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Craig's First Skating Injury

Now that I've alarmed everyone by announcing the last comic didn't go up because of a hospital visit, it's time to explain what happened.

This entry ended up a bit longer than I planned. There's a TL;DR at the bottom if you're pressed for time.

When I first got interested in derby, the second or third time I went skating, I talked Craig into going with me. He said he didn't skate, and I said I could teach him. He rented skates, went once around the rink, and then decided again that he didn't skate, and that was that.

I dragged him into derby shortly after I started, and he's been NSOing for the league since early summer of 2011. Mostly he's a jam timer, and he volunteers for other leagues when they need officials for bouts, too. Over the course of this past summer, our league lost all but one of its refs, and he's been assisting the remaining one during scrimmages. The two of them, along with our head NSO/penalty tracker, do their best to cover the jobs of 7 refs and a handful of other officials for us every week - not an easy task.

Sometime around our last bout of the season, Craig decided to make another attempt at learning to skate, because he wanted to become a ref, the actual reffing-from-skates kind. His ref friends were excited, and I was thrilled - I never gave up on the possibility of him skating. Refschild gave him the skates that he started on, and after a long wait to get paid for a couple of large jobs, Craig and I went to Bruised at the beginning of this month to get him geared up.

Last Tuesday night we went to the league's open skate to get him up on his new wheels. We bundled up - the Bunker isn't what you'd convincingly call "heated" - and got rolling. I showed him a basic skating stride and a toe-drag stop, and he was doing better than the last time I saw him skate. Then he had one of those awesome moments I mentioned in my Derbyversary post, where you're standing still and your feet just decide to be elsewhere. He landed on his ass on the concrete, and from the look on his face, I knew the night was over. I removed his skates and knee pads, and he handed me the rest of his gear.

"You need an ice pack?" He shook his head. "A hand up?" He took my hand and got to his feet, walked over the chair by the front door and sat down. Jake came over to check on him, and he said he just needed to stretch out his back. I put his gear away and went to work on my hockey stops.

Guess what - a little frustration and violence, combined with a tip Jake gave me several weeks ago, made my hockey stop happen!

After a few minutes, Craig said he was ready to go, and I de-geared and carried his stuff out for him. We pass the hospital on our way home - handy, huh? - and he said, "You know, let's stop at the ER." This was about 9:30pm. I stopped, he walked in, I parked the car and then parked myself in the waiting room with a sketchbook and markers. After a while a volunteer came to get me and brought me back to the room where they'd put Craig.

There was a bit of a wait, then they took him for X-rays and brought him back. Some more waiting, and the doctor came in and said there was something odd on the X-ray. "It's probably nothing, but it could be a fracture, so I'm going to order a CT scan to be sure." Craig got the shakes, and I asked a nurse to bring him a blanket while we waited. I reminded him it was probably nothing, that they were taking extra precautions by doing the CT. They gave him some kind of injection for pain, and took him to the CT and back. I sketched, inked, colored. We waited some more.

Finally the next doctor to come on shift stopped by. "You fractured your L2 vertebra." Oh dear. Worse than either of us thought. "We're not a trauma hospital, so I'd recommend that you go to Bay State." He chose to go, and they loaded him in an ambulance. There were two transports leaving at the same time, and I followed the wrong one. Fortunately I realized my mistake quickly and managed to catch up to the right one before it got on the highway.

We were headed through Holyoke when we passed a state trooper running a speed trap, and I knew I was going to get stopped. Sure enough, he pulled out behind me, waited a minute, then turned his lights on. I pulled over and rolled my window down.

"Good evening. License and registration please."

"Is it because I have a headlight out?" I asked, knowing it couldn't have been anything else, since I wasn't speeding.


I reached for my license while gesturing toward the quickly-disappearing medical bus. "I'm following that ambulance to Bay State, my husband's in there."

"You're all set," the trooper told me, waving a hand in a shooing motion. "Get outta here."

"Thanks." I took off, waited until he was out of sight, had a quick encounter with an angry driver who seemed to be looking for someone to pick on, then stepped on it. The ambulance had gotten a longer lead than I thought, but eventually I caught up and followed it the rest of the way to Bay State. The paramedics told me someone would come for me when things were settled down, and I headed for the waiting room. Around 2am, I was watching the election results come in on the news and trying to ignore the guy two seats over, who was talking to himself and having intermittent spasms of some kind - addict in withdrawal, I guessed. After an hour, Craig texted me to give me the number of his room. I tracked him down with some help from Information, and we hung around in Trauma for a while. I fell asleep in the chair several times, to be awoken repeatedly when I slumped over and banged my head against a sharp disposal bin.

After several visits from doctors and nurses, they moved him up to Intermediate Care about 4:30am. I hung around for a few minutes, but after 23 hours without sleep I was starting to lose my grip on myself, and I knew I had to leave before I had a complete meltdown. I said good night - good morning? -  about 5:15am and stepped out. I reached the corner of two hallways, realized I had no idea how to get out of the hospital, and lost it. A nurse walked by and asked if I needed help, and I sobbed that I was lost and needed to find the ER. He smiled, looking like he felt bad for me, and gave me directions. I smiled, still crying, thanked him, and headed off. After about five steps I realized I hadn't heard the essential part of his directions. All I got was "Elevator, down, back this way." Down to where? I had no idea.

Hoping to see a map or chart or labeled button, I stepped into the elevator. I pressed 1, because we'd walked into emergency from the ground without going up any steps, then second-guessed myself and pressed 3 because it had a star next to it. I don't remember where I got off, but it didn't look familiar. I found a map, but it didn't help, because it didn't show floor numbers. After more wandering, I found a security guard and asked him for directions. He told me to follow him and led me back into the elevator, to another floor and down a hallway, then pointed. "It must take months to learn your way around here," I said, and he agreed. I walked down the hall and found myself back in the waiting room. With a sigh of relief, I found my car and headed home. I'd been worried about falling asleep on the highway, but I was too wired. I got home about 6:15, called Craig to tell him I'd made it, took a shower (Finally! My job that day had involved taking down a drop ceiling and getting covered in mouse crap), and went to bed.

I woke again around 11:30am, freezing for lack of food but feeling emotionally recharged. I stuffed down a slice of pepperoni pizza with mushrooms and green peppers, made some coffee for myself and hot chocolate for Craig, and left. I stopped at Big Y for a roast beef sandwich and a rose, got caught in a surprise blizzard on route 91, got lost in Springfield trying to find Bay State, got lost in the damn hospital again and had to ask for directions a couple more times, and finally made it to Craig's room. He was awake and looked relieved to see me. I gave him the rose, the hot chocolate, and a couple of clementines, because I know what hospital food is like, although it turned out that Bay State's actually wasn't bad.

"I'm glad you're back," he said, and I gave him a hug. "I missed you."

We went for a walk around the wing because the doctors wanted him walking. They told us he'd be checked by another doctor, fitted for a back brace, and discharged. The guy doing the brace fittings was apparently quite busy, because we were there until 6pm. I pushed him out in a wheelchair, retrieved the car, and drove him home, stopping at CVS for prescriptions. The doctors say no work through the end of this week, light duty for a few weeks after that, and he'll be back to normal in 8 weeks. One and a half down, 6.5 to go...that's the first week of January.

Craig broke his back rollerskating. He can walk but is out of work for a while. He'll be fine by the New Year.