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Dane

I fall down....

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Took me a while to decide to write about this. Still uncomfortable with the format I have chosen but hopefully some will find the comments enlightening. But it is written for me as much as it is for the forum.

 

I have been climbing awhile and taken many, many falls while leading on trad routes and later on sport routes. The longest a full 70’ onto a 2” swami with no leg loops. Very few falls (actually only a couple) came as a surprise on lead. The 70’ was one of them. But no harm, no foul and no serious injuries. The surprises and really pushing hard I generally saved for top ropes. From the early ‘80s to the mid ‘90s I was fortunate enough to do a number of 1st ascents of trad routes in the .11s to easy .12 range and was able to solo a lot. Solos included multi pitch 5.10 and 5.11 routes.

 

In all that mileage over the years the few injuries I did sustain in falls have been minor, blistered finger tips on a slab, a tweaked ankle I could walk on after dropping onto a sloping ledge, a grounder that I could at least hobble away from. None of them a surprise. Sore and bruised maybe but never broken. Only one kept me off the rock again that particular day.

 

So when I have read about rock climbing accidents over the years I have always put them off to bad luck, inexperience or just plain stupidity on the climbers part.

 

Then I fell off.

 

How hard was it? 5.6. How high? Maybe 20 feet? Most will know the route, The Fault on Lower Castle Rock. It is a simple chimney pitch, easily climbed inside the chimney until you can get some protection and squirm out of the crack just past the tree. Or you can face climb the chimney wall if you choose till you get to that first piece of pro in.

 

I have soloed the complete Fault/Catapult line to Logger’s Ledge and finished by climbing one route or another on upper Castle Rock many times.

 

I can tell you in detail how the fall happened. I remember a good left foot and a great left hand. Right hand was just in casual opposition on the edge of the chimney. It was all I needed to make the right step up. As I stepped up to a small ledge for my right foot I was thinking about how my Carhart pants were just a bit too tight for the high step I was taking. And that I had one more move before my first piece of pro would go in. No worries, casual.

 

Then my left bicep tore completely off my forearm (old injury my Doc said to rehab, which I did and then ice climbed on all winter) There is more to that story but not really relevant to my point of this post.

 

As I said I’ve taken enough falls to have a pretty good idea of what is now happening. Wall is just off vertical here. I remember thinking it was bad that I wasn’t falling straight down. In retrospect I suspect that saved me from even more serious injuries. ( like shattered ankles and broken legs) I felt the toe of my right foot hooking on the rock as I went down. Kinda like a crampon would do on ice. That is never a good thing. THANG! goes the right ankle. That ain’t going to be pretty is my last conscious thought. Next thing I am almost horizontal and figure I smacked the shallow scoop on the right wall. I’m out cold and bouncing down the wall now so who knows. Bouncing is another good thing in retrospect.

 

From the tally of my injuries later I suspect my partner Paul (SOBO here at CC.com) probably saved my life. Paul actually stood his ground and used his body to break my fall. I suspect I knocked him ass over tea-kettle.

 

(some of this may or may not have ACTUALLY happened, Paul can add any details I have wrong)

 

When I came to I can remember being annoyed that someone was yelling and shaking me to wake me up.

I was in a happy place and just wanted to be left alone to enjoy my sleep.

 

Then I realized I was sucking in dirt through my mouth and nose and was lying horizontal on my side facing the wall. And that I’d fallen off. Didn’t have the wind knocked out of me….although I suspect that all happened while I was unconscious. From just my little “reality check” I figured I was pretty fucked up. I rolled over, sat up and changed my shoes and soxs and took off my harness. At some point I remember saying “Sorry but I am done for today”. Then I tried to stand. That wasn’t going to happen. "Shit, can’t even hobble back to the car…this is embarrassing.”

 

A couple of other climbers came up the trail and didn’t notice anything special. Paul explained to them what had happened and asked them to use a phone to get an ambulance on the way. One of the guys split to get phone reception farther down the canyon near Leavenworth. I suspect less than 30 minutes later the emergency crews showed up, taped me to a back board and down the hill and off to Wenatchee Valley Hospital I went. I was out of the hospital 6 or 7 hrs later, had my wife and a friend pick up my car and checked us into a hotel in Leavenworth.

 

It was a rough drive getting home the next day.

 

For the next 4 weeks I lived with pee bottles, muscle relaxants and pain killers. Surgery on my torn bicep could not be done until the headaches eased from the concussion. (A helmet? Come on it is cragging in Leavenworth for chrimney sake) You have a 14 day window for the surgery before your bicep starts to really atorphy and then shrink into you upper shoulder. 14 days later the surgery would be a mute point. I went 10 days.

 

My head still felt like someone wanted to get in using a can opener. I wanted a working arm and decided the pain wasn’t that bad…at least not enough to mention again.

 

4 weeks on serious pain killers will plug up an healthy elephant. At some point I decided taking a shit was more important that being in happy land with no pain. I think it was the night I had to pull a turd out of my own ass and keep from passing out while doing so. Ya it was that grim. The second one wasn’t any better.

Fuck, it hurt.

 

It was bad and had to change. I decided shitting was more important than lack of pain and advil would have to do from that day forward. Although there were times I broke down and thankfully got another 4 hr fix so I could sleep.

 

It is now a full 6weeks later. I started spending most of the day out of bed @ 4 weeks. Simply because I couldn’t sleep without the pain killers. I still couldn’t walk. I could move my ankle so started rehab at home. I was actually able to run 2 miles yesterday. The first at 13 minutes and after a couple of minute break the second at 11 min. Up from sub 7s six weeks ago. I have a ways to go but I can walk and run again. There were times in the drug induced haze that I wondered.

 

Today I did a 10 mile bike ride. Took me 46 minutes on a course I can generally do in mid 30s. But I am mobile again. Things will go faster now. My head still hurts on a daily basis. I have some memory loss. Rehab always hurts but that will diminish in time as well.

 

When they put me into the ambulance I figured I was pretty messed up. I hurt from my big toe (the nail is totally black now) to my eyebrow (my only cut) on my right side. A torn bicep only hurts when you actually tear it off, them the pain is gone. So the left side was good. I refused any pain meds in the ambulance so I could accurately describe what I though my injuries were to the ER Dr.

 

After a lifetime of injuries I thought I had a pretty good idea on what I had broken…..again.

 

Right ankle broken (last shattered in ’93)

Broken hip…new one for me

Internal injuries on my right side… again new

Broken right little finger (’05)

Broken shoulder ( ’75)

Broken back ( ’73)

Broken neck …another new one

Left bicep detached (right bicep ’07)

 

Thankfully I was way off on my own diagnosis.

But trust me, every one of those areas still hurts 6 weeks later. Enough so that it is distracting.

 

The ankle was just a severe sprain. Early rehab and 4 weeks of bed rest made for a quick recovery once I could take body weight on it. Nothing else broken besides the finger which was dislocated in the fall. It finally was realigned correctly this week when I shook hands with a buddy. Brought tears to my eyes but the finger works better now, just one sore nasty bitch at the moment.

 

Something not quite right with my guts. On the ride today everything between my hips and my armpit felt like they were unglued internally. Pushing hard on the bike just made me puke. I still can’t sleep on my right side. I’m counting on that just “going away”. Gotta make me think again on how lucky I was to have Paul break the fall and not just auger in to the dirt.

 

My right shoulder feels pretty much like it did after being dislocated. Loss in range of motion and it makes some funny sounds now. Professional rehab, lots of hard work and time for that one.

 

My neck now makes all sorts of funny noises when I move and gets really sore if I move it wrong or quickly. Head aches come and go. A 2” strip from the back of my neck to the top of my scalp still feels “weird” and itches. Again…if I had hit without Paul breaking the fall…...I suspect I’d now be dead or much more seriously injured.

 

The bicep surgery went fine. I am well on the way back to full strength on the left arm. Only down side is the top of my left hand and wrist are now numb from nerve damage during surgery…not uncommon.. Won’t be climbing any cracks till I get full feeling back there.

 

So what did an off day on the rock really cost besides a few extra aches and pains?

 

To date, 6 weeks out of work and counting. I am just now starting to get a few hours a day in the shop. I work for myself so I can set my own schedule. Down side is if I don’t work there is no cash flow coming in and at the moment lots of it going out. I suspect it will be another 6 weeks before I can physically put in a full 40 hr week. I have a decent insurance plan but will still pay between 2 to $3000 out of pocket by the time I am done.

 

Not everything is in yet for billing and the rehab is a conservative estimate from what I have paid on other injuries in the past couple of years. You need to learn to be your own health’s advocate. Remember that our health professionals are still “practicing medicine”. You might as well start now, doing the same. No one knows your body better than you. Ask questions, learn to say no and most importantly listen to your body. And finally, don’t deck out :)

 

Considering a trip to the emergency room and only one “real” injury (torn bicep) was treated things add up fast.

 

The actual bills I have seen so far look something like this:

 

$1005.00 Ambulance from Castle to Wenatchee

6392.00 Emergency room Wenatchee

456.00 Wenatchee hostpital

2200.00 Orthopedic surgeon

3625.00 Ortho practice/ surgery room

1372.48 Anesthesia

3500.00 Rehab

1600.00 Radiologist CT and MRI

 

You might want to check out an insurance plan if you don’t already have one. Dropping $20K cash and another two months of wages on one day of climbing in Leavenworth is not my idea of a climbing vacation.

 

FWIW.. when I fell my right hand was on the white knob across from the horizontal crack in the shadow line of this picture. And yes it is just as easy as it looks. And Paul, "thanks bro" not many guys can hold their mud :)

 

53511.jpg

 

 

What isn't mentioned until now is the many pee bottles my wife emptied, the breakfast and lunches she left at my night stand and the stress she went through watching all this unfold at home or waiting in a hospital room. You had better pic a tough partner.

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wow dane...what can i say? You will heal up and this will be a memory...

 

contact Mr.Radon on this site...he went through one of the most devastating injuries that i've seen personally (broken back) and his recovery is inspirational, despite the numerous "brokeback" homo jokes that he is now the butt of...

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wow...glad to hear you are on the recovery road now!

thanks for sharing...

I can definitely relate to idea of "cratering" and having a kick ass partner who saves your life.

 

Cheers to sobo!

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Man, my body ached just reading this... hate to think about what you went through. I have climbed that pitch many times. I figure I will be less casual about it next time I climb it... Here is to sobo :brew:. Good climbing partners are worth a lot...

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wow...glad to hear you are on the recovery road now!

thanks for sharing...

I can definitely relate to idea of "cratering" and having a kick ass partner who saves your life.

 

Cheers to sobo!

 

Yes, cheers to sobo. Also cheers to bwrts for catching me in the biggest fall of my climbing career.

 

I hope you mend well Dane. Thanks for sharing your story.

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i can totally relate after falling off coaches crack at uw rock and snapping my tib/fib. at least you fell off a non-artificial crag. still adjusting after 8 months or so of recovery to the metal in my leg. personally, i also have a different philosophy about free soloing easy stuff (as in my own choices, not what others choose to do). best wishes on the recovery.

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Holy shit Dane! Thanks for telling us the story, I'm gonna be thinking about this one for awhile. I think maybe it is time to start wearing the helmet all the time on lead. Like you, I come from back in the time when only geeks wore helmets.

 

You're a good man Sobo. :tup:

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Hi Dane! RuMR just turned me on to this thread. I would have missed it otherwise. I know it sounds lame, but I was thinking about you this past week at the 6-week mark. I was going to call you. Still will. BTW, I thought we were going to keep this "event" anonymous? :)

 

Dane pretty much said it all. There are a couple small deets that really won't make a difference to the discussion, so I won't mention those.

 

Dane fell every bit of 20 feet, if not a bit more, without any pro in, as he said. He bounced on that big bulge that's about 10 feet up from the belay spot (it sounded sickening), and then spinning like a horizontal drill shaft, he crashed into me. I saw him coming, and Dane's a big boy if you know him. I couldn't think of anything else to do except try to catch him, since I knew the rope was useless.

 

He landed on top of me and on the ground, face down (not on his side) in the dirt with his head facing me and away from the wall, not towards it as he said (sorry Dane, one of those deets that makes sense to mention - you'll see why in a minute). I checked airway/breathing and signs of hemmoraging. He was clean, so I went for the spine check and stabilization. This is why it was so easy for me to check him out, him being face down. Kind of a wierd experience doing a spinal clearing when your patient is on top of you. When I determined that there was nothing out of place in his spine, I wiggled out from underneath him.

 

I thought he was conscious at first, because he was groaning and his eyes were wide open. But then it became obvious that he wasn't screaming/yelping about the pain, so I started yelling at him and shaking him to try to wake him up. It worked. Dane was out for about 30 seconds, not more than a minute. The next problem was trying to get him to stay still. I was not as successful in that regard. Dane told you the rest.

 

I would also like to thank Tom Michael, DDS, of East Wenatchee for running into town to alert the emergency crews, and his partner that day (Matt??), the former military medic, for staying with Dane and I while we waited for help to arrive. Also like to thank the Leavenworth FD guys who helped me cart Dane down the trail to the road and the Ballard (not from westside, just their name) Ambulance folks who carried him into Wenatchee. Fine work, everyone.

 

Dr. Tom, if you're reading this, and you or Matt are missing any gear, please write/call back. I think I got all your stuff back to you, but I never got a call back from you to confirm. I don't have anything that isn't mine, but I don't know/remember what I stuffed into Dane's pack before I headed down. Thanks again to both of you for being there.

 

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...I think maybe it is time to start wearing the helmet all the time on lead. Like you, I come from back in the time when only geeks wore helmets.

I come from that same skewl, Off, until about 15 years ago or so, when I witnessed a Brit dude auger in at Smith. Rapped off the end of the line onto the head of his partner. I mentioned to the first guy on the ground that their rope didn't make it the whole way down. He said, "I know, I just rapped it, mate. It's just a short downclimb." I suggested he remind his partner of that fact, since it didn't appear to me that either one of them was paying much attention to what they were doing/what was going on. But he gave me some lip in something British, so I utterred that oft-quoted phrase to my partner: "C'mon, let's get out of here before we have to rescue somebody." (see Dru's post in the concurrent To Help Or Not to Help? thread in the Climbers Board)

We weren't quick enough in our departure...

 

The second guy down lived, but he was a blathering idiot on the carry up and out to the parking lot. The guy who lipped me was in no fair shape either.

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Now there is a pretty picture. Me laying on top of Sobo, moaning, while he feels me up at the base of Castle Rock.....and on our first date!

 

And I thought the fall was embarrassing :)

 

He must have had warm hands...is it no wonder I was in my "happy place"!

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I'm very glad to see that your perverse sense of humor was not damaged in the fall. :laf:

 

I should probably mention that there is a Paul Harvey-esque twist to this whole event.

Dane, Sherri, and Dan: now that this event is out in the open, should I tell them "the rest of the story..."?? :smirk:

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Now there is a pretty picture. Me laying on top of Sobo, moaning, while he feels me up at the base of Castle Rock.....and on our first date!

 

And I thought the fall was embarrassing :)

 

He must have had warm hands...is it no wonder I was in my "happy place"!

 

Hmmm...wine, chocolate and warm hands...I'd better take Sobo up on his offer to introduce me to alpine climbing ;)

 

Glad to hear you're on the road to recovery, Dane, and :tup: to Sobo for being a great landing pad!

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I'm very glad to see that your perverse sense of humor was not damaged in the fall. :laf:

 

I should probably mention that there is a Paul Harvey-esque twist to this whole event.

Dane, Sherri, and Dan: now that this event is out in the open, should I tell them "the rest of the story..."?? :smirk:

 

You can try, but nobody's going to believe that one guy can have THAT much bad luck in a single day....

 

On the plus side, the second accident brought us together in real life, at last. Only image I had of you up until then was your naked climbing photo on cc.com. Not that I'm complaining. :wave:

 

 

Dane, thanks for sharing your tale. It's full of food for thought all of us, and it's encouraging to hear that you are pushing your way back to health and wholeness. Be well and keep up the good work.

 

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Do tell the rest of the story. Two accidents in one day??? Fiction has nothing on real life!

 

And :lmao: on your image of Sobo. Same here. Hubby handed me the phone one night with a slightly puzzled look on his face saying it was some guy named Sobo. My first thought was the naked climbing pic but realized that might not be the best way to describe him!

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I think it was three accidents total, but Sobo will have to come forth with the final tally. Bizarro day for all involved, though Dane certainly got the worst of it, I reckon.

 

 

M, Good thing you only thought of Sobo as being the naked cc.com guy when your hubby fielded the phone call; if you had said that out loud, you might have had some 'splainin to do. (For the record, he's a hunk even with clothes ON.)

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Holy shit. Wishing you a speedy recovery Dane.

 

One of my worst falls was also in an easy chimney when a hold broke (5.5 section of p3 Reeds direct).

 

Hang in there.

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Yikes! I'm sending you non-denominational prayers, Dane.

 

Sobo, it sounds like you did an amazing job as crash pad and first-responder! You can belay for me any time.

 

Med bills are the fastest route to bankruptcy known. Let's hope our next prez will figure out a way to make sure everyone gets covered. BTW, no insurance company pays all of your bills. They may pay 50%. You shouldn't pay more than them...

 

A good friend of mine was first on the scene of a nasty accident at one of Trapp rock crags in CT. The leader was off route, ran it out past small stopper over small roof above a ledge, fell, somehow flipped, clipped hit on ledge on the way down, and continued on another 10 ft down. He had no helmet on and his head was cracked open like an egg. His belayer (who had done nothing wrong) completely freaked and was running down the trail for help when he ran into my friend and her partner. The partner ran down for help and my friend and the belayer went back up. It was a gruesome scene. At least he was killed instantly. I don't know enough to know if a helmet would have saved his life, and I'm glad I didn't learn more details...

 

Sadly, bad shite can happen to good people.

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Dane, it is great to hear that you are still with us and improving.

Can we compile the horror stories of rock climbing and somehow force dumbasses to read them if they think they are hot shit? (I guess thats Accidents in NA Mtneering huh?) I really think it would be beneficial for some folks.

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Wow Dane!! I was wondering why you were not posting as much the last few weeks .. Glad to hear you're back up and running. Thanks for sharing the story as well.

 

:tup: :tup: :tup: for Sobo! Now, come on out with the rest of the story please...

 

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