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February 15, 2013

Miranda Oldroyd: How CrossFit Saved My Life

Written by Damect Dominguez

Imagine if tomorrow everything changed. No more WODs, no more competitions, no more PRs. In their place stood a broken neck, bottles of pain medication with prescriptions lasting two years, or, if you’re strong enough and at the doc’s OK, bicep curls and leg extensions for the next six months. As Miranda reflects on the accident and subsequent recovery at what could have been were it not for CrossFit, she articulates the following words: Fate loves the fearless.

It was a sunny summer day in California as Miranda Oldroyd, on a coffee run for her Level 1 CrossFit seminar team, was making a left on a busy six-lane road. Within an instant she found herself “smashed across three lanes and on the sidewalk facing the opposite direction.”

“Immediately when the car stopped I was in severe pain, mostly in my neck. Both of my hands were on the dashboard and I was leaned toward the passenger’s side. Because my neck hurt so badly I just kept repeating to myself out loud ‘you’re OK…don’t move…it’s OK.’ All of the airbags were deployed and the entire passenger’s side where I was looking (trying not to move) was mangled. The door panel and glove box were almost unrecognizable. The windshield had shattered and I had glass, and coffee, all over me. I was bleeding but I didn’t know from where. I was too scared to look…too scared and in too much pain to move.

Luckily, there was an ambulance that saw the whole thing go down. Pretty quickly I had someone talking to me. I realized my hand hurt…and shortly after I learned why. The paramedic (I think….I couldn’t turn to see any of these people) asked me to turn the car off. I couldn’t. Because somehow I had managed to karate chop the keys during the accident and break the key off in the ignition.

I was pulled out of the car via spine board with my head strapped down. I honestly thought I was never going to be able to move again.”

Despite the intensity of the accident, at the hospital, the doctor diagnosed Miranda with a broken hand and some whiplash. Despite complaining of severe neck pain, no x-rays were taken. She was sent home with some pain meds and a recommendation to see an orthopedic doctor to cast her broken hand.

After much difficulty finding an orthopedic doctor, Miranda was finally able to schedule an appointment. While getting her hand cast at the orthopedic doctor’s office, Miranda mentioned not having her neck x-rayed at the hospital. After the initial shock wore off, Dr. Bhuva had the x-rays done and told her he’d have a specialist review the results and contact her if anything was wrong. Little did she know how valuable this “just in case x-ray” would turn out.

Although the pain in her neck was still excruciating, the accident was now behind her. The 2012 CrossFit Games were two weeks away and Miranda was ready for her role with CrossFit Media; she had been prepping for this for months. To help with her mobility, she began a series of self-prescribed exercises including hiking, air squatting and attempts to turn her head as much as possible.

Slowly, her neck improved.

The Games were a complete success for Miranda. She even managed to squeeze in a couple of workouts including two 5k runs and a post-Games after party. The accident was so yesterday!
The week after the Games, Miranda returned to Dr. Bhuva’s office to get a new cast. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, this appointment would offer her a very rude awakening.

“When I walked into the doctor’s office and checked in, everyone, from the woman at the desk to the nurse to the assistant to the doctor said they were so worried about me! They said they had been trying to contact me all week! Dr. Bhuva said that they had tried everything….calling, sending a letter, and finally Facebook. That’s where Dr. Bhuva said he realized why he couldn’t get a hold of me. He ended up watching the Update Show and then the feed on ESPN 3. (Loved it by the way!)”

Although the doctor informed her she might have a slipped facet joint, Miranda wasn’t too worried. Afterall, she had been OK’d by the ER doctor and her neck continued to improve while her training slowly intensified. Despite her very carefree approach, and somewhat annoyed that her afternoon workout would be delayed, they immediately made an appointment for her get a CT scan and then to see a neurosurgeon. Miranda obliged.

After a quick scan, it was finally time to workout. Although, she felt her neck was getting better, Miranda was still being safe, leaving out any explosive movements such as Olympic lifts and anything that may place additional stress on her neck. Either way, it was time to workout.

Then then phone rang. While at the gym, Miranda’s husband frantically called and told her she needed to call the doctor immediately. She obliged, again, very carefree. Her workout was being delayed again!

Below is Miranda’s recollection of the conversation:

Dr. Fox: Miranda, I was just handed your scans from this afternoon. I know you have an appointment with a neurosurgeon in two days, but you need to go to an ER right now. You have a break in two places in your C2 vertebrae. I honestly can’t believe you have been walking around like this for the past two weeks. You are in serious danger. Any little fall, or bump or wrong twist of the head and you could be a quadriplegic for the rest of your life. Can you get to a hospital? Where are you?
Me: (in tears and shaking) Yes. I am in San Jose on Saratoga and Stevens Creek.
Dr. Fox: OK, you need to go right now, don’t drive yourself, to the nearest ER. It is O’Connor Hospital. Tell them you have a VERY unstable C2 fracture. Do you have any questions?
Me: Yes. Should I be as terrified as I am right now?
Dr. Fox: Yes. You are in serious danger walking around like that. If you were a member of my family I would have you in the car on the way to the ER right now. Tell the person driving to drive very carefully.
At this moment, I was the most scared I have ever been in my entire life. I was afraid to even move. I couldn’t believe what I just heard and I was positive that at any moment I was going to be paralyzed. I was shaking, my heart was pounding as I went from excited to train to worried if I was going to be able to walk tomorrow.

Once she arrived at the hospital, the neurosurgeon showed her the CT scan that confirmed what they had just discussed on the phone. Her C2 was broken into three pieces. The doctor told her how lucky she was – this was an understatement! “I was told again, by the neurosurgeon now, that the strength of my neck saved me from having much more serious complications with the break…as well as that muscle acting as a legit neck brace for 2 1/2 weeks to keep that vertebrae stable” says Miranda.

Her options were surgery or wearing a halo for three months. After discussing her scenario with several doctors within the CrossFit community, they all agreed that she would be stronger and would heel faster with surgery.
Immediately after surgery Miranda knew that she had made the right decision. Three days after the surgery she was in less pain than she was three days before it. “And I wanna say that 4 days after the surgery I was out in the parking lot of the media office wearing a neck brace, doing air squats and lunges and riding the Airdyne bike. I wouldn’t have been able to do all that wearing the halo, I don’t think” says Miranda.

The recovery process has gone very well. “You go from what we do everyday to having somebody see if your capable of walking up and down a set of stairs,” says Miranda. At the Doctor’s order (and because of the pain it caused), initially she wasn’t allowed to do anything that required her to bend at the waist or to perform fast, explosive movements of any sorts. The goal was to start slow and progress from there. Three months after surgery Miranda says the only thing she won’t go crazy on is kipping handstand pushups. She has done some handstand pushups, just really strict and not to the point where she needs to rest her head at the bottom. By the third month, Miranda had progressed to Olympic lifting and kipping. By month four, she had essentially done everything.

Looking back at what she’s been through, Miranda credits CrossFit for helping her overcome both the physical and mental struggles she came across. Physically, the muscles in her neck may have literally saved her life, acting as a brace after the accident, during the Games and until the day it was surgically repaired. Mentally, Miranda admits that it is because of CrossFit that she was able to keep such a positive attitude. “And just immediately my first question was when could I workout. Right after the accident and right after my surgery it’s like, what can I do and when can I workout? And just the ability to stay positive and want to get back to where I was and believe that I could, that’s all mental right and CrossFit provided me with that. I wouldn’t consider myself before CrossFit like a really hard-ass mentally strong person” states Miranda.

Two weeks after surgery, feeling blessed, Miranda got a tattoo on the back of her neck that reads “Fate loves the fearless”. The words are from a poem by American author James Russell Lowell about embracing the unknown.

In Miranda’s words: “You can’t walk around worried about what’s going to happen all the time, cause you’ll be frozen. I was living my life not worried I was going to get in a car accident. I was just doing what I love and what I wanted to do and because I was doing that, that’s why the outcome was so good. And now that means even more. I can get in a car accident tomorrow and die but I’m going to do what I love again. I’m going to keep doing CrossFit and keep reaching for my goals. And not everyone is as lucky and not everyone can continue on as I have. So I wanna make sure and do that, to basically celebrate how lucky I am. So be fearless in life and do what you want to do.”

Here’s a look at Miranda post-accident doing some med ball clean:

About Damect Dominguez

Co-founder of BoxLife Magazine. Author: Training Day: 400+ Workouts to Incorporate in Your Training.

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