TL;DR: Send me mail, or e-mail me your address so I can send you mail. After I finish my fundraising duties, I’ll be stuck in bed all day with not a lot else to do:
Grand Rapids MI 49501-3474
Trigger warnings: Images and descriptions of accidental self-harm, pictures of small rivers of human blood, experiences with Obamacare in New Jersey, depictions of prescription narcotic use, allusions to conservatives in a conservative town watching Fox News, completely non-sexual corset-like back braces, discussion of Burning Man, mandatory non-consensual bed rest.
Reason for visit: patient fell off shipping container about 10 feet.
patient remembers falling, does not remember hitting the ground
patient woke up in ambulance
Chief complaint: BRADYCARDIA, CLOSED HEAD INJURY, THORACOLUMBAR FRACTURE,
This is the first blog post I’ve typed entirely with one hand. I’ll let that be the excuse to come back to, as if the rest of my injuries weren’t enough for you.
What happened? After about two weeks, I figure I better answer this question in greater detail. I still haven’t come up with a snappy answer to the question that always follows a glance at my arm and back braces.
Hearing a guy wearing a necktie and khakis say “I fell off the back of a shipping container” just prompts quizzical looks from doctors, physical therapists and TSA employees. Trying to explain that this was not a workplace injury creates more confusion, while adding that this was related to a Burning Man project usually gets people to stop asking questions altogether.
Many of you know I was working on a fundraiser for my Burning Man project. In addition to trying to get 70,000 people to send a postcard, I also bought a shipping container to serve as one of the three Post Offices at Burning Man.
The details aren’t important, but the container needed a lot of work. When I realized how much work it needed, I flew out to NYC and started spending a lot of late nights trying to get the thing into a serviceable condition, to make it so we could ship it out to Nevada and survive. (As far as I know now, it and all the contents within made it there OK.)
The forecast for Wednesday, August 6 called for thunderstorms. There were still quite a few fresh cuts in the container that I wanted to cover to protect the steel and let us to continue working on other tasks inside. Along with some paint and other supplies, I picked up two 16’x20′ tarps. I strapped one end of the first one down to one side of the container, climbed up on top of the container to stretch it out, then weighted it down. I bolted the second tarp to the first one, then began unfolding the second tarp by walking it back…
So, this is how far safety third got me.
What I thought was two 16×20 foot tarps turned out to be two 20×24 foot tarps. Granted, had I been paying closer attention, I might not have walked backwards off the container. That blood splat you see there is where the back of my head landed.
The last thing I remember was looking up at the sky, recalling how clear it was on a day that called for thunderstorms. Perhaps fittingly, they never came. The next thing I realize, I’m in an Ambulance being asked the standard questions I recall from more than my fair share of ambulance rides…
“What’s your full name? What’s your date of birth?”
…and one I had not heard before.
“Wiggle your toes! WIGGLE YOUR TOES!”
Fortunately, I was not working alone. Mike heard the impact and summoned the ambulance that was now ferrying me to St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Paterson, New Jersey. I remember hearing him in the ambulance, he apparently said he was my brother and therefore got to ride along.
I remember being wheeled off the ambulance and whisked around while lying on a stiff backboard. I remember the 7 staples that went into the back of my head, wondering why they didn’t hurt a lot more going in. I remember having a CT of my abdomen and head done. I remember wanting to turn off the really bad TV that was in the room they stuck me in.
Around this time, I asked Mike for my phone. A few days prior, I had installed Facebook Messenger, which pops up little faces of the people you’re chatting with. A picture of my friend Doc, who I had been chatting with on an unrelated matter, appeared on my phone. Instead of tapping his face, I apparently tapped something which took me to update my Facebook status. What I meant as a private message to him ended up getting publicly posted:
Hey doc plz call Wendy tell her I'm in st Joseph Paterson hospital.
Feel off roof broke 7th vertebrae surgery tomorrow maybe
on lots of pain meds plz keep quiet
I shouldn’t have been shocked at the 138 comments that followed.
The trauma staff said at the time that surgery was likely, but ended up getting overruled by the surgery staff the morning after I was admitted to the hospital. Two weeks after the accident, all the MDs, DOs and physical therapists I’ve seen have told me I’m pretty lucky to have survived a fall like that with the relatively minor injuries I sustained.
The next thing I remember is getting parked in the room I’d be in for the next 4 nights. I somehow ended up in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, as the Trauma ICU was full. I woke up sometime that night in some of the most intense pain I’ve ever experienced, on top of being insanely hungry.
All I got was more morphine and ice chips, as the powers that be did not entirely rule out surgery for another day. I do remember breaking a two day fast with a cheese sandwich, two packages of Graham Crackers and apple juice.
The next four days were somewhat hazy, even now. The cycle basically went, sleep for two hours then:
- Wake up in agonizing pain, beg for more Morphine
- Respond to messages on my phone
- Eat…whatever was brought up to eat.
- Have a 30 second discussion/examination with a doctor
- Beg for more Morphine or Benadryl
- Get Morphine and/or Benadryl
- Wait for that to kick in, go back to sleep.
Pro tipp: If you just want to sleep, get Benadryl by IV. It makes the inside of your arm feel like it’s on fire for about a minute, but its totally worth it, it knocks you right out.
Wendy, my ex, was there every day I was in the hospital. She probably knows more of what went on than I did. I’m incredibly grateful to her for taking care of me the week I was in the hospital, and the 4 days it took me to be well enough to travel back to the family members caring for me in Grand Rapids, MI.
I only really remember three things that happened outside of this cycle of pain, sleep and incredibly contradictory visits by a parade of doctors that appeared and disappeared in minutes.
At some point on my second morning in, I remember confronting the intern who came to check on me twice a day.
“Hey…wait! Did you take an x-ray of my wrist?”
“Um…no, I don’t think we did.”
“Could you order that? My wrist is in incredible pain…”
“On a scale of..”
“11. As in, there’s something clearly wrong with my wrist and I would like you to image it.”
I got the x-ray at some point later that evening after repeatedly asking about it. Apparently, the time from order to action is roughly 8 hours at St. Joe’s.
Fortunately, it only took them 4 hours after the x-ray to put a cast on my arm. Due to the lack of care with which it was applied, this cast was replaced a mere two hours after stepping off the plane in Michigan.
Maybe on my second day in, my friend Adam and a bunch of folks who are now all at Burning Man came to visit. Unfortunately, they arrived just as my pain meds kicked in and I was out cold the entire time, save for two comments I remember:
“We could totally draw dongs on his face now.”
“Do you think we could wake him up to ask him about [something Burning Man related]”
Had I not fallen off the container, I’d be at Burning Man right now. Yes, it’s depressing not to be there…and honestly. at this point…I’m not sure if I should go back. There are a ton of signs telling me that the happy place I came to love and cherish during my first burn is no longer there.
To Be Continued….