Woman climbs mountain for closure, to give back

As Lynne Garell sweated through a year of physical therapy, she started thinking about how to give back.

She had shattered her femur -- her thigh bone, the largest bone in the body -- in May 2001. When she had almost recovered, the metal plate doctors had inserted in her leg broke, sending her back to surgery and necessitating additional months of physical therapy.

All the while, she had two goals in the back of her mind: Climb a 14,000-foot mountain peak and give back to her physical therapists at SportsMed at Yampa Valley Medical Center.

"It's definitely the patient's responsibility to do the work, but it helps a lot to have people around to help you go through it and push you when you need to push it and encourage you when you need encouraging," Garell said.

Garell shattered her femur in a chance accident. She was riding her bike around town with her husband and as she turned a corner to go into her garage, a dog ran out in front of her and she crashed. She landed on the point of her handlebars.

An ambulance ride and 5 1/2 hours of surgery later, Garell found herself with a thick stainless steel late in her upper leg and months of physical therapy ahead.

With three to four hours of physical therapy three times a week, Garell started from the beginning again, eventually progressing from two crutches to one crutch to a cane.

Then, in March of the following year, the plate broke.

"I burst into tears, which I never do. I looked at the X-ray and it was like, 'Oh man,'" she said. "It was a real heartbreaker."

But Garell returned to physical therapy, pushing through the same exercises again and thinking about climbing her mountain.

Early this spring, she began to plan for the climb. She mailed letters to her friends and family telling them about her plan to raise funds for SportsMed as she climbed.

She collected $1,140 and then, on Aug. 23, after practice hikes and gym workouts, she hiked to the top of Gray's Peak with four other people.

The feeling of accomplishment from reaching the top was immense, but the biggest reward was the sense of closure she felt in the days afterward.

"I didn't expect this at all. I just had a very strong sense that that provided closure," she said. "That climbing a mountain was the end of that big old chapter."

It's helpful to have a goal to achieve when rehabilitation is over, Garell said. It keeps people motivated and once goals are accomplished, helps people put the experience behind them.

When Garell presented the check to SportsMed, the physical therapists she worked with were touched. The clinic doesn't know how it will use the money yet.

"She kind of went above and beyond, and that's just sort of the personality type she is," said Gina Tattershall-Gower, one of Garell's therapists. "She wanted to do something that would say thank you to everyone, and so to organize it and go out and get contributions and present it to us was really neat and meant a lot."

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