Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Collarbone Incident

This is the longest I've ever gone between blog updates and it's time to catch up.  The biggest news is that I broke my collarbone on Aug 28 and had to have it plated and screwed. How did that happen, you ask?  Dirt bikes is how.  If you've been following me, you know that Derek wanted to start riding dirt bikes, so I made it happen in Jan '16 by buying a set of bikes for us- a Honda CRF150F for him and a Yamaha TT-R 230 for me.  We sampled the dirt biking world, riding in the open area of the Canadian River, the mountains around Red River, our own creek, and around our little home-made track.  After all this, we decided that the mountains were our least favorite simply because of the distance and time required to get there and we like track riding best, followed by the Canadian River.

Derek was getting better on the bike and I suggested we look into getting better (read "faster and better suspended") bikes.  Which we did, by buying a '15 KX100 and '16 KX250F brand-new from Hester's Motosports in Raton.  Here's our first ride on them- Derek's first time ever actually kick-starting a bike (the Honda was electric start), first time on a 2-stroke, and 1st time on a real motocross track. This was just a quick break-in ride on the way home from the shop.  Before you critique, Derek's real riding gear was sitting at home in a box- he's wearing full padding underneath his street clothes.

Two days after this, we went back to the track to actually ride.  I was super-impressed with the KX250F and was quickly making all the jumps except for two doubles.  If you don't know what a "double" is, it's a gap jump where you leave one jump face, cross a gap, and land on the next jump face. There's not much margin for error on these things. But, my KX250F can easily do them, so after a little practice and concentration, I went for it.  I cleared the easier of the two- a 50' gap- easily and then went after the harder of the two. This one has a much more pointed landing ramp but it's the same distance.

The double jump

I reared back, gave it gas, and poooooommmmm..... cleared the landing ramp by 10'!  The hard thing about this is that there's a bowl turn immediately after the ramp and when you land there, it's kind of a harsh landing.  The best thing to do is land on the landing ramp. So, Jump #2, I did that.  Jump #3, I did that.  Jump #4.... I came out of the darkness, wondering how long I'd been lying there, what day of the week it was, and did anyone know I was there?  Then I felt a burning pain in my right shoulder and I knew I'd broken my collarbone. There was no way around it. Here's the thing (there's always a "thing", right?). The previous night I'd had a dream where I'd broken my collarbone and in the dream I thought "Oh well, everyone breaks their collarbone!"  Then, Georgia didn't want to go to the track with us because she had a bad cough and I said "You'd better go because you might need to drive me to the hospital."  Of course, I didn't tell her either of these things until afterwards.

So, I woke up in the dirt.  My bike was over there, my helmet camera mount was there, and the camera (loose from the mount!) was yonder.  Something went wrong.  What, I don't know.  I just remember heading toward the jump. Well, it'll be cool video anyway.  But guess what I found out?  The camera switch wasn't on, so no video of the crash.  Georgia was reading a book. She missed it.  Derek was on the other side of the track. He missed it.  I firmly believe that I was abducted by aliens while mid-flight, tested for intelligence, virility, good looks, and common sense and then rudely slammed back to Earth hard enough to knock the memory from my head.  Georgia and Derek arrived and helped me up,  I made it back to the pit area and, fortuitously, a relative of the track owner happened along just then. He helped load the bikes up and then we were off to the Emergency Room.

On the way to the ER!
At the ER, I got X-rayed and here's what we found:

First X-ray
Well, no doubt about it now.  That's a break. At first it looks like 3 pieces of bone with a gap in between, but after they got put back together, I saw that wasn't the case as we'll see in a minute. The crash happened Saturday. Monday, we got an appointment with Christos St. Vincent Sports Orthopedics in Santa Fe for Weds. By the time Tues rolled around, this is what I looked like:

This is kind of painful

When we got there- and the car ride down was possibly one of the most painful parts of the thing as I couldn't get comfortable in the front seat- I got fresh X-rays which revealed that the loose bone fragment had shifted around.  I was in a lot of pain, but knowing that surgery was going to happen the next day helped me tough it out.  The surgeon said "Okay, surgery on Thurs!" and left.  I breathed a big sigh of relief.  Then he popped back in and said "That's NEXT Thurs... we have an emergency to do tomorrow."  Oh, man!!!  A WEEK more of this?!  Note that I was not on any painkillers at this time as I didn't want to deal with constipation, upset stomach, and possible addiction. The Dr's prescribed Percocet and, back home, I took one to help me sleep.  I then had a nightmare in which the collarbone broke through the skin and I was bleeding to death but couldn't get out of the couch because the blood made it too slippery.  So... no more of that!  In the interim week, I managed the pain fairly well with alternating Tylenol and Ibuprofen. Once I got past the hump and the time was getting closer to surgery, I started actually getting used to it. Every time I started to feel like the pain was too much,  I asked myself the question "What Would Hugh Glass Do?" and then I didn't feel very bad at all. At least I didn't have to worry about infection from grizzly bite, you know?

At Santa Fe- where's the bone piece?

FINALLY, the day of surgery came and I've never been happier to get knocked out.  Anesthesia is a funny thing.  I was supposed to help them move myself from my gurney to the operating table, but I don't remember any of that.  The last thing I remember is leaving the staging area and then waking up.  Back home, here's what it looked like:

After surgery
A week later, we were back and here's what I look like now.  The two "loose" screws are holding the floating chip back in place.  If you look at the X-ray, you can now see that the loose piece broke off the bottom of both sides of the main bone.  So, the main bone broke in half and an "inferior" piece then broke off the bottom of both of those. The 2 screws are holding that piece up the main sections.

The plate and the screws.

After all this, I did 4 weeks of passive physical therapy where the PT moved my arm for me.  I quickly rigged up my Bowflex machine at home as a pulley so I could do this myself.  At first, let me tell you, it hurt to move stuff. I had a definite "catch" in my muscles when bringing my arm down. My PT found this muscle and massaged the catch out and I improved a little each week. After 4-5 weeks, I went back to the Dr for more X-rays and check ups and then he approved me to do "light lifting and active physical therapy".  Well, that's good because the next day was elk season and Derek had a tag for a bull elk.  So, long story, short:

Derek's first elk! On our property, too!

Packing out an elk in the dark.
This is "light exercise", right?
After a great stalk, Derek had a 75 yard shot straight down into this bull's back and dropped him with 1 shot from his 7mm-08. We only had to pack 0.15 mile to reach the Polaris Ranger.  Granted, it was uphill, in the dark, over the rocks, but I just kept the pack strap off my bad shoulder and toughed it out.  

After this, I started active physical therapy for another 6 weeks and then, finally, in early December, was cleared for full activity.  Of course, I immediately went riding.  Okay, well, I'd already ridden a few times prior but we're not going to say anything about that, right?  I mean, c'mon, I'd only ridden the KX250F for 1 hour before the crash, I was dying to ride the thing, so I took a few super-easy laps around our front yard track.  After being cleared for good, I started working on building muscle again using the Bowflex, a kettlebell, free weights, and stretching.

Looking back, here's what I learned:

1) a collarbone break is painful, but it will pass.

2) I watched a lot of TV from the recliner. TV gets old fast- there is so much junk on there.  Two programs, though, stand out. Steve Rinella's "Meat Eater" is the best hunting show I've ever seen, hands-down.  No guides, DIY, with lots of tips on meat care, cooking, etc.  "The American Bible Challenge" was great.  I really enjoyed it and Derek and I did our best to answer all the questions.

3) Sometimes you crash when going for it. 

4) Do the physical therapy!!!!

5) I could afford a $6000 motorcycle but I hadn't counted on an additional $6000 in out-of-pocket insurance costs!  If you ride, ski, run, walk, or breathe, I suggest keeping your OOPs (<  see what I did there?) on hand!

Next time, I'll talk about the elk hunt.