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Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Just to Clarify

Since I left things a little vague in my last entry and don't want to cause undue worry, here's what happened Friday:

Skate boarding over to Doug's, carrying half a gallon of water in one hand and wearing a back pack, I turned the corner to head up the hill, gave it a few strong kicks to pick up some speed, and then (I think) snagged my foot on the wheels. (The one complaint I've had about this board from the start is that the deck is too narrow, so the wheels stick out. See this entry for a photo of the board.) So, basically one hand was behind me trailing a heavy water bottle, the other hand happened to be behind me counterbalancing my rotation (y'know, the way your arms swing when you walk?), the road happened to be extra close because I was starting up hill, and then both feet suddenly stopped moving while they were right next to each other. So where in the past I have always managed to tuck and roll, and have at worst scraped a knee or put a hole in the shoulder of my shirt, this time I went straight into the blacktop face first like a dart. Indeed, in reviewing my injuries yesterday, I realized the only part of my body that emerged unscathed is below my knees -- since my feet were the furthest thing from the ground.

Sometimes things happen so quickly you don't know what happened until it's all over, but this wasn't one of those. Well, the road came up and smacked me in the face before I knew what happened, but then I had enough time to reflect on the hollow coconut sound my head made and realized I'd just smacked the ground hard with my face--and then realized that the ground was still moving, my face was still on it, and that grinding sound I was hearing through my skull was my skull.

The thought going through my head at this point was something along the lines of "dammit!". Really the immediately annoying thing about doing something like this is knowing that you're now at the beginning of an ordeal. The immediate pain is relatively insignificant by comparison.

So I stood up, expected to have some nasty scrapes, but didn't feel too severely damaged. I did have a moment of panic, though, when in the next moment I completely lost eyesight in my right eye -- it just went black. You can imagine the thoughts that invoked. But then I instinctively wiped my eye, and discovered I could see again! But then it went black again, and I realized with some relief (really!) that it was just blood pouring into my eye. Foreheads bleed a lot -- I know this because I once got whacked in the forehead by the buckle of a parachute harness I was almost falling out of 100' in the air while tied to a car on a windy mountain road when the rope broke. But anyway, all the neighborhood kids happened to be out to spectate for this one, and came up to me to inspect the damage. "Woh, dude, that's gonna need stitches." And then they started asking me where I was going, and if they could offer me a paper towel, yadda yadda. I thanked them for their offers but declined, and skated back home (it was quicker than walking, and time seemed of the essence here) while bent over with my hands cupped to try to keep as much blood off my clothes as possible.

Inside, I stripped at the door, threw my clothes in the wash on cold, and managed to only get one drip of blood on the carpet on my way to the bathroom mirror. The nice thing about blood is you don't have to delay it's path to the ground for very long before it congeals in place and gives up. (Though I haven't inspected them thoroughly, I think the pants survived. But the shirt, alas, now has a hole in the shoulder!)

So I ignored the pain and rubbed as much water on my face as I could, to excavate as much road grit as possible, and then discovered that I'd completely lost a couple of small chunks of skin, one pea-sized on the bridge of my nose, and one large bean-sized on my forehead. It was reminiscent of anatomy class where you remove the skin and there's some weird black tissue underneath. I applied liberal quantities of neosporin and bandaids and mostly stopped the bleeding, and then spent another half an hour cleaning up the miraculously large number of other injuries scattered about my body, including both sides of both hands (don't ask me how) and a couple other spots which I can't fathom how they contacted the ground from that orientation...

I got on the phone and called a couple of friends to see if anyone had a rule of thumb for when something needs stitches. In return I got some rather adamant insistence that I go in to at least have it looked at, so I went in to a clinic a few blocks away--against the wisdom of my own personal experience in which every doctor's visit has amounted to "Sorry, I can't help you. That will be $100."

After waiting two hours in a lobby full of sick people, I saw a doctor who said "Sorry, I can't help you. That will be $100." No, actually, it was worse than that. He said I'd managed to pull a couple of chunks of skin right off, and he could try to stitch up the holes but it would probably scar pretty bad so he recommended that I go to the E.R. where they have more experience with this sort of thing and where they could call in a plastic surgeon if necessary. (Note that "plastic surgeon" is not a big deal -- just a doc who's got more experience patching skin back together in ways that doesn't leave scars.) He also said I should get a cat scan to check for occult fractures.

I told him quite frankly that I was concerned if I went to E.R. that I would just sit there for another N hours, pay a whole nuther set of (even more expensive) fees, and end up with just another doc who was going to look at it and say he couldn't fix it. But he just looked at me with that look they spend four years practicing in medical school and told me he'd go to the E.R. if he were me.


So I drove to E.R., paid a whole nuther set of even more expensive fees (they wanted a cash deposit of $120, and said I'd be getting bills from everybody who played hot potato with my chart), and ended up with just another doc who looked at it and said he couldn't fix it. Though he did add the opinion that I had a broken nose.

The nurse who dabbed at it lightly with a gauze pad and put more neosporin on it (and who will probably bill me $60 for that) said "all that for this?" as in "why have you been running all around town for this little scratch on your nose?". So I just felt stupid for being there. Think of all they toys I could have bought with all that money instead.

So when I got home and looked in the mirror, I realized the holes had filled up with a pink, gelled blood and puss mixture that looked nice and fleshy and made it completely unapparent how deep they were. Having learned not to overestimate people, especially doctors, I wouldn't be surprised if this alone explains why I got such different readings from the two locations.

So in the end I just returned to plan A--home-made saline washes, neosporin, and lots of bandaids. So far I seem to be healing rapidly, though I've still got that frankenstein look going. I'll post pics once I get my net access straightened out. :) Yeah, I took one right after I first looked at myself in the mirror--some things just can't be adequately described in words.

So, hmm. What shall I do next Friday?

Actually, this Thursday Doug and I are going to see Cirque du Soleil! Yay. They're in town. Catch 'em if you can.

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Simon Funk / simonfunk@gmail.com