I'm not sure where to begin this entry. I'm still trying to process the events of yesterday. Something happened that could have seriously jeopardized my chance to run the St. George marathon, possibly even my life. I say that with no hyperbole and no exaggeration - it was a dumb, dumb accident and I feel quite foolish it even happened. I realize now it could have been much worse and I'm incredibly thankful many factors turned in my favor.
It was Tuesday, which meant speed work at the track and boot camp to follow. I'm usually the first person to arrive and over the course of the hour, others trickle. The gate to the track doesn't open until the maintenance guy gets there at 5:30, so we jump the 8-foot chain link fence. I'm not going to lie, this fence has been my nemesis since Day 1. I hate this fence. It's shaky, tall, and my feet are too big to use the chain links as foot holds. After Kat showed me a few tricks, I've successfully scaled it a number of times (even after speed work with dead legs - that's a doozy) but earned multiple scrapes and bruises in the process. No big deal; we runners are used to pain.
Yesterday was no different. I made the long walk up the shadowy drive with my bag, thinking about my workout (it was a good one!). As much as I hate this fence, I love, love love, running on the track. It just makes me feel amazing. Speed work has become something I look forward to now, not dread. Speed in fun. It's killer, but with the improvements I've seen as of late, it's really exciting. Boston or bust!
I tossed my bag over and noticed the top part of the fence was bent in. The little pokey things that formed the top of the chain links were angled towards me, not straight up. No matter. I grabbed a good hold and hoisted myself up.
Except my arms wouldn't push up. All of the planks and pushups from boot camp the day before had taken its toll. I dug my feet in deeper, trying to find a better hold, and clumsily continued pushing myself up, slipping all the while. I managed to get my right forearm and elbow on the top metal bar, helplessly trying to kick my leg over. If I could just get my legs on that bar, I could crouch, pivot, and drop into the stadium. Why weren't my arms working? My right forearm brushed against the top of the chain links, cutting the side of my arm. Ouch.
And then inexplicably, I lost my footing. Completely. With both elbows dangling over the top metal bar, the sudden drop yanked my arms down and directly across the top of the fence. Pain exploded. I hung there for a second before using my feet to push off, about a foot off the ground, and then dropped completely. I noticed blood running down my left arm as I doubled over in pain, cursing myself for being so careless. Damn that hurt.
Shit, shit, shit. I thought. I can't get over the fence and now my bag is on the other side. And I'm bleeding. I carry a first aid kit with me, exactly for this purpose, and now I can't reach it. Ditto for my phone and car keys. I looked at my right arm, which was also throbbing.
An entire chunk of flesh was missing.
In the darkness, I was able to see the giant gash, a black hole where soft flesh used to be. Instead of smooth skin, an angry, ugly opening lay instead. I could actually yellow globs of adipose tissue.
My vision went white. I couldn't catch my breath and realized I was moments away from losing consciousness. OMG OMG OMG how is this happening? OMG I'm going to bleed out. The pain was unreal. I dropped to my knees, not crying, but struggling to catch my breath. I began to shake violently. What in the world had I just done?
That little voice in my head, the one I try so hard to ignore when running, the one that is always fighting for my survival, said very quietly, Get up Kim. Start walking. If you lay here, no one will find you. Get into the light.
The voice was right. I was crouched in the darkest part of the hill, on my knees, trembling. The parking lot was less than 50m away and a single street light shed light on a flat dirt area. I stumbled down the hill, not sure which arm to hold since both hurt, choosing instead to keep both out in front of me. I probably looked like a zombie: arms outstretched with (what I presume) a wild look on my face.
The whiteness hit me again right before getting to the dirt patch. No no no, I'm not blacking out. I collapsed on the ground, thankful to get more blood to my brain, taking deep breaths and willing myself to stay present. I raised my hands in the air, hoping to stem the bleeding. Crap, if only I could get to my phone. If only I could get my keys. I needed to get to the hospital.
Then a Jeep drove into the parking lot and man got out. He was setting up gear for his boot camp. I called to him weakly; he ran over instantly. I think the sight of a women lying in a dirt patch in her own blood was startling, to say the least. I told him I cut my arms and he declared he was calling an ambulance.
"I need to get my bag," I told him. "I can drive myself, I just need to get my keys." Ambulance rides were expensive. Then I glanced at him. I wasn't sure he was going to be able to get over that fence, either. Besides, was my skin on the fence? Had pieces of flesh gotten caught on the nooks? Ew.
"I'll get it," he told me confidently, just as another car pulled up. Alex. Thank goodness. "Wait," I said, hoping to avoid the second impalement of the morning. "That's my friend; he can help."
The guy called out to Alex who sprinted over. He took one look at me and took off for the track. I knew he could scale that fence in seconds. It also occurred to me that he was one of the best people to have in this moment. The dude runs crazy fast and climbs like a ninja. I was literally running with a fast crowd, probably one of the fastest in town.
Alex returned in seconds and both men gingerly helped me into Alex's car. My whole back and legs were covered in dirt. I looked to see if there was dirt in the wounds, but every time I looked at the cuts, that white coating came across my vision. My head buzzed uncomfortably. I was shaking and sweating, trying very hard to not throw up. Was this shock?
We got to the hospital in record time. I lurched through the double doors while Alex carried my bag. Registration took one look at me and immediately sat me down, covering the cuts with soft gauze. They got the basic info ("How did this happen?" "I tried to jump a fence." ::long pause::), and next thing I know, I'm being wheeled back to my room. At this point, Kat arrived (Alex had called her) and we all settled into my little area. I tried very hard to keep my arms still, because any movement caused that wave of nausea to wash over me. Don't puke, don't pass out, don't poop your pants. OMG this was turning into quite the Tuesday morning.
Somehow, between the two of them, they managed to keep the mood light. Considering my pain, I found myself laughing and conversing. We didn't focus on the damaged arms, just how runners are crazy. We giggled like little kids at every blank stare we received after telling them how the injury happened. What, most 36-year old women don't present to the ER with fence-wounds? Runners will do anything to train, I guess. I briefly wondered how this would impact training, tearing up for a second. Then Alex made another joke and Kat and I were laughing again. Thank goodness for good friends.
In all, it took 20 stitches to sew up the lacerations, eight in one arm, twelve in the other. Relief came immediately, as soon as the doctor numbed both arms. Ahhhh...agony, be gone. They gave me a tetanus shot to be on the safe side along with an entire kit of gauze, non stick pads, and arm sleeves. Finally bandaged, I looked like a botched suicide attempt. But as Alex pointed out, I did not get any blood on my racing flats, though I may have stepped in doggie poop. Whew!
As much as this sucks and I'm totally embarrassed by the events of yesterday, I am so incredibly thankful it wasn't worse. Had I hit an artery or vein, I would not be typing this write now. It would have been the OR - or worse - and very little chance for any running in my future. The cut on my left arm is less than an inch from that big, meaty ulnar artery. I'm not letting my mind go there.
Likewise, there seems to be no major long-term damage. All tendons are working, as I was able to move my fingers right away and squeeze them completely. No need for physical therapy. The doctor was able to pull my skin closed on the right arm to close the gash, so there will be no need for plastic surgery in the future either. (I'm not sure I would have gone down that path, but it's nice to know it's off the table.) The stitches will stay in for ten days and then I'll have some cool V-shaped scars. All in all, best case scenario.
Other protective factors include my three amazing helpers. Boot Camp Guy and Alex were in just the right place at just the right time, and thank goodness for Alex's speed and agility. For Kat and Alex to stay with me, keeping me company and laughing, forgoing their individual workouts, well, you can't ask for better friends. I'm not wishing you any ER visits in your future, but if that happens, you should call in Kat and Alex for comic relief. Laughter really is the best medicine.
I arrived home just twenty minutes later than I normally do. I made Brian's smoothie and sent him off to work. I changed out of my bloody clothes and soaked them. Had it not been for the white bandages on my arms, Scotty would have never known anything happened. It felt a little surreal, standing in my kitchen, replaying the events of the morning in my mind. The gashes hurt, yes, but it can always be worse, right?
Best news is that this will not affect my training schedule. Next week would have been a light week, so I'm just swapping this week for next. No miles or fitness lost. If anything, this whole experience has strengthened my resolve to run harder and faster than ever before. And ironically, it just may improve my form: I tend to hunch my shoulders and pull my arms up when running. This posture inhibits the amount of O2 you take in. With my current situation, I am forced to keep my arms at perfect 90-degree angles, since extending them hurts too much as does retracting them. Silver lining, anyone?
So for the curious, here are the pics. Again, you've been warned. If gore is not your thing, look away.
Let's start with a happy one. This is us leaving the hospital. Alex dubbed it "The Squad." I can't feel my arms. YAY!
Stay safe out there, friends.