It’s hard to believe, but it’s been ten years since my brother and I were hit by lightning. We were relaxing at our campfire at Bridge Bay campground in Yellowstone National Park, enjoying a glass of Johnny Walker Black Label – our first ever drink together, coincidentally (or not) – and watching an awesome lightning storm in the distance. In a flash (sorry), we weren’t just watching, but participating.
And by “participating” I mean screaming in pain and terror. When the bolt hit a tree in our campsite, electricity coursed through us from the root system, and I was thrown to the ground (from my seat on a picnic table bench), ears muted by the concussion, and skin burning. The electricity caused the muscles in my legs to contract violently, instantly crushing the cartilage under both patellae. We refused a trip to the Yellowstone medical clinic, but I had many medical appointments and physical therapy sessions in the months that followed.
At one point I was prescribed Vioxx for the pain, but I quickly discontinued it when my insurance refused to pay for it. That upset me at the time, but of course it ended up being a good thing. Other meds, which my insurance did pay for, caused nasty chemical ulcers – a kind of pain far worse than what I had in my knees – and while my orthopedist offerred surgery, I opted to try to manage the pain by keeping active.
So far, until very lately, that has worked well. Keeping the leg muscles strong helps lift the patella off of the underlying joint and crushed cartilage. However, seemingly in anticipation of this anniversary, the pain has returned – sporadically, but excruciatingly. At any moment, either of my knees may cause me to crumple over in pain. Thankfully, for now, these bouts last only a minute or so. And, my hope is that after today this will fade away again until 2020!
What’s kind of funny is that we were only in this campground because our reservation at another one – Canyon – had been lost, and we were sent here! How’s that for luck?
I had hoped to be at Bridge Bay campground in Yellowstone on this 10th anniversary, but couldn’t quite make that happen. However, my brother and I, and a collection of our older kids, depart on Friday for our annual 2-week road trip to Idaho for camping on Payette Lake, rafting on the Salmon River near Riggins, and great music at the Braun Brothers Reunion. After that, we may head over to Yellowstone and see if we can find the remains of the tree that at once almost killed us and, possibly, saved our lives.