Hole in the Ground, Gash in the Arm

During a great visit to Truckee, Jan and Tony were kind enough to drag me and my sea level lungs on a great mountain bike ride called "Hole in the Ground" which starts near Boreal ski area and climbs up towards great views of Castle Peak before descending through some great winding singletrack and classic Sierra Nevada forest. While waiting for me to huff and puff up the initial climb, Jan took some great pictures.

After enjoying the nice views and snapping some photos, we began the descent.

It started out well, with fun, twisty turns through the rocks and trees. Tony took the lead and I waited a little bit to make sure Jan and Keani were still with us. With a bit of space between us, we weaved our way down the trail to where it started to flatten out. I caught up to Tony and we both stopped to wait. Suddenly Tony said "Jan just ate some dirt." I didn't see the crash, and was expecting just a typical over-the-bars episode that we would all laugh about. I yelled up the obligatory "Are you OK," and knew things had taken a turn for the serious when Jan replied "No!" We got up to Jan quickly and Tony, the consummate guide, immediately went into rescue mode. Jan had an ugly gash on his arm which ran from just above his wrist to just below his elbow. I had some tape and a bandanna, so we taped him and wrapped him up good. Jan's a tough guy, and he, of course, handled it all very well. He wanted to just get up and go, after suggesting that we take a few pictures, of course!

We decided that Tony would ride out and get the car while Jan and I walked out. Tony took off and Jan and I started up the hill. It was a long walk, but at least Jan and I got a chance to chat and catch up on the way up the hill! When we reached the top, we discovered that Tony had generously left us his Camelbak and an already opened pack of chocolate Gu (Jan's favorite). What we didn't realize was that the Camelbak was a clever message designed to tell us to take a side trail that would lead more directly to the road. Oblivious, Jan and I picked up the Camelbak and walked onward.

Once we reached the summit, Jan decided to try to ride, despite the fact that he could only squeeze his front brake. We worked our way down the mountain and finally hooked up with Tony, who had tried to pick us up at the alternative entrance that his Camelbak message indicated.

We drove to the hospital in Truckee where a good time was had by all. Tony had fun joking with the nurses and impressing them with his extensive medical vocabulary, and Jan kept his good humor the whole time.

After we got all checked in, nurse Jeff showed us into the ER and started to unwrap Jan's wound. We had missed the opportunity to take some photos before we wrapped his arm the first time, so I was ready with the camera. Nurse Jeff was a good guy who seemed to share our sense of humor (at one point he said "Well, I've certainly seen more adipose tissue than that on an arm!" By that point Jan was in serious pain, so we had to assure him that it was a compliment, not an insult.)

Finally, the gaping wound is revealed:
(click here for a hi-res image)

It was certainly a pretty impressive gash- fat globules, nicked fascia and all!

After Jeff did the initial unwrapping and wound check, Jan's doctor showed up. We weren't quite as lucky with the doc as we were with the nurse, although Jan was more forgiving of her stuffiness than Tony or me. She told us Jan would need an x-ray to make sure nothing was broken, and they took him off to get that done. I snapped a few last pictures before the doc announced that I was no longer welcome in the ER: "I'm going to sew him up, and you're going out to the waiting room!"

I asked if I could stay if I put the camera away, and she still said "No!" After a few more minutes while she worked on another patient, I took one more try at avoiding banishment, mustering up my most conciliatory tone. She finally caved in, warning me that "You sit in this chair, and if you stand up once, you're gone!"

As the wound-cleaning and stitching began, the light was perfect for some great medical textbook photos, but we weren't going to push our luck with the testy doctor...

The cleaning and stitching took about an hour, and in spite of the local anaesthetic, it was often excruciating for Jan. I got quite the show, alternating between watching the doctor use a pair of forceps to lift up Jan's skin and scrub underneath it with a gauze pad, and seeing the various shades of color and paleness that Jan's face is capable of. We tried to hold a conversation to keep him distracted, but we were both distracted by all that skin lifting and gauze scrubbing!

Finally Jan was all stitched up and ready to go: 32 stitches in all.

We headed home to a delicious pizza dinner prepared by Lisa and had fun reviewing the various carnage photos on the digital camera.

We had to work hard to convince Jan not to climb with us at Donner the next day, but he seems content to limit his exercise to vigorous mouse work, for now.

All in all, it was quite an adventure, and everything worked out alright. Jan was unlucky enough to land on the most jagged, sharpest rock in the Sierras, but lucky enough not to have gone any deeper and cut one of the underlying arteries.

And after experiencing another "epic" with Jan, I can only say that I consider myself lucky to have great friends like Jan and Tony who I would trust with my life and know that they would always be there to take care of me, and laugh about it afterwards, or during: Thanks guys!

To see more photos of the ride and the wound, click here.

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