In Feb. 2006 I shattered my right wrist doing stunts on a terrain park at Cannon Mt, NH. I had spent the day with a group of friends and at 4 PM the last two of us found ourselves considering the lifts shutting down in 30 minutes.
“I’m going to go to the bar and join the rest.”
“I’m, gonna do one more.”
Famous last words.
I returned to the top of the run to do one more. Picking up speed, I hit a jump that I had done successfully 3 or 4 times already that day. By this time of day, the sun was behind the trees, and the snow had gotten colder, more icy, and harder. I suppose I hit it going faster than previous jumps. I flew 15 feet up into the air. When I came down, I landed kind of funny and pitched forward. Actually, as my wife is fond of saying, I didn’t land funny, I didn’t land at all. If I landed, I would have been fine.
I pitched forward and threw my hands out to brace my fall. Granted this is the worst thing to do, and someone with 10 years experience should know better, but I was wearing wrist braces and feeling pretty unbreakable. My wrist hit the ice and immediately broke, offering me no support. My torso keep going and hit the ice, right on top of my hand. I rolled on my back and convulsed from having the wind knocked out of me. I felt no other pain, but couldn’t move my arm or hand below the elbow.
Multiple people called first aid, some reported me as having a broken his back, some reported me unconscious, others reported me dead. First Aid came expecting the worse. At some point I was aware of a ski patrol standing behind my head looking down at me.
“Hi, what’s your name?”
“Do you know where you are?”
He was trying to assess whether I hit my head.
“How old are you?”
“Wow. 34, and still doing jumps….that’s…good, I guess.”
“Actually, I’m thinking about giving it up.” I said without missing a beat.
Because I didn’t hit my head, they didn’t have to backboard me. I wrote to the station on the snowmobile and called my buddies to come get me. While I waited, they started to cut my gloves off and the brace. The bones in my wrist were so mangled it didn’t look good at all and now that the adrenaline was wearing off, it really hurt….
“Eric! Eric!” I had lost consciousness in the chair and was just coming around again. “Eric! Can you hear me?”
“Who’s Eric?” I asked.
“You are? Aren’t you?”
“No. I’m Mike, and I might of come around faster if you’d used my name.”
“OK he’s fine,” the snow patrol said to the others and looked a little miffed. They splinted my wrist carefully and sent me on my way. Cautioning me to keep it elevated.
My friends packed me up into a truck and we drove and hour to get to a decent hospital that would be able to call in an orthopedist on Sat. night. Trucks can be quite bouncy. The pain was getting pretty bad too.
We arrived at the ER and were made to wait. They took some initial X-Rays where the attending doctor simply said, “I don’t know what I’m looking at, but I know it doesn’t look normal.” After that I waited 4 hours for the orthopedist, all the while they refused to give me any pain killer until I saw him. In my time, I decided to call my wife, who let me go away for the weekend despite being home with a 3 year old, and 5 months pregnant with no help at home. She was not thrilled to hear from me.
The orthopedist noted that the among the many pieces of my bones now floating around in my forearm a large chunk from the end had slid a few inches down toward my elbow. So much for keeping it elevated. He was going to perform a reduction, which is to say he was going to slide it back and push it down into where it’s suppose to go. For this they allowed me some pain pills, a good 40 minutes of stretching my arm out with weights, and a Novocain shot deep into my wrist.
I’ve felt a lot of pain before. I suffer from migraines, and have been in my fair share of fights, but having a needle shoved to the center of my already broken wrist was like nothing I’d ever felt before. Little did I know, that wasn’t the half of it. After some time for that to take effect, they asked me if I could feel some test shots.
“As little as I enjoyed the first one, I’m afraid I need to ask for another, because I can still feel that.”
They gave me another, every bit as painful as the first, and when it had time to take effect he returned with a large nurse, easily 250 to 300 pounds. I lay in a stretcher, sitting up in with my arm out over the side. The nurse was ordered to straddle my arm between her elbow and armpit, in something of a wrestlers lock. In this way she could lean on my arm and apply her weight to keeping it still. It also provided a buffer between me and the doctor.
The doctor grabbed my forearm in his hands and using his thumbs together, slid the broken piece toward my hand, and then pushed it down into my wrist.
If the nurse was lighter, I would have thrown her. If the doctor was closer I would have hit him with my good hand. I’ve never felt anything like that, and still haven’t.
The put a cast on me, and sent me away with instructions to see my local orthopedist ASAP to consider surgical options.
Less than 48 hours after shattering my wrist on the slopes, I was back in CT being seen by the best orthopedist surgeon I’ve ever met. He works on pro athletes and yet makes himself available to regular slobs like me. I erroneously believed we were talking about the possibility of surgery, I asked lots of questions, which he agreed were all good questions, but that I wasn’t quite grasping the situation. Without surgery my wrist would not work again. Despite placating me with answers, his staff was already scheduling the surgery for coming Tuesday.
I asked if it would require pins or screws. He said it was hard to tell from the x-rays how bad the damage is, but we would go in with the intention of doing pins and if it’s really bad, plates and screws. Two sleepless nights later I was off to the hospital, never having had surgery, I was a bit nervous. When I entered the OR, they asked me some routine questions.
“Am I allergic to anything?”
“Dog, Cats, mold, mildew, pollen, dust…”
“The doc laughed and said to his staff, “Damn, and were gonna let the dog do this one….Are you allergic to any medications?”
As I approached the table I noticed the tools they had ready. A big yellow battery powered DeWalt drill was charged and ready to go. This just served to remind me that our bodies are really just elaborate machines and that the procedure I was about to undergo was not unlike mechanical repair or basic construction. This was further reinforced when I showed my ex-rays to a carpenter who said they recognized the self tapping screws.
When I came around I asked how it went, I noticed there were no pins sticking out of my arm. The doctor said it was pretty well dusted. I asked what that meant. He said, “somewhere between broken and pulp.” My wrist was shattered so bad it required a titanium plate and nine screws, three to hold the plate to my forearm and six more to hold the six most important pieces of my wrist where they are suppose to be. Numerous other pieces were left to float, not being an impediment to operation.
No cast was required, only a simply plastic brace for the moment, the plate was actually the best internal cast one could buy. I could start PT right away, as opposed to waiting 6-8 weeks for a cast to come off. After surgery I could not move my wrist, forearm, or hand. I could ever so slightly wiggle the tips of my fingers. And that’s where PT began.