Living in Limbo

February 11, 2019

Six months ago, a crashing tree branch interrupted our Pacific Crest Trail hike. After choosing foot travel as a major form of transportation for many weeks, we entered the city of Seattle by ambulance.

Thus, our time of limbo began. Recovery in the hospital quickly led to more recovery time in an apartment near the hospital. As I healed, we progressed to visiting family in Oregon, returning regularly to Seattle to check in with the doctors.

That rogue tree branch had dealt quite a wallop. I felt as if I were in a state of suspended animation, waiting for the fractured occipital condyle and carotid artery pseudoaneurysm to heal in order for the surgeon to reassemble the eight pieces of my jaw.

While in Seattle, we explored our new home.

A ride on the ferry provided a porpoise eye view of the Seattle skyline.

The Fremont Troll, one of the better known denizens of the city, lurked beneath a bridge.

Christmas sparkles enhanced an already gorgeous winter sunset peeking between skyscrapers.

Who could resist playing next to the fountain at the Seattle Center?

One day we saw dancers getting filmed in front of a street mural.

A tugboat pushed a barge full of gravel through the Ballard (Hiram M. Chittenden) Locks, much to our delight.

One charming result of limbo time included meeting old friends and hikers from our travels. I still giggle when I think of the dinner conversation we had with Specs, a 2017 Appalachian Trail thru-hiker, now living in Seattle.

We traded tales of experiences on the trail. Specs described the odd looks given by other hikers each evening when he pulled out his after-dinner wine, packaged in a juice box with a sippy straw!

“It’s wonderful how hiking a long trail makes one appreciate the finer things in life,” I exclaimed.

Specs burst out laughing. “Yes, the perspective gained on the Appalachian Trail is what makes one designate things like wine in juice boxes as ‘finer things’ of life!”

Each time I visited the neurosurgeon, he told me my body was healing admirably, and then he’d send me off to go heal some more. When the neck brace was removed in December, I celebrated! Maybe now, four months after the accident, I would get my jaw operation!

I could scarcely contain my joy to be rid of the neck brace!

The craniofacial surgeon had other ideas. “The broken pieces in your jaw bone have grown together. Yes, there is nerve damage, and yes, none of your teeth meet, but your body has been creating new bone. We could operate, but it would put your healing back a good bit.”

“But I can’t chew, with my teeth not meeting,” I told him.

“I think orthodontics might help,” he told me. “It’s been such a long time since the accident, it might be better to look at different answers.”

He sent me to an orthodontist who had much experience with trauma victims. She was sure she could give me chewing capabilities again, possibly without surgery at all!

My mouth was measured and x-rayed and photographed. Teeth molds were made. Our most recent visit brought the fascination of seeing a digital model of my skull, with the jaw healed crooked and none of the teeth meeting.

Jay put my thoughts into words. “One wouldn’t even know how to begin to get those teeth aligned properly.”

The nurse responded encouragingly, “That’s why we have Dr. Chen! She’ll be using all this to make a plan for your teeth.”

This uncertain period, awaiting decisions and action, is almost over. My braces should arrive the last week of February, and I’ll embark on the final phase of healing. The orthodontist estimates it will take two years to put my teeth in order.

In the meantime, we’ll enjoy a bit of winter in Seattle. And begin making plans for more adventures in the spring!

City people, in general, don’t talk or even smile at one another when walking. But with snow came new opportunities. I found a temporary friend.

43 thoughts on “Living in Limbo

  1. What an exciting update!!! No surgery? That would be fabulous. And by the way, you LOOK fabulous without a neck brace. 😊
    Enjoy! xoxoxo


  2. Sarah, Nice to catch up.

    Seattle is on our bucket list, but I really don’ know much about it and haven’t found a cheap way to get there ($$$ for airfare or many days of driving & lodging).

    Have you been to Olympia National Park? Is that a do-able trip for you all?

    Just curious to know if your new braces will be clear or wire. Both of our kids had braces, so I empathize with you but know it will be great to have your teeth meet.

    Right now we’re about half way through our month-long stay at Huntington Beach State Park in SC. Having a great time with daily walks and some bicycle rides to nearby Murrells Inlet.

    – – Paul


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks so much for the update. I’ve wondered how your healing was going but had no idea that it had been this serious. I do wish you the best and hope you get back to 100% before long.

    Beancounter (Met you in 2017 on the AT while waiting for my wife to pick me up)


  4. Great job – Just the right tone. By emphasizing the long recovery. You kept it interesting and no “Poor me.” Can’t wait to see you and catch up.

    Sent from my iPhone



  5. I was so blessed to meet you both last fall. Praying that the new braces will take you further down the trail to wellness. 🙏🏻



  6. Glorious news! You are amazing! Our prayers are continuing. Praying braces will not be painful. Blessings to you! Love, Greta Fridlund >


  7. Sarah, I forgot to mention we are camping in our 14’ camper. Tiny but dry and comfy, complete with a bathroom (good for old folks at night; we still bathe and use the bath house during the day. We normally dry camp and even use solar power to keep our power supply ongoing. Works pretty well. Right now we are “glamping” with electricity and water hookups. We still have to dump our gray water every three days or so. With AC we can use our microwave, AC refrig. an electric heater, and TV, only using gas to heat hot water and cook. We even have a 10” coil spring full size mattress. Space is cramped but no worries – we enjoy each other’s company.

    Speaking of Seattle, what do you use for rain gear (parka? pants? brand? model?).

    When we were in Ireland a few years age it rained every day, but lighter, warmer, and in small quantities. Most natives walked around in the rain with no hat, no umbrella, and hardly seemed to notice the rain. What’s the rain like in Seattle?

    – – Paul



    1. The rain is cold here.
      My favorite rain gear is made of cuben fiber and comes from a company called Zpacks, which makes excellent ultralight gear. Cuben fiber is an expensive material, so I have to save up and budget whenever we need a new piece of gear. It’s worth it, though!


  8. SO good to finally hear from y’all! Things sound pretty good; the dental braces seem OK to me. Even though I’m a non-dentist. A little bell, ah — bird told me it was your birthday, Sarah — Happy, Happy Day to you! Love you & miss you mightily. Weather here has been totally crazy, as Linda & others probably shared with you. Unprecedented snow — I measured 5″ on my deck last week. And Genoa had a foot or more! What’s going on?
    LUVU, Penny


  9. You have been on our minds – so glad to hear from you. You have such a positive attitude – no doubt that contributes to healing. David and I were stranded on Rte 88 coming back from the bay area in a snowstorm Sat. The road was closed ahead of us and also behind. We stayed at Kirkwood overnight and on Sunday afternoon a one-way, one-time caravan was allowed to leave. Rtes 80 and 50 also had been closed. It was quite a storm, and more is coming. Today it is in the form of rain in the valleys, and consequent flooding. Keep healing and send updates when the spirit moves you to share your adventure.


  10. So good to hear your update and see the progress —and terrific pix of Seattle.

    Has your sister Helen’s and my friend Bob Conrad contacted you, perchance?

    He and his wife, Jenni, moved from Knoxville in December for her new job in Seattle.

    Continue to take care and enjoy all that you can!

    Peace & JOY, Carol



  11. What an unexpected journey the PCT took the both of you on . So glad you guys made the best of your situations and on a good trail of recovery. Healing thought continue from mile 549 😊


    1. Dear Patti and Robert,
      Thank you very much for your healing thoughts! I still think of y’all often. Meeting the two of you at mile 549 was so incredibly memorable! Your welcome and cheerful happiness turned that day into a dream come true! It’s lovely to hear from you.


  12. Sarah,
    Thank you so much for the update. God is doing amazing work. Brian and met you at Aquadulchi you were having a splendid lunch of spinach eggs and chocolate. I can’t wait hear about more adventures. Ours start this fall. God Bless you and Jay.


  13. I’m so glad that you are recovering from your accident Sarah! I hope those braces help your teeth, and you can get on to the next adventure!


  14. I was glad to get your update so many weeks ago and hear that you weren’t having to face surgery on your jaw. Hope the braces will get your teeth back in line so that you can chew again! Enjoyed seeing the pictures you posted and hearing about your activities. Hope to see you playing the bells again.


  15. Hello, Sarah,
    I just saw that I hadn’t sent my comment away in February… I’m glad you don’t need another surgery. How do you feel with the braces, can you eat well?

    I am curious what your adventure plans for the next months will look like, if you want to share them with us….

    Our PCT-hike is now imminent, if it is all right, I would be happy to get in touch with you personally to ask a few questions. Let me know if and how we can get in touch.


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