Fractures in the Desert

Wed, Nov 29, 2017

The good news is that I was released from the hospital last night but the bad news is that I have seven fractures and the next fews months are going to be rough ones.  Here’s what happened.

We’re in the Emerald Desert RV Resort and our neighbors are a wonderful Canadian couple who’ve been down here the past few years.  They are also  friends with other Canadians and one thing they like to do is go four wheeling in the desert.  So when he extended an invitation to join them for a post Thanksgiving day ride, I was all in.

As in the past, the plan was to rent Honda quads from Steve’s ATV Rentals in Salton City nears the Salton Sea.  I joined most of the group in choosing a Honda 250 that weighs about 400 lbs.  I nice combo of power and weight.

Here’s part of the group as we are preparing to hit the trails.  The single seat Honda is on the left.

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So off we went into the Ocotillow Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area for a four hour ride.

The area is full of dry washes with plenty of hills to climb.  Here’s my neighbor’s son climbing a small hill just as we were getting comfortable on the quads.

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Later we were climbing hills many times higher looking for new challenges.  And that’s where I got into trouble.

We don’t have any pictures but I went up a steep one, lost traction near the top and started sliding backwards.  When the Honda got a little sideways, it pitched me off and tumbled right over me as we went down the hill.

The Honda caught my legs and pushed them into my chest and I heard three quick pops.  Uh oh, I thought, those are vertebrae.

When we came to rest, I was under the Honda but not pinned down.  My first reaction was to wiggle my toes and feet and thank goodness, they still worked.  (This is the second time I’ve been in this situation with a vertebrae fracture; back in ’83, I had a parachute accident and my first move, after coming to rest, was to wiggle my toes).

The accident knocked the wind out of me and it took a good ten minutes to get back to my feet.  But I was able to walk back to my Honda, with assistance, and fired it up.

By this time, it was late afternoon and time to head back.  For me, that meant a ~60 min ride at 5-8 mph depending on the terrain.  Every bump was a new experience in pain as my hips, lower back, right shoulder and chest were all sore.

When we got back to the truck, I was no longer able to stand under my own power and the guys put me in the back of the truck and took me to Eisenhower Medical Center in Palm Desert.  So chosen because it was the closest hospital to where we were staying.

I was admitted, went through triage and X-rays and learned that I had a few broken bones.  Since that hospital doesn’t have a trauma team, I was transferred to the Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs.

Then once again through the admittance process, triage, X-rays, etc.  The attending ER doc told me that I have two fractures in my right pelvis, one on my right femur socket, one in my fourth rib on the right and three fractured vertebrae in the Lumbar (lower) section. I also have strained ligaments in the rotator cuff of my right shoulder.  Yikes, I thought it might be bad but not this bad 😦

All of the fractures are non-displaced and should heal on their own except L4.  That one suffered a ‘burst’ fracture and there’s a loose piece on the stomach side of the vertebrae (so away from my spinal cord).  The neurologists have determined that no surgery is needed for L4 so long as symptoms don’t develop, ie, numbness or twitching of the legs.  Fingers crossed.

The staff put me in the ICU late that night and I ended up four nights in the hospital.  I’ve got to tell you that it was absolutely no fun.  To protect my spinal cord, I was instructed to only sleep on my back.  That’s not the way I sleep so I was up basically all four nights.

And the pain!  Every time I would move, something hurt.  If it wasn’t my hip, then it was my rib.  If not that, then my shoulder.  Very ugly situation.

Since there was nothing more to do except let things heal, I wanted out.  It was a bit of a fight but I was released last night and am resting in our Airstream.

I have a lot of follow-up physical therapy to do and will be wearing a spinal brace for the next few months.  Here I am in the ICU with it newly attached.

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My right hip is sore and can’t bear my body’s weight so I am getting around on crutches.  Being mobile is nice but there’s pain every time I get up, move or try to sit down so a price to be paid.  My focus now is getting through the first few weeks, being weened off of the crutches and hopefully, getting to a point where the pain is manageable.

Long term I’m hoping for 100% recovery but I might not be so lucky this time.

Carol’s been an angel and I can’t say enough about how much I love her.

Thanks all and keep the rubber side down 🙂

3 thoughts on “Fractures in the Desert

  1. Gruesome!!! Feel really badly for you, Dave. Hope you do have 100% recovery. I can’t imagine you not being able to bike, run, or play golf. Fingers crossed for you.

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  2. Pingback: The Road to Recovery | DC Airstream

  3. Pingback: Two Activities Per Day | DC Airstream

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