May 30, 2008

my hiking accident

I went for an early morning bushwacking-style hike with my friend Brian on Thurs. May 22. We were in a tight narrow gorge near Bham, with no trail. A stream trickled down steep drops. We trekked through lush walls of poison ivy. (I am not affected.) Wildflowers and vines entwined our journey. We were in a beautiful hidden gem. I have pics on the camera in my car.
At the last steep portion I was near the edge of a drop and had the ground give under me. With nothing to grab to stop my descent, I slipped over the edge of a cliff wall. I free-fell 15 ft., hitting the ground on my side, bounced, slid down a steep angled rock floor about 25 ft. and ended my forward momentum by slamming my right arm into a boulder (I was tucked into a curl). My wrist broke. I lay in the stream, incredulous that I was alive. I had not lost consciousness. I did a quiet personal inventory. I could move my legs. As far as I could tell, only my arm was broken. I hollered my condition up to Brian, who then spent about 10 minutes and one ass-bustin' of his own to get to me.
We determined that I could walk. I consulted my GPS and determined the best route would be down the streambed. Eventually we found an ATV trail and hiked out to the road from that. It took us about half an hour. Brian had called a friend who lives nearby, who drove and met us with bags of ice and a towel for my arm.
He took us to my car which is a stick-shift. Brian drove me to St. Vincents East ER. They gave me dilautid injections and x-rayed my arm and pelvis. They put 3 stitches in my right knee. The ER doc told me I would need surgery on my arm. My tailbone, ass, and left hip were black with bruises. Jeans ripped open in the seat. I never heard anything about the pelvis xray, but my tailbone remains absurdly sore (and its been 8 days since the event).
I asked to transfer to St. Vincents in Southside, where my orthopedist Dr. Adkison is. He did my bankhart shoulder surgery in 04. I was admitted to the southside St. Vincents. The ER nurses put my arm in a splint. My sister Kat drove me to the southside StV's. Since my jeans were ripped and soaked with creekwater I wore two gowns tied together in weird fashion. I had a DVD with my xrays. The tech geek in me loved this.
My room at StV's was the nicest hospital room I have ever been in. It was a 'suite' in the south tower with a big window view of the city. It did not look or feel like a hospital room. It had a refrigerator and a self-adjusting bed.
My ortho doesn't do wrists so a partner in his group did my surgery. Dr. Kissel looked at my xrays and brought out a model skeleton arm with an apparatus screwed into it. "Best case scenario, we use one of these- an external fixer. If the bone is shattered too much I'll have to open your arm up instead and put plates and screws." I hoped for the best - what else could I do? I told him I am a guitarist. "We'll have you playing again in 3-6 months," he said. "F," I thought.
He shot my wrist full of lidocaine - that sucked but when he was finished it was gloriously numb for a couple of hours - and set my bones, then put my arm back in the splint. I would have surgery on Friday. They hooked me up with a morphine pump back n my room. Every 10 minutes I could press a button and get 1 mg morphine.

Friday I remember the pre-op room, I was in a queue I guess. I had to stay there a long time. Finally they wheeled me into the OR and I got on the table from my bed myself. Then I was knocked out and woke up back in my room. I love anesthesia!

My mom and sister told me great news. Instead of all that hardware, when the doc got to my wrist he found that setting my bone had lined it up great, so all he had to do was put in two pins. I am in a big cast for two weeks, then a short cast for 4, then some PT. Kat stayed in my room with me Fri. and Sat.

I spent that night with the pain pump. Saturday they took it off and put me on slow release morphine pills, and on Sunday I was discharged from the hospital. I'm staying at Kat's. Can't use my right hand for anything. I typed this whole trip report with my left hand on my laptop. I anticipate at least one more week off work. I'm on short-term disability, so I'm not eating my PTO.

What I am missing:
Mini triathlon last Sat. that I trained for over 2 months and bought a road bike for, AND took lap swimming lessons for.
Sunday Coosa kayaking
Monday Mem. Day Chief Ladiga bike trail

Tonight (Fri 30) -gig with my brother Rick's band, using my new Vox AC30CC1 for the first time.
This Sat-Sun -Hiwassee paddle trip
All the Tues. night road biking (I have fallen in love with road biking) with the Bham Bicycling Club.

Who knows what else.
But I am grateful to be here! And grateful for my great family and friends.

Update June 11th.
I'm wearing my second cast. I still have a lot of pain in my thumb and first two fingers. When they cut the first cast off, I took (warning, kinda gross) pictures of my hand with my camera phone here:

This cast is much shorter; it starts below my elbow. They will take it off on June 26th and x-ray my wrist again and determine if the two pins are ready to come out. If they are, then the pins will be removed and I hope I get a brace not another cast.

More updates: