case he went for surgery.

I grabbed some food for myself and then ran back to the hospital. By the time I got there they had taken Mike upstairs to a room.

They Finally Gave Him A Room

I stayed to visit for a bit, and got him all situated with his phone charging and made sure he was comfortable (by that time he had his own IV bag of morphine, so he was starving but not in any pain at least). Visiting hours end at around 9pm, so I kissed him goodnight and said I would be back in the morning and went home alone. The nurses must have felt sorry for him, because after I left they brought him some toast and jam, as he was not going into surgery until the following morning at least, so they let him have a little bit to eat.

In the morning I got up and helped out at work for an hour or two, just so that nobody else would have to get up super early to feed all the equines.  It was kind of a nice distraction anyway.  Then it was back to the hospital.

The surgeon had already seem Mike that morning, and they ordered a CT scan so that they could see more clearly what was going on in his ankle, since everything seemed pretty normal from the X-Rays. It was obvious that the tendons and ligaments had taken a beating, and that it was going to be a long haul until he could walk normally again, but it didn’t appear that anything was actually broken.

When they took him down for the scan, I couldn’t go with him, so I walked across the road to the Chapters and picked him up some magazines. By now the news had reached FaceBook (I may have had something to do with that) and so our friends were messaging their support and encouragement. One of our friends in particular was awesome, as he suffered a nearly identical injury some years back. He was super great about answering my questions and talking about his recovery process.  It was comforting, because at that point, nobody was saying anything about how long Mike would be off work, or how long it would take for him to get back to normal activity.

Blake, another friend of ours, decided to come down to the hospital and pay Mike a visit. I ran into him at the entrance on my way back from magazine shopping, and Mike was back from his scan by the time we got up to his room.

The three of us had a nice visit, but it was obvious Mike was kind of groggy and tired, so he sent Blake and I off to have lunch while he napped.  We drove over to Smashburger and had food and discussed LARP and injuries and what had been going on in our mutual social circle as of late.

When I got back from eating, there was more waiting, and finally someone came to tell us that the CT scan had shown a couple of tiny bone fragments and two micro-fractures in the foot, but that it didn’t look too bad. They were going to discharge Mike, in a half-cast, with crutches, and he was to see a foot and ankle specialist in a few days time. The specialist would decide if they were going to do surgery, so he wasn’t totally off the hook, but at least he could go home!

I had promised him that once they let him out he could eat whatever he wanted, since they had pretty much starved him for over 24 hours.  After some thought, he decided that he wanted to go home to his own bed, and have lobsters for supper, so once I got him home and settled, I went to get groceries, and we had a lovely picnic in our room. Yes, he’s a bit spoiled.

Grilled Lobsters

Picnic On The Bed

The days that followed were kind of stressful, since he really couldn’t get out of bed, except to use the bathroom. I was so glad that we had moved out to where I work, so that I was able to be very near if he needed anything, and I came home every day to make him lunch in the afternoon and make sure he was comfortable. We got a bath chair so that he could have a shower, which still required quite a production, as he could not get the half-cast wet at all.

Take Good Care Of Him, Torc

Mike isn’t one to really slow down, however. Not 10 days after the injury, he insisted that we go LARPing anyway. So I packed up all of our gear, and we spent the weekend camping with our very good friends, who were all wonderful and helped me with setting up and tearing down our gear. It was really nice to get out of the house and feel more “normal” again after all of the craziness of appointments and specialists. Everyone thought we were insane, but Mike just laughed and insisted that he wasn’t going to miss everything just because he had a bum leg.

Shiny Crutches

In the end they decided NOT to do surgery. Mike was in a half-cast for two weeks, and then they gave him an air cast. He wore that for two months, still on crutches, only putting feather weight on his foot.  Gradually he was allowed to put more weight on it, as tolerable, while still wearing the air cast.

Mike And The Girls

Early in August, the specialist told him that he could begin weaning himself out of “the boot” (air cast) and into a normal shoe. He was also allowed to begin physiotherapy, and go back to work part time. So far they are happy with how he is healing up. He has graduated to wearing only his own shoes, walking with a cane when he needs it. He still limps, and his foot gets sore if he uses it much, but he is self sufficient again.

We may have missed an entire season of backcountry adventuring, but I am just glad it wasn’t worse. By next summer we will be ready to hit the trails again. For now, we will just enjoy short jaunts and maybe I will catch up on all the gear reviews I’ve got waiting in the wings.

About the author

Mike & Cal have been backpacking around Alberta for the past decade. This site is where they share trip reports, photos, and tips and tricks for getting outside.


  1. Great story Cal took care of the whole summer, god can U write girl and the photos fit in perfect just to inhance the captivating story

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