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Nicole Qualtieri, 36, Montana, USA


Intentional trauma heals built-up trauma.

In order for my broken body to become balanced, a doctor had to open up both of my knees, then using a saw he cut the entirety of the bad joint out. He hammered and glued an entirely new bioengineered joint into each leg then sewed it up, stitch by stitch. The violence of this action is tempered by the end goal of a new normal, but the end goal requires work, physical therapy, and above all – patience through even more pain.

My knees needed to go. I found this out nearly four years ago. Doctors refused to treat me because of my age, then 32. The arthritic build-up from years of dislocation coupled with Lyme’s disease gifted me the knees of an active 80-year-old.

I was debilitated, in severe pain daily. I had to beg and plead. I began to show up as much as I could. Eventually, I got a yes. Eventually, I changed the one mind that needed to change. I had to do two surgeries before I could get replacements. Four surgeries in 13 months. It’s been brutal.

Now I’m healing, relearning to walk on my new knee. I haven’t been able to attend rallies or marches this week because of it. It’s another sword to the soul. I wish I could be there.

I see societal parallels in the arthritic rot within our institutions, the protests, the necessary demands for change, the need for healing and for therapeutic modes of action and reaction. When the status quo is pain, it’s time to change.

And I promise to show up. To demand action. To demand the intentional traumas needed to heal our communities. And to demand the breakdown and rebuilding of the institution of policing, of inequity in the outdoors and the hunt/fish space, of inequity in education, of inequity anywhere and the inequity that is everywhere.

Black lives matter. Indigenous lives matter. The lives of people of color matter. Brown, Hispanic, Asian, and otherwise. Full and unencumbered humanity is a right for all of us, no matter how we look and what we believe. This is not political. It is the right thing to do. I wish I could stand at every protest. I wish I could physically act. I’m doing all the other things right now, and I’m with you all in spirit.

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