#RoadToRecovery Back Story

#RoadToRecovery Back Story

Jun 12, 2013

Beginning the Road to Recovery.


[Discovered new sled method using splint and walker!]

Not sure what to call it – fluke, inevitable, enthusiasm or whatever it was, here I am sitting in the ortho wing of good Samaritan Hospital reevaluating my lifting goals, informing AWPC Team USA that I will not be competing this year, and wondering if the antibiotics will save my thumb and/or life.

I headed up to an engineering conference in Ottawa, Ontario on a Thursday evening with plans to stop to see business clients and gym visits for training and writeups. The first stop was in Lavonia, Michigan to meet with Dan Allison at his gym – reverse band bench. The next day I was in Mississauga, Ontario for business meetings and then Saturday morning working in with one of the Canadian teams in Toronto, Ontario (I will write up this visit in a separate article) and then the four remaining hours to Ottawa, Ontario.


[The ultimate ‘Like’ button for Facebook]

The conference was going very well and was very busy. I picked out a few hours to visit another gym in the area (several talks that were not related to what I do). It was a fairly well-equipped gym and I was intending to work on breaking in my new Overkill briefs. The squat rack appeared to be pretty average and they had a good solid bar. I used reverse bands to help me on set up as I had to walk the weight out. At about 675 pounds for a double the briefs were just in so I debated a PR (reverse band) of 725 pounds or 765 pounds to see if I could break parallel. I reset the briefs (I will have to demonstrate the system later). I used the new ratchet belt and made my knee wraps as tight as I could. The 765 pounds felt light and I was able to do a double below parallel – everything worked great. I came up very fast on the second rap and rocked back a bit, corrected it, and started to rack it.


[Joe Atef performing corrective surgery – wait, my brain is up there]

I had unloaded the bar before to lower it and brought the safeties up to make sure there was little chance of anything going wrong. Unfortunately, when I set the weight against the rack and started to lower it, the rack rocked away from me and then back, pitching me away from the rack. I stepped back with my left foot as I was unable to just let the weight go (close grip). This is where things really went wrong. I felt my left foot roll out and then my left leg went out from under me.

The bands and safety pins kept the weight suspended. I lay on the floor with the expectation that I had shattered my leg and possibly ankle. As others came over to us I was running a quick assessment on myself. I was able to move (painfully) the left ankle, I could get the left knee up, but it rotated funny both up and down. I figured less likely a break and more likely a supporting ligament damage. No problems in the right side.


[First time seeing high school friend Babette Holder (Blogger) since high school… big Like on this one!]

I did feel a staying on my left thumb so brought its up before me. Hamburger is the best way to describe what I was looking at. Very little blood but it looked as if someone had taken a hammer to a tomato. Most likely (confirmed later) the thumb got caught between the bar and safety pin. Also most likely, if not for the bands, I would be short a thumb.

I had people in the gym remove the wrap from my right leg and right wrist wrap. I also had them remove the wrap from the left knee and I felt the patella move and my range of motion changed. Not a good sign. I had them leave the left wrist wrap on as a tourniquet.

To answer the question – no. Virtually no pain at all. Considering the weight I had just moved I figured less shock (which I have no illusions – there is always a level of shock in traumatic injuries) and mostly adrenaline. However, as the day went on, I was quite comfortable – other than my butt which kept falling asleep in the hard plastic emergency beds.

The EMTs arrived within five minutes of the accident (yes, that is an accurate time – I pay attention to such things) checked me out. We discussed my condition. One of the guys was a previous competing powerlifter (we’re everywhere) and we had a good discussion about the accident, etc. We also figured that my equipment, such as the wraps, belt, Overkill briefs and heavy bands, save me from further injury, if not my life (there is a plug for you Rudy!).


[Big Debate – single ply (blue) or multi ply (black).  Used single ply on the drive from Ottawa – the US federation allows multi-ply for recovery]

We arrived at Ottawa General Hospital relatively quickly. I was brought to a curtained area in the ER. Everyone was very polite and extremely young. However, while I will not go into details of the specific items that concern me greatly, understand that I had my left thumb and knee splinted, slept for the night in my hotel, that made the 14 hour over two days, drive back to Illinois and to the emergency room. I was “okay to drive” – no painkillers, bleeding, etc. other than using some Advil.

There is that weird feeling of not being able to lift your lower leg or support yourself without a splint. I was driving my hybrid Tahoe and used a crutch under the right arm. I think I was more concerned about being stopped at the border. When they asked what I was bringing back I stated: “Cast, splint and crutches.” It turns out he was also a lifter. No problems there.

Arrived in Chicago on Thursday in the afternoon, dropped the truck off and was delivered to the Good Samaritan emergency room. I had all of the records and x-rays from Canada, which they used. I was also questioned about the “misprint” of how much weight was involved. By the time I was moved to a room I was “the powerlifter” and being handled as a bit of a celebrity. Everyone was attempting to force pain medication on me, but there was little to no pain involved at the time.

The first surgery involved the reattachment of the patellar tendon and was performed Friday evening at about 9 PM. When brought down for surgery there was – excessive? – Nursing care and lots of questions about powerlifting. At this point they were not sure if they were going to address both the patellar tendon and thumb or just the patellar tendon.

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[3 pics above – yes, you can see the bar shape.  Ewww gross?  Try discussing the action of the tendons, veins and nerves while receiving a visual demonstration!  It was soooo Cool!!]

Several hours later I do seem to remember a few things. I was brought up to a different location – the orthopedic word.

The story, of course, had already made it there. Any of the powerlifting brothers and sisters who showed up had instant celebrity status.

The key to this type of situation is to be sheep. Follow directions, keeps spirits up, and don’t force things. As it turns out the thumb wasn’t worked on because of infection for which I would receive continuous courses of antibiotics through until Monday. My coach, Joe Atef, and I discussed powerlifting with a number of nurses aides who may come along in the future for some training.

The reattachment appears to be a success so far. As of this writing the thumb is being scheduled for Thursday, June 13. Now the fun begins!


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