July 25, 2009

We Interrupt This Program

Five minutes into my morning ride, tooling down the fire road at a respectable and safe 20-25 mph on a borrowed ATV, I see the blind corner coming. Pushing right to prevent any head-ons with other vehicles my two right tires get pulled into the soft dirt, sucking me off the road and towards an embankment and rocks. In my mind I see three choices – 1) push left back onto the road – no good as I’m already pushing 30 degrees and I don’t want to roll it, 2) push it right up onto the embankment and risk a jump at speed – no good as I don’t have the kind of experience to launch and land a safe jump, 3) slow it down as fast as I can and try and control the angle – the only real option I’ve got.

Four buddies from work and I had spent the last 18 hours making a short camping trip in Red Feather Lakes area about halfway between Ft. Collins, CO and Laramie, WY. A little hiking, shooting, riding the ATV, and general “hanging out” was high on our list – and each had been fulfilled. We were breaking camp and cooking breakfast when a member of our party had returned on the ATV. Having ridden this Suzuki King Quad 750cc 663 lbs. behemoth for about an hour the day before and about 20 minutes a few hours earlier collecting wood for the morning fire – I was ready for a little spin around before we headed back to civilization.

So option three it is. Breaks were applied, body was leaned back and left, and speed was decreased until the breaking point. I feel the vehicle rising up from underneath me and realize I’m out of control and will soon be impacting the ground. As the back end goes vertical I attempt to dive out and right away from the ATV putting my arms out and hoping I can roll out of this without too much damage. Oomph! My right shoulder hits first, and all I really remember with this impact is the combined auditory and visceral snap, crackle, and pop of my shoulder and left ribs as I bounce along the soft dirt off by the side of the road.

With my eyes closed and my body still, I run a self-diagnostic. Right shoulder – broken, left ribs – broken. Head, arms, back, legs – seems intact. I open my eyes and see the ATV laying on its back (handle bars and right rear quarter panel), back on the road. I roll over push up on all fours and then attempt to stand. I rise up on my right leg with strength and then when I go to plant my left leg – nothing, no support, and I fall back down to the ground. I sit up and observed my left pant leg bleeding around the ankle. I attempt to raise my left leg, see the limp and swinging jelly foot that is my left leg. Okay – double compound fracture of my left tibia / fibia. Bad news – no structural support, and I can feel and hear the bones rubbing together. Good news – I can feel my foot and move my toes – and I don’t feel the pain yet.

Best as I could figure it then or now, I flipped over the handle bars, planted in the dirt with my shoulder, and the ATV came following after smashing into my leg, hit the dirt embankment, and rolled back into the road on its back. I look at my watch 08:40, roll in the fetal position on my right side and begin to scream for help. After about 15 minutes of solid screaming and praying, I realize the wind is in my face and taking my screams away from our campsite. It was clear that no help was on its way so it was time to see what I could do -08:55.

Praying for strength and perseverance I crawl to the ATV, grab the bottom of the luggage rack with my right arm, put my left shoulder into top of the rack and with a burst of my right leg was able to push the ATV onto its left two tires. Let’s just say, my right shoulder didn’t like this at all, and the feeling of dragging your limp foot behind you is not an encouraging activity. From this position, I again tried to roll the ATV back onto all four – with no luck, not enough leverage, and more shoulder pain.

09:05 – I laid back down, curling up and checking my leg – more blood on the pants, but no spurting or pulsing – and my toes still moved. Ten more minutes of more praying than screaming – as I’m confident my prayers won’t get lost in the wind, and my screams can’t hurt. Again, no help was coming. 09:15 – I left the comfort of the soft, warm dirt and crawled onto the road to the other side of the ATV. I threw my right arm up onto the right tire and tried to pull the vehicle back over towards me, but was only able to move it a few inches closer before my shoulder could take no more.

After a few deep breaths and some thought, I had the next step. Again I threw my right arm over the right front tire, pulled myself to my knees, leaned on my left knee, planted my right toes under the left front tire, and started to rock the ATV back on its wheels. Push, pull, push, pull, push, pull, pull, pull – roll to my right as the ATV comes crashing back down. A few more deep breaths, and I was able to pull myself up and sat side saddle, but couldn’t get the engine started. All that work, no vroom! 09:25 – pull my left leg over the saddle, leaving a streak of blood all along the body. 09:35 – after enough time to let the fluids (gas and oil) get back in place from being upside down for 40 minutes – I was able to start it up and ride back to camp.

At camp I call the guys over and give them the quick report – I rolled the ATV, broke a bunch of stuff, and need emergency medical attention. When you camp, camp with people you trust. Within 5 minutes, I’m secured in the back of a van, 911 is called, Mrs. Cool is informed, a deputy, ambulance, and flight for life is on the way.

10:20 – Larimer County Sheriff arrives – assesses for shock, provides GPS coordinates for FFL. 10:40 – Red Feather Lakes Fire and Rescue arrives – takes vitals, cuts off my shirts and pant leg – start cleaning the wound. 10:50 – FFL medics arrived via Deputy Sheriff to assess while pilot finds LZ and burns off fuel for mountain take-off (note for the future – when FFL asks your weight – don’t be shy – they’ll only judge you if you lie and wind up crashing because you overloaded the airframe). 11:05 – IV and first dose of pain meds. 11:20 – arrive at Medical Center of the Rockies, Loveland, CO. – beats the 90mn drive. 12:30 – See Mrs. Cool and Master Cool, head to X-ray – confirm Double Compound fracture (multiple pieces, at least two protruding from skin), broken right clavicle, but all ribs are okay. 17:30 – Surgery.

So that’s what I did with my July 14th, what did you do with yours?

FOLLOW UP:

I stayed at MCR until Friday, was released, attended my brothers wedding in Colorado Springs on Saturday (awesome), was admitted to Penrose St. Francis in the Springs early AM Sunday with a Pulmonary Embolism – released on Thursday July 23rd. Now back at home trying to keep it together as my awesome wife excels at meeting the needs of an 8 week old baby boy, and a 29 year old baby man. For all the family and friends who have provided prayer and support – thank you!

4 comments:

Hannah said...

Holy catfish. I thought things had been a little quiet on Quite Cool...

My prayers are with you, too. Look for two seasons of Mad Men in the mail to make those days spent nursing wounds and babies go by a little faster.

Lynn Trew said...

What a tale! Bet you wish you could take back those few critcal seconds... praying for you! We have kept up thru Joy and Phil... heal up!

Matty said...

At the risk of sounding a bit callous I'm going to bypass the formalities of wishing you a speedy recovery and just say.....

You are a beast! That is the most awe-inspiring story of sheer manliness I've ever heard.

Matthew said...

What some people will do to drive traffic to their blog!

Hang in there. I'm sending DVD support.

Linked from "The Gaws" site in Ukraine. Didn't know you were blogging.