After a long week of preparation and execution of a major project for my students; the weekend was a well sought attempt at relief and relaxation.
Entertainingly though, mother nature, ice, and my lack of coordination had other plans…
Disclaimer: This is a story about injury, humor, and a lot of firsts. Those with ‘squeamish’ stomachs have been advised.
For a few years now, we (myself) have complained about the lack of overall winter in the area. There hasn’t been ice, snow, or anything else that is conceived as fun. Only bleak, gray, frigid winter days. This year was set to be different with our first introduction to ‘freezing drizzle’ on Friday. As it turns out, the freezing drizzle quickly translated to black ice and allowed the entire metro area to plunge into an absolute disaster of epic proportions.
Saturday morning was our in-between period of weather; we had the freezing drizzle but the snow was a few hours away. Knowing this, at 11:00 AM I decided that I still had time to grab a cup of coffee from our local coffee shop and some salt for our icy sidewalk and driveway. I was bundled up, I stepped out the door, and I thought that I spotted ice-melt on our sidewalk. I thought that our neighbor had surprised us again (not uncommon because he is amazing). Sadly, as I took my first step down from our patio to our sidewalk I realized, too late, that the white little specks that I thought was salt…was sleet instead. Meaning, my sidewalk was straight ice.
My feet shuffled three times, trying to gain my balance on this downward spiral of despair, and up in the air they went and my head came down right on the concrete ledge of our patio. Naturally, while laying on the sidewalk moaning, I immediately placed my right hand on the back of my head only because of the pain. Mind you, it was starting to snow and was a balmy 13 degrees when all of this took place. After trying to get my bearings, I stood up, and looked at my hand.
My wife was at work. No one was outside in our neighborhood, and our doorway is tucked on the side of the house, so no one could see me. I grabbed my Mitscoots stocking cap, that I love dearly, and used it as a form of compression on my head with my right hand and with my left hand I grabbed my phone and dialed 911.
The first words out of my mouth was my address because as I sat down on the edge of the patio, my heart started to flutter, my breathing became weak, nausea was setting in, blood was running down my neck, back, face, everywhere, and I told the dispatcher that first responders needed to hurry because I was beginning to black out.
Selfies not to send to your wife…
Realizing that blacking out was coming, made me realize this fear of collapsing in the snow, in the winter temperatures, and not being found. I’ll confess, the concept of death crossed my mind for a split second. The taste of blood was in my mouth, I coughed, trying not to dry heave in the process, and sat on the line with the dispatcher. Ten minutes passed inside this freezing, arctic concept of my own internal hell, and I saw the local police pull up. They nearly fell walking up the driveway. An officer started talking to me, a dialogue that could demonstrate that he was originally from California with the “yeah man” and “dude” interlaced between his professional statements and questions. My hat got replaced with an actual compression cloth, and I was wrapped up in a blanket as we waited for the ambulance to come. 15 minutes after I fell the local ambulance district showed up, I thanked the police officers and apologized to them for being terrified of the police most of my life. Needless to say, in cliche fashion, my perspective was changed that day. The guys from the ambulance and fire department loaded my body onto a stretcher, slid down the driveway, and loaded me into the unit. Truly, I picked the worst day, to decide to try my fate with other people.
After being loaded into the ambulance, the gentleman talked to me about what was going on, looked at the back of my head, inserted a needle, gave my anti-nausea medication (I already get car sick easily, an injury just adds to the misery) and we started making our way to the hospital. We past, by my count, five accidents along the road trying to get into the ER unit. I was told that since there was no bleeding from my ears or nose, that brain damage was not a major concern. I also learned that not losing consciousness prevented me from needing a CT scan upon arrival at the hospital. My blood pressure was high when the first got me into the ambulance, but after another reading twenty minutes later, the comment that came from the medics mouth was…
Are you a runner? Your heart rate is incredibly low.
Shoutout to the folks I run with, with that comment I’m now one of “those people” who runs.
While in the ambulance I did decide to take a selfie; this was primarily for my entertainment of how I was going to break the news to my wife. I sent her the photo, but afterwards I decided to call her also. We have a system in place that non-emergency contact is done via text messages and phone calls are only used in emergencies. Needless to say, when I called her, her voice was a tad distraught. It escalated rather quickly when she discovered that I was in an ambulance, on route to the local hospital (I picked the hospital closest to her store). She informed me that she would be there after she got her shift covered. While she had a great front, you could still here the stress in her voice.
Once I was loaded into the hospital, they started the process of getting my shirt off (showing how much blood had ran down my chest also), and proceeded to clean the wound. I was so tired at this point. I stayed awake out of fear, but sleep and hunger were playing a pretty epic role on my body. After a head bath of room temperature water and soap, I was informed that I had a one inch gash across the back of my head, slightly to the left. The doctor came in, about the time my wife arrived, and said he would give me a localized painkiller, two stitches to pull the gap together, and finish it off with 6 or 7 staples. This is the first time I have ever seen my wife walk out of a room because she was getting sick to her stomach. What that tells me: though my wife is very strong, she does not handle her husband being hurt very well. Especially with the amount of blood that was involved.
I learned that ‘staples’ inside a hospital also equates to standard, school style staples. There is not some ‘medical staple’, it is literally a staple like you would find inside the classroom. After the two stitches were inserted (stitches, another first for me) and the staples were added (6), I was cleaned up and allowed to leave the hospital.
What I learned:
- Police, fire, medical, etc…all those groups of people are so insanely amazing when you are in a state of panic. I was very blessed to have such kind, caring individuals around me throughout the day yesterday. The fact that an officer spoke with me about having a beer, him growing up being scared of cops, his jail time, etc…just really eased all the stress from the entire situation.
- The whole process, from the fall to leaving the hospital, was nearly 3 hours in total duration. Thanks to my wife for actually knowing insurance information.
- I’m sad the my hat was ruined, but I’m so, so grateful that I had my Mitscoots stocking cap to apply pressure with while waiting for medical attention.
- Shoutout to all the first aid training I’ve had over the years; who would have thought the time I would have to use it would be on myself?
- Insanely, truly a blessing, I made it out of this whole situation without an actual diagnosed concussion. Giving God the props for that. I woke up today without a headache, nausea, confusion, or anything else along those lines.
- Head wounds bleed a lot; in fact I learned that medical people become more nervous if a head wound is not profusely bleeding. The amount of capillaries in the head is huge, so any wound can easily result in a blood bath; literally.
- Unlike my original assumption; aside from the anti-nausea medicine in the ambulance, I received no medication, pain killers, etc…at the moment the only thing I have had has been two Aleve at 7:30 PM last night.
That is my scary story. It sidelined me for the weekend, I did not get my papers graded like I wanted to, and again I’m sidelined for a bit from trail running. However, all things considered, I can handle those restrictions compared to the fear that I witnessed sitting alone in the winter with a head wound.
Always grateful that God is watching over me.