What a week I had in Vermont! It was so nice to get away for a few days. This is Joe and I on top of the Madonna mountain overlooking Vermont and into Canada. Isn't it gorgeous? While we did some relaxing, the trip was definitely jam packed with things to do. I had some snowboarding lessons from Kaley (Joe's sister), attempted my first Blue Trail (I say attempted because it was a SUPER long trail and halfway through I ended up having to get snowmobiled to the bottom...and that's a long story short), went snowmobiling and even sang karoake!
While I definitely enjoyed myself, I'll be the first one to admit that snowboarding (or winter sports in general) are totally not my thing. I can get down a green trail alright, but I'm definitely still in the learning phase. The first time I saw Joe snowboard and seeing how natural and fluid he is riding was an amazing site to see. He and the board are like one. He rides around like it's nothing. (And I'm totally jealous).
When we first went to Wintergreen in December, snowboarding didn't come quite so easy. But not in how you'd think. The technique, style and feel for the board were definitely still there. Seeing Joe fly down the mountain, you wouldn't know what he'd been through this past year. It was the pain of his stump.
In all honesty, I've never seen him so disheartened as when he went down the hill after a few runs in Wintergreen and was in so much pain. This is the one sport he absolutely LOVES and until last year could still do with his bad ankle (the boots helped support the ankle). But last year, his ankle had gotten so bad that it still put him in an incredible amount of pain. This experience was actually a huge factor in why he chose amputation. He wanted to get back to snowboarding without the pain.
One of the biggest reasons he's in so much pain is due to his nerves. A few nerves have resurfaced to the skin since the surgery last year. These nerves are like pressure points that set off both real and phantom pain on a daily basis. It's made it hard for Joe to find liners for his prosthetic that he felt comfortable in and if he moves his leg the wrong way, it can send shooting pain up his stump. So while we aren't thrilled for another surgery, we are excited to get it over with because it's going to be ridiculously helpful. (In coming weeks, I'm going to do a whole breakdown about his stump, medical stuff and perhaps even a little graphic that explains the different parts of the leg and prosthetic.)
After those few runs at Wintergreen and a few more in Tahoe, Joe met with Elliott, his prosthetist, and they made some adjustments to help Joe get through this before his nerve surgery.
That all said, this past week was filled with both heartbreak and triumph. The adjustments Elliott made pushed the stump a little bit more to the back then causing pressure on the back of the stump, making it just as painful. And the first few days in Vermont were frustrating. Why did Joe go through this whole surgery to alleviate the pain when it's still there in another form?
We were very lucky that halfway through the week, we got to meet a good friend of Elliott's, Doug, another prosthetist in Vermont and he was able to help shape Joe's socket a little bit to help alleviate the pressure on the back. It helped enough that on Thursday and Friday, Joe totally rocked the slopes. He definitely had to take some breaks, and take his prosthetic leg off in between big runs or jumps. But he was still able to do it. And boy, did he do it well. He was absolutely incredible.
Kaley went up in the terrain park with him and took this amazing video of Joe doing a rodeo flip.
Even though he fell shortly after landing the flip, after the roller coaster of frustration and emotion we went through this week, we definitely count it as a full flip. As soon as he finished the flip, his joy was so contagious. We were all just beyond excited. It began to make everything that had happened earlier in the week worth it.
Sometimes I can't believe the strength, perseverance and outlook on life that this man has. He never ceases to amaze me with the things that he continues to do.