For two long-time friends who had drifted apart, a zipline outside St. John’s became the unlikely site where their reunited relationship flew to a whole new level.
Karen Ryan and Joanne Walsh had been friends for decades, but they had lost their connection.
Each, as it turned out, was dealing with profound difficulties.
“I felt a couple of years ago, when I wasn’t there, I disappointed her.”
– Joanne Walsh
“I’ve been to hell and back — almost lost my family and friends,” Walsh said.
Walsh has post-traumatic stress disorder, Ryan had her leg amputated three years ago, and both women openly admit they were not there for each other when they needed support the most.
“I felt a couple of years ago, when I wasn’t there, I disappointed her,” Walsh told CBC Radio’s St. John’s Morning Show.
Reaching the top
Part of Walsh’s anxiety includes a fear of heights, which makes the way the old friends reconnected even more unusual. Karen Ryan decided that despite her physical challenge, she needed to scratch ziplining off her bucket list and wanted Walsh to be there with her.
Back in August, Ryan picked up the phone and — for the first time in years — called Walsh.
It was an emotional reunion, but the two picked up right where they had left off. Ryan challenged Walsh to join her on the zipline adventure.
Reluctantly, Walsh agreed.
“I look at myself that I am alive and well, with a disability that I have to overcome every minute of every day,” she said.
“I couldn’t have Karen say [she] did it with one leg and I couldn’t do it.”
The next challenge was getting to the top of the mountain in Petty Harbour, just south of St. John’s.
Walsh initially thought she’d need a helicopter to drop her off. Instead, North Atlantic Ziplines operations manager Phil Smith used an all-terrain vehicle to carry her part of the way — and then carried her on his back for the rest of the journey.
At 63, Ryan recalls saying “this is going to be fun.” She also remembers Walsh, who took the first trip on the zipline, squealing the entire way and yelling, “I hate you Karen” over and over again.
What’s next for these old friends?
Walsh said she felt the adventure marked a giant step in her recovery.