On My Own Feet
Nurdjana De Rijcke (+Video)
After a turbulent time in our lives, my husband and I decided to hit the road for a trip we hoped would boost our rocky relationship. A month later, we were in deeper trouble than before. I found myself injured and alone and had to find a way to stand on my own feet again—with some help from a secret Good Samaritan.
We’d been saving for the big trip almost as long as we’d been together. We started brainstorming when we met, climbing in Spain, seven years before. The plan got serious when I moved to Canmore: the idea was, we’d climb for half the year; the other six months we’d spend in Europe, where I’d be working my dream job as a TV reporter.
Now it was time. And this would also be the perfect chance to rekindle the romance in our relationship—we’d had a hard time reconnecting after our daughter was born. Both my parents had died recently, and things were tough.
But just as we were about to hit the road, my partner landed the job of a lifetime. We decided to postpone the trip and also my career. Instead, I would support my husband’s career and take care of our little girl.
A year later, my partner finished the job, and we finally hit the road, only to find ourselves, a month later, back in Canmore. I had fallen while climbing and shattered my ankle. I needed surgery and intensive physiotherapy—and there was a chance my foot would never fully function again.
I started my recovery in our camper van, in the middle of winter, with our incontinent dog, two-year-old daughter and a relationship that was dying. Our water pipes froze, by-law officers moved us along wherever we parked, and every time I got out of the van, I risked breaking more bones on the ice patches around town.
One of the first times I was able to walk without crutches, I went to Main Street to do some errands and couldn’t resist ducking into an expensive shoe store. My eye fell on a pair of high suede fleece-lined winter boots. They were both sturdy and beautiful. Yes, I was broke, but I had a good Samaritan who bought them for me without even knowing it. My mother had left me some money, and even though she was gone, I bought them as a birthday gift from her. Although she didn’t know she bought them for me, I know she would have if she could have. She was my good Samaritan, always there when I needed her, just like she promised.
My daughter and I moved into a tiny place while my partner stayed in the van. The separation was awful. Immigration, becoming a mother, losing my parents, and eventually, my injury had pushed me into a dependent situation I needed to get out of. I needed a job badly—I literally needed to get back on my own two feet.
I got an interview for a job as a stage manager at the Banff Centre. I remember getting ready for it, needing someone to manipulate my foot so I wouldn’t limp: basically, somebody had to grab my foot and whack it into place so the bones would align again. Once my ankle was in place, I put on the beautiful boots.
I got the job, but I had no idea how I was going to do it. Carry drum kits, move pianos, put risers together? Having to give the appearance that nothing was wrong helped. I taught myself how to walk through the pain. The boots helped me stand on my own two feet again and pretend I wasn’t injured. I wore those same boots every day, and they got me through all my shifts. According to my physiotherapist, that’s what helped me heal so fast. Those boots showed me I could do it on my own…with a bit of help from my mom.
NURDJANA DE RIJCKE moved to Canada from the Netherlands to live with her Canadian partner after meeting on a climbing trip in Spain. After a successful career as a journalist in the Netherlands, she settled into a slow-paced life in the Canadian Rockies. She has a daughter and is expecting another baby.