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Thanksgiving 2015

Have you found something to be thankful for?

My friends are up at Wolf Creek skiing.
My right arm hangs limp at my side, and I am grateful.

It was about 10:15 PM Mountain Time on a Sunday night. Driving my Yukon Denali, I climbed up the winding gravel driveway to the rental house at the top of the hill. There was a report of snow for the next day, but it was a clear moonless night.

I opened the garage door with the garage door opener and drove the car into the bay. Grabbed my iPad, iPhone and purse and walked out of the garage closing the garage door behind me. The sentry sensor light was shining, lighting my way. The trek toward the house is about 30 yards up a small hill pathway lined with boulders and smaller rocks.

Then, the light went out. I was in mid-step and I should have stopped. I could see nothing. As I put my foot down, I felt a rock on the side of my hiking boot. The next thing I knew I was in excruciating pain. I was holding my right arm to my chest with my left hand. If my right arm moved downward even slightly, the pain became even more intense. I remember feeling very, very cold.

I was on the ground – the gravel. But I wasn’t sure where. I know now that I blacked out. I lost consciousness and rolled down the hill and was lying in the gravel driveway

I tried and tried to get up. I got on my knees and lifted my right leg so that my right boot was on the ground, but could not seem to right myself. Kneeling, while still holding my right arm to my chest, I lifted my right foot to the graveled ground, and tried to stand up, but I couldn’t. I was extremely cold and the pain was off the charts, but I kept trying.

As I lay on the ground with my alpaca poncho around me, I remember thinking: “If I don’t get up, I will die.” I was so cold, it would have been easier to just lie there, huddling on the ground.

I kept trying. I don’t know for how long, but somehow, I was able to stand. Seeing and feeling the bruises on my shins, knees and left elbow show me how much effort it took.

I credit my Eastern European/Polish heritage on my mother’s side with the strength and flexibility of strong hips and legs. As I look back, I’m pleased that I played football and was a middle linebacker. Although, many years ago, this type of physical ability wasn’t an important factor in being able to stand and to move.

I was confused and not sure where to go. Unconscious from hitting my head, I had rolled down a hill and was at the bottom of a part of the driveway. Once I was standing upright I began to walk and realized that I was walking away from the house. The pain in my right arm, side, back and shoulder was excruciatingly severe. Which appears to be why I did not realize that I had a concussion.

The next day when the emergency room doctor asked me if I had lost consciousness, I said “no”. I didn’t know that I had hit my head because the spectacular pain in my right shoulder, arm and back engaged my entire attention. And, I was very cold. It was very dark. No moon, only starlight, and my eyesight was foggy.

Somehow I walked up the hill and was yelling “John, help”. John is staying in the basement apartment of the rental house. I got to the door. He opened it. I didn’t know how long I had been yelling, but as I got to the door he heard me. I lay down on the bed still holding my right arm to my chest with my left hand and arm. He gave me a pain pill. I was so cold and could feel my teeth chattering as he covered me with blankets. I fell asleep for a few hours. Upon awakening, John drove me to the emergency room at Pagosa Springs.

He told me that it was about 1:15 in the morning when he opened the door and let me in. I had been in approximately 20° weather for about three hours. I can now understand why my thoughts told me that if I did not get up I would die.

The emergency room doctor told me that the bruises under my eyes indicated a concussion. He performed a CAT scan of my head and neck. The pain continued in a phenomenal manner. The x-ray of my right shoulder showed a dislocated humerus, and a possible fracture.

There was no orthopedic surgeon in Pagosa and I was taken by ambulance to Durango. The emergency room medical staff inserted an IV for pain medication. It took the edge off. Still, the pain continued.

The orthopedic surgeon in Durango relocated the arm bone into the shoulder socket. He put my right arm in a sling. The x-ray taken after putting the bone back into place showed that there was no fracture on the head of the humerus. My fingers tingle and the two middle fingers are somewhat numb at the tips. The area across the deltoid muscle is also numb. There is nerve damage. The large nerve that is affected is the axillary nerve that operates the deltoid muscle. I cannot lift my arm. It hangs limp at my side. And, I am grateful to be alive.

2 Responses so far.

  1. doug cattanach says:

    There is a reason you are still with us. Get well and stay strong. Keep up the good work you are doing. Our lives are better because you are still here. Take care

  2. Elena McCaughey says:

    Quite a scary adventure, I am glad and thankful to know you survived this. Even in the cold, snowy night you were not alone, God’s angels were watching over you, and Grandma and Grandpa too.