Patch: Summer Vacation Cancelled Due To COVID-19? Not For Darcie Kiper

Patch: Dr. Beger

Bloomington resident and outdoor adventurer embraces “Isolation-cation” to combat cabin fever

A runner, biker, former Boy Scout troop leader, and avid hiker, Darcie Kiper, 53, never says no to an adventure. Her favorite pastime is planning trips with her husband, Tim, to state parks across the U.S. But when stay-at-home orders went in effect in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Darcie didn’t venture out much further than her front yard, no less across state borders for excursions.

After a few canceled trips and months of staying inside, Darcie and Tim are back to their adventures. Since parks have reopened, they have traveled to Paducah, KY and Des Moines, IA—where they biked 45 miles along the Trestle Trail. Fully embracing the new “isolation-cation” trend, Darcie credits her travel trailer for allowing her to safely travel and getaway. Even during a pandemic, she was determined to find a way to safely continue her favorite activities.

That perseverance also came into play about a year and a half ago, when debilitating knee pain forced her to put all future expeditions on hold. “I didn’t trust myself with a heavy pack. On those narrow trails, you need to have stability.”

Darcie learned that she would need knee-replacement surgery, and she feared that her adventure days were over. Then she found Dr. Richard Berger, orthopedic surgeon at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush, and Associate Professor at Rush University Medical Center, who uses a minimally invasive technique (cutting no tissue) for joint replacement surgery. “Just being able to hike and stay active and enjoy nature—that’s the one thing I don’t want to give up,” she explained during her consultation. She remembers how Dr. Berger responded, “well, don’t!”

The very same day as her surgery, Darcie walked out of the hospital. In just a few weeks, she was riding her stationary bike. Then, eleven months later, she crossed off an item on her bucket list: backpacking through the Grand Canyon.

Over the course of six days, she strapped on a 40 lb. backpack and trekked 37 miles—with 20,000 feet in elevation changes— in sweltering heat. The men in the group couldn’t believe how strong she was, which Darcie says is only a testament to Dr. Berger.

For the first time since knee-replacement surgery during the months of April and May, Darcie had not been able to hit the trails with her husband and friends. Only this time, it wasn’t her knee that holding her back. After being cooped up for months when parks were closed, Darcie is thrilled to be back spending her days enjoying nature and hiking with her husband. “It’s just been wonderful.”

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