Monday, October 27, 2008
How I Broke My Neck
Josh the Mountain Goat Monkey
If you have hung out with me at all in the outdoors, you know I can’t help but to climb anything that is climbable. I look at trees & rocks as playground equipment built by God. Every time I glance at granite cliffs, a building with interesting architecture, or a grove of old growth trees, my mind automatically projects a rout to the top and some sort instinct inside tells me weather it is possible. The instinct is probably right like 90% of the time and is probably based on a lifetime as a Colorado kid, or maybe from “monkeying around” on the jungle gym dad built in the backyard, or maybe being the son of an avid mountain climber (he climbed all 54 of Colorado’s 14,000 peaks in the span of 10 years)
Anyway, I had often looked at the giant cottonwood tree on Old Man Gallop’s property, close enough to the fence between us to share a little pouring of its leaves and most of its shade with us. Old Man Gallup has several acres of property south of mine & my roommate’s house and as far as I can tell the whole place is fenced in by a 6ft. high barbed wire fence. Occasionally he takes his horse for a trot out there before retreating back to the more wooded half of his property that is cluttered with old cars. His house probably several hundred yards from the edge of where our suburban neighborhood meets his property.
I always wished that tree was ours a we have no trees in our yard. We would do so much with it: put a tree swing on it, build a tree house in it, jump out of it on to or trampoline, or just climb it.
Climbing Old Man Gallup’s Tree
So, Sunday (the 19th) I came home from lunch at Dos Hombres to an empty house. StevO called me up to go shooting, and now I wish more than anything I had went ahead to the store to buy ammo. Instead a quiet afternoon reading a book seemed more inviting. I dragged a lawn chair into the backyard grass, sat down and opened “A Wind in the Door”. The October afternoon was so perfect I had to look up and observe after every paragraph. Once again I looked at Old Man Gallup’s tree, my eyes mapping out the many branches as I thought ‘Why haven’t I ever climbed that tree before?’
I had my plan, I would get my camera, take a few pictures from up high and come down and get back to my book. When I got to the fence I remembered what had stopped me before. To get in the tree, I would need to be on Old Man Gallup’s property and the worst part…there are no limbs lower than about 15 feet.
I climbed on top of the fence post and studied the only reachable branch. It curved from the tree drooping behind me almost to the ground. The only way I was going to climb this tree was to get myself on top of that branch. I thought about what I’d need to do .I’ve done it many times in other trees before. I jumped up and grabbed the branch. I swung my legs up around it. The a limb sticking up almost vertical about 4 inches thick. Next I would need to use that limb to wrench myself around to the top of the branch. I grabbed ahold with my right hand and tugged, it felt secure. With my left hand I reached up to 3 inch branch that split off from it. I think a small thought in my head said if this one breaks, my right will hold me.
I grabbed the smaller branch with my left hand which transferred most of my body weight to the 4 inch branch. With a suddenness that seemed to preceed even grasping the branch there was a loud snap! I had the split second feeling of having the world yanked out from under me like a table cloth.
The Scariest Moment of My Life
From what the doctor says I landed on my head first which snapped back fracturing a joint in my lower neck. I lay in a pile of dead branches. I tried to move but it felt like a 200lb. person was sitting on my chest. I tried to move my hands but they wouldn’t budge. I felt pain everywhere and I panicked. “Help!” I cried. I rolled myself around in the sticks yelling “Help! Somebody help!” but I knew I was too far away for anyone to hear. I had to get up. Breathing as if that 200lb person was still on my chest, I struggled against the pulsating pain to my tingling feet. I looked myself over trying to figure out what was wrong. I saw blood but didn’t know where it was from. My right arm looked weird, was it broken? I realized I was hunched over and bent to the right. “Oh $%&), HELP! SOMEBODY HELP!” I whined.
The closest people I knew of were one house passed an empty lot to the west of our house. I yelled in that direction to no avail. I realized I had my cell phone in my left pocket. I reached down and pawed the phone with my limp fingers. There was no way I was getting it out. To find help would I would have to get outside of this barbed wire fence! In the back of my head I knew there where no gates near and looking around confirmed it. Then a terrible thought came to me, I was going to have to hurl my limp body, already blasting with pain, onto the barbed wire and flip over the fence! No way I thought, there’s got to be a way out.
I wobbled on my numb tingly legs east to he fence by our front yard. Thank God, there some kids riding bikes in dead end of our street.
“Hey kid! Can you call an ambulance? I fell out of that tree over there and hurt myself pretty bad,” I said through painful gasps. Soon the kid had informed our next door neighbors Kenny and Vicki. I was able to explain to Kenny what happened through labored breathes and sweating profusely. My entire body screamed in pain and I tried to change my position to ease the pain. Kenny was able to reach through the fence get my cell phone out of my pocket. I leaned my head on my forearm on the fence which slightly relieved pain. Then I tried laying in the weeds, that helped a little bit.
I heard Vicky say “Oh Josh,” and start praying for me. I grunted every breath and it seemed like half an hour before the ambulance got there. Finally I heard the sirens and out of my peripheral could see a fire truck pull up. Firemen cut a hole in the fence and strapped me to a board as an ambulance backed up to the fence. The cut my shirt off and told me not move as they strapped a neck brace on. Ivs were jammed in to my arm, questions were asked, the ride seemed to take an hour before I saw through the ambulance sunroof a crane overhead indicating we had arrived at St. Mary’s.
St. Mary’s, Prognosis and Rehab
They ran me through claustrophobia tube…I mean MRI and found I have a fracture in my C5 vertebrae. The fracture itself is not displaced and will heal fine. However, the pain in my back, arms and hands is coming from swelling in the spine inside an already irregularly narrow spinal canal (apparently some people are born with this). They also found some degenerated/bulging discs that were from something previous, hmmm what could that be from? Flipping over the handlebars of a motorcycle? Tumbling down the ditch at 30mph in the Ridges after falling of my longboard? T-boning an SUV at 45mph on Broadway? Catching an edge snowboarding and tumbling down the hard packed snow? Or perhaps getting rear-ended by a guy doing 65mph when I was at a standstill? Anyway, Dr. Clifford thought I may need surgery to relieve the swelling and so I wasn’t aloud to eat until the next day. I got a catheter, oxygen, IV, a Sterroid and foot circulators hooked up to me and went to sleep staring at the ceiling. Wes stayed with me that first night.
The next day Dr. Clifford explained to me that surgery was optional. They could do a procedure to widen my spinal canal or they could remove the degenerated discs and fuse those three vertebrae together. Really surgery would be a preventative measure in case I got in an accident like this again. I chose not to have surgery.
Those first few days my hands were by far the most painful part of my body. They constantly felt like they were burning. That has gone down a lot and though I still can’t extend my fingers, the only constant pain is my right thumb (tingly and numbish), my left ring finger (sharp pain) and dull pain in neck/back. The worst thing I’m experiencing though is that sometimes when I move just right I think its pinching a nerve. This is by far the most painful thing I have ever felt. When it happens I can never really figure out what position caused it and so I spend a terrifying minute trying to move out of the position. It feels like I’m having a heart attack or being electrocuted starting at my spine and running through my shoulder straight to my thumb. It’s like some one taking plyers and crushing the raw nerve or pouring liquid metal down my arm.
So after spending several nights being woken up for vitals and fed Percoset or Vicaden and Flexerol and Lyrica every few hours, it was on to rehab floor where I am now. This floor is mainly for recovering senior citizens and so for the last few days I’ve felt like I’m trapped in an old folk’s home.
I want to thank all the doctors, nurses, techs, PTs, Ots, ect. That have worked on me…I think there’s been at least 50! Most have been above average nice! Most of all I want to thank mom & dad for making several trips here from Craig despite their own problems (Granddad has the flu) and taking shifts sleeping on the couch in my room, Wes and Recbecca for spending almost every evening with me and Wes also sleeping on that crappy recliner. Also, I have been blown away by the response of my friends! I have had at least 1 vistor every day and like 12 one day! You have all cared SO much! Thank you for the sweets, the cards, drawings, and even flowers! I can’t describe how seeing you guys has helped me get through this! I was going to list all of you but then I feel like crap if I missed someone! Also, was pretty out of it on pain med a couple of times and some of you didn’t realize you had to stand directly over me for me to see you with this collar on! Oh and last but certainly not least….in fact, first, Thank You Lord, you were with me the whole time reminding me “…that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
Currently listening :
You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby
By Fatboy Slim
Release date: 1998-10-20