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"I lay in the MRI machine in 2015 as it echoed and thumped and clicked, and I cried. I cried because I was a little claustrophobic, but even more afraid of what the images would tell the orthopedic surgeon I was working with. I knew something had been very wrong with my shoulder since a mountain bike crash at age 19 and a lifting injury in Crossfit in 2014. I had toughed out the pain through the years of climbing and lucrative labor jobs it took to become a professional mountain guide on track towards my AMGA certification, but the pain had become so great that after a big day guiding or climbing my shoulder would keep me awake at night. The results confounded my orthopedic surgeon, and he referred me to someone else within his orthopedic medicine practice. This doctor said the damage to my shoulder was too extensive to fix, and referred me to a third orthopedic surgeon in another state. This doctor recommended a full shoulder replacement and said he would forbid me from overhead lifting for the rest of my life. I’m a climber. I’m a mountain guide. This would mean the end of my career and the way I most passionately connect with the natural world. I went to the Steadman Clinic in the fall of 2016 as a last resort. I was not willing to accept that I would either live with pain or be done with my career as a climbing guide at the age of 35, and was willing to do anything within my ability to find someone who could fix my shoulder and save my career. Dr. Tom Hackett at the Steadman Clinic told me that while rare in someone so young, my injury was repairable. The procedure he would use was rare and was not guaranteed to work. As I listened to him describe the recommended surgery and timeline for recovery – at least six months, as a bone graft was required to rebuild the part of the socket that had been shattered in the mountain bike crash – hope again rose in my chest. I had no idea how I was going to take six months from financially lucrative work in addition to paying what Marketplace insurance would not cover. I was determined to find a way. On the way out of the office, already ecstatic at the prospect of pain-free climbing, one of the nurses told me about the Kees Brenninkmeyer Foundation and handed me a sheet of information. When I began to correspond with them and ask my guiding colleagues about their experiences receiving support from them I was blown away. The support I have received has exceeded any expectations I had and allowed me to focus all my energies on my recovery instead of worrying about incurring debt. The surgery – which ended up being 5 different procedures at the same time, including a cadaver bone graft to repair my posterior shoulder socket – was much rougher than I expected. The support from the Kees Brenninkmeyer Foundation with travel and hotel expenses next to the hospital was essential to my ability to get to physical therapy at the amazing Howard Head physical therapy center and follow up appointments while I was still on a nerve block, Game Ready ice machine and heavy medication. Their support with physical therapy expenses allowed me to see a provider in my home community of Jackson, Wyoming that understood the requirements of the profession and sport I was working to return to. This procedure and the support of the Kees Brenninkmeyer Foundation has changed my life and allowed me to continue my profession and passion by seeking out the best surgical and rehabilitative care I could find. "
- Aili Farquhar