The surgery was planned for 6-7 hours. It lasted 11. I slept for 14. Never saw that coming...
Apparently, the surgeons discovered at least a dozen bone fragments that had to be retrieved and pieced back together like a puzzle...in addition to re-building my nose with a piece of my skull. In the end, I received a titanium plate to close a dime-sized hole in my right orbital, two "new" skull bone pieces in my nose and 39 - 1 mm titanium screws to hold it all together. All of that would stay in. They also installed tubes in my nose, a temporary drain in my head and 50+ staples to close my ear-to-ear-over-the-top-of-my-head incision. Now I was a real metal head.
The first things I recall after are seeing Kate, my parents and Jaime; Hearing that it was 11:30 PM and realizing I'd made it through; Sipping Sierra Mist and tasting the sugar!
The surgeon told me I'd be going home on Wednesday morning...about 40 hours after surgery ended. I fell asleep restlessly with a smile on my face knowing that I could TASTE again.
The medical staff asked if I was in any pain. Of course, right? But it wasn't anywhere near my face! My calves and my low back hurt like hell. With anesthesia, I couldn't lift my 50 lb. head, so I asked the nurses to get me to a seated position...so I could stretch! I guess laying flat for 14 hours is not good for my back. I later learned that my calves were being exercised constantly during surgery by machines to prevent clots. No wonder I was sore...14 hours of calf exercises.
The next challenge was "filling the bottle" within 6-8 hours after surgery ended. Not easy to do when one's bladder is larger than normal, two nurses are present to keep me company and the pressure is on. I think it took 20 minutes with no nurses and me propped up, standing against a wall with a bottle in my hand. They had tried privacy and running water. In the end, what worked? The sound of helicopter blades, some relaxed breathing and the threat of a catheter.
Another memorable event - my 6'2" body was crammed into a bed seemingly made for a toddler. None of the nurses remedied the situation, but a cleaning woman who I had met the week before became my hero. After laying in the toddler's bed for 12 hours, I learned from the cleaning lady that this $15,000 bed could be extended with the touch of a button! Why couldn't a nurse have done that???
Another small world event - turns out my post op nurse and I were connected. Her husband's college friend and I shared the same name...and as it turned out, the nurse's sister-in-law and I were friends who worked together for the same company on the same floor of a building in Florida. In fact, I had pictures of the sister-in-law at home! We had lost touch 10 years ago...and through the most bizarre of curcumstances, we are reconnecting now. Who says this was a tragedy? Good things ALWAYS come from "bad" things if you just pay attention and see them...
The surgeon asked if I'd had any questions. What I wanted to know was what they played on the IPOD for the 11 hour surgery. The anesthesiologist asked the same question. I just wanted to know how far I'd made it in the pre-op, post anethesia countdown. He started me at 20. He said I made it to 10. I only remember getting to 13. Always competing...
I forced myself up and walking about 10 - 12 hours after the surgery. Of course, my cute physical therapist "date" helped with motivation. Also, it didn't hurt that my vision has been effected, and I saw TWO of her! We walked for so long that the nurses had to page me to return to my room.
The next day - 9/26 - I was up and out "jogging" the halls with my IV pole at 6 AM. I met the surgeons at the elevator at 7 AM. They released me at 1:30 PM. Although they gave me an antibiotic and Vicadin perscription, I didn't fill the Vicadin. I have never really felt any pain in my face - just swelling and discomfort...just as they said I would.
Everyone there was very nice, but I was ready to go home...
3/2/09: ENDING THE BLOG
I just wanted to add a final note of thanks to all of you who have supported me in my recovery - financially and otherwise. My words cannot express the immense gratitude I have for every single way that people showed up to support Kate and I at this time in my life. You have changed me forever.
My recovery is "complete." I have slight double vision on the right periphery, and when my eyes are tired, I have "drunk vision" with things about 12"-24" from my face. That is, I cannot focus well at that distance under those conditions. I blow my nose more frequently I think...especially in cold weather. Finally, I will always have the risk of infection with me, but I rarely think about that. I will continue to have check ups every 6-12 months until the surgeons are satisfied that they can live without me. In the meantime, I have resumed living my "rough and tumble" life - still playing sports and staying active - with the protective mask in place, of course.
Financially, I have been incredibly blessed by donors and the hospitals alike. I put my faith in God that things would work out monetarily, and they continue to do so in a way that I could not have foreseen. I am simply amazed...and yet I can honestly say that I am not surprised at all. God really loves softball players I guess.
As of March 2, 2009, I will not longer post to this blog. If, for some reason, something related to this incident happens, I will re-open the blog...but don't count on it. I'm certainly not. :-)
Thanks again for...everything.
All my best,
4/11/08 - Six Months Later...
Anyhow, tonight I take the field for the first time since the accident...and yes, it's the same field at Brightbill Park where my accident occurred. I don't expect anyone to make a big deal out of it. To them, I think, it's just something that happened long enough ago to be forgotten. I can't say I feel apprehensive myself; I just haven't yet tried to catch or hit a ball since September. Slightly uneasy may be a better description. I think that, given the challenges with my vision not quite being 100%, the prospect of catching is of most concern for me.
In the end, I'll probably arrive early so I can be there by myself, stretch a little and reflect on how truly fortunate I am to have lived to play another day...another season. No matter how cold or windy or hot it may be on any given day, I know I will be much more deliberate this season in stopping for a brief moment to "take it all in" every time I step on a field.
You think you'll live forever...but I'm much more connected now to the notion that I'm closer to the end of my athletic prime than I am to the beginning. My days are numbered. I can't compete at a competitive level with younger guys forever. Still, I love playing. Always have. I'll do it as long as I can.
People questioned whether I'd be back. To me, it's a no brainer. I'll quit on my terms. Otherwise, the accident wins...and that just isn't going to happen. :-)
Donations: How you can Help
Since the day of the accident, people have talked about fundraising. The whole idea of asking for and accepting financial help feels awkward to me, and I really wrestled with the idea. Some people will think the whole idea is tacky, but the amount I now owe seems daunting to me.
As the days after the accident passed, I started thinking..."What if 150,000 people were willing to donate $1?" I couldn't shake that thought. How amazing would that be? I like to think that it might be possible...especially with the power of the Internet. Eventually, I concluded that there was no harm in asking for help.
We decided the easiest way to go was to add a Paypal "Donation" button as the seeds of a money tree. If you'd like to donate financially, great; if not, that's ok too. I promise that I won't think any more or less of anyone. While no amount is necessary, ANY AMOUNT is appreciated - even $1 donations will add up. ALL OF THE MONEY WILL GO TO PAY THE MEDICAL BILLS associated with my facial reconstruction.
If you don't have Paypal, you can still donate via major credit card. Simply click the "Donate" button and follow the instructions at the bottom of the pop up window.
If you want to donate but not online, please mail donations to:
1137 Summerwood Drive, Harrisburg, PA 17111
Thank you sincerely to those who've chosen to donate. I truly appreciate your help.__________________________________________________
Why are Donations Needed?
As a self-employed professional who relocated to Harrisburg only one year ago, my focus in 2007 has been on building business relationships and networks. Until a network of clients is established, cash flow is limited. Credit cards have bridged the gaps, but the budget was not ready for this major expenditure! The post-surgery layoff is just one more financial complication that isn't helping.
Given that the softball didn't kill me or cause any significant permanent damage, it's very difficult to be bothered by the money. Still, the reality is that both hospitals expect to be paid.
The irony of this whole situation is that I was in the process of getting health insurance just prior to the accident! With my active lifestyle and another birthday approaching, I had decided to find some catastrophic coverage despite my tight budget. I met with an agent at the beginning of September. In fact, I had the insurance quotes in my hand during the afternoon of 9/13 - the day of the accident. Timing is everything...
Without health insurance, the quoted cost of the surgeries is currently $150,000. I'm working with Pinnacle and HMC to get the amount reduced, but after receiving some bills already, I can see I'm well on my way to financing the equivalent of a small house.
I realize that my choices have created this predicament for me. However, I'm hoping that the compassion and generosity of friends and strangers will help me overcome this unexpected financial burden. Again, I am grateful for all of the help and support - no matter how big or small - that I've been receiving from all of you. This truly has been - and continues to be - a humbling experience.
TV News Coverage
From the Beginning: The Whole Accident History
- 3/4/08 Update (5 Months) - Hershey Medical Center to Settle and More
- 2/4/08 Update (4 Months) - More Surgery is Elective
- 1/02/08 Update - 3 Months Later
- Gratitude and Thanks
- 11/27 - Is Everything Working?
- 11/13/07 - More Surgery to Come
- 11/7/07 - Another Two Milestones Passed
- 10/31 - Five Weeks After
- 10/25 - St. Marys Area Newspapers to Cover my Story
- 10/24 - One Month After Surgery
- 10/17/07 - The Big Reveal (23 days after surgery)
- 10/11/07 - My Story on Local TV Tonight at 6 PM!
- 10/9/07 - Opthalmologist Releases Me from His Care
- Week 2: My Healing Progress (10/2 - 10/6)
- Week 1: Recovering at Home (9/26 - 10/1)
- Surgery and the Post Op Experience (9/24 - 9/26)
- Preparation and Surgery Consult (9/16 - 9/23)
- Diagnosis at Hershey Medical Center (9/13 - 9/15)
- WHAT Happened????
The surgery was planned for 6-7 hours. It lasted 11. I slept for 14. Never saw that coming...
I spent the first week at home preparing mentally for the surgery and the recovery. Kate and I were looking forward to meeting with the surgical team of Drs. Fedok and Ruggerio on Friday, 9/21.
People always ask if I was nervous. I really wasn't. I figured I had no choice. I had to go through the surgery and recovery. I had no power - and no time machine - to change what had happened. All I could control was myself - my attitude about it all. I had met the surgical team. We bonded over jokes and sarcasm. Seemed to be the right folks for me. :-)
On Thursday, 9/20, I returned to "the scene of the crime" to meet the player who threw the ball and the one who didn't catch it as well as the umpire and the teammates who had witnessed the accident and heard the crack of ball on bone. At that time, I didn't know if I would ever be able to play sports again. I was working through that notion. Given the choice between never playing again or never tasting/smelling again, I decided I'd choose to give up the sports. It's a long life without taste and smell. On one hand, you save $$ on spices; on the other hand, you can no longer do the smell test for previously-worn clothes, and you are always self-conscious about your breath.
Anyhow, I met the players and the umpire from "the game", showed them I was alive and let them see the damage. I learned that people respond with interest and offers to help or they run away wishing the whole event would just disappear.
On Friday, 9/21, we met the surgeons. THE PLAN - take a piece of bone from my skull to create new bone/nose pieces and add some plates, screws and wire mesh to hold it all together. The whole procedure would require incisions inside my upper lip, under my nose, inside my right lower eyelid and across the top of my head from ear to ear. They would peel my face down to access the damaged area. No major scar to see that way...
They told me a lot of stuff: 6-7 hours of surgery. Up to a year for the "new nose" to settle into place. A second follow up surgery and a piece of rib to fine tune what the initial job 3-6 months from now. I could play sports again, but my face would be weaker. I could box in 6 months if I wanted to. The only sport I should give up was chess. My chance of recovering taste and smell was 90%.
It was better..and worse..than I expected, but I was ready to go.
...The hardest part was psychological - knowing my face would be peeled down. That's a hard picture to wrap your head around.
I told the surgeons I knew they would be successful with my nose and face. After all, they had great raw material to work with...
My first ambulance ride was eventful. A student EMT tried and eventually succeeded in placing a second IV in my arm - an IV I learned later could not be used because it wasn't considered sterile. I thought he was using a hammer and nail. I know he did his best. After feeling every bump along the way, I asked the driver if he'd been driving a trampoline. They were good guys.
I learned right away that HMC is a teaching hospital. How? The young, overzealous trauma team greeted me by cutting every stitch of clothing from my body. What was the point? I'd been laying around for 2 hours. I could have taken off the jerseys, shorts, pants, belt and boxers myself and saved the cost of the clothing. I potested the whole time. At least I got the spikes and socks back in one piece. I didn't get it. After all, wasn't the entire trauma ABOVE my neck?
A more detailed diagnosis came at some point. A Naso-Orbital-Ethmoid (NOE) fracture. Traslation: Bilateral frontal sinus fracture. Bilateral orbital fractures. Septum fracture. Cut requiring stitches. I smashed my face, and there were bone fragments everwhere. Instead of being vertically straight, my septum looked like the letter "Z." I'd also lost my sense of taste and smell.
Eight hours later, Kate finally left at 5 AM on 9/14. If I slept an hour, I was lucky.
By the end of day 2, I swear I'd met 80 medical staff in 48 hours. I was a bit of a medical celebrity..."Smashed Face Guy." The doctors wanted to push on my face. The med students wanted to see me. EVERY PERSON who came into the room asked me, "How did this happen?" I decided that if I had to be there under these circumstances, I was at least going to have some fun with the situation and my caretakers. :-) Fortunately, everyone had a good sense of humor.
Way too many stories to tell...They sent me home in the afternoon of 9/15 - just in time for my birthday.
On Thursday night, September 13 in the 1st inning of the second game of a doubleheader at Brightbill Park, I was hurt by a thrown softball. As I slid into 2nd base during a double play attempt and my feet hit the base, I suddenly realized I'd been hit with something near my head an instant later. My ears rang. As I leaned face down on my elbows with the blood pooling beneath me, I knew for sure I'd broken my nose. But the field was dead silent.
This would turn out to be much worse than a broken nose...
My immediate concern? I was off the base. I reached over and grabbed the bag. "Was I safe?," I asked. Everyone laughed. They told me I could take my hand off the base. About 10 minutes passed before I was helped from the field with towel and ice over my face. The only person I saw was the umpire. He had a look of horror on his face - as if I had 10 bullet holes in my body. I'll never forget the horror on his face. This was a bad situation...
A long ride to Pinnacle Health in downtown Harisburg allowed time for the pain to set in. I was overwhelmed at this point - 45 minutes after the accident. Although I NEVER lost consciousness, I don't think I opened my eyes much for the next 8 hours. I don't know exactly what they did. Pain meds. CT. X-ray. Getting rid of a liter of blood in my stomach made me feel much better.
The official diagnosis - "You really did a number on your face." TRANSLATION - You smashed completely your whole face between your eyes.
Surgeons later told me that although it wasn't common, they would not at all have been surprised if the throw had killed me.Pinnacle sent me to Hershey Medical Center via ambulance...two hours after arriving there. As I learned later, my surgeon-to-be at Hershey Med was a nationally known doctor who specialized in NOE fractures and facial reconstruction surgery - one of only a handful in PA and the only one in Central PA. How lucky was I? That was my injury.
The "coincidences" only got better...
9/30/07 - My Humble Thanks
I apologize for not personally getting back to all who have called, emailed, written and text messaged about how I'm doing. Given my limited energy and lack of an audible voice, it has been difficult to update everyone personally. A friend and I figured technology might be the best way to reach all of you with my story. I'll post often with photos and updates. I think it will help me IMMENSELY in reaching all of you.
Anyhow, people have asked repeatedly if I need anything. My response? A time machine or a money tree. :-) My new face has a $150,000 price tag at this point. Somehow the amazing people who worked on me will receive what I owe them financially - even if it takes the rest of my life.
A side note - the patient satisfaction surveys came the day AFTER I left the hospital and the day BEFORE the bills started coming. I laughed at that.
As I continue my recovery, I want to sincerely thank all of you for your prayers, thoughts, cards, well wishes, donations and playing advice. I have a lot of faith. Things happen...but things also come together and find a way to work themselves out. Life has given me an interesting experience to learn from and laugh through.
Thanks to all of you for every little way in which you've reached out. As I mentioned, I am...humbled and grateful for all of it.