Monday, September 17, 2007

Mark's Version

I was climbing at Lumpy Ridge with my cousin.  The climb went fine,
but we had to work our way down a sketchy descent gully. We rappelled
off the top, but the ropes got stuck. I scrambled up to free the
ropes, then scrambled back down. On the way, I leaned on a
refrigerator-sized block that came loose. I surfed down on it, and it
crushed my lower right leg between it and the wall. (The rock kept
going, so it didn't pin me). I landed sitting up with an open tib-fib
fracture and my muscles and such all hanging out. The incident
happened around 11:45 am, and some other climbers reached us around
12:10 pm(?). Search and rescue got there about two hours later. At
first, SAR tried lowering me vertically (feet first) - since it was a
technical rescue. However, I went orthostatic (shocky, lost
consciousness), so they rigged up a horizontal lower. They also
lowered me head first for a lot of the ride. They gave me six liters
of saline in IV form and a few mgs of morphine. I think they got me
to the chopper site around 7 pm.

The rescue team was excellent. At one point, the chief medical person
called in for permission to tie a tourniquet. I sort of begged not to
- I said that I could stand the pain, and that if they would back off
the morphine, I could focus on breathing a
lot in order to avoid getting shocky. It seemed to work (in
combination with their horizontal and head first lowers).

They flew me to a trauma center in Loveland, CO - a fantastic facility
that has only been open 6 months. I am really pleased with the care
that I have received here. The staff is competent and pleasant. I
went in for surgery the night I got here (Wed). They put a "fixator"
on - which is basically a steel suitcase handle on the outside of my
leg which is screwed into the bone.

On Fri morning, they took me in for a second surgery. Basically, they
said that they might just go in to clean the wound out, but that if it
looked good, they would put the bone together. Well - they put a rod
in my bone (Tibula?) and screwed a plate into my ankle bone.

Well - the bone story is pretty happy, but the tissue story is not. I
lost a lot of tissue, so they are talking about grafting a large
amount of muscle and skin from my back onto my calf. We haven't
received a lot of answers from the doc yet, but we'll be insisting on
a face-to-face meeting before any of these procedures go forward. The
upshot is that it's not 100% that I'm keeping my foot.

One extra twist coming out of this incident is that I had medical
insurance coverage that was due to kick in on Aug 15. The accident
happened on Aug 8 - one week before. Despite the craziness with
American health care, I feel unreasonably optimistic about this issue
as well. As Melissa and I have been easing into the idea of raising a
family, I have been drifting towards a full-time career. In a strange
way, I think this will provide a strong impetus to flesh out my career
(sorry about the pun). Heck, I may spend a few years in the private
sector to help clear this thing out. Somehow, I don't feel scared or
stressed - This is what life sent me, and Melissa and I are going to
need to figure out what this means.

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