Thursday, June 28, 2007

If I broke my neck (this is how I did it)

Sunday afternoon I finally left Roseburg, When I pulled out of the Walker's driveway, leaving the house on the hill, my car was pretty full of junk. I stopped by MyCoffee to get one last drink at my favorite spot. Three of my favorite workers were all there, and they gave me one last drink on the house. Then I picked up an ice chest full of cherries for my parents. With that, knowing that everything I needed to do in Roseburg was done, I pulled out of town and headed north on interstate five. On the way up I stopped in Eugene. I decided to use my student discount one last time at the University of Oregon bookstore. I ended up getting iWork '06 with Pages and Keynote, Final Cut Express HD, and Adobe Photoshop Elements 4.0. I thought about getting some Duck clothing as well, but decided against spending any more after dropping a decent amount on computer programs. I made my way up the rest of the state to Portland to stay with my grandma, the whole way listening to various podcasts from this month that I might have missed. Most of these podcasts were The Big Show with Dan Patrick and Keith Olberman, but I also caught up on Sports Business Radio with Brian Berger.
When I got to my grandma's place she was in the dining room eating dinner, so I joined her right then. After we finished we hurried upstairs to watch the end of the Oregon State baseball game. I was excited to watch the Beavers finish their second straight college world series championship.

Monday morning I had breakfast with my grandma and then took off for the Lloyd Center in Portland. I decided to park my car there and take MAX downtown, not only because it would save me money--since my departure and arrival locations are part of fare-less square--but also because I wanted to feel the buzz in Portland over the draft that would be happening later during the week on Thursday. To my disappointment, there was no palpable excitement over the draft, and there wasn't even any excitement over the Beavers' win from the night before. The disappointment wasn't too much, since I was going to Powell's City of Books. Once I got there I found the book I was hoping to find. Red hot and Rollin' by Matt Love is a collection of essays and articles about the 1976-77 Portland Trail Blazers NBA championship team. It also includes a DVD of the documentary Fast Break. I picked up my book, went back to my car, and drove the rest of the way to Arlington Oregon to join my family.

I was able to help work on the new house a little on Monday before my brother and I headed out to our aunt and uncle's ranch. Once there we watched that DVD. It was fantastic, and helped us get even more excited for the draft. Of course, so did all the NBA coverage we were watching on ESPN.

Tuesday we got up and went back into town to do more work on the sewer plumbing. After getting some of it done and taking lunch, my dad decided that we'd done enough and it was too hot to work any more. So Stephen and I drove down to the park to play frisbee and go swimming. We played frisbee for a while in the sun before deciding to cool off in the pseudo swimming hole. Arlington is right on the Columbia River, and back in the 1950Õs the original version of downtown was destroyed when they built several dams further down the river. The dams flooded the area that had been downtown and created a permanent inlet. Stephen and I swam there all the time when we lived in Arlington as little kids and when we would come to visit our cousins. To show my seriousness about cooling off I tore down the beach and got ready to dive in. Knowing that the water stayed shallow for a long time, I made sure to do a shallow dive. But it had been so long since I had swam there that I forgot just how shallow for how long the water stayed. As I did my shallow dive with my hands out in front of me, I somehow managed to catch the sand with my head.

As I entered the water my I continued too fast to the bottom, hitting the top of my head. The immediate feeling like electricity that went through my body was fairly cliche, as was the flash of light in my head. What wasn't cliche was the lack of feeling in my extremities as soon as that happened. When I hit and started floating up I could no longer feel my toes, fingers, feet, hands, legs, or arms. My brain was still sending orders to my limbs, and they were following orders, but they weren't sending confirmation back to my brain. I flipped myself over so that I was facing up, but as hard as I tried I couldn't tell if I was going to surface. As I was underwater I thought that I would need to kick to get Stephen's attention, in case I didn't surface. I wasn't too scared at that point, just realistic in my awareness that I wouldn't be able to hold my breath for too long. I did make it to the top of the water before Stephen got there, and I was able to yell at him.
I can't move anything. Come pull me into shore. I'm serious, I can't move anything.
He did pulled me in to the edge of the water, where I told him to stop. I'm not sure why I told him to stop, except that I must have thought we were further up the beach. As it was he had to hold my head up out of the edge of the water. While I lied there I continued to try to move my extremities. After 30 seconds or so I could feel tingling in my feet and toes. Then I could move them and feel things normally. Then the same thing happened in my hands and fingers. After a few more seconds all the body parts that had been numb were back with full feeling. Once I was sure that I could feel everything again, I decided to stand up. Stephen helped me get up and walk around a bit. By this time the lifeguard had come over to see what she could do, been told that she couldn't do anything, and stayed right by us as I tried to regain feeling. Another lady was already calling 911. When I got up the lifeguard asked if I wanted her to tell the lady to call off the ambulance, since I appeared to be okay. I told her that seemed like a good idea.

I went up to our bench for a little while, rested on the grass, and then went back into the water a bit to rinse some of the sand out of my hair. After rinsing a bit--and doing a terrible job--I went back up by the bench. At this point the ambulance pulled in and the paramedics came down to us. I told them that they were looking for me. They wanted to take me to the hospital in the ambulance after strapping me to a backboard, just to be sure. I appreciated their concern, and decided to call mom and dad to see what they thought. The biggest reason I wasn't sure is that I am currently without health insurance, so I knew my cost would be really high. They made me paranoid enough that I consented, thus embarking on one of the most annoying trips of my life. Being strapped to a backboard is a terrible experience. Riding in an ambulance isn't much better. Not being able to move at all for five hours is the worst of all. the nearest hospital is in The Dalles, which is 50 miles away from Arlington. In the emergency room they sent me in for a CT scan. Eventually the doctor came in and told me that the CT scan was negative. He finally let me move, and I was freed from all the stabilizing apparatuses. He wanted to see my range of motion a little, and then I walked down to the bathroom, something I'd needed since I got in the ambulance. When I got back the doctor was sheepish and had me lay back down. He thought the two radiologists said that the head and neck were both negative on the CT scan, but they actually hadn't finished reading the neck yet. At that point he put a new neck brace on me, one of the stiff, ridiculous braces. Eventually they did read the neck, deciding that I was probably fine. They thought I had an old injury on one of my vertebrae, what looked to them like a chip fracture. The doctor said that this injury, even if it had happened during my accident, would not be too bad, but that an MRI would be necessary to determine for sure what was going on with my neck. He was especially concerned about ligament damage at that point.

My family and I came back to Arlington, then my mom took me back to the hospital on Wednesday. After the MRI they decided that the only thing wrong with me was bruising and swelling in my neck. I still have really limited range of motion, and the pain can get bad enough that I appreciate the Vicodin prescription. But there's basically nothing wrong with me. I'm glad all the tests were done so that we could be sure, but that's a high price to pay to be told I'm going to be fine. I now have a soft neck brace, and the only things the doctor told me I should do to speed my healing is wear that brace and ice my neck. I can't wait to see what the bill is for all this stuff.

Then again, I'm really glad that the hospital took care of me without insurance, and that they had the capabilities to check all the possibilities and make sure I'd be okay. My brother joked that I was trying to get out of helping them work on the house, and my parents suggested I was making sure that I'd get to watch the entire draft on Thursday. I'm glad we can joke about it now, because it was the sort of thing that wouldn't have been very funny for a two minute chunk on Tuesday.

1 comment:

Eileen said...

See? Do you see what happens when you leave Roseburg? Sheesh!