Thanks to all that have helped!!!

Monday, January 9, 2012

First off...A Little History...An Introduction If You Will

Mother's day was just like any other day really. I had snuck out to Target to get my fiance' her mother's day present, yes I know I'm that guy...last minute shopper till the end, but anyway. I bought her a night shirt she had wanted and some flowers. Just a nice gesture to say I love you. Her and her son came up and we decided to go to a friend's daughter's baseball game. It was a beautiful day, her team won, and we decided to go hiking for a fun ending to the evening.

While waiting for everyone to get their stuff together for the hike we played a little game of catch in the front yard. It was wonderful. I got to teach my fiance's son to catch and throw a baseball, he was getting it, told him we would have plenty more time to play catch and I would teach him to get good at it and actually throw the ball where he wants it to go, he has that random I'm throwing it to you, but it lands far right or left of where he was actually aiming. Everybody got their shoes and water and loaded up the backpacks and we were on our way. my friend informed us of where we were going, Tioga Falls.

The hike was fun, we followed the path up the mountain, it was a paved road, more like walking on an incline than hiking as this country boy knows it. We were about 2 miles in when we realized that maybe this wasn't the path we were supposed to be on. After a few phone calls were made we realized that we were supposed to take that left turn Albuquerque about a mile and a half back. Luckily we could hear the falls from where we were and Behold a fire road. Let's take that, that seems like a good idea....WRONG!!!!

As we were walking along the fire road the sound of the falls got louder, until we came to an open spot and you could see the top of falls from where we were. My friend and I decided to walk down hill to find a safe path down the edge of the waterfall for everybody. Here's where things went wrong. We were at the head waters, where the cliff starts and the water begins to fall. As I was walking down towards the water's edge I slipped. The mud carried me into the water and that's when everything slowed down. I was able to look at his face, which turned instantly from "Haha fat boy fell in the mud" to "OH MY GOD!!!!" Realizing what was about to happen I quickly looked over my right shoulder, I saw a rocky edge that I thought I could grab onto. I stretched my arm out and grabbed onto the ledge, which just gave way. Looking over my left shoulder I saw a tree branch. I was able to grab onto this branch for a few seconds, enough to slow me down and let my brain resign to the fate that was about to befall me. As my hand slipped down that branch I realized that I am going to die. The feeling that you're going to die is an odd feeling. There was no "life flashing before my eyes moment" I had no sudden epiphany of the meaning of life, All I could think was who is going to take care of my fiance, my son, my family....who was going to tell my family that doesn't live here...Then I closed my eyes and  the free fall began.

THUD!!!!Water rushing around me....THUD!!!! That's all I can remember of the fall now. The actual fall itself that is. After the second thud, I realized that I am no longer moving. I quickly sat up and did a systems check. Vision...blurry but check....Respirations....deep and non painful....pulse....well that's an obvious one. Right leg...seems to be ok...but why is my ankle burning? OH...thats why. As I looked down on the mangled twisted mess that was my left leg I realized that I'm in a bad spot. The water was still rushing over me and it was very, very cold. I made a split decision that I had to move myself out from under the water before I added hypothermia to my list of problems. I realized that I could not move my leg on my own so i took the lace out of my shoe and found a suitable branch to splint my leg. I quickly tied that tree branch to my leg and began the painstakingly slow crawl out from under the waterfall. Once out I did my secondary survey. My knee was broken or dislocated, my ankle was an obvious open fracture and was bleeding. I positioned myself to where my leg was slightly above my heart level to slow down the bleeding.

Once I got settled out of the water, I quickly searched my pockets for my phone. I dug into my pockets and found my fiance's cigarettes and both our phones. Of course neither of them were working at that point, so I decided to use the redneck telephone system. I began screaming for anyone that could hear me. I just wanted them to know 1. I'm still alive, 2. I'm hurt very badly. While I was screaming for them, another hiker came along and started to render first aid. He brought to my attention that I am also bleeding from my head. At this point things get fuzzy on the memories of what happened after that. I remember Fort Knox Fire and Rescue showing up. I can remember stating that I am a medic for Louisville Metro EMS and ordering them on how to splint my leg. They immobilized me and placed me into the stokes basket and began the slow arduous climb out of the ravine. Once inside the ambulance the medic started a line and gave me a dose of morphine...which while the gesture was appreciated, I was really behind the 8 ball on pain at this point. They tell me that Air Methods are waiting for me at Ireland hospital to fly me to University Hospital. I still have no idea if my fiance knows if I'm dead or alive at this point and keep asking the medic if he knows if she's ok...he has no idea.

Well, I've always wanted to be a flight medic. Instead I'm a medic being flown. The guys in the helicopter were awesome. They splinted my leg as best they could for the flight. They're very honest and tell me it doesn't look good. They give me a dose of Fentnyl and I hear the rotor's fire up. Things get kinda blank here again....

I feel the helicopter land kinda rough at University. They hot load me out of the chopper and get me into room 9. Finally I start hearing familiar voices. Dr Orthober was one of the most comforting voices I have ever heard at this point. I trust him, I know he's an amazing Dr and he will not let me die. Things during this period are kinda hit and miss in the old memory bank. I know Mary Taylor was there, she called my mom and told her about the situation. I remember Ray telling me that he was going to take good care of me, and then I woke up in my room in the ER. As I come around I am surrounded by coworkers and thankfully there is my beautiful woman...I can finally stop worrying that she's not ok. I remember asking everyone to step out so I can have a private moment with her, when the next gaggle of Doc's came in and told me they were taking me to the OR...

Here I have no memory for a few days. I finally come around and I am in the ICU. I'm told that there was an 8 hour surgery to restore blood flow to my leg. I had torn my popliteal artery, had compression syndrome, had an anterior dislocation of my knee, open dislocation of my ankle, talonavicular fracture in my foot, and have to have surgery again to fix my foot. At this point, my leg is still questionable, I may not be keeping it for long...which I thought was a shame, I'd kinda grown accustomed to it. I've had it for 29 years, It's been good to me. Now...being on a drip of various narcotics as well as having narcotics given to you around the clock leaves your memory kinda loopy so once again. I have lost a long period of this time.

The external fixator has finally been removed, and physical therapy began. The biggest problems I'm facing now are rehabbing the knee enough to get it strong for surgery. Which really makes no sense to me. "I want you to get this knee strong again, be able to walk on it, so I can go in and replace all your ligaments and you can do it all again, for real this time" anyway...I'm most concerned with the phrase "Sciatic Nerve Palsy" or "Foot Drop" these are medical terms for your foot no longer works, but the nerve that used to be there is going to make your foot feel like it's in a vice, on fire, and being stabbed. This is my current battle. I am due to be fitted for a custom orthotic on wednesday that will allow me to hold my foot at a 90 degree angle. Currently, my foot is stuck at about a 45 degree angle and I am unable to flex the toes toward my head. I can flex the achilles tendon to make the foot go down, but can't bring the foot up...which I guess could be fun to scare a new emt doing a stroke scale...but anyway. That's where I am now. I thought I should finally write down everything I can remember.

So that was what I wrote soon after I got home. I'll continue the story later on and explain how I made the decision to have my leg amputated and the choice to use this to prove that I can lose a leg and still be a street medic.


  1. I remember that day pretty well. I was taking an MI to Jewish, the fellow was doing his best to croak, and my phone kept ringing, dinging, beeping, and chirping. Obviously I didn't pay it any attention. Not until dropping off the patient at the hospital did I actually answer. It was Pat. He said "have you heard about Joe?" Of course I hadn't. The next words were very terrifying, "he's fallen off a cliff and they're flying him to UofL." We left Jewish straightway and arrived at The U as the dustoff bird was landing. I saw little but I did see your foot. It was, uh, how do you say? Bad. We waited nervously for Raymond to square you away in Room 9 and paid our first call while you were in the ER bed. I was thankful you were alive but we were all so uncertain what the next few days would bring. I don't know how to say this without sounding condescending but I'm proud of you. You've come a long way in your recovery and you haven't resigned yourself to the pits of depression and hopelessness. You're gonna get back to work. It'll never be completely the same but it'll be a milestone that I know you can do.

  2. I remember the night, all too well. I was out running errands on an off day..I received the "phone call" from Buck. "did you hear what happened to Joe?" Of course I hadn't heard anything, what was he talking about? And Joe who? Do you know how many Joe's there are? After he told me, and said that Sam was at U of L waiting to hear something more, I texted Sam to let me know something ASAP. I figured, "there's gonna be way too many people at the hospital for me to go up there right now..." ....and then I cried. My friend survived a fall from 130 ft and had nothing but a leg/foot injury (that we knew of at that point). :) So happy you're still with us Joe!

  3. Thanks Joe for joining my blogsite. I'm Maria from "Me in the Sandbox." As I was scrolling through my readers, I noticed you! So I had to take a peek at your blog. I hope you don't mind if I say that you are amazing and I can't wait to read more. Thank you for sharing! And thanks for reading me.

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