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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.