I happened to hear from a few of you this past weekend in a drunken stupor, and managed to chat in person with others, but I thought I would go ahead and post an update on one of the few "neato" things that'd happened recently to me. What follows is edited from an e-mail I sent to my inquiring relatives after my Mom shared what had happened to me with them.
As most of you know, I generally like to think of myself as Mr. Invincible, and pretty much will refer people to the movie "Unbreakable" since I: 1) am regularly told that I look sort of like Bruce Willis and 2) Have never had any major injuries or sicknesses, despite having been in 11 car accidents, fallen off a bridge, and only getting a fever when I had the chicken pox.
At the same time, I've started a new job (which is pretty much a frat - we party harder than most undergrads) and have been looking for a major event to host in which we can get together outside of work just to hang out. It seems like all of the major holidays and whatnot have someone to host them already- christmas party, halloween party- even my usual superbowl party was overridden!
I came up with an idea to host an event that I planned on making annual called deep winter camping, where we all go camping in the middle of the winter. In Indiana, winter really doesn't happen until end of December-ish, so setting a date of January 28th seemed perfect. Plus, it was the only weekend in January that the Colts weren't beating the pants off of every football team on their way to Superbowl glory (Sorry, Patriots. Sort of).
When we went out to the campsite at around 4pm, we immediately built a fire and got things warm. This wasn't really "roughing it" camping- there were electrical outlets (somebody brought an electric blanket, the cord to which later caught on fire) and fire pits, as well as paved roads and gravel parking spots right at each site. I'd loaded up my trunk with firewood (literally filled to the brim), so the idea was to pretty much have a bonfire going all night.
Here's some photos of the event:
Once everyone pretty much passed out for the night (around 2:30am), Steve and I began cleaning up the campsite and putting things into cars that would freeze. We put out the fire, and Steve said he was going to go relieve himself before turning in for the night. I had my sleeping bag laid out and told Steve I was probably going to go for a jog before I went to bed so I'd be generating more heat and my bag would warm up more quickly. Just so you know, I still recommend this as one of John's all-time top 10 tips for cold weather camping.
Once I put all of my water and food away into the car, I took off down the paved road that circled around the campsite, jogging at probably no more than 3 or 4 miles an hour in my hiking boots. It had started to snow around midnight, so the road was reasonably covered now with maybe a half an inch of the stuff. Still, I have pretty good tread on my boots so I really wasn't worried.
I got to the end of the camping area where there's a bathroom house and went to circle around it. It looked like the road continued in front of the bathroom, so while I thought I was jogging forward onto pavement, it was too late before I realized I had just jumped onto a thick slab of ice covered in snow. My legs instantly went out from under me, and I can remember thinking how funny a story it was going to be when I got back to the campsite to tell everyone why I had a big bruise from falling on my back as I fell.
Let me also pause here for a second to say that my boots are specifically designed (and really well, apparently) to keep my ankle and foot in place. The idea is that if you're hiking up or down a slope, or parallel to one, these boots basically provide a platform for your feet to keep you level. The boots being this solid, however, was not helpful in the case of falling straight down.
What I can only assume is that when I landed, the weight of the boot spiraled my left leg outward from the heel. The doctor told me that my Fibula crossed over my Tibia (these are the two main bones holding the ankle in) as my foot turned, taking two chunks off the front of my Tibia and in turn tearing all of my ligaments, eventually completely dislocating my ankle.
I always think it's so funny when people get through some kind of incident and use the terminology the doctor gave to them to explain what happened, as if everyone on the street has a complete knowledge of human anatomy. Here's a diagram so you can match up what I'm talking about. I sure didn't understand it until the doctor brought out the rubber skeleton foot.
Pretty wicked injury for just falling on ice! All of those times I've gone ice skating- who knew of such dangers? I later heard lots of different reactions to the injury- one of my coworkers thought I'd been attacked by a cougar, while the hospital thought I'd been jumping off of small cliffs.
So while I was laying on the ground, I immediately felt an incredible amount of pain. I looked down and when I saw my foot (which should have been 90 degrees up from the ground) at a 20 degree angle, started yelling for help and basically screaming in an attempt to get the pain out. I waved my headlamp toward the campsite and looked back, which was when I realized I might be too far away for anyone to hear me. I realized I had my cell phone in my pocket, so I opened it and noted that I had a signal!
I have Sprint, by the way. For any of you non-believers.
Ahem. Anyway- I called 911, and got a half of a ring in before my phone died. Way to go, not charging my battery before I leave. I yelled a little more and decided that I was going to have to get back to the campsite myself, so I started dragging my body down the road back in the direction I'd come. After a few minutes, I finally saw a light bobbing toward me (no, not at the end of a tunnel). Steve asked me what was wrong and I told him to look at my leg, no, I wasn't messing with him, go get the car, we have to get to a hospital right away, wait- do you think you can pop it back in?
Tons of thoughts going through my head while I laid there and waited for the car to come over. Once there, I dragged myself over to the passenger door and lifted myself up on my good leg, then shifted into the car. Steve had offered to help, but I was too concerned about any uncontrolled movement on my foot.
The car ride to the hospital was also pretty strange. I remember just looking down at my foot and thinking how strange it was to have it at that angle. You put your heel down and expect your foot to line up with the angle of your knee, but I just couldn't do it.
Once at the hospital, they told me I was "in luck" because the ortho nurse was in as they wheeled me into a room to get me started on repairs. Once they snapped my foot back into place (pain killers don't work on me, apparently- and they kept telling me not to tense up!), they took some x-rays to make sure everything was in correctly and to get an idea of the battle damage I'd taken on.
Unfortunately, after about a half an hour, my ankle slipped back out again and they had to pop it back in! This time they taped it up so it would stay in place, took some more x-rays, and shipped me off to a room further up in the hospital to wait for surgery. At this point, my parents had also arrived and waited in the room upstairs with me while the nurses started getting me hooked up to equipment, taking blood work (took several tries- I apparently had really low blood pressure at the time), and asking me questions about my medical history. They also gave me a button to push that lit up and allowed me to pump pain killer medication "as needed." I was on top of that button, which ended up backfiring. But I'll get to that in a second.
A nurse came into the room and told me I was top priority and that they would get me into surgery right away. Once they had cleared all of the equipment, drawn blood, and everything else, they wheeled me out into the hallway to surgery just as the same nurse came back and said that a car crash had just come in and I'd have to wait to do surgery after that. It was then that as they were wheeling me back into my room that I started feeling a little dizzy and tired. As they were getting the I.V. bag hooked back up to me, I fell asleep.
The next thing I knew, I was woken up and there were probably 12 doctors and nurses in the room, all around my bed, the foremost of which was asking me "what happened?" Apparently I had gone into respiratory arrest (I guess they call this "crashing" at the hospital) and had stopped breathing. The nurse who was reconnecting my I.V. bag had noticed me turn gray and my lips go blue, and I didn't respond so the hospital went into "code blue," and I was instantly a celebrity.
After a little recovery time, they told me I was ready for surgery. At this point, I was completely not comfortable with falling asleep or being put under, so I probably pestered the doctors a little too much by saying things like "can you periodically just make sure I'm still- you know- breathing?"
Anyway, surgery apparently went really well. I ended up having a plate with screws for the spiral fracture, another couple of screws for the straight break, and another screw to hold on the chunk of bone that had come towards the front of my ankle (the back chunks were apparently just ground up, so the doctor told me he had just vacuumed them out).
When I woke up afterwards, I was back up in my room and everything felt absolutely incredible. With everything in its right place, I was ready to leave at the first mention of dismissal. All I had to do was prove to them I felt all right, demonstrate my ability to use crutches up and down the hall and some practice stairs, and I was out.
Since then, It's just been the usual recovery stuff when you break your leg, I guess. I need to keep my leg up as much as possible (24/7 is the goal) until the swelling goes down, and here in about a week I'll be heading in for my second appointment. Pending everything looking okay, I'll start physical therapy in a few weeks and then lose the crutches until they remove the hardware in a few months. They said I should be mostly completely back to normal within 8-12 months.
So that's my craziness for a while- now it's just a pain in the ass getting around. I never realized how difficult it was to deal with things like stairs, carrying a glass of water, even standing up on crutches. They always seemed like a fun toy to me, especially when I got to borrow them from other kids in elementary school.
Let me finish by saying this is not a call for sympathy or anything- I'm sharing this because I thought it was a pretty cool (in retrospect) experience; something that you usually only see on TV. Hope you're all healthy and well, and enjoying your walking on two legs.