My apologies …

… for not posting today. Yesterday morning I was wakeboarding with some friends on a gorgeous, empty lake, planted the nose on a 180 like a noob, and planted my face into the water an instant later. It happened so fast there wasn’t time to blink. any wake-boarder has done their share of face-plants, eye baths, etc., and I’m no different, gallons of water have been pasted on my face. But this particular fall was different.

By a freakish accident of physics the fall was unusually symmetrical, and instead of partly slicing into the water with one shoulder or another, the perfect belly-buster hyper-extended my back violently for a split second and SNAP, I felt something give in my lower spine.  I didn’t know what had happened for sure at the time, but it seemed prudent to assume the worst. Later I learned the bottom right rib cracked where it articulates with the spine at the lumbar-thoracic symphysis, plus tore some muscles including part of the diaphragm.

It knocked the breath clean out of me and for an instant I saw jagged shooting-stars. Right away even before surfacing, I carefully wiggled my fingers and toes, feet and hands, fortunately there was no tingling or numbness. I remember floating there face-down in agony and thinking, of all things, I have really good insurance. It’s a real-world nasty observation on the US healthcare system that that’s what came to mind. But getting back into the boat and then crawling up a very long flight of stairs chased that comforting thought away with intense pain. I thought that would be the worst part, that after getting up away from the lake and into a comfy car seat the rest would be downhill.

Wrong! The one hour drive to the emergency room was the longest one hour of my life. It was like a string of red-hot coals were shoved deep inside the lower flank. Breathing became progressively more difficult.

Because another thing I didn’t know at the time was my chest was filling up with blood and the lung was collapsing. By the time I managed to get checked in, get a CAT scan and X-rays, and have them read, there was half a liter of fluid between my right lung and the pleura. At which point the ER staff at the smaller facility did call an ambulance and whisked me off to the trauma center at Brackenridge hospital in downtown Austin (Where the nickname for myc ase quickly became “The Wakeboarder,” which I was kinda proud of). By then it was clear there was no damage to the spinal canal, plus I was chock full of Dilaudid, so I wasn’t nearly as worried about permanent injury. But even with IV narcotics coursing through the veins it hurt so bad I kept hoping I would just pass out.

One cool thing, they gave me the CD ROM of the CAT scan, so as soon as I can figure out how to get it on video it will be posted and any of you medical guys and gals can have a look. In the meantime, even with 20 mg of Oxycontin in me, it hurts like a mother fucker. Posting may be light for the next day or two.


  1. raymoscow says

    Wow — that was a close call. I don’t think you needed to apologise for ‘not posting’.

    I hope you’re on the way to full recovery now.

  2. Stephen "DarkSyde" Andrew says

    Thank you gentlemen. It hurts really bad right now, almost unbearable. But I keep telling myself that that means I can feel my lower body. And there are plenty of paralyzed people who would trade their numbeness for my pain.

  3. physioprof says

    One of the worst injuries I ever experienced was waterskiing (not that it compares to yours, or to paralysis). I was on my last run of the day (yep, very common injury scenario), and I was finally getting my legs under me and feeling good, so I signaled to my buddy to speed up the boat so I could do some wake jumping. I jumped outside the wake, and then back inside, and then started to lose my balance. Because it was my last run, instead of just letting go of the rope, I hung on and tried to right myself. The back edge of my left ski caught the water and wrenched my leg backwards, and I felt sudden excruciating pain in my hamstring, and had to be taken immediately to the hospital. My hamstring had nearly torn completely. This was decades ago, and to this day, if I tense my left hamstring, you can feel a big bulge and then a thin part (which is the remaining part that didn’t tear).

  4. Stephen "DarkSyde" Andrew says

    The trauma doc explained it as having the reflexes but not being as young :) Sounds like something like that may have happened to you, it sure happened to me!

    I asked them what were the most common lake accidents that come to the ER. Far and away they said jet skis, often with an assist from good old alcohol. They’re like the motorcycles of lake sports.

  5. Francisco Bacopa says

    I’m always a bit horrified that anybody does anything in fresh water. I was raised by people from near the beaches in Brazoria County. I was taught that fresh water was unclean and full of alligators and that fresh water had pollution and carried diseases. All of this was true. Yet we had no fear of stingrays, jelly fish, or the Portuguese Man ‘o War.

    So I was shocked to discover at age eight when we moved to NW Houston that my classmates swam in Lake Houston and Lake Conroe. What? You swam in a lake and lived? But they asked me, “Why aren’t you dead from a rip current?”. I tried to explain that rip currents are predictable, but they didn’t understand. They thought the rips were as bad everywhere as they are at the Galveston groynes and that the San Luis Pass current, which does kill a few fishermen per year and has a high rate of shark attacks, would deliver them to Jaws at any place on the beach.

    Hope you get better soon. But you see? Fresh water kills.


Leave a Reply