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Kara's World Championship: Part II

For Part I, please go HERE.

The hazards of entering a hospital in a foreign country…The USA team chiropractor, Dr. Mar kept demanding ice for the injury. The emergency doctor kept saying no. We learned the medical community in Denmark does not believe in ice, as they think it has unsafe levels of bacteria.  Meanwhile Mackenzie, who had suffered bad road rash but no breaks, contacted me via e-mail to call her ASAP. I was able to call her and she provided phone information for Dr. Mar and assistant coach Mike Durner. While I was unable to speak to Kara at this point I was able to stay in contact with the USA staff and inform Kara’s son.

As soon as Kara’s imaging results came in I learned she had broken her scapula, collar bone and suffered a probable concussion. She also had a bad gash to the head and road rash all over her face and knees. Kara was admitted to the hospital and was not cleared to travel home with the rest of the team the next day. Coach Mike stayed behind with Kara. The next few days were spent in a great amount of pain. Whatever the pain medication was that the hospital provided, it was not enough.  The third day brought some improvement as she started asking about London 2012.

Over the phone I was able to give Mike some instructions for a few exercises to keep Kara busy and her mind off the pain. We started with “baby” belly breathing and just moving her eyes.  In a sense, the crash had reduced her to a vulnerable, almost infantile state.  I wanted to place the Spikey ball behind her head but that was not possible at this point in her recovery. She communicated via text message from Mike, “No way Jose!”

Sunday through Thursday I slept with the phone next to my bed with the ringer on high. Denmark was 8 hours ahead and I did not want to miss a call. There is nothing worse to a coach than being totally out of control of a situation involving their athlete!  I had never met Mike in person and I knew that he was a former Army officer of high character whom I could trust to look after Kara!

During the time Kara was in the hospital in Demark, I worked to assemble the best team possible for her care at home.  Physical therapists that took her insurance were interviewed; I looked for those that use the Functional Movement Screen methodology in their practice, and called to chat with them on the phone.  Ultimately, I scheduled appointments with one and picked two back ups in case Kara did not click with the first.  

The same was done with orthopedic specialists. Another athlete of ours is an orthopedic tech and in charge of surgery scheduling at a hospital in Tucson.  She offered to assist and handpick the surgery team if surgery was necessary.  By getting everything lined up ahead of time, we could save valuable days and weeks in the rehabilitation process, not to mention unquantifiable levels of frustration.  While Kara’s medical situation was still not great, Mike and Kara decided to try to fly home Thursday. This was no easy feat and Mike would take Kara the entire way home. United Airlines, a USOC sponsor, provided tickets. While the airline was very hesitant about the situation, Mike and Kara were given clearance. They would fly from Denmark to Germany, Germany to Houston and finally Houston to Tucson.  It was a 20 hour trip.

Every single pilot knew Kara was onboard and had specific instructions to land the plane as softly as possible. At one point half way across the Atlantic Kara was making some funny sounds in her sleep and the flight crew had the first aid kit out and ready to go. Once the plane touched down in Houston, a pilot came to Kara and asked if it was soft enough! He then saluted her (she was in an official USA cycling jersey since it was the only shirt they could get on her) and pushed her wheelchair all the way to the top of the ramp.  This flight was only days after 9/11, so the sight of a USA jersey undoubtedly evoked a rush of patriotism for the flight crew.

Around 9:30 Thursday evening Kara touched down in Tucson! She was greeted by her family, Allan, Dave Swanson (a paracycling pilot from Tucson who was in Demark as well) and me. I think I was grinning ear to ear from relief of having Kara home. This was the first time I realized the full extent of the severity of the situation and the long road ahead. 

Thanks for reading.  Look for Part III shortly. 

Comments

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Yay! She's home. I hope Kara has a quick and full recovery.

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