SHEBOYGAN, Wis. (AP) - Chris Prange-Morgan has been following in her father’s athletic footsteps ever since her youth.
The 47-year-old Sheboygan native, who now lives in the Milwaukee area, recalls regularly attending softball games at Wildwood Park when she was young, where her Sheboygan Softball Association Hall-of-Famer dad, Randy Prange, notched his status as what she calls “a bit of an old softball legend.”
While attending North High School in the mid-1980s, Prange-Morgan put the family genes to use by joining the school’s track and swim teams. Later, she continued to make physical activity - whether swimming, hiking, kayaking, biking or, for the past decade, rock climbing - a central part of her life.
“I kind of inherited that, the interest in being active, from (my dad) and his family,” she said. “So maybe it’s a genetic thing.”
But when a November 2011 climbing accident threatened that lifestyle, she had to make the tough decision to amputate her right leg below the knee or face ongoing surgeries and crippling pain for the rest of her life, Sheboygan Press Media (https://shebpr.es/1J9OpGi ) reported.
She decided to amputate. The surgery was done in January 2014.
Nearly four years after her injury, Prange-Morgan said she’s just now getting to a more stable place, both emotionally and physically. She says support from family and finding ways to help others along the way have helped her get there.
Prange-Morgan’s injury happened at a Milwaukee-area gym on a route she had climbed many times before.
She went to the gym the morning of Nov. 30, 2011, with her adopted son, whom she said has special needs, as well as some behavioral challenges that require 30 hours of in-home therapy each week and ongoing appointments at Children’s Hospital.
Prange-Morgan said she was preoccupied by thoughts of an appointment later that morning as she readied for a climb and, “in a moment of distraction,” forgot to clip into the auto-belay system.
She was near the top of the climbing wall when she slipped off a hold, falling about 30 feet. She ended up with a crushed tibia, as well as fractures to her ankle, rib and pelvis.
“First of all, we were glad she was alive,” her father, Randy, now 74 and still living in Sheboygan, said, referring to his and wife, Kathy Prange’s, reactions to the news. “We went down right away to the hospital and she was pretty broken up.”
Initially, Prange-Morgan said she held out hope that surgeons could salvage her leg, but after 11 surgeries within three years, ever-present pain and some research on others in her position who chose to amputate, she decided she needed to “just off this thing” to regain her quality of life.
“I talk about the discernment process and a big part of that discernment process was sort of in looking at who I am and the fact that I am my father’s daughter, you know, and I’m an active person,” she said. “I decided I’d rather let the ankle and the leg go and continue to be this person that I am, almost in a way to kind of honor what I’ve inherited as kind of an athletic legacy.”
Prange-Morgan said she’s been able to stave off depression by focusing her energy and efforts on others.
In the months after her injury, she began researching ways she could give back.
“It was kind of my avoiding depression plan,” she said.
She ended up starting a Wisconsin chapter of Adaptive Adventures, a non-profit organization focused on bringing outdoor sports opportunities to people with disabilities. Each week, the Wisconsin chapter puts on a climbing night for people with physical disabilities at Adventure Rock gym in Pewaukee and Boulders Climbing Gym in Madison.
Additionally, Prange-Morgan spurred the creation of a Trauma Peer Mentor Program at Froedtert Hospital through which she and three other former patients visit trauma patients once a week to offer support and an understanding ear.
She also continues to work part-time at the Tri-County YMCA teaching fitness classes.
And she continues to climb, both recreationally and competitively. On Friday, July 17, she participated in the second annual Adaptive Climbing National Championship in Kennesaw, Georgia.
Randy Prange said it’s been hard at times watching his daughter’s recovery and feeling like it’s out of his control, but he’s learned to “give up and let God.”
“She’s a trooper,” Prange said. “She’s doing a lot of good with this all. That’s important for her.”
Information from: Sheboygan Press Media, https://www.sheboygan-press.com
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