Two weeks ago I was ranked third in the world in my Olympic sport, Ski Cross. I was heading into the last World Cup before the Olympic Games. My ticket was booked.
My name was on the list. It was a done deal. I was the top-ranked Canadian and, at the age of 28, I was going to represent my country for the 4th time at the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Or not. The next thing I know I’m on a stretcher in a medical tent yelling in agonizing pain at the mountain rescue team about the specifics of how to take off my ski boots. Four people are trying to take off the thick frozen piece of plastic that is often best removed by the person wearing it.
My Olympics were over before they had even started. And, I was screaming in pain.
I was driven to the Calgary hospital that night. I had broken both of my legs during the last Canadian World Cup Ski Cross race in Nakiska, Alberta. The race was just a few weeks before the Olympics and the only thing I’d be taking home was more titanium in my body.
My screw count must be in the 20’s or 30’s now.
The next morning after my leg surgeries – drilling and inserting a rod and screws into my left tibia and screws into my right tibia – I asked the doctors how long my hospital stay would last.
Subconsciously, I had once again tapped into my mental strength, and the challenge of overcoming this obstacle had begun.
“A few days until you can walk with crutches”, they said.
“Can I try now?” I replied.
An awkwardness swept through the room. “Uhh, okay, we’ll have the physiotherapists come in a few hours and help you try to walk with the crutches” the nurses responded, before walking out. I’m sure she thought I was delusional.
“Let’s do this,” I thought. “Bring it on”.
“You have excellent upper body strength!” they said smiling, as I pulled my body up and down the stairs.
“You have no idea…” I thought to myself. All my summer training rushed through my mind.
I was released that day, less than 20 hours after my surgery. This was the first of many obstacles that lay ahead.
Two days later, an MRI on my knee creonfirmed the extent the damage. I had shredded my left knee. From international fame on the sporting world’s biggest stage to the shattering reality of rebuilding not one but two broken legs, as well as a royally shredded knee and five surgeries later, my future had changed in a matter of seconds.
What a shift in my future, in my mindset, in my daily challenges. It had gone from competing against the best in the world, relying on no one else except myself to get down a race course, to needing someone to lift my legs every time I got off the couch. Someone had to make me food, physically hold me steady as I crutched to the bathroom, and put me to bed. I relied on loved ones for absolutely every basic necessity.
Many people ask mehow I have stayed so positive through such a challenging time. How can my spirit seem to be so relentlessly up? I never know how to answer. Of course, I have moments of sadness throughout my day. I think of my two teammates’, Kelsey and Brit, and their smiling faces. I’m happy knowing they’re going to have the time of their lives at the Olympics, then I instantly burst into tears knowing I am going to miss it all.
But here’s the thing. As I was lying in bed falling asleep during the challenging first week of rehab for my legs with the drowsiness of the pain meds starting to kick in, I overheard a conversation. My girlfriend, who has been my rock throughout this whole ordeal, and my dear mother, were chatting about my mindset. They spoke about my resiliency, my determination, and the power of living in the present moment especially during difficult times.
It was incredible to listen to these two women, who I have so much respect for. They were talking about the ingredients for a positive mind, my positive mind. It was quite magical, as I nodded off, despite feeling like I was eavesdropping on their conversation.
I will probably always stumble when people ask me that question, “How are you staying so positive?” Simple: it’s really an extension of me. I have those qualities, that resiliency, in my bones. I was determined to leave that hospital. An instinct just kicks in, telling me this is where I am – right here, right now. And I know I have to get through this.
What other option is there? I don’t see any alternative. I fully understand how others can get trapped in depression after such incidences, but I choose to stay positive and to focus on getting stronger every single day.
Starting rehab as soon as I possibly could with my support team, making phone calls to doctors, physios, focusing on getting stronger gives me a personal mission to accomplish so I can get back to achieving my goals.
Life is too short to wallow in the misery of missing out on anything. I have too much that I still want to strive to accomplish. I say strive because my life is not about winning the actual medal. Of course, that is the “goal” as an elite athlete – to win. And, boy it feels good when you do. But my life is fulfilled knowing I inspire young girls and boys with the everyday successes we experience on the road to that medal performance. There’s so much more success and happiness ahead of me, and as soon as I heal, I’m back to living my purpose.
***** Stay tuned for more from Georgia as she shares her progress on WomanScape. To share your thoughts with Georgia and cheer her on, we encourage you to leave a comment on WomanScape or visit Georgia’s website at: http://www.georgiasimmerling.ca