Motorcycle Wreck Diary
In the Hospital

Tuesday 11 May ... 12 May ... 13 May ... 14 May

Tuesday, 11 May

1000 -- I need to get going for my 1100 meeting at the AMS building because I have to get a check deposited. I leave my building, go right on Prosperity, cross Rt. 29, go about a 1/2 mile or so, then turn left onto an access road near the UUNet building. I go around the corner to the First Virginia branch and get in the drive-through teller lane. I hate these lanes because there's always so much oil and gunk build-up right in the middle and you always want to make sure you keep your motorcycle tires out of the gunk. I pull in to the left of the gunk stripe and watch the teller drawer carefully to make sure it doesn't hit my bike and hit the kill switch. After the deposit stuff is done, I start my bike up and pull out, dragging my shoes flat on the ground to strip off any gunk that I may have picked up.

I go right out of the bank, back onto the access road. Back around the curve to the straight part before it meets back up with Prosperity. I can see a car waiting to turn left across my path with its turn signal on. I'm going about 25 mph in second gear and the car is stopped, so I continue on to pass the car.

The next thing I know I hear metal crunching, feel my head bounce off something hard, then see and BAM! I land flat on my ass on something else hard. It's at that moment I realize I've been hit by the turn-signalling car and that my left leg is broken somewhere below the knee.

With that realization I start screaming in pain. When I landed on my butt I heard my back crack, but I'm sure it's not hurt. I know my head hit something, but I have a really good helmet on (Shoei RF-800, bright yellow XXL) and I know my neck doesn't hurt and that I don't have any head injuries. I check to see if I can wiggle the toes on my left foot -- they respond, but painfully. Now I'm absolutely sure that somewhere below my knee, my left leg is broken. I hope it's not the ankle.

I take off my helmet and gloves, then unzip my jacket. An old lady is getting out of the car, asking me if I'm OK. I yell to her that my leg's broken and tell her to make sure her car's turned off. By now, several people have run up to me to ask me if I'm all right. I realize that my mangled motorcycle is dumping gasoline into the road, so I try to scoot myself out of it, but the bystanders won't let me move. I direct a guy on how to turn off the ignition of my bike, so that even though the engine's not running there won't be any chance of sparks to set the gas on fire.

One woman tells me that she just called 9-1-1 and asks if there's anybody she can call for me. I tell her my stepfather's name and telephone number and I guess she called him. Another lady says she's a nurse and tells me the ambulance is on the way. I try to wiggle into a more comfortable position for my leg, but they still won't let me move. I do convince them, though, to slide my lower body out of the path of the running gas because I can feel the cold liquid on both my legs.

Within a few minutes, I'd say no later than 1020, the ambulance is there and paramedics are all over me. Fairfax County VA FD, here folks. I felt them cut my pants and my shoe on the left side, then my sock. Two of them are holding me still, lying on the road. They want to cut off my jacket, but I won't let them. I think I yelled at them until they finally wiggled me out of it -- good thing it's a whole size too big for me. Everything else they could cut, but not my jacket.

It's not too much longer before I'm wearing a cervical collar and strapped to a back board. They lift my considerable weight onto a stretcher and put me in the ambulance. It's my first -- and hopefully last -- ride in one of these things. I can hear the siren and the noises of machinery and the paramedic (a middle-aged guy with graying hair) is telling me to try to relax, explaining that the more I tense up the more my leg will hurt. He gets an IV going in my right arm after a rookie EMT can't get the needle in my left. That guy, well, it sure wasn't a lack of effort that prevented the needle going in. He tried several times. The pain in my leg pretty much let me ignore the needle sticks.

I would guess I arrived at the hospital about 10 minutes after they loaded me into the ambulance, and a nurse is cutting my other jeans leg now. They also cut off my shirts (t-shirt & a flannel), but leave my skivvies in place. Blood pressure, temperature, tetanus shot, a couple other things, and they leave me to wait for a doctor.

Sometime in the next hour, several doctors and nurses, my wife, mother, and stepfather, and a Fairfax police officer come in to see me. I'm not really sure which person came in when, nor when they left. One of the nurses covered me up with a blanket when I said I was cold. The cop told me the old lady that ran me down was pretty hysterical, and wondered if I was OK. He took a preliminary statement from me and told me a few things:

He gave some paperwork to my wife and left.

Eventually I was taken to X-Ray, which is where I met Shelly, my radiologist. I didn't know then that it was her first day on the job at Fairfax Hospital. Her main job was to clear my neck and back so they could pull off the collar and get me off the back board. Because of my size and bone structure, she had a really hard time and eventually had to take me to the "main" X-Ray area, which is where I met Cathy and Ernest. Ernest made me cry, but Shelly & Cathy were like x-ray angels. I realize Ernest was just doing his job, but the pain was something terrible. Finally, they clear my neck and remove the collar. Then they clear my back and do some x-rays on my leg. Shelly takes me back to the Emergency Room, where I have to hang out in the hallway.

My parents & wife are there and soon some of my friends from work show up. Tim, Reed, and Curly came to the hospital as soon as they heard. It was great to see them that quickly, and their visit boosted my spirits. Tim later sent an e-mail to my internet riding friends, the Shadowriders, telling them what had happened and what he knew.

Once my back & neck were declared OK, the nurse gave me a shot of morphine for the pain. Oh, that feels good. I find out it's getting close to 1600 -- I've been in the hospital now longer than I was at work this morning. If it wasn't for the broken leg & all the pain, it'd almost be like a field trip. Another nurse helped me pee. By then, the on-duty orthopedic doctor had been by to see me and had decided to call his boss.

The head orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Cary Shwartzback, came to check me out. I got another round of x-rays because he found a puncture wound on the back of my calf and thought it could be an indicator of a compound fracture. The second set of x-rays didn't bother me too much because of the morphine. Shelly & Cathy were still there, I think, and some other people. Later, Shelly told me I kept trying to fall asleep on the x-ray table.

Dr. S wanted to try to set my leg & cast it, so they sedated me heavily and went at it. The next thing I knew I was in pre-op for surgery. Dr. S walked by and asked for a saw.

A SAW!! I cried, sure he was going to cut off my leg. Everybody in the room started laughing, realizing I didn't know I had a cast on my leg that would have to be cut off before the surgery.

The surgery lasted about 3 hours. Shelly was there with Dr. S as the x-ray tech -- her first operation of this kind. Later in the week she told me Dr. S had a really hard time with the surgery because 1) in general, men's bones are tougher than women's and 2) large men's bones are tougher than most other men. So I went in with two strikes against me.

The breaks in my leg were like this -- 2 complete breaks in the fibula, one a few inches below the knee and one a few inches above the ankle. Even with the lower break in the tib was a complete break in the tibia -- this is the one that pierced my skin. The operation accomplished two things. First, they cleaned out the compound part of the compound fracture (the inside-to-outside puncture wound), preventing bacterial infections from the compound fracture. Second, they installed a rod and several screws into the bones of my lower leg, ensuring that I will heal, walk again, and set off airport metal detectors for the rest of my life. I'm going to have to find a way to have fun with that.

The last thing I remember on Tuesday is the Saw thing.

Tuesday 11 May ... 12 May ... 13 May ... 14 May

Wednesday, 12 May

Wednesday goes by pretty much in a blur -- at least the first 12 or 13 hours of it. I remember them telling me to hit this button when the pain got too much and I remember some nurse having a terrible time with my IV machine, kept me awake for 20 minutes or so fiddling with the thing.

When I woke up in the morning, I had a bit of a panic. I have to wear eyeglasses, and of course they weren't on. I was tied down to prevent pulling out my IV and not only couldn't see, but couldn't find the nurse call button. I finally started yelling until my roommate woke up and called the nurse for me. He calmed me down, told me his name was Gary, and talked to me until the nurse got there. The nurse told me where I was, what had happened, and put my glasses on for me. Once I calmed down and could see, I started to remember everything about the previous day.

It was a while before I realized I had a catheter in, which was why I didn't have to pee. Penny, my parents, and my brother Jeremy & his girlfriend came to see me early, and a friend from the Shadowriders list, George Laing, came to see me about noon I think. Jeremy brought me a Darth Maul blanket and a box of Star Wars bandaids. I put Darth Vader on my IV tape to lighten the place up.

About 1130 they took me off the morphine trigger because they wanted me to try walking on crutches sometime that day. I got a shot of a blood thinning drug as well, to prevent clotting in my feet & legs from all the lying about. Tim brought me his portable CD player and some CDs to listen to; Penny (my wife) brought me a book & some magazines to read.

In the early afternoon they removed my catheter (didn't hurt as much as I anticipated) so I could walk. Didn't do that for a while though, because of dizziness. My friends Dana, Vi, and Tom (4-time motorcycle wreck survivor) visited me and stayed for about a 1/2 hour. George came back about 1930 with his son Evan. George brought me a fruit basket & card from the Shadowriders; Evan brought me a neon yellow toy motorcycle. The card has a little sign in it that I'm going to attach to my security badge when I return to work -- it says "Of course it was an accident. Do you think I'd do this to myself ON PURPOSE?" Classic.

I got a lot of telephone calls during the day as well. My boss, Sandy, and her boss, Francesco, called and later sent me some flowers. Some other folks from work called. A bunch of guys from the Shadowriders list called -- Damien, Bugs, Dawg, Marc...and the others whose names I can't remember right now. The calls & visits really helped to keep my spirits high. In spite of the jello diet I was on.

Some time during the day Dr. S came by to visit, but I don't remember when or how long he stayed. I walked on the crutches twice, once about 10 feet total (out & back), the other time about 25-30 feet one-way. Went too far & got too tired, so Oner (the orthopedic tech on duty) had to take me back in a wheelchair.

In the middle of the night, I asked for pain medicine, as I hadn't had any since about noon. They gave me Percoset at 2300 and again at about 0200, but it wasn't working and they had to give me another shot of morphine to get me back to sleep. Plus, sometime during the night they had to give me a muscle relaxer to get rid of a wicked cramp I had in the bottom of my left foot.

Tuesday 11 May ... 12 May ... 13 May ... 14 May

Thursday, 13 May

Thursday made a bit more sense, but putting it all back together is kind of tough. They switched me over to a pain killer called Vicodin which seems to be working well.

More visits, more calls, and a little TV. My tech today was great, a guy named James. He really did a great job, helping me get cleaned up and out into a common room to visit with my friends when six of them showed up at lunch time.

The doctor came later in the day and re-wrapped my leg. The wounds look pretty grusome. There's two vertical ones. The one up by my knee is closed up with staples -- it's where Dr. S cut me to pound in the rod. The lower one is stitched up, that's where my leg had to hang out open while the cleaned out the wound and installed the screws into the bones. My leg's all swollen up to about twice its normal size. The doc told me I could go home the next day. James got us some supplies together to help in keeping my leg clean & wrapped correctly while at home.

Penny stuck around through the end of ER (2300), then went home. Much like Wednesday night, I slept on & off, asking for pain pills when I felt I needed them.

Friday, 14 May

On Friday, my roomie Gary got some more bad news, and he's not really off to a good start today. There's quite a parade of visitors for him, all with name tags. I feel bad for the guy, he's nice. In conversations with him over the last couple days I found out what happened to him. He was trying to teach one of his horses how to jump and it decided he needed to continue horse-less. Ended up with a broken hip. Only problem was that during the healing process, he developed a bacterial infection and it's just been a terrible experience for him. He's already been in the hospital for nearly 4 weeks and is looking down the barrel of 2 to 3 more.

Anyway, I have to walk twice today (which I do) and talk to the doctor (which I also do), both of which I must accomplish before I can go home.

Paul (a tech) gets me into a wheelchair and downstairs, where my parents are waiting for me. I sat in the back seat, with my broken leg against the back of the seat propped up with an army blanket, pillow, and sweatshirt. My mom wanted to stop at 7-11 for coffee or something, and I talked her into buying me a Sobe "Wisdom". These Sobe drinks are great.

The ride home was OK, had to deal with a little rush-hour traffic. I had to crutch around the back of the house -- a good plan actually, which avoids any stairs -- and into a chair. They got me a high-chair thingie that goes over the toilet so I can actually go to the bathroom to go to the bathroom. It's one of those seats that a handicapped or old person might use, with handles & made out of tubes of steel.

I slept pretty fitfully Friday night, but OK overall.

From 15 May to 2 June
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