Friday, August 30, 2013

The Revenge Of The Trees

We raged a war on our Bleecker Mountain Trees.  We cleared them for firewood and had the remainder bulldozed over a good portion of our ten acres of land to make room for our homestead.  I guess one shouldn't mess with Bleecker Mountain Trees.

I was sitting at Albany Medical Center in the emergency room.  I'm not sure what happened.  I tried to piece it together.

I cut down a tree on Tuesday.  I notched it and back cut it perfectly.  I turned off the chainsaw and set it down.  The tree was perfectly balanced.  I was proud of myself.  I still have it.  I pushed it over with one finger, and stood off to the side as I usually do in case it kicked as it crashed.  I've cut down hundreds of trees at this point in my life and I'm pretty good at it.  It fell with a big, resounding CRASH. 

An instant after it fell, I caught a brief instantaneous glimpse of a tree falling and coming at me out of the corner of my left eye. The next thing I knew, I woke up laying on the ground, crumpled up and unable to move anything.  I was completely paralyzed.  After a minute, I got feeling back everyplace but my right arm. Afraid I might pass out again, with everything spinning and me staggering, I struggled out of the woods to a chair in the screen tent a couple of hundred feet away.  I knew I was messed up real good.  Blood oozed down my face.  Everything was tingly, my world was unsteady, and everything got very, very bright all of a sudden.  My pupils were dilating.  My right arm ached and was useless and hung like a wet dishrag.   I didn't dare try to walk to Earl's house for help in case I passed out half way there.  All I could do was sit and wait for help. 
I heard that applying cold compresses to a spine injury can lessen damage.  Where would I get ice?  I was sitting next to the beer cooler!  I removed the ice packs and applied them to my neck.  It was hot and I was sweating, and the cold compresses felt good.  The beer was getting warm though.  What to do about that?

This photo below was also taken by Pam, the day after the tree attack.

Yeah... four beers.  Is that a problem?   I was just whacked by a tree, fer pete's sake.  What else was I to do while I was sitting there?

After some time, feeling started to come back to my extremities.  I could wiggle the fingers in my right hand now.  I sat there until i got enough feeling back in my right hand to drive Pam's standard shift car, her Miata, home.  I parked it at the top of the hill and walked down the long, steep driveway.  I immediately stripped and jumped in the shower.  If Pam came home and insisted that we go to the hospital, she wouldn't wait for me to shower.  That's what happened when I stepped on the nail last month.  I had to take preemptive measures.  It was a difficult task, taking a shower, and shampoo on the open wounds on my noggin hurt!

When Pam came home and I told her what happened, she insisted (over my objections) that we go to the hospital.  I put my foot down.  NO.  We don't have health insurance.  It's too expensive.  Let's wait until tomorrow and see how it goes.  

Pam called Gump, a doctor friend in Annapolis, and told him what happened.  She handed me the phone.  He said a neck injury like that might make me stop breathing and die.  Yeah, but we don't have insurance.  I'm not going.  End of story. I'm putting my foot down.  I'm the man of this castle.  I'm not going anywhere. What I say goes, and that's it.  Pam gave me "the look".

We arrived at St. Mary's ER in Amsterdam.  They checked me out and decided they didn't have the right skill set to patch me up.  They were going to send me to Albany Medical Center, where the most versatile and talented physicians are in this part of the state. 

Poor Pam could hardly keep her eyes open.  She had gotten up early that day to drive her mother to St. Mary's for a foot operation.  I told her to go home.  There was nothing she could do now.  I was getting an ambulance ride to Albany Med and there would be a lot of sitting around and waiting.  I could see that she was reluctant to let me go alone, but she needed sleep.  It was 10 PM.

"Just go," I said.  "Go home and get some sleep.  You can come when you wake up."

So she left.  She arrived at Albany Med at 4 AM.  I was glad to see her, but that's not getting much sleep since Bleecker is about an hour and a half from Albany.

Xrays showed two fractured vertebrae in my neck, C6 and C7.   The fracture in C6 was next to a blood vessel that runs to my supposed brain.  The docs didn't tell me what that meant, but the look on the doctors' faces were grim enough to tell me it was serious.  And I saw a lot of docs.  Trauma docs, spine specialists, dermatologists, podiatrists, I saw them all.  

"What happened?"

I tried to be flippant, as is my nature whenever I'm hit by a tree.  "I was attacked by a tree.  It hit me square on the head."

"A tree branch?"

"No.  A tree.  I cut a tree down, and another snuck up on me and whacked me for it."

They asked me many questions about how I felt.  They were amazed when  I told them that I didn't have a headache most of all.

"No headache?"

"Nope.  Not a thing.  I hit my head on stuff all the time."

They all shined a light into my eyeballs.  "Follow my finger.  You don't have a headache???" they all asked.


Then I thought that I had better watch what I say.  There's a mental ward here, for sure.

While I didn't think this was all that big a deal, they admitted me.

While I was undergoing tests, I sent Pam home again for much needed rest.  She was beat.  She didn't want to go, and I could see tears welling up in her eyes, a combination of exhaustion and stress.  But I convinced her and  she left.
Pam took this photo below the next morning.

You can see the tree I cut pointed at ten o'clock and the one laying across it that came from the left. I never saw it coming. It was, I think, hung up in another tree and sprung from the vibrations of the crash of the big one I cut.  It never made it all the way to the ground. Good thing. I might have been paralyzed, or killed.  It's not that big around, but long, and it must have sprung like a whip.

After many hours in the ER waiting for a bed, I was taken to C5 which specializes in spine trauma.  I think C5 is some kind of inside spinal injury joke, but I can't say enough good things about Albany Med and C5.  The staff there is incredibly attentive and even politely laughed at my lame jokes.  If you ever get hit by a tree, go to Albany Medical Center in Albany New York and ask for C5.  I don't care where you live.  You go to Albany Med and ask for C5.   Tell them the Bleecker Mountain Idiot sent you.

The photo below was taken by my daughter Becky.  

Yes. I'm "smiling". Morphine + Oxy-something = sunshine on my shoulders, and makes me happy.

To make a long, drugged fuzzy story short, my prognosis is mixed. The fractures will heal eventually, but when the tree hit me it hyper-extended my head backwards, causing my spinal cord to hit a vertebra and bruised it. It will heal, but it will scar and may affect things like feeling in my right hand, which is still numb. Doctor Carl also said that my back is a mess both from old spinal injuries, this new stuff, inherited problems, and arthritis.  He said he'll be looking at my xrays, CT scans, and MRIs in 20 years and shaking his head, wondering what the hell happened.

On the bright side, the three toes on my right foot that have been numb for years are no longer numb. Strange.  Maybe I should whack myself with another tree to see if that fixes my right hand?

The docs released me and I'm now home.  I'll be in my neck brace for six to eight weeks, but the upside is that I have lots of cool drugs. But no lifting, bending, twisting, or cutting trees.  Actually, Pam, Kathy, and Becky
 ganged up on me and told me that I will no longer be operating anything that runs on gasoline, diesel or electricity for quite some time.  Pamela will change the locks on TODD the Trailer.  I guess they know me and my recalcitrance.

I can't thank Pamela, Becky, and Kathy for being by my side for so many hours over the past few days.  I love you all more than you can ever know.

This may sound like an awful thing to happen to a person, but to quote Lou Gehrig, "I feel like the luckiest man on the face of the earth."

I'm still here.   It could have been worse.

Now to figure out Plan B.  Where will we be living in a few months?  The Unabomber rental cabin?  A motor home?  Drift Away?  A cardboard box under an interstate overpass?  In Earl's barn with Jeremiah?  With my track record, I could always live at the hospital, but I have Pam and the critters to think about.


  1. Dr. Carl is an amazing doctor.......ask Mom....glad you are on the mend...

    1. I was really impressed with Dr. Carl. Not only was he obviously intelligent and knew his stuff, he could explain it to my drugged layman's level. Not too many doctors can do this.

  2. Geez Dave!!! You are a lucky man. Glad you are ok. I hope you mend quickly. Maybe take the winter off and get back to Drift Away.(No trees)
    You should be healed by spring. Although I don't think Jeremiah will fit on the boat.Seriously though,I think you got a second chance. This could have ended way different. Take Care.

    1. Thanks Dave. Drift Away is an option. We're also considering buying an old motor home (I'm a glutton for punishment) and driving to Florida where we can fix up Drift Away a bit to sell it. We love the boat, but with building in Bleecker and all, and we not being wealthy, it really has to go.

  3. WOW!!! You were right Dave when you told us back on Drift Away that there would be some pretty crazy stories about building in the Adirodacks. However, I don't think you've reached the "Building" stage yet!

    I'm so glad to hear you're (sorta) OK! Hate to say it but I told you NOT TO LEAVE DRIFT AWAY!!! You and the friggin pelicans really had something going there! I guess you'll have plenty of time to sit/lay and think about your next step. Maybe you'll even come up with some new ideas for the NaviNut (patent pending).

    My prayers are with you and Pam as you heal and figure out the next steps in your life. In my book "You Guys Rock"!!!

    1. Thanks Mark. I knew from my track record that there would be some stories to tell here in Bleecker. I thought stepping on a nine inch nail would be about the extent of the personal injury ones. I was wrong.

      Pam says there are no nine inch nails or falling trees on Drift Away.

  4. They don't call them widow makers for nothing. All the best and get well soon! All of us folks driving a stupid desk need your enjoyable blog to read every day! I'm too old for this shit! Pam was correct you did need to be in hospital! You prognosis is interesting (got to love the Doc's) hopefully you will not loose the feeling in your hands.
    Best Regards

    Kevin (Autumn Dream)

    1. Hey Kevin! I can use my right hand, but my thumb, index finger, and flipping off finger are partially numb. Even if that doesn't get any better, considering what happened, I'll take it. Everything else is fine, in all extremities.

  5. Well, this is a fine pickle you've got yourself into.... You need to be thanking you're lucky stars it's not as bad as it could be. At least you didn't lose your sense of humor and thank god for that. I mean, what would I do without my daily dose of your down-home cut on life. Think about us, we need you...

    Take care ole friend and get better soon.


  6. Sorry to hear about you misfortune... Hope you can shake this off like you normally seem to do. I bet you will.
    Maybe a condo in Boca... already built. The only thing dangerous there are the militant old folks, but they don't run too fast and can't shoot straight.
    Also... no trees.
    Seriously, hope you get to feeling better and get up and around soon.

  7. I'm glad you're okay, Dave, but I'd be some pissed if I were someone who loved and depended on you. Dumb, plain and simple. And wicked expensive with no one to blame but yourself. Not only did you not use common sense safety precautions, you should never be cutting trees when no one else is around.

    I've had C-5/C-6 damage and at one point I wanted to rip my right arm off. The Burlington neurologist proposed taking a piece of my hip (or cadaver bone) and replacing those two disks but rather, I took the advice of a second opinion from Dartmouth-Hitchcock to let my body slowly heal itself and today I'm doing pretty well. BUT! THE BIG BUT - which you'll have trouble with I'm guessing, is that you have to basically do nothing for at least two months; and then there will be things you should not do. I expect you'll find some justification for avoiding restrictions and if you DO.. you could then face chronic pain or nasty surgery.

    Your friend is right in urging you to go slow with the drugs.. my husband's tree injury provided with him with way more drugs than he needed -- and he used them minimally. They sneak up quickly if you're not careful.

    You've got a lot riding on how you follow your doctor's advice. Zis is zee point on Sprockets when we need to test our self control.