Sup?! My name is Maddie, my trail name is Lightning Rod, and I’m a NorCal native. This is my first time being alive, so I’m kinda new to this. I thru-hiked the TRT in 2020, and this year I will be attempting a PCT NOBO thru-hike with my boyfriend, Angler. I got my trail name on the Tahoe Rim Trail because I seemed to attract lightning strikes.
Why do I attract lightning strikes?
Well, to put it simply, I’ve got a fucked up back with a bunch of metal in it, thus making me a human electrical conductor (no shit, my surgeon said I have a slightly increased chance of being struck by lightning). I was diagnosed with severe scoliosis early in childhood and spent a good majority of my preteen and teenage years in a plaster back brace. I was essentially crippled and had to wear the wretched thing all day, every day, for four years.
At age 16, my doctor advised surgery was imminent, it had to be done and it had to be done soon. Scoliosis is a bone deformity. Basically, it makes the spine grow in an “S” shape instead of straight up and down. Because of this, many of my vertebrae rotated and there was a lot of concern about my warped rib cage puncturing a lung (or both).
At age 16, I had total spinal fusion – I have two 14-inch rods, 21 screws, and a bracket screwed into my spine to hold me upright. Because I was (quite frankly) too young to have the surgery done, the risk of paralysis and death was higher than the average spinal fusion, and doctors weren’t quite sure how I would even recover.
Perfecting the Art of Self-Sabotage
Somehow, my spinal fusion was a great success. I had very minimal complications (other than some slight nerve damage and a few numb spots) and my recovery process began. I wasn’t used to being able to do much physically, and still wasn’t able to for a few years post-surgery. My early 20s I spent perfecting my alcoholism and convincing myself …….