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Friday, June 12, 2015

It Could Be Worse…

Meet Gary, back county guide, skier, ice climber, and summiteer.  After looking at the above photo, most people might jump the the conclusion that he had run-in with some really tough luck. If you look close, it's obvious that his right leg is broken. Notice that there is some sort of external contraption that can be adjusted. It's mounted to his shin and thigh bones. Gruesome as it looks, Gary likes that at least his foot is pointed in the right direction now, unlike after he fell when attempting to ski "The Snake," a narrow, rock-strewn near vertical couloir full of ice and crusted snow on the north side of 14,000 foot Mount Sneffels. Just as it was dawning on Gary to pull up—maybe trade his skis for crampons and climb the hell back up and out of such treacherous and degraded snow conditions—something went horribly wrong.

Suddenly, Gary's world began to spin round and round. He launched, tumbled, pitched, vaulted, rolled, slammed, and bounced 1000 feet down the steepest of couloirs—gaining speed, beaten senseless. When the world stopped, Gary was conscious enough to call 911 and give his position. He also told them it would take a copter to get him out. Well, the only copter that can safely rescue someone at 13,000 feet is a Blackhawk, and the closest one was way over in Vail in north central Colorado. 

After calling for help, Gary quickly accessed his condition/situation, noticing straight away that his right foot was not pointed in the right direction. He didn't know it then, but there would be no hurry. It took over 5 hours for the Blackhawk and two-man rescue team to reach him and he was for the most part conscious the entire time. That's the definition of lonely in my book.

Gary has been at Saint Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction well over a week now. Much like the bones in his body, memories of his fall are in bits and pieces. Surgeons have mended his right leg with steel and pins. The knee was also "blown out" in the fall, and that's being surgically repaired as we speak. 

Moving over to Gary's left leg, now, fractured and casted. Add to this a back that is fractured in three places and a broken breastbone… hence the body brace. Once ghastly bruises and contusions on the face are almost gone now. Bad off as Gary was/is, he looks much better than in the early photos on his Facebook page. Remarkably, Gary's spirits seemed high while we visited. After suffering such trauma, pain will be an issue for some time. He's been holding around a 5 on a scale of 1 to 10. 

It could be as many as three months before Gary can bear weight on his mended legs. That's a long time for a guide/mountaineer to be down. But he's a fighter, as proved by waiting out his long delayed rescue on the bitter cold wind-swept side of a mountain. 

Gary is "lucky" to be alive. That kind of fall, coupled with a long rescue time, would kill most people—everyone excepting only the strongest of super-humans among us. I must find Gary a cape, something with a "Super G" on it. 

Fortunately, Gary has the loving support of his girlfriend, Averill, who basically moved into his room to see him through this ordeal. 

About the time Gary was getting a free ride in the Blackhawk, I was fighting a little battle of my own. It seems the "experimental" vitamin therapy I underwent last year to treat recurrent blood clot problems failed. What at first I believed to be strained muscles in back/chest area turned out to be triple pulmonary embolisms in my right lung. It was a tad difficult to breath there for a while. Yeah, I know… it sucks, it blows, but it could have been worse. 

Who knows, maybe I'm as lucky to be alive as Gary. In the "it could have been worse" department, I would certainly rather have blood clots in my lungs than in my brain. Problem is, we don't get to fucking choose. Life is a crap shoot. And then there's Gary. I don't know if I could walk a mile in his ski boots right now. Come to think of it, neither can he… at least for a while. Oh Adversity, Adversity… you claim to make us stronger if we can but survive. The Universe must be laughing…   

So I'm back on blood thinners now. They carry certain risks, especially for active types who need to ride mountain bikes, hike sky scrapping summits, and generally live a fast, loose, reckless outdoor lifestyle. When my world stops spinning I'm just hoping that all will not be as sad and bad as it seems right now. Time will tell. 

For everything that can befall and/or beset species Human, and the list is long, inevitably one should always try to take a look around and take notice that, it really could be worse.  It's certainly not the mantra I would choose to live by, but when the Universe makes you a "poster boy," it helps to know there is "company" for your misery. 

So, if you're having a pity party about your own health woes… think you're getting picked on or have it worse than others… then take another look at the lead photo. If that doesn't do it go visit the nearest Veterans Hospital. If that doesn't do it, try the cancer ward of a Children's Hospital. It's a good tune up for warped egocentric perspectives.
That's all I got.
God Speed your recovery, Gary.
Peace Out,


  1. I agree. Hoping Gary mends quickly and completely.

  2. Wow, yes it could be worse, and a quick look around always shows me many who are in worse shape and the bad part is some of them have no hope of getting better, so your post today is a good reminder, Mark. After 2 ER visits in the last month, I'm grateful it hasn't been worse. I'm glad your embolism isn't worse because it very well could have been so get well soon. You, too, Gary!

  3. Age 69. Same trail. Same bicycle. Slower speeds. No injury this time. I have chosen go slower and continue to do than go faster and have to quit doing.

  4. You had the lead on me in the blood clotting arena. It was a club I wouldn't choose, but as you say, it could be worse. So far, my drugs seem to be working with no real side effects. Here's hoping you have a good experience with the meds but I know it won't stop you.


  5. aiy, aiy, aiy! Getting old just plain sucks! I hope you are doing better soon and don't have any trouble with your meds. Good luck to Gary too...that's a rough road ahead.

  6. Awww crap. I am so sorry to read about the emboli. Lisa is right, getting old sucks.

  7. Getting old doesn't suck! I am 70+ ... there are too many in the back of my mind that are forever young. They never had the privilege of getting old. I have not commented since the old Artful RV Adventures days so I don't know what monkier I used. I am the quy who said you didn't miss much by missing Europe compared to the US west. Snowbird_ IL2FL

  8. Hi, Mark. I am so sorry to learn about the current situation you have been/ are coping with. How fantastic the manner in which you chose to tell us about your predicament.
    Years ago Tioga George impressed me with his explanation of what a profound difference "perspective" makes in our handling life's problems. So many times since then, I have remembered that. You brought the lesson back again. It has helped me during times when I thought I had insurmountable troubles. It is good to know that you, too, are aware of this value of perspective. Now, if only you didn't have to be on blood thinners! Remember that line " this, too, shall pass."
    Hopefully not too far in the future. I wish you well! And Gary, too.

  9. Wow, this post sobered me up - I won't be whining about anything today. Take care and best of luck to you and Gary.

  10. Sure puts life in perspective.

  11. Dude! Just don't fall. Don't injure yourself. Don't bleed. What's the problem?

    Seriously, we all know you are not going to stop living your lifestyle. Just be careful out there.

  12. Wayne has an ultrasound in 2 days because they saw a spot on his kidney when they did an MRI for his back pain. I haven't talked about it on my blog, but feel safe mentioning it here (especially since I'm likely to be the last to comment!). Hopefully it will be nothing, the upcoming series of injections to manage his back pain is certainly enough to deal with. We all have to count our blessings, glad you're keeping your clotting issue in perspective. Now go climb a mountain.

  13. I'm a little behind in my blog reading with some not great WiFi and a visit from our daughter. So sorry to read about your blog clots. Definitely not something to mess around with. Glad you are all right and hope things continue to improve. Poor Gary! He is one lucky man, for sure.


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