Originally Written by Robert Sutherland on 3rd August 2015
Let’s pretend for a moment that this is your story:
I was a triathlete, a paramedic, kick-boxing champion, solo Pacific Trail thru-hiker, ski instructor and climber.
On Friday, November 1, 2013, I fell while rappelling in Utah. I broke my pelvis, spine, and shattered my left foot. The damage was so severe they had to amputate my foot.
The pain and depression required medication. Then came the need for meds and the troubles that caused.
I am young. I am a woman.
My name is Niki Rellon.
So. What will the next chapter of your life look like? Which exit or on-ramp do you take on the Road of Life:
- The Rocky Road of I Cannot
- The Dead End of I Will Not
- The Long Road to Recovery
Niki Rellon cannot be properly defined by the single word “amputee.” Victor, perhaps, but not amputee. ~~ Photo from Nike Rellon’s Facebook page
Most of us cannot imagine the kinds of struggles that are Niki’s.
We freak out when the refrigerator conks out, overflowing tubs leak into rooms on lower floors and when we can’t find our car keys.
A few among us must cope with words like “lump,” “overdue,” “accident,” “met someone else” or “cutbacks.”
Hearing a doctor say you must have an amputation? That’s got to be big-time difficult.
Niki Rellon — against considerable advice — decided to face her suddenly new life on the Appalachian Trail. With determination, hiking poles and one new leg.
Taking “Bionic Woman” as her Trail name, she headed north from Georgia’s Springer Mountain and set her sights on Maine’s Katahdin mountains, home of Baxter Peak, the end of the Trail.
Bionic Woman “only” hiked seven miles her first day on the Trail. As if that’s something to be ashamed of because she “should have” done more while carrying a pack on her back with all her gear. Can you imagine?
Years ago I tried to talk my older brother, Jim, into hiking the AT. That’s been a dream of his for most of his life. I think his reference to the Trail was my initiation into its existence. Jim is pushing 70, in great shape and really could make the trek.
Jim (I call him “Jimmy” of course) said he has bad knees and a pain here and/or there.
I smugly replied with advice that I would never accept for myself:
Pffft! You could make it! If you got into trouble, the blind hikers and the folks on crutches would help you, until the little girls and old men arrived to care for you.
Laugh, but that’s true.
Great pain and great tragedies can birth great triumphs.
I marvel at the life and achievements of Niki Rellon — when she had two good legs and now that she is the Bionic Woman.
If I understand correctly, as of the end of July, 2015, Niki has hiked more than 1,000 miles. She made it to Harpers Ferry, WV, then flip-flopped to Maine.
That’s where hikers climb an almost-mile-high-mountain in order to begin to hike the Appalachian Trail southward to Georgia.
Here’s the story of her descent from Katahdin posted at http://clickmedical.co/news/niki-rellon/:
There is good reason that the north end of trail closes early. On Niki’s second day heading south, she learned firsthand how quickly the weather can change. As she was descending off Mt. Baxter, she was caught in a wet and windy storm with gusts over 80 miles per hour. She was literally being blown off the mountain. She had no choice, but to hunker down in her sleeping bag and call for help. A ranger came to her aid and the pair was able to escape to lower elevation. Unfortunately, the long wait in wet sub-zero temperatures resulted in frostbite to Niki’s toes and fingers. She was forced to take yet another recovery break of several days.
She was literally being blown off the mountain.
Now (early August), Niki is back on the trail and making progress. Her sights are still set on becoming the first female amputee to finish the AT thru-hike. However she has already accomplished her main objective – to regain her strength and become med-free. Niki expects to finish in late October or early November.
In my estimation, Niki doesn’t need to walk another foot to be my hero. She’s done plenty.
Suzannah the Muse
When I told Suzannah (my muse) about Niki, she replied “Now, that’s a story! Wow!”
And all Appalachian Trail hikers said, “Amen!”
Niki and You
What are you sure that you cannot do in life? What uniquely insurmountable troubles and woes whup your butt? What is too hard for you?
Does the fact that Niki is hiking the AT on one leg mean that your problems are insignificant? No.
Does it mean all your issues are easily overcome? No.
Niki Rellon hiking the Appalachian Trail after having one leg amputated does mean that we do not have to give up on life, crawl into a hole and have a lifelong pity party.
Cheer up! Life could be worse … and if you life long enough it will get worse! It’s all a matter of how you will deal with your life, wherever it leads.
I admire the way Niki Rellon tackles the mountains and valleys in her life. May God bless her.
You go, girl! Everything’s going to be all right.
Lynchburg, VA – Niki Rellon is not a woman who sits down for long.
She’s led an incredible life. A native of Berlin, Germany she now calls Denver, Colorado home and she’s a former professional boxer, ski instructor, sky diver-you get the picture.
And she’s a woman who when she hears “no,” she says “Oh, yes I can.” So, she said ‘yes’ to becoming the first woman to hiking the Appalachian Trail on a prosthetic leg.
Two years ago she survived a devastating fall which cost her a leg, but not her bravery nor her never say die spirit.
It was November 1st, 2013- Rellon was in Lake Powell Utah- “canyoneering”- with a group of friends.
Before the trip: Her rappelling gear got mixed up with the group’s.
Niki Rellon, “Usually I would check the harness the night before and that was the reason it was put together in the wrong order.”
A near fatal mistake- a synthetic loop instead of a metal loop was all that held her 150 feet in the air as she rappelled off a canyon wall.
“And I came off the last remaining 45 feet and I completely got snapped out of that synthetic loop and it was amazing that synthetic loop held me up for that time. I tell people that it was not likely I would’ve survive that 45 feet (fall).”
Rellon broke her pelvis, her ribs, punctured a lung-and shattered her left tibia. It took eight hours to get the critically injured Rellon to a hospital.
“That’s another miracle right there-that I was able to survive.”
Doctors had to amputate her leg below the left knee.
She returned to her native Germany for rehab-and while there-she eventually grew bored going to the gym.
“I don’t like routines.”
That’s when the avid hiker-got the idea to hike the 2,300 mile Appalachian Trail as a way to continue her recovery.
“So I knew I would have to force myself to go quick, way, fast better, by convincing myself that I have to hike everyday.”
On March 9th of this year-she set out alone to conquer the trail-and in nine and a half months on a prosthetic limb-she became part of what she calls the “Class of 2015.”
“I got told many times that I’m kinda stubborn or determined. We are probably famous as German people for being really determined.”
Rellon plans to write a book about her survival and extreme sport experiences when she returns home to Denver-on her motorcycle