Thursday, March 10, 2016

A rocky recovery at a stony park

This time, I was strong enough for Keith not to spot me before I reached the steeper and slipperier section of the path to the wind cave.

Tumblrs: Rocky Peak Park

On our second visit to the stunning and strenuous Rocky Peak Park, we made like our Cro-Magnon ancestors by dining in a rock shelter. Just as they would've eaten their bagels. The rainstorm we were trying to avoid by hiking on Saturday
caught us unprepared on Saturday.

Typical Mother Nature, raining on our recovery parade.

Rocky Peak is extremely steep and the path is sometimes treacherous. It's so difficult that it's even hard on Keith's knees.

Still, I found that I was able to ascend the park's heights more easily than I could just a month prior. It was gratifying to note that my hard work at rehabbing was paying off.

After I had basked in the freedom of having the wind cave to ourselves by exploring the depths I could reach safely (see gif below), we stopped for a picnic. As it turned out, we had lucked upon an open rock shelter just before it began to rain.

It was a good thing we had left the cave because the path out of it would've become a Slip'N Slide. Dry, if not warm, we waited out the rain in our open-plan cave.

Descending on our first trip in February.

Unfortunately, to avoid the slippery slope of descended the path in the mud, we were forced to head back after our picnic, instead of heading deeper into to park, as we had planned. After all, last time, I got cocky and fell down on the descent, skinning my knee. And the ground was mostly dry.

But I'm sure the wildflowers already peppering the park appreciated the precipitation (say that ten times fast.)

See Tumblrs for more pics, including the wildflowers.
Admiring one of the natural rock sculptures at the park last time.
And here I was struggling to my feet inside the wind cave on this trip. It's a measure of how difficult my recovery has been--from the strokes, coma, and the previous dermatomyositis muscle damage--that even the ability to stand up from the ground using only a low rock as leverage is still something to celebrate.

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Coma Girl

Coma Girl

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In July of 2013, I fell into a six-week coma and nearly died. When I awoke from the coma, I could barely lift my head. It has been a hard road to recovery. The doctors advised my loved ones to give up all hope for my full recovery, but while they were shining lights in my eyes to gauge my level of consciousness, I was telling them grumpily to leave me alone because I was trying to get back to sleep...in my coma-dream. I was experiencing covert cognition, and the coma-dream was my version of a near-death experience. I'm a skeptic, so I saw surreal images instead of spirits or dead loved ones. According to my research, as many as one in five people with consciousness disorders have covert cognition.

Not a miracle recovery, but a miracle of modern medicine

In 2013 I fell into a six-week coma and nearly died after I contracted legionella. The Legionnaire's disease was in turn triggered by immunosuppression caused by the prednisone I was taking for my rare autoimmune disease, dermatomyositis.

I suffered a series of strokes on both sides of my brain when the sepsis caused my blood pressure to plummet. I fell into a deep coma. My kidneys and lungs began to fail, as my body was began dying one organ at a time. My doctors told my loved ones to give up hope for my full recovery. They expected me to die, and even if I somehow lived, I would remain a vegetable or at best left so hopelessly brain-damaged that I would never be same. But unbeknownst to them, while they were shining lights in my eyes and shaking their heads, I was telling them in my coma-dream--my secular version of a near-death experience--to leave me alone because I was trying to get back to sleep. I was experiencing what is known as covert cognition, the subject of my Skeptical Inquirer article "Covert Cognition: My So-Called Near-Death Experience," which appeared in their July/August issue.

But it wasn't a miracle--despite what so many continue to believe--that I recovered so fully. I owe my life not to God, but the miracles of modern medicine, as well as the nature of the watershed-area brain damage I suffered, as I detailed in my article and in this blog.