Trading my Hiking Poles for Crutches (Again)

“I’m having surgery! I’m just so excited. I can’t even believe it. Not just one, but two! What an answer to prayer. Isn’t that great?” I exclaim with a childish grin.

“I’ve never seen anyone excited about surgery before,” Shannon, the physical therapy assistant, says with just a hint of surprise. She’s known me for several months by now, so she’s notably unaffected by my emotional extremes.

“You’re probably going to be in more pain than you think and need more help than you expect. They are going in there stitching up your labrum and shaving down your bone after all. That’s going to hurt some,” Shannon explained in an attempt to awaken me to the harsher realities of being cut open.

As soon as the surgeon recommended I have operations on both my hips (spaced at least six weeks apart), an unfamiliar peace flooded me. I’d spent the last six months drowning in a sea of unknowns.

Were my hips getting better? Oh no, that was pinching. Or was it pain? Definitely pain. Enough pain to justify going under the knife? But, surely, it would only get worse when I go back to hiking 1,400 miles. What’s the point of waiting to be in more pain? But what’s the point of surgery if I’m not in enough pain yet?

These thoughts had been swirling in my head nearly nonstop since being injured. Here’s the Cliffs Notes version of the whole ordeal: three months of hiking, two months of limping, six weeks of crutching (after an MRI revealed a femoral stress fracture and a labral tear in my left hip), two more months of strengthening/attempting hikes (during which another MRI revealed a labral tear in my right hip), and a month of anxiously gathering information from Google and doctors.


Every medical professional (and person capable of posting on the internet) has a strong opinion opposite to the one before him. I was completely perplexed, wondering whether or not it would be wise to try conservative treatments to postpone having an operation that sounded inevitable.

At last, after God led me to switch doctors, my new surgeon silenced the uncertainties about treatment plans by explaining that operating is the only way to fix labral tears. He confidently offered encouraging statistics about this relatively routine procedure.

March 14 is the day I will pack up my well-loved crutches in the car (to knock $30 off those medical bills), don my thousand-dollar hospital gown rental, and fall into the most expensive sleep of my life. I’ll wake up to a world of temporary one-legged hopping, a healed hip, and (I pray) a heaping helping of pain pills.

Perhaps then the realities of recovery will hit. Surgery, even if it goes smoothly, is not an instantaneous cure-all to my problems. To counter my overly optimistic outlook on the magic of the medical field, my counselor reminded me that most things in life are not all good or all bad. However great having surgery is, hard days are unavoidable and healing takes time.

And so, the process of relearning to trust God to provide will continue. He doesn’t give us pain pills to heal the hurt all at once. He limps with us through the valleys, teaching us to believe that He will be enough to sustain us through every season.

Whether walking through sunsets or thunderstorms, I was never alone on the Appalachian Trail. God was with me on the hike and in the months of pain and uncertainty that followed.

He gave me a best friend as a roommate, a cruise to renew my spirits after the first round of crutches, and a job teaching English to Chinese kids online (a passion I didn’t know I had).


Once again, I prepare to enter a season of weakness. I’ll be unable to drive or pick things up off the ground (without the help of my “As Seen on TV” Gopher II grabber. Thank you, Walmart). I won’t be able to run for five or six months and likely won’t be able to backpack for at least eight months.

But I do know this: He will be strong in my weakness, and He will give me Himself when there is nothing else left.

Of course, I’d appreciate your prayers for smooth surgeries and healed hips, but most of all, please pray that I’d believe Him more and more. Oh, and I’d love to hear your stories and struggles, too. I’m quite free the next few weeks.

Being an AT hiker has meant using crutches for just as long as I used hiking poles

4 thoughts on “Trading my Hiking Poles for Crutches (Again)

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  1. I’m praying for a successful surgery and smooth recovery period for you, Jori. I know it will take time, effort, and endurance, but you can do it, and I can’t wait to hear that you’re tackling the AT again.


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