Broken But Not Beaten
Saturday, February 23rd, 2013
Last Friday, Sam and I took the day off of work to head up to New Hampshire and ski. Mega storm Nemo canceled the 30th birthday party that I planned for her, so we decided to use it as an excuse to get away for some mid-week skiing and celebrate her 30th and Valentine’s Day at the same time. The morning was beautiful. Great conditions. Warm weather. Amazing views of Mount Washington. There were barely any lift lines, so we did a ton of skiing by 10:30 am and trashed our legs well before it was time to come in for lunch.
We even hit up the spot where I proposed.
Then, the mood of the weekend changed. Cut to me going off a jump in the terrain park, off balance, my body goes horizontal and I drop 15-20 feet out of the sky and I land directly onto my upper back. Thankfully, Sam was skiing alongside me, just outside of the terrain park, and was there within seconds to help me collect my gear that was spread across the mountain. At first, I thought I had just knocked the wind out of myself and maybe gotten a bad muscle bruise. I took some time to rest on the snow.
After a few minutes, I was able to collect myself, stand and put on my skis and very cautiously make my way down the rest of the mountain and to the lodge. After some time chatting with ski patrol, we decided that the damage was more than an ice pack, some advil and rest could handle. We made our way to one of the local hospitals to get checked out.
The hour car ride was extremely painful, but I was just happy knowing that we were moving closer to a place that could help me out. Once we arrived, a nurse came to the car with a wheelchair. Changing positions brought my pain levels from a 7/10 t0 a 10/10. I was no longer able to answer any questions from the nurse admitting me as I was shaking, crying and could barely open my eyes. I just pointed to Sam and let her handle the Q&A.
I no longer want to hear women try to one-up me with complaints about the pain of child birth.
This begins some of the most painful hours of my entire life.
While a team rushed to my room to get me into their system, take my vitals and keep me warm with fresh blankets, that is where any level of care ended for the next 90 minutes. Despite writhing in pain and having a panic attack, thinking that no one would come to my aid or that I’d loose ability to control my arms and legs, the most that anyone within the hospital could do for me was to turn off the lights and set the “ambiance.” A lack of electricity is not medical treatment. Even the radiology tech was more focused on doing “the least amount of work possible.” Meaning for her. Not me, the guy with the crippling back trauma.
For better or worse, they soon realized that my case was well beyond their ability to treat it. I was thankful to see an ambulance roll up and load me full of drugs make the bumpy one hour trip to the Dartmouth Hospital trauma center. It felt like the ambulance was going 60 mph down down a windy hiking trail, with me bouncing along strapped to a cardboard (yes, cardboard??!!) backboard in the back. Thankfully, the meds they loaded me up on were very effective.
Thankfully, the Dartmouth hospital folks actually had their act together, as if there was a reason why they worked at a hospital in the first place. Odd. Hu? They repeated a bunch of tests and did a whole bunch more that the first hospital never did to make sure everything was covered. The rest of Friday night and all Saturday involved the following:
- Getting new drugs, sleeping for 90 minutes, groaning in pain for 30 minutes until the nurse would allow me to max out on pain meds again so I could pass out for another 90 minutes
- Staring at a single ceiling tile
- “Listening” to the news on the TV because it was on the wall, and I wasn’t able to sit up and see it.
- Peeing in a bottle
- Hoping I didn’t have to wait until Tuesday to get a new brace and get finally out of bed
- Being lucky enough to have the “back brace guy” already at the hospital for a surprise Saturday morning visit and getting fit for a sweet new back brace MUCH faster than expected.
- Waiting for a doctor to come, read my scans, tell me if I need a neck collar, surgery, can go home… pretty much any news
- Getting woken up whenever I fell asleep and my HR dropped below 50 bpm, setting off alarms for the nurses (#AthleteProblems)
While Saturday was a lot of laying, resting and waiting, things started happening on Sunday morning. I was able to get the neck brace off, sit up, and try walking around. I was just happy to be doing ANYTHING different than stare at the ceiling and face the endless barrage of test from different nurses.
In the end, the total damage was 7 fractured vertebrae. The most painful of which are a set of compression fractures from T3-T6. Right between my shoulder blades. I’m on heavy pain meds and in a back brace for at least the next two weeks until I get a fresh set of xrays to see how things are healing. Other than that, I don’t have any clear insight into when I’ll be able to be fully active again.
Those are supposed to be all even, aligned and not have random pointy things coming off of them. Clearly, that isn’t the case anymore.
I did get to enjoy a pretty amazing reunion with Riley when she came home from puppy camp. She was even really gentle with me and didn’t jump on me, which my back really appreciated.
Category : Triathlon