Posted by: thewhitesintokyo | September 18, 2008

Story Night (long, but worth a read sometime)

We just got back from a fun get-together with some teachers from St. Mary’s. Instead of just hanging out or even playing party games, we each had to bring $5.00 and the best story from our summer, and do our best to win a story competition. Although our friend Triston told a much better story tonight about his ridiculous encounters with several fire stations, police officers, and detectives that showed up to put out his “fire” (really just a wok with some smoke coming out), Triston and I (Brad) tied for the best story of the night, and each walked away with about $30.00. Since the story must have been worth telling once, here it is for posterity, in its entirety:

So, as Rachael and I started planning our summer back in April/May, we decided to try and spend a month each with our families in Minnesota and Colorado. While in Colorado, we’d go to Blake’s State Patrol graduation (photos below), celebrate our first anniversary at my parent’s condo in gorgeous Crested Butte (hiking, white water rafting, rock climbing etc.), and then we’d meet up with our friends for a short week of camping and cliff jumping in Utah before heading back to Minnesota.

The Incident

Well, about the first day of this trip, my brother Karl and I decided to go for a quick hike up the mountain before dinner. I wore sandals and borrowed some jeans from Blake, since it was the height of rattlesnake season and mom was warning us that we shouldn’t have been going hiking in the first place. Not even one minute into our hike, though, my foot snagged on some thick weeds and I fell sideways down the hill. When I landed, I knew something was wrong, but wasn’t sure what. I grabbed my left leg and felt what I thought was a large rock in my jeans. It turns out it wasn’t a rock, but it was my kneecap, which had been forced painfully over to the side of my leg.

Karl asked what he should do, and since I remembered that I had just left my job in Minnesota, I wasn’t positive that I had health insurance. I told him to call home to see if Blake and Rob could somehow carry me down. So, yes, I was my brother’s first emergency call as a full-fledged state trooper. They came and found me, tried very unsuccessfully to pick me up, and decided to call 911.

That was a good idea.

It took 14 firefighters and a whole lot of morphine to move me up about 10 feet up a steep embankment to a board, and then carry me to a rolling gurney on the trail, which led to the ambulance and a little more temporary pain relief.

We drove to Lutheran Hospital, where I was born nearly 24 years earlier, and I was admitted right away. HOWEVER, the ER was inundated with patients and I ended up sitting in the hospital room for three hours in excruciating pain before a doctor finally came in and set my kneecap back in place (this took all of about 15 seconds). I limped out on crutches, and used them for the next several weeks.

A Change of Plans?

The following day, I realized that I had long-standing plans to immediately fly back to Minnesota, pack up my entire 3rd grade classroom, pick up Rachael’s car, and drive it back to Colorado a day or two later. This was all going to be very difficult, if not impossible with my leg in a stiff brace. We exhausted every possible option and ended up concluding that I indeed had to do the trip myself, in the way it was planned, since the buyer of my car already had his flight to Denver to pick up the car in three days and I was the only person capable of packing and sorting my classroom materials for the big move to Tokyo.

Dear Frontier Airlines, you suck.

Since I had my brace on, I knew I wouldn’t be able to fit in a normal airplane seat. So, I called the airline a day before the flight to let them know I’d need some sort of seating accommodation. They said I’d have to arrange it at the counter, but that it would be no problem at all.

Hobbling on crutches with my two bags in tow, I approached the ticket counter. In the next minutes I was told that the flight was 100% full, and that I would have to ask the gate attendants for help in changing my seat. They brought a wheelchair and a couple very nice people wheeled me through the airport, even through getting padded down at security, until I was dropped off nearly an hour later at the gate by one of those golf cart type vehicles.

At the gate, I was told, yet again, that there was actually nothing they could do, and that I would have to ask someone in the front row (with more legroom) to move once I got on, or ask a flight attendant to help me. Basically, there was nothing anyone could do. Once I got on the plane, I saw a blind man and a family of five, with three very small children, occupying the front six seats. I wasn’t going to ask the blind man to move, and the family refused to be separated, so I was asked to take my seat in the last row of the plane. Because my left leg was in the brace, I couldn’t bend it. I’m 6’2”, by the way. So, even if there were some feasible way to comfortably set my leg down in the aisle, I would need to stand up and move for every person needing to use the restroom or flight attendant pushing a cart.

The airline bought me free access to the airline TV stations, which was nice because they were airing a Euro Cup soccer game I’d missed earlier in the week, but eventually we all realized it wasn’t working out. The nicest flight attendant, that had earlier wrapped my knee in a bandana with some ice, asked me if I’d rather sit in his seat in the back of the plane. Yep, I did. I pulled down the flip-down flight attendant seat, propped up my leg on a bucket of ice, and sat there for the remainder of the flight. Fantastic.

Once we arrived, I crutched to baggage claim, picked up my bag as Rachael’s mom, Jan, picked me up from the airport.


Imagine all the wonderful, interesting, colorful things that were in your elementary classrooms: books, posters, charts, stickers, decorations, instruments, art projects, student work, etc. Now, imagine packing up all of those things- a big enough task. Finally, imagine doing it all on crutches in ridiculous pain. Enough said. It was tough, but some of my former students helped carry what they could, and we packed a van-full of heavy boxes over the next 6 hours.

Tornadoes, really?

After packing, I was ready to leave to drive back to Colorado. My plan was to take two days to make the drive, doing about 500 miles each day and stopping to rest somewhere in Nebraska. But fate had more in store for me.

A few hours before I planned on leaving, Minnesota was hit with at least one threatening tornado and powerful storms of rain, wind, and hail all along the route I’d be taking back to CO. So, I had to stay one more day and do the 1000-mile drive in one day…in my cast…alone. Awesome. At least the car had cruise control right?

Although I had to stop frequently to adjust my leg, brace, or pillows supporting it all, I made it home nearly 16 hours later, completely drained by the whole ordeal.

Crested Butte

I met the guy from California who bought our car, he drove away happily, and Rachael and I thought about our next adventure, our first anniversary trip to my parents’ mountain retreat. Rock climbing, hiking, biking, and white water rafting just weren’t in the cards for this trip. So much for showing Rachael a true Colorado summer. ☺

We ended up having an absolutely wonderful time together anyway, and it was probably all for the best that we weren’t out and about as much because we were able to spend some great times together, reading, relaxing on the deck/patio, enjoying the hot tub, playing chess for hours on end (Rachael learned while we were up there, and beat me by the 4th or 5th game- she’s good), and finishing four books, collectively.

Oh yeah, that knee again.

After the trip to Crested Butte, I had a field day trying to get an immediate appointment with my doctor and physical therapist so I could find out if I was healthy enough to go camping in Utah in a few days. After MRIs and x-rays galore, I was told I wouldn’t need surgery (woo hoo!), and that I could go camping if I used my crutches, slept on a mattress rather than in a hammock, and really took it easy.

Rachael never did let me do any cliff jumping, thank God, but the trip was fantastic. Instead of cliff jumping, I went fishing and, thanks to the good tips of my grandfather, I caught breakfast for myself, and dinner for everyone else throughout the week. My friends all helped me out, and we had a blast.

One slip

So, with one misstep, my entire summer was completely flipped over, spun around, and turned inside out. I’ve always been “accident prone,” but this whole ordeal definitely set a new standard for accidents and their repercussions. Moral of the story: Wear appropriate shoes when hiking, and listen to your mother.



  1. Triston must have had one heck of a story to tie with that!
    Beautifully written.
    Methinks down the road you’re going to be so happy you recorded all that. Details tend to get lost or at the least blurred – but then you don’t need to know about that yet! Just enjoy – and record it all…

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