Skiing Across Alaska: While We Heal, We Learn

Apr 21, 2011
Outside Magazine

To raise awareness about first responders diagnosed with PTSD, guest blogger Michael Ferrara plans to ski 900 miles across Alaska, south to north, from the Pacific Ocean to the Arctic Ocean, with his dog, Lhotse, trotting beside him. To learn more about Ferrara's quest, read The Man Who Saw Too Much and check out his web site,

So here we are in Talkeetna. My knee gets better each day. Still swollen and black and blue but not painful. I can almost walk without a limp.

Talking this morning at breakfast, the subject turned to sports news. In that area was the new concussion disclosures coming out almost daily. I realized how analogous it is with PTSD and what I'm trying to do.   When I was involved in team sports, if you got a concussion you were supposed to buck up and deal with it.  Any tough guy would just take a lap and a salt pill and forget it. If you didn't you were just weak.

I remember after one of my concussions (actually remember may be literary license), I returned to the locker room unable to find my locker or know where I was. The coaches were called. They came out annoyed by this disturbance. They broke an ammonia capsule under my nose, told me to shower up, and sent me home. I spent two days in the hospital.

My friend Rusty from Syracuse once got up off the pile and went over and sat on the Maryland bench.  Coaches had to go get him and bring him back to the Syracuse side. Of course he wasn't taken out of the game. Now that it's being acknowledged and accepted that players are affected by concussions, that concussions affect your off-time life and many players deal with this problem, it's being discussed.

My hope is that eventually the same will occur for rescuers with PTSD. That rescuers are affected by PTSD, that PTSD affects their off-time life, and many rescuers deal with this problem. Going back into the game hurt is not the smart thing to do. The injuries you suffer may affect you the rest of your life.

Luckily, I have had four concussions—that I know of—and they have not affected my life. That is... I mean... What was I talking about? Oh, yeah, now I remember. I think chocolate is my favorite ice cream but I do like banana gelato. Oh, well. All for now.

Good bye from Talkeetna, where the road ends and life begins. I'm looking for property here but please don't tell my sister.  She'll think I've come up with some crazy new idea.

The boyz.

--Michael Ferrara

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