Sept. 4, 2009, I'm at the lake with my son and 2 of his friends. They all take a set and now it is my turn. After an ok run for a 57 year old, I motioned for my son to do a final double-up. I hit it wrong and went up high, but horizontal and somehow my arm went thru the handle of the rope. An instant later the rope slack is gone and I am jerked around and the handle rips down my arm with enough force and pressure to cut into the arm down to the bone.
I pop up in the water with an intense pain from my right side. Reaching over with my left hand, I can't find or feel my right arm- I thought it was severed off. A few seconds later it floats up and I see it is attached. But my bicep muscle, brachial muscle and artery are stripped from the arm. I see a stub of the artery sticking out and pumping blood into the air like crazy. At the same time I see a floating piece of my muscle and flesh in front of me and I hold that over the severed artery to control bleeding.
My well-trained son doesn't power-turn and is idling back to pick me up. A couple of blood curdling screams gets his attention and he races back and jumps into the water with a friend. It seemed like forever getting my board off, and then help me get onto the platform and laying on the sundeck as I pass out. They call 911 and I come to a little later as they are racing to the dock. One kid has a death grip on my arm over the artery and another is trying hard to keep me conscious and keeping my feet elevated. Before we even get there, there is a Air-Evac helicopter overhead guiding us in.
I spent the next 3 week in the hospital (half in ICU) and had 10 surgeries trying to repair the damage. They took a vein from my leg to replace the artery and saved my arm. There were two attempts to replace the bicep with other muscle but they both failed. One was taken from my side and the other from my calf or lower leg. The first skin graft to close up my arm also failed due to infection. I was told that I would probably never be able to raise my right arm/hand up to my face (I am left handed thankfully). After getting out of the hospital and waiting a couple of weeks until I had a little strength and the IVs and PICC line is out, I started physical therapy twice a week and am still going faithfully. I can use my arm and can bend my fingers about 90 degrees. I'm not giving up and hope to be able to make a fist with my right hand eventually.
The unexpected challenge has been dealing with blood clots after the surgeries. I've had pulmonary embolisms and even another surgery to unblock a vein in my leg and install a filter and stint. But I have my life and am so grateful for good healthcare and wonderful people who have helped me. There are so many side stories and it is not all over yet either. And I had my first trip back to the lake last Friday. I will be boarding again soon- but will be acting much more like a 58 year old should. Sorry for being so wordy and long winded, but it has felt good to share and get this out. I hope nobody else ever goes through such a freak one in a million accident. I owe my life to my son and his 2 friends. They are all 25ish, eagle scouts and knew what to do without panicking- another good reason to have an observer or more people with you. And why when you have an accident like this does everyone ask if you are going to sell your boat- of course not! They don't understand the love for the water.
This picture was probably taken a good month after getting out of the hospital when some of the staples were coming out. They thought it was looking great- ha! The red waffle looking area is the skin graft- and it is all better looking now.