My understanding of the injuries comes from Heather, as I was under some heavy sedation at the time. As I described in an earlier post I went over my handlebars right onto the top of my head. The force of the impact pushed my chin into my chest and caused the cartilage between the 3rd and 4th vertebrae to break. My 5th vertebrae was cracked, and my 6th and 7th vertebrae were crushed. I suppose this picture below shows this. They've numbered the vertebrae to make it easy:) My front is to the left, lots of swelling on the back of the neck.
So additional issues with the 6th and 7th were that they were also crushed. Below are pictures showing the broken bones, as if you are looking down thru the top of my head at # 6 and #7.
So the final issue that I can think of was the fact that #6 and #7 weren't "shingling" like they're supposed to. Vertebrae apparently stack nicely on top of each other with a little bit of the top piece hanging over the bottom piece, like shingles on a roof. My injury had basically taken 7 and put in on top of 6, where it should be the other way around. That what the pictures below are showing:
So when we first received all this news from the Dr. we were told that it was unlikely they could easily fix the multitude of problems I faced. Well, first off, they said it was a miracle that I could still feel my feet and toes and basically had no effects of paralysis yet manifested. That was really my first miracle. While on the mountain I was in so much pain I rotated about 90 degrees on the slope just to get to a better position. I also asked one of the guys with me to put some pressure under my bottom to help relieve some strain. I really moved around quite a bit on the mountain so the fact that I hadn't damaged my spinal cord, from the accident or the movement was remarkable. He then cautioned me that there was still a high degree of risk that while moving me into surgery the spinal cord could be injured leaving me with paralysis, so I certainly wasn't out of the woods yet.
He then proceeded to tell me that he I would likely require multiple surgeries from the front and the back because he didn't believe he could get the vertebrae in position by putting me into traction. He felt that because the cartilage between 3 and 4 was broken and virtually gone, if he put me into traction it would just increase the space between 3 and 4 and have no effect on 6 and 7, which is really what he needed to get at.
Although I heard everything he said I felt a great sense of comfort that come what may, everything would be fine. Luckily I had a job that didn't require manual labor, my mind was intact, and if I had some sort of paralysis for the rest of my life I felt it would be OK. My sense of comfort came from the fact that as soon as this happened I asked everyone I knew to send up some prayers for me. Having gone thru events before when all you can do is rely on the faith and comfort of others I know the feeling of peace that comes by knowing others are praying for me. It's an undeniable feeling of peace. I understand that in order for a miracle to occur there must be 3 things present: 1) Faith 2) Priesthood, and 3) the Will of God. I knew there was great faith, and I had received a priesthood blessing, but I didn't know what God's will would be.
For some reason, the Dr. felt it wouldn't hurt to at least try the traction and see if by some miracle my vertebrae would line up. It was Sunday morning when they put the first weights on me. They basically screw a vice onto the sides of your head just behind your temples and above your ear. I'm not sure if it normally hurts, but I really didn't feel any pain as they put it on. The goal was to put 10 lbs on and the check it with x-ray, if it looked good they'd add another 10 lbs and check again. I laid on my back on the hospital bed and they put the first 10 lbs on. It felt wonderful. I could feel a burden or weight begin pulled off my neck. They checked it and 3 and 4 were holding. They added 10 more lbs. Checked again and 3 and 4 were still holding. They added 10 more lbs. Checked it again and 3 and 4 were still holding, and 6 and 7 were beginning to line up. It was truly my second miracle that the traction began to work and they put another 10 lbs on (40 lbs total) and scheduled me for surgery at 7:30 am the next morning. I was so relieved to be heading into surgery. Sunday was a very long day for me, and Sunday night was long and painful. It felt reassuring to know that I had a time set for surgery and a plan to fix my neck. My sister Michelle and Heather stayed with my all night to comfort me be with me as I prepared for the next morning.
There were a few minor complications with the surgery, but really it was a great success! Below is a picture of 3 and 4 fused together, and 6 and 7 fused together. I believe they're hoping that 5 just heals on its own.
The surgery was so successful the Dr. said he would only need the one. I was transferred from intensive care on Wednesday to the regular floor and was discharged Saturday night. It has now been 2 weeks from my surgery and I feel myself getting stronger and healing each day. I'm grateful for the many prayers that have been offered in my behalf. I've been blessed well beyond what I deserve, and feel it will be hard to repay everybody's generosity to me and my family. Although I've got a difficult few months ahead I take comfort in the fact I have so many good friends and family taking good care of me. I am in a a neck brace for the next 3 months. My appetite has returned. I'm still weak in the upper body, but I'm working on that. I go thru stretches of having energy and getting work things done, then I quickly fade and need to take a 2 hour nap. I guess it's all part of the healing process. Again, thanks to everyone that has made this a blessing to our family.
A picture with my wife Heather, and sister Michelle after I was discharged. Two wonderful angels that took care of me.