Like grant proposals through the hands of USAID, these are the projects of my life!

Peace Corps Response 2011-2012
Peace Corps Response 2010-2011
University for Peace! 2008-2009
Supercross08! 2008
Peace Corps! 2005-2007

An obligatory disclaimer: Everything I have written, has been written by me. All of my own views, expressed hereinafter, are my own views. If you needed to read this disclaimer to know these things, you're a silly goose!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Doored Down, In A Blaze Of Glory!

I was riding my bike home from the gym after just having had an awesome workout! The early evening air was incredible, and my whole being felt amazing! I turned west onto NW Thurman St at 21st AVE as I passed another biker. As I went through 22nd AVE, I could see the light turn green on 23rd and decided to put the hammer down and go for it. I was just two or three blocks away from a salmon dinner and a shower!

I picked up some speed, and without any warning, the door of a parked car flung open in front of me! There wasn't even an instant to react, but my super fast brain processes did this: Go left and try to avoid the door, but there is traffic to the left and hitting a door is less than going under a bus. So, I tried my best to avoid the corner of the door. I didn't have time to say anything, or brace for impact, or brake, or really anything at all. As I aimed for "not the corner" I must have grunted or began a grunt or something because I swear that corner moved.

My eyes closed as I hit the door with tremendous force. I felt it open up all the way as my body came to a complete stop before being flung back onto the ground. I'm pretty sure I was cussing and ready for a fight before my back even hit the ground, but once I was on my back, I realized I was hurt pretty bad.

Instead of attempting to kick the driver's ass, I pulled down my hoodie to expose my hurt neck to the driver. I kept repeating, "Is it bleeding? Is it bleeding?" I knew I was hurt pretty bad, but had no idea of the extent. My legs were flailing around as I writhed in pain, and within moments there were five or six people around me. One guy was directing traffic, one guy called an ambulance, a couple guys tried to calm me down, and one guy even held my hand and told me everything was going to be okay.

I kept my back and head as still as possible as I tried to accept the pain and calm down. But my neck hurt an incredible amount. I told the people who had stopped that I'd be fine, and I just wanted to take my backpack off, as I was still awkwardly on top of it. They told me to just lay there and be still and that help was on the way. I asked again if I was bleeding and they said no, I just had a pretty bad scratch. Well, I thought that was no big deal so I tried to get them to let me take off my backpack again. No dice. "Just don't move. The ambulance will be here in three minutes." The one guy holding my hand kept patting me on my chest and telling me to hang in there and that everything is gonna be ok. It sounded like an awful lot of fuss for just a scratch... Then one guy leaned over into my view (all I could see was sky), and said it looked like I'll have to get a couple stitches before they send me home.

The paramedics showed up and were on me like a fly on stink. Without any pleasantries, one of them was cutting off my clothes. "Hold on, guy, this is my good hoodie," I joked. My poorly-timed humor certainly doesn't take breaks for emergencies. They got me onto a stretcher as I asked questions about my bike and my backpack. It's a huge mystery to me how my bike didn't end up underneath me. I heard one paramedic say it was "over here next to my iPod," his voice coming from way in front of the car. The ambulance ride to the hospital happened in a flash of sirens and offers of morphine from a paramedic who told me he was using his calm voice on purpose.

Once in the emergency room, I was surrounded by a team of 12 doctors, surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, and a social worker. They peppered me with questions and felt around my body before deciding to put me through a CAT scan. One nurse told me to relax my abs so she could detect injuries. The thing is, I had a huge can of chili for lunch which set me up with some terrible gas, and I really needed to take a dump! I had been holding it in since I left the gym and it was becoming evermore uncomfortable. They rolled me into another room for a CAT scan and the cute doctor told me she was gonna roll me over on my side and feel down my spine and then put her finger in my bottom. "Ummm, what?!" She repeated herself, exactly. I was terrified that her probing would be like popping a balloon! So, I resisted her finger to my best ability, but she won. Luckily, I didn't deflate.

Back in the ER, they broke the news to me that they were gonna put me to sleep in order to clean the wound and stitch it back up. I swallowed my pride and explained my chili/gas concerns, knowing full well, that I wouldn't be able to hold anything back once the good chemicals took me off to la-la land. The nurse laughed and helped me use the toilet. No big deal. They then took me to the operating room where I apologized again to the operating team for my gym sweat and my bad gas. The anesthesiologist leaned over and said, "I usually blame that on the patient anyway."

I was under the knife, and the needle & thread, for about an hour and a half. After I had woken up, and regained my better sense, the surgeon explained to me that the corner of the car door had severed my right sternocleidomastoid. He continued, and said that it was only a couple millimeters away from cutting my carotid artery... A real live brush with death. He told me that I was really lucky, and I told him that I had a different idea of what luck is. But... He's right. When I play the moment over again in my head, it freaks me out beyond a mentally healthy level. Don't know what to make of that yet.
They told me they couldn't sew the two ends of the muscle back together... They had to sew the muscle to my fascial tissue and sew the fascia back together. Then they sewed down the subcutaneous layers, and finally closed my skin. They said they didn't keep a count of how many stitches they used, but that there are three layers of stitches. With all that sewing going on, the two ends of the muscle are just supposed to develop some scar tissue that will hold them together, I guess. They said my sternocleidomastoid would have about 85% of the tensile strength that it once had. I told him that was pretty good because my 100% was really awesome!

I was finally released from the hospital, about 24 hours after I was admitted. I'm super impressed and thankful that there were so many good souls who stopped to help when I went down. I'm super grateful for the various teams that got the opportunity to work on me and save me. And, I'm eternally thankful for my sister, who was pretty much by my side, taking care of me, the whole time! It's looking like I'll have a pretty gnarly scar on my neck for a while to remember it all, as well as some very compassionate pain killers in my pocket to forget once in a while.
And although I'm pretty medicated in this picture, here's proof that flirting with death can't take away my smile! So, some time away from work, some time away from the gym, some time away from fun, and I'll be as good as lightly used!


Rainbow Choi =) said...

oh my goodness A! and you are still smiling and being the goofy goof you are! if i haven't said it before, i love ya lots and am SOOOOO thankful you are a few millimeters still alive and well and undeflated.

and yes, your 100% is awesome!!

love ya lots! skype date soon??


Ximena Loria said...

My dear Andrew, I am glad that everything is okay now. Be careful next time, I really miss you and I hope to see you soon. You look pretty badass.

Oscar said...

i thought you were kidding.... I am happy things ended up ok, congratulations for your attitude, you are the maaaaaaaaan.
Hope to see you in costa rica soon ;)

Anonymous said...

Andrew! I'm so happy your o.k. but sad that this happened to you. If you recover enough for "light duty" you can come work with me at the zoo:). Seriously though, if you need anything please dont hesitate to ask and if you need any advice/help dealing with HR FMLA, you know I love that stuff! I'm sure they'll be good to you....when you run out of leave dont forget about "sick leave donation request". Hopefully you wont need it though because you'll recover mega fast. -Shonna

Anonymous said...

Still can't believe this happened, but so glad you're still with us! Hang in there and keep on smiling! -Alex