How to help a loved one heal from a mountain accident

On November 14, after 19 hours of rescue effort and an overnight stint on the mountain, I was long lined by helicopter off Mt. Haig with spinal injuries. While every survivor’s story and preferences are individual, I herein offer my top “to dos” and “probably nots” for interacting with the injured, in the immediate days following the accident.

  1. Glad you’re safe” is less presumptuous than “glad you’re okay”. Everyone understands the positive sentiment behind “glad you’re okay”, and we’re gracious and grateful, so don’t sweat it. It drove D nuts though; he’s so protective he wanted to shout and scream “she’s not okay!!!” to everyone.
  2. Be patient with info updates. My phone was smashed and wifi at the hospital was less than ideal. It takes a lot of energy to do anything when injured and your loved one probably won’t be updating everyone immediately or will assign a main contact. Don’t take it personally.
  3. If you cannot visit the hospital, consider calling. It’s less effort to put someone on speaker than to interact in person. Texting can take a huge amount of physical and mental effort. Calling allows for interaction outside of busy visiting and healthcare hours and can feel more intimate.
  4. Yes to care packages! Anything you do to show you care is appreciated. A handmade pillow, stickers, a personal letter, yummy treats and smoothies, charger and headphones, socks and PJ pants… Things that are easy to bring home, etc. It’s all good!
  5. Respect privacy. This trauma is the injured’s story, not yours. Don’t sensationalize or speculate, especially not for the sake of your social media feed entertainment. If she asks you not to post about her on Facebook, stop.
  6. Share your story. These events have a way of bonding people together. Thank you for relating through the sharing of your own experiences. Sharing doesn’t mean comparing, however. “Joe was in an accident too and he was back running ultras within two months!” Healing is so individual.
  7. Respect independence. Match the injury to the physical assistance your loved one needs. Listen to what they tell you. Don’t fuss over things that don’t bother the injured. Let them do things for themselves if they want to try.
  8. Alleviate stress. I’m so grateful to my employer for handling this accident with empathy. Put up a positive front. I have a lot of examples of not positive things people said, perhaps in ignorance, but do not wish to honour them by writing them down.
  9. The path out of the woods is long and fraught. Continued contact over the longer term is appreciated!
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