27 September 2007

Update in Gimpy

Well, I had to give up and go to the doctor. The swelling just would not go down. Now I know why.

Initially, it was the knee I was more worried about. It dislocated significantly, and having experienced the same injury before, I thought it would be sprained worse than the ankle. I knew that the ankle had briefly dislocated (or so I thought), but at the time, my knee was stuck out of joint and screaming in pain, so the ankle was an afterthought. After a 2 hour wait in the Salem Hospital Urgent Care waiting room, and another hour in the exam room (I guess "urgent" is a relative term), a very nice doctor came in to examine my injuries. I explained everything to her and she checked the stability of my knee, which was better than I expected. Then she wiggles my ankle and gets this shocked look on her face. "I need to get you into xray right now, that ankle is broken!" She says I must have an incredible threshold of pain not to be screaming while she's wiggling my broken fibula, but it really didn't hurt. I could feel it wiggling, but there really wasn't any "pain." Which is what makes it so frustrating, because when I saw the xrays, it is OBVIOUSLY broken. Which means a 6-8 week recovery, probably half of it completely non-weight bearing!

The ankle shows a classic "spiral" fracture. The break runs up and around the bone.

This view shows the break very clearly as the dark separation that comes to a sharp point.

This is my right patella (kneecap). The small "bump" on the right may be a bone frag.

This knee view shows two small, flat horizontal lines that MIGHT be bone frags. I'm hoping the knee will strengthen on its own and I won't have to have surgery. Probably somewhere down the line, I will, though.

So this is what I get to look like for a while:

They placed me in a temporary cast on the ankle that runs almost to my knee, and gave me a velcro immobilization brace for the knee. What an incredible pain in the tush!! It's worse than the injury! Worse still is the extra 20 pounds on my foot, which tweaks my knee nearly everytime I move.

If you've never had to use them, you have no idea how the simplest tasks are impossible on crutches. Your hands are tied up, so you can't carry anything, unless you carry it in a plastic bag. Try carrying a drink in a plastic bag. Just getting up to get a pen requires a lot of effort. But as hard as the crutches are, you should have seen me in the courtesy wheelchair at Target last night! I drew the line at using the motorized one!

Now I get to try to get an appointment with an orthopedist. I've already been told to expect this guy to refuse to see me because I have no insurance. But I really have no choice now, I've got a temporary cast on that has to be replaced by a real one, then I'll have to have someone to cut that one off and take more xrays to see if it is healed. Now that I think about it, the stars I was seeing while I lay writhing in pain on home plate must have been glittery dollar signs! Actually, I remember thinking "Crap I gotta get off the field! We're behind and the time limit is running out, we gotta get another batter up here!

I had high hopes of finding my 1.000th geocache (kind of a big deal in our hobby) before we travelled back to Memphis for a visit. Now it looks like I'll be lucky to be out of a cast by then! And paying $1,250 for plane tickets is gonna be tough given the untold sums this is all gonna cost. We've got to get back home for a short visit at least, though. We really need that house to sell!

If I may prevail, please pray for healing and that we can keep the costs down. Fortunately, none of this takes God by surprise, and He never needs a Plan B!

We may also have found a church to attend up here, one that has a special needs ministry for Timothy, so I'll update all three of my readers once we visit, hopefully this Sunday.

23 September 2007

Just call me Gimpy

Well, this is certainly not the way I wanted to spend this weekend. Some regular readers (all five of them) will know from my posts on the GOWT forums that I’ve been playing softball in a Friday night league for my new employer, Pioneer Trust Bank. I’ve played for many years, mostly in church leagues, and although I’m not highly talented, I play hard, I enjoy it, it’s good exercise, and at least I’m usually not a liability to my team.

This past Friday night we were playing the first game of a double header. I think it was the fifth inning, and I was up for my second plate appearance, having walked the first time. I think it was a 2-1 count, and he gave me a pretty good one, so I swung, and connected well, and I remember seeing just enough of it to know I’d roped it right into the huge gap they’d left in right center field. I was looking at a double, at least.

Unfortunately, I’d never see first base. About the time the ball was passing over the second baseman’s head, I was writhing on the ground screaming; holding my right knee which was bent at what I’d guess was about a 20 degree angle to the side, and obviously out of joint. I was vaguely aware that my ankle had also popped out, but the knee was the painful one because it stayed popped out for 3-4 seconds.

The ligament involved is the MCL, Medial Collateral Ligament. It runs up the inside of your knee to prevent side-to-side movement.
The injury is most common in football, where players get hit from the side. It's the same injury New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs recently suffered. He's expected to be out 3-5 weeks. Of course, I don't have to get back into "game" shape, I just have to get back to walking unaided again!

The ankle is swollen, too, and has some numbness that I hope will go away with the swelling.
The knee pic just wouldn't come out, my legs are too hairy. :^P

This was the second time my knee had done this. The first time was about 3 years ago, and was much less severe. What makes this one so frustrating is that I was wearing a brace with a metal hinge that was supposed to prevent this very type of injury. Since that one time 3 years ago, I’d not had a problem, and just wore the brace as a precaution. It may have actually hurt the knee worse by holding it out of joint briefly, preventing it from popping right back in.

So here I lay (thank God for laptops), ice on both joints and a set of crutches by the bed. I’ve made an interesting discovery. I love the History Channel, the Discovery Channel, the Military Channel, those kinds of programs. But they are not made to be watched all day long. They have about 3 different programs each that repeat in sets of three all day long. Once you run through the sets, it’s reruns. Thank God today is football day.

I think I’ve also discovered what it is about my batting stance that makes me susceptible to this type of injury. When I plant my back foot to push off into the swing, I don’t sufficiently pivot the foot to the front, so the stress forces on the knee remain lateral, instead of transferring into a natural striding motion. Unfortunately, I’ve reached this remarkable “DUH” moment too late for this season, and at 42, perhaps too late to recover from a career ending injury, if you can call what I’ve done a “career.”

The really bad part is I am five days from the end of my probationary period at work, so we have no health insurance. My wonderful wife is nursing me very well, though, so unless the swelling doesn’t go down (and so far it hasn’t), hopefully I’ll be able to simply keep the weight off of it and keep it iced for a few days and gradually let it heal. It took about 2 weeks last time, but I was able to at least limp on it almost immediately last time, too. I think this one is going to take a little longer as of tonight, it still can't bear weight. Let’s hope we don’t have to change my name to “Stumpy” (oh yeah, that’s already taken), though I admit, amputation looked pretty good lying on the bleachers Friday night with no pain meds yet! I just hope it doesn't come to this:

PS. Whoohoo to my Blog for its 2,000th page hit!

06 September 2007

Reconnecting, 1,800 miles away.

I made a lot of good friends in West Tennessee through geocaching. One, who goes by the name “Hoot Owl” (and can do a pretty fair imitation of said animal), is one of the best friends I’ve ever had, and I miss hiking in the woods with him and my other WTN friends terribly. Another good friend goes by the name “CGeek.” Wanda is a computer wiz, and largely responsible for keeping the Geocachers of West Tennessee website running after the original designer had to step back. Wanda has a travel bug. No, that’s not an insect in your luggage.

Travel bugs are items of significance to their owners, to which they have attached numbered tags that can be logged on the Geocaching.com website. You can watch its movements, track its mileage, and folks sometimes post pictures of their travels. I’ve got quite a few of them myself. One was a small replica of my black 2003 Dodge Ram. This bug made it all the way to Baghdad! If you remember seeing the big “crossed swords” monument on TV, there used to be a geocache in the right hand (apparently, you could climb up into the monument). Unfortunately, one of the “occupational hazards” of being a travel bug is the tendency to get lost or stolen. It’s hard to complain, though: once you leave something in a box in the woods, you pretty much lose control over it.

Wanda’s bug is a Panda Bear. It started its travels very close to my former (and still for sale!!) home in Arlington, TN. I knew about the bug and long ago placed it on my “watchlist.” This means I get an email from Geocaching.com anytime someone posts a log to the bug’s travel page. Wanda’s bug is one of the more successful bug’s I’ve seen, having made it all the way to China and back safely.

Last weekend, Labor Day, we traveled up to Washington State to see my mother-in-law, who lives just southeast of Seattle in Auburn. Near Auburn is a place called “Tiger Mountain,” which has a neat series of trails criss-crossing up the side, and a few geocaches. One, called “Tiger Mountain's Logging Legacy,” has been on my watchlist (and my to-do list) ever since I first discovered geocaching back in 2004. In all of our trips up to mom’s house, I’d yet to set aside enough time to do it. But this weekend, while we were at mom’s house, I got an email saying that Wanda’s bug had just been placed in “Iverson Railroad,” another cache about a half mile from Logging Legacy. What are the odds that your friend's travel bug, 1,800 miles from home, gets dropped in a cache just a few miles from Grandma's house on a weekend that we are in town visiting? I purposed then and there to head up to the cache the next morning and pick up this link to my West Tennessee friend. What I got was not only a travel bug, but one of the best cache hunts I’ve ever been on!

Overview map of Tiger Mountain trails:

The next morning, Labor Day, I got up early and headed out for Tiger Mountain. I arrived at the parking area about 8:30, with just a few cars of mountain bikers already there. Not knowing the trail system, I simply headed up the gravel road vaguely toward the cache. About a half mile and 100 feet higher, I spotted a trailhead, and investigated. The sign at the trailhead gave instructions on what to do if you encounter a cougar or a bear!! My kind of cache hunt!!

The trail was well worn, but seemed to lead away from the cache. We had to leave to get back home, at least by mid-afternoon, since I-5 can be a disaster between Seattle and Portland. I needed to make the hunt as quick as possible, so I backtracked to the road and continued toward the cache. Not as scenic, perhaps, but quicker. I encountered a couple of hikers, two bikers, and a jogger, but the road was mostly deserted. Why, I’m not sure, the weather was fabulous, sunny and about 65-70 degrees!
About a mile and a half later, I could tell from the GPS that the cache was going to be off the road to my right, so I started looking for a trail. Shortly, I came upon the “Iverson Railroad” trail; the same trail I had checked out before. This time, I was within about 500 feet of the cache, and started off.

This trail was well marked, but undergrowth, especially poison oak, encroached like the grasping arms of a would-be tackler reaching for a running back. I am fortunate in that I am not allergic to poison oak or ivy. I’ve had one or two VERY minor spots on my hands, but just don’t seem to react to it much at all. So I’ve never paid much attention to it. Up here, Western Poison Oak is like kudzu, second only to blackberry vines. After being fussed at (good-naturedly) for my “blatant disregard” for this vegetation after my first cache hide up here in Oregon, I’ve tried to learn what it looks like and avoid it. How anyone that is allergic to it can cache at all up here escapes me. But, I digress. In short order, I found the spot on the trail where I needed to head off into the woods, which was well marked by the signs of a geotrail. Shortly, I had the “Iverson Railroad” cache in hand, & sat down on a root to open it up, very happy to see a little panda peeking out at me.

With mission accomplished, I checked my watch and the distance to Logging Legacy. Thinking to myself, “Yeah, I’ve still got time,” (ala “Mr. Incredible,” if you have seen that movie, which I highly recommend if you have kids). I waffled a bit about which was to go: back the way I came to the road, or continue up the trail. I eventually chose to go back to the road.

I had to follow the road for about another half mile to get to another trailhead that led to the next cache. I have to admit, I’m not in great shape, and I was huffin and puffin a little up this road that was a steep as steps in some places. As I approached a trailhead, I stepped aside to read the signs. A friendly fella came along and asked if I needed directions. Knowing that all I had to do was follow the road to get back to my car, I thanked him and said no, I was just reading the sign. That by itself wouldn’t have been so bad, but he was at LEAST 20 years older than me and he was JOGGING up the hill!

Heading off trail here was like entering the woods of Lothlorien! Moss hung thickly from tree limbs, the cedar and fir trees towered above the hillside, reaching at least 100 feet high!

Enormous stumps, some must have been 7 or 8 feet across, gave evidence of Tiger Mountain’s “logging legacy.”

The cache site is near the site of a 1925 train wreck, and the woods are still littered with debris from the 82 year old wreck.

I also had to cross a neat little homemade log bridge.

Once at the site, I had to look for a while because the heavy tree cover was playing havoc with my GPS signal. Finally, I just glanced at a tree and thought it looked a little unnatural, and bingo!

There was another cache just about 1,000 feet away called “Karl's Peak,” but I was alone, I’d left without my hiking stick and only in tennis shoes, so I decided to let that one wait for another day. Heading back out, I was really missing my buddy Hoot Owl, if he'd been there, we'd have found Karl's Peak! Six plus miles round trip, over 400 feet of elevation change, quiet you can only find deep in the woods, this was our kind of cache hike!

Round trip took about 3 hours from mom’s house and back. For my trouble, I got a lot of good exercise, fresh air, a long distance connection with a friend through her travel bug, some time alone in the woods, and two smiley faces; three if you count the one I was wearing!