Rowing the Reservoirs for Recovery

Goal: 5,000 USD

On Friday the 13th (really!), in September 2013, I woke up early, drank a big cup of tea, and took my 3 goofy rescue mutts for a run. I was on my way to the gym before teaching pediatric clinical at the hospital when I felt an overwhelming pain mid-chest. A walk-in clinic ruled out heart issues and I was sent home with medication for gas. When asked to give a urine specimen I could not pee (remember that large cup of tea?). After 2 more visits to the emergency department, 4 lumber punctures, CT scans, and labs, I was hospitalized. By the next morning, I had complete paraplegia from T2 (mid-chest) down, and I needed a catheter to drain my huge distended bladder!

Still, no diagnosis, and I was terrified. Luckily, a fine neurologist was called in, who, after 2 MRIs diagnosed Transverse Myelitis (TM) and ordered infusions of large dose steroids. Of course, I had never heard of TM but learned about it from the Transverse Myelitis Association (TMA). Transverse Myelitis is inflammation of the spinal cord due to a misdirected immune response. I also learned from the TMA how important physical therapy (PT) is, so requested PT, and got started that afternoon. I really did not comprehend the magnitude of the event, until the therapist had me lift my arms a little while sitting on the side of the bed, and I tipped over…I could not sit without support! Yikes!

After that, I spent 3 weeks in intense rehab with physical and occupational therapists who are my true heroes! I returned home and then continued therapy in the gym. I have had multiple procedures for my troublesome bladder and continue PT intermittently for injuries or falls. I am so fortunate with the support of wonderful family, friends, and co-workers; I have a very active life, get to do meaningful work, and am resolved to dance every day!

I am forever grateful for having found the Transverse Myelitis Association and for the chance to be at the wonderful symposium in Columbus when the name was changed to Siegel Rare Neuroimmune Association (SRNA)! Having factual information and reading about people’s experiences and research has been so reassuring. However well-meaning folks might be..this is the only community that ‘gets it’! I find it comforting to know that while everyone has their own journey, some of the effects of this not-very-common condition are universal. I am so very grateful and indebted to the SRNA!

I was introduced to rowing by my niece Jessica, who discovered rowing after her own spinal cord injury. To mark 10 years this year tango-ing with TM, I am rowing 8 beautiful reservoirs along the wild and stunning Rocky Mountain Front in Montana (the Blackfeet people call it the Backbone of the World) starting near Augusta and ending near Valier over the course of a week.

With gratitude and humility, I acknowledge and appreciate the opportunity to live, work and recreate on the unceded and traditional lands of the Blackfoot-the Kainai, Siksika, Piikani, Aamskskapi Pikuni, and within the present-day nation of the Blackfeet.

Anyone is welcome to join me as I row each reservoir and for a final celebration on June 30th.

The reservoirs include:

  • Nilan Reservoir
  • Willow Creek Reservoir
  • Gibson Reservoir
  • Pishkun Reservoir
  • Eureka Reservoir
  • Bynum Reservoir
  • Swift Reservoir
  • Lake Francis
Join us for a celebration on June 30th from 1:30-3:30 pm in Valier, Montana at the Lake Francis Campground next to Fireman’s Pavilion. Food and beverages will be provided, and you are welcome to bring your own. The site is ADA-accessible, please RSVP so we know you are coming!