On a very serious note, my good friend Andrew was terribly injured last week (on April 2nd). He was mowed over and crushed by a runaway pickup truck (he was working out near Granby, CO, inspecting a condo development) and sustained major injuries, including a collapsed lung, a bruised lung, a broken femur, a dislocated knee, a broken rib, a broken collar bone, and 3 crushed vertebrae. As his wife, Erin, put it, the vehicle “rolled a 6 ft 4 inch guy into a 2 ft square ball.” Erin was there when it happened, thank god; otherwise, there was nobody else around.
It took half an hour for 30 guys from the local fire department to arrive, and 10 more to lift the truck off of him, so Andrew spent 40 minutes trapped, all contorted and injured, under the truck. Luckily (and I use the word delicately, since so much of what happened was so extremely UNlucky), Andrew had turned around just as the truck rolled over him. Luckily (again…), Andrew ended up between, and not under, the tires. Luckily (again…), they got Andrew out on a backboard…
During those 40 minutes, Andrew was screaming and pleading, telling Erin who to call and yelling at his howling dogs and getting angry at the pace of his rescue. During those 40 minutes, Erin had no idea if she was watching her husband die. One of Andrew’s femoral arteries could easily have been cut, and, at any rate, one of the of the rescue people told Erin, on the scene, that Andrew might not survive and that he would never walk again.
Amazingly, Andrew never went into shock. (This perplexed his doctors, later.) After a short ambulance ride, and, I believe, a longer helicopter ride, he landed in an intensive care unit in Denver.
Andrew is one of the strongest, kindest, sweetest, best-spirited, most determined guys I know, and I am convinced this trauma would have killed anyone else.
So before going on, here’s a little video snippet of Andrew, dancing in the Utah desert last October. That’s Erin, in the red jacket, saddling up next to him. (The clip is from Slotfest.)
Before going into one surgery last wednesday, Erin tried to get Andrew to relax, since patients who feel strong and confident tend to do better. So she described to him what it was like climbing Mont Blanc (they met while climbing the Arete Cosmique, on the Aiguille du Midi), waking up before dawn, putting on crampons, kicking steps in the snow, listening to the crunch of step, step, step, breathing slowly,etc… and as Erin described the scene, Andrew’s pulse (which was high) began to go down, and down, and down. The same has happened as Erin has played her harp for him. That same day, Andrew was able to scribble a note to Erin, which said “I love you.”
That was a week ago, and it was about as much as i could handle.
Now, a week later, Andrew is battling pneumonia, thanks to the oxygen tube shoved down his throat, and a constant 102 degree fever. He has 5 back specialists, 1 leg specialist, 1 lung specialist, many trauma doctors, more anestesiologists, a general manager, and multiple nurses assigned to him per shift. He needs back surgery — fusing 7 vertebrae, and dealing with his 3 crushed vertebrae — but the docs keep delaying the procedure on account of other complications, like a tracheotomy (since intubation damages vocal chords after about 10 days). So his 8-hour back surgery is now scheduled for Tuesday, April 17th. Erin reports that the nurses consider him the sickest patient in the sickest part of a hospital that attracts the most severe trauma patients in Colorado. (Update 4/19: Andrew’s back surgery went well, and he’s eager as hell to get the F out of the hospital already.)
I can’t believe this happened to such a good friend, and that another good friend has had to cope with the whole thing for the last 9 days. There have been many tears, and a definite inability to focus. Erin’s life must be 100000x more difficult, dealing with so much shock, as well as legal and financial concerns (another friend calls the hospital “Andrew’s $20,000/night suite”), though she certainly has handled it amazingly so far. Apparently, when handed a form asking, “When did the problem start?” Erin wrote, “When the F-250 mowed my husband down.” Asked, “Does the patient have any special needs?” Erin wrote, “English breakfast tea with 2% milk.” Her humor is commendable.
If all goes well, Andrew will face 3 months in a back brace, and a year of rehabilitation, which is very hard to imagine for a non couch-potato like Andrew. As Erin knows well, and wrote, “It will be very difficult for him mentally to understand how one can be super organized, fastidious, careful, make all the right choices and still have no control over a situation and its outcome.” Talk about UNlucky.
So send your love to Erin and, especially, to Andrew. (Write me for their contact info.) Cookies, music, reading material, you name it, as long as it’s not a little toy pickup truck, would all be greatly appreciated.