If you play with fire long enough there is a good chance you could get burned. Equally so, I realize that skating concrete pools can put me down a path where I can get hurt. Occasionally I just get a scratch, bruise or bump. However, every so often it is a big bad slam that takes me out of the game for awhile.
Recently, I was prepping for the Bowl-a-Rama contest at the La Kantera pool in Getxo, Spain and that is where I experienced the hardest slam that I have ever taken while skating. I was just having fun as usual skating with my friends and doing backside airs over the face wall deathbox. Unfortunately, I came up short on one of the airs. I could see that there was a good chance I was going to hang up in the deathbox but I went for it for some stupid reason. Oh yeah, I hung up solid, missed most of the transition and slammed pretty much on the flat bottom head first. The majority of the impact was to my left shoulder. The secondary impact was to my elbow into my ribs and the back of my head. Luckily, I didn’t get knocked out. Straightaway, the first thing I realized was that I could not breathe and started gasping for air. It wasn’t quite like knocking the wind out of yourself. Oh no, it was much more extreme than that. It felt like I couldn’t get any lung movement for over a minute or two. My left shoulder and the area all across my chest felt torn up. My right index finger felt strange so I lifted it up to look at it. My finger was bent backwards and looked like the letter “Z”. That’s when I knew I really hurt myself and that I better just nap at the bottom of the pool until help arrived. My good friend Sergie Ventura kept me calm and collected at the bottom of the bowl while we waited for the paramedics.
Eventually, the police and paramedics showed up, strapped me in a gurney and pulled me out of the pool. I was then transported by ambulance to a hospital in Bilbao, Spain. I was alone and I did not speak much Spanish. In addition, no one working at the emergency room spoke much English at all. Let me break it down. I was shirtless, in a wheel chair, couldn’t use either one of my hands, a towel wrapped over me, couldn’t communicate with anyone and literally sweating bullets in a crowded emergency room in a foreign country. I guess now I can laugh about how overwhelmingly helpless I felt.
A half an hour or so later, a local friend Manu came to my rescue and his translation managed to get me to the forefront of the crowded emergency room. Nonetheless, I received emergency care and x-rays in the ER. I was diagnosed with a left fractured clavicle and a dislocated right index finger. ER doctor reset my dislocated finger and soft casted my right forearm to immobilize my finger. He also bandaged braced my fractured clavicle. The doctor told me I didn’t need surgery and that it wouldn’t be a problem for me to travel on an airplane. I told the doctor that I still had trouble breathing but he said that is because of my broken collar bone. The doctor shot me up with pain killers and released me.
Nevertheless, I remained in Spain for 4 days in extreme pain, with shallow breathing, no use of my arms and not being able to lie down or get up by myself. My Spain roommates Pat Ngoho and Steve Alba really helped me survive the last few days. Likewise, our accommodations office employee Gaizka kindly went out of his way to help me out by driving me around and looking after me. I did manage to get myself to the bowl and I got to cheer on my bros in the contest. After the weekend, my good friends Marc and Irka helped me pack and took me to the airport. I took my flight to Hamburg Germany where my wife is living.
After arriving in Hamburg, my physical condition seemed to be getting worse since I took my airplane flight. It was harder to breath and fluid seemed to have built up in my lung. I stubbornly felt that I would be just fine with some rest but I arranged an office visit with an orthopedic specialist for a second opinion. After x-rays and an examination, the specialist said that he could not help me with my situation and that I was in need of urgent care. He referred me to a local hospital in Hamburg and advised me to go there straight from his office.
All of a sudden, I found myself in another emergency room of a large hospital. The emergency room doctor did an extensive examination of my internal organs and x-rays of my injuries. The doctor informed me that it was extremely urgent for me to have surgery for my injuries. All in all, the list of injuries I sustained were multiple fractures of the left clavicle, 2 broken ribs, punctured & collapsed left lung, dislocated right index finger, various large bruises along left torso from shoulder to hip and a nice bump on the back of my head. Furthermore, the doctor informed me that I shouldn’t have flown with a collapsed lung. There was a possibility that I could have died within 3 minutes after takeoff from lung expansion pressure on my vital organs. I basically had no choice but to have surgery. The doctors and staff couldn’t believe that I have been walking around for a week in my condition with no pain killers.
Once I was in surgery, they inserted a titanium metal plate and 8 titanium screws to set my fractured clavicle. They also inserted a tube into my left lung in order to drain and expand my collapsed lung. To sum it up, I now had 2000 dollars worth of titanium hardware in my shoulder. Following surgery, I was a disaster with sutures, bandages and tubes in my body. I was connected to a pump to expand and fix my lung. Consequently, I had to remain in the hospital for an unforeseen amount of time for recovery.
Despite my downtime in the hospital, I talked my way out and was released in 5 days. Surprisingly, the kicker in this situation is that my wife was about to give birth to our baby boy. She ended up admitting herself into the same hospital that I was in and our baby was delivered 3 days later. All things considered, it was a crazy month but in the end all is good. I am still alive and I got to witness my son’s birth. I am healing well and I am thankful that I had all my gear on when I fell. That made all the difference to my survival. Most importantly, the selfless help from old and new friends in Spain really gave me strength. After all is said and done, everything could have been far worse for me but I have no doubt that I will be back on my board soon.
A few minutes before the slam.