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The Road to Recovery - Grace Hiljus

by Kelly Vance on September 05, 2016

Ambassador Grace Hiljus

Breaking my Arm

Many of us who do extreme sports have experienced that moment when you fall, and you know something's going to go wrong. For me, this moment was on February 25th, 2016. I was snowboarding and on my last run of the night.  I was doing a backside boardslide and hit a divot in the rail. My board came up a bit, and I was unable to turn back around when I landed. When I reached the snow, my body was still facing uphill, and this where things went wrong. I caught my edge and fell down. I caught myself with my right arm but landed on top of my left arm.

I didn't know I was injured at first, because I couldn't feel it, but when I tried to get up I couldn't move my arm. My friends helped me up and I was laughing at first. As soon as I realized what happened, I got really mad and yelled at my friends (sorry guys). I was there with ski club and they wouldn't let me ride the bus home so after two hours of sitting with ski patrol, who were talking about how “fun” the rest of the season was going to be, my dad came and brought me to the emergency room.

The doctor told me my humerus bone spun 15 degrees and separated and that I would need surgery. I asked him if I could just have a cast instead so I could still snowboard and he said no. I thought I would be snowboarding again within a few weeks, I was completely wrong.

Rocking my snowpants and boots in the ER

Surgery and Recovery


I had to wait a week for surgery because my arm was so swollen, but finally on March 1st I went in for surgery. It was a four hour long procedure that left me with a huge plate and 6 pins all the way down my humerus. I felt terrible. They kept me overnight due to loss of feeling in my hands and how I was feeling.  

After that, I spent most of my time laying in my parents bed watching TV, wishing I could fall asleep. I stopped taking my medication (oxycodone) the day after surgery because my stomach hurt really bad. I was dizzy and hot all the time. I would randomly cry because I was missing spring snowboarding, my favorite part of the season.  I also  missed school for 3 weeks.  On the bright side, people brought me tons of ice cream!

After I got my splint off and staples out I started physical therapy. I started to call my physical therapist my “physical terrorist” because of a joke my grandma made. It took me at least month just to learn to straighten my arm out.

I ended up going to closing day at my home hill (Wild Mountain, MN), but I couldn't snowboard. My mom took away my snowboard just to make sure I didn't try anything. My friend offered to let me ride his and I considered it, but there was no way I'd be able to grab onto the tow rope.  I realized it wasn't just the snowboarding I missed, it was also the people. There's an unexplainable bond you have with the people you snowboard with. Seeing them and just hanging out definitely helped a lot.


With my friend Colton Klimas on closing day.

It took me three months after surgery to get cleared. While I thought this was long, my surgeon said it was an incredible healing time. Recovery is hard and painful, but your attitude can change it so much. I am now fully recovered and the only evidence of my injury is the scar on my arm and some random clicking. Some of the activities I have enjoyed since then are cliff jumping, wakeboarding, and longboarding. I am so much happier and only have 57 days until my next snowboard season starts!!

Learning how to wakeboard!


Recovery Tips

Looking back at my recovery, I felt like some things went well, while I wish I did other things differently. Here are a few helpful tips on how to survive (and thrive?) through your injury and recovery.

  • Realize it's okay to be upset. You will be angry with yourself at first and it'll be hard not to think about what you could have done to prevent the injury. But eventually try to get past these feelings and focus on what happened and getting better.
  • Find new hobbies. Whether it's drawing, writing, an adult coloring book, or even just watching your favorite show; make sure you're doing things you enjoy!
  • Have family help you through it. If there's something you can't do, ask for help. Or even if you just want them to sit with you for awhile I'm sure they'd be glad to.
  • Friends!! Having your friends come visit is always great (and there's a good chance they'll show up with good food *wink wink*). It's always good to have someone to hang out with and make you laugh while you're in pain.
  • Get off your medication. It's good to get off your meds as soon as you can. Most of them are addictive and ruin the lining of your stomach. Even switching to ibuprofen will benefit you. However, if the doctor tells you that you need to stay on them… Stay on them!!
  • Realize it's not the end of the world. You will be back to shredding in a few months! You can get through this. Believe me.
  • Listen to your doctor. Don't push your limits too far, if the doctor tells you not to do something, don't do it. He/she tells you not to do it to protect you. You could definitely end up with a worse injury if you go against what they say.
  • Have a support system. My SheShreds sisters definitely helped me through my injury and even got me started in wakeboarding as soon as I recovered! Without them I don't know how I would've made it through recovery.
  • Talk/hang out with other people who have had a similar experience! A week after me my friend also broke his arm snowboarding and we hung out and joked around about our slings. It was comforting having someone who was going through the same thing as me and who understood how hard it was.
  • Wait for next season. It's coming, slowly but surely (;       

Recovery is hard, trust me I know. But you will get through it!! Be happy about the little things you accomplish. Try new things. Have fun and mess around! You have plenty of more time to shred in the future.


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