Helena woman recovers after losing leg in climbing accident
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Kaylene Murphy hopes her story of faith and recovery will encourage others.
The 32-year-old Helena native moved to Bozeman in 2009, where she found a home with Chi Alpha, a campus ministry that allows her to meet and mentor young Christians.
“I really felt like God was calling me to work with college students,” she said. Her work included a women’s Bible study, mentoring discipleship and parties that give students something to do that doesn’t involved drinking.
Kaylene also became an avid climber, both inside the gym and outside on a rock wall.
“I love the problem-solving aspect of that — figuring out a route and how to get to the top, and then when you get to the top you feel accomplished, like I did that,” she said. “I’m also scared of heights, so it’s an interesting thing. I love getting to the top and seeing the views, but it’s scary at the same time. I love that rush in a way.”
Kaylene remembers only a few details from June 30. She recalls the drive out to rock climbing mecca Natural Bridge near Big Timber. She had lunch with her boyfriend, Josh Baker, and noticed some gear left from another climber while they scaled one of the rock walls. But the details of the accident — the 6-foot slab of rock that dislodged, severing portions of her arm and leg and striking her head — remain absent from her memory.
Kaylene was airlifted to Billings, where she underwent surgery. There she remembers bits and pieces, like her cousin randomly commenting on her eyebrows and her best friend playing songs from high school as she danced along with her finger.
By late August she reached the end point of her initial recovery, and that meant the next phase of rehab, which included fitting and learning to use prosthetics. Through a friend in Salt Lake City, she spoke with a patient with a similar leg amputation and “that kind of sealed the deal.”
While her rehab commenced, her sister launched the Facebook page Prayers for Kaylene Murphy as a means of keeping family and friends updated. Inspired by her positive attitude in the face of major physical challenges, more and more people began to track her story.
“That’s how it started out and then it kind of exploded from there,” Kaylene told the Independent Record . “I joke about having ‘followers’ and I have to do this for my followers.
“So it blew up on accident in a way, but my perspective on all of it is this was a really horrible thing that has happened to me, but if I can encourage somebody and help somebody where they’re at, then it’s OK. That’s the main thing I’ve wanted to happen from this: that God would be glorified and that other people would be encouraged from my story. That’s made it a little bit better.”
Her mother Crystal Christifon says Kaylene has always displayed a degree of toughness since she was young, and credits her faith as the foundation of her recovery.
“There’re still tough moments but she doesn’t have a tough day — her frustrating times don’t last,” Crystal said. “It truly is a moment and she shakes it off and moves forward, it’s just how she is and who she is. She makes the best of it and keeps her eyes looking up at Jesus.”
Along with the Facebook page is an online fundraiser that has raised more than $67,000, in addition to a number of event fundraisers such as a recent climb at Stonetree in Helena.
“That’s pretty overwhelming because I’ve seen how my community has surrounded me and there’s been so much financially given to help with expenses and everything, it’s pretty amazing,” Kaylene said. “I’d like to thank everybody that’s helped me, but there’s no way I can actually thank everybody because I don’t know who everybody is.”
Crystal echoed her appreciation for the outpouring of support. Her daughter’s hospital room was so full of gifts that they were barely able to transport them home. And the financial strain has been softened by the generosity of everyone from close neighbors to complete strangers.
“It has been incredible and just a huge, huge blessing,” she said.
While insurance has covered much of the medical expenses, prosthetics adapted to various activities are extremely expensive. A specific leg for running or hiking costs about $64,000, Crystal said, which is where much the money raised will go.
Kaylene recently returned to Helena, enjoying some smaller aspects of “normal life” such as getting ready in the morning, and continuing physical therapy with the committed support of her family and boyfriend. Josh is among her best motivators, often encouraging her by asking what she needs to do to get better each day, she said.
“I do have a goal of getting back to Bozeman, but I don’t really have a timeline of it because I want to give myself as much time as I need to,” she said. “The goal right now is to keep getting better, doing the exercises my PT gave me so I can get stronger and get healthier so that eventually I can live on my own.”
Kaylene also hopes to one day climb again.
“I still really love climbing and I’d love to get back to that.”
Information from: Independent Record, http://www.helenair.com