Several days into our annual snowmobile trip on March 7th, I was riding my snowmobile with a group of friends near Shotgun in Island Park area. Along the way I climbed and then descended a rather shear hill face apparently with a bit too much speed no realizing the steep downhill angle I had to negotiate. While I remember the ascent up the hill, the next memory I have is of two friends removing my helmet and asking me to lay still. I recall the very concerned face of my friend Janet who is a seasoned snowmobile rider of many years. I’m in my 3rd year of learning to ride.
Obviously, I had sustained a loss of consciousness that lasted around 2 minutes. My snowmobile was on its side next to me. I estimate the height of the hill at 25 feet. While I was with seven other riders, none were in direct observation of my accident. Some saw parts of it but nobody saw the whole event. Due to a lack of memory of the landing, I don’t know exactly what the mechanism of injury was. I suspect I was thrown out and away from the machine landing hard on compact snow. This was essentially a high velocity fall from a height. Examination of my helmet and clothing shows no evidence that I tangled with the machine but it is possible. My friends found me lying like a rag doll on my left side, left arm at an odd angle, moaning incoherently not responding to verbal stimuli. Soon, however, I became aware and oriented. Janet said that my first question was “where is my sled?” I had indeed been knocked out. My vision was full of sparkles for 10 minutes. After 15 minutes, I was able to ride my sled back to the Island Park Lodge where I was staying. My chief complaint was low back and left shoulder pain, which was slowly exacerbating.
I retired from 36 years with the City of Tacoma, Washington Fire Department, including Firefighter Paramedic a bit over a year ago. So after a self-assessment at the lodge I began icing my sore low back and left shoulder, as well as taking 800 mg of Advil every 8 hours. Following a rough night, I asked one of my group if she would drive me to be seen.
I arrived to find a very modern hospital with what seemed to be a new emergency room. For a 10 year period of my fire service career, I worked part time doing emergency nursing at Tacoma General Hospital E.R., and I transported patients all over the Tacoma/Puyallup/King County area with my Fire Medic Unit, so I know emergency rooms very well.
I wish to commend you on a bright, cheerful, and efficient emergency room. The triage desk person was very friendly and helpful and wasted no time in getting me straight to a treatment room and under care of my nurs Roxy. Roxy was a wonderful, happy, and skilled nurse. She took a detailed history and got the chart right out to the doctor.
Waiting for Dr. Nathan Hancock gave me a bit of time to look over the treatment room from the gurney. I was very impressed by the cleanliness of the room and the caliber of the fixed equipment. You have a very nice facility.
After a few minutes, the doctor came in and gave me an examination. It was focused and thorough. He ordered x-rays of my shoulder and low back. I was also given an injection of Valium 10mg to break muscle spasm as well as a couple narcotic pain pills. This made me very comfortable and controlled my symptoms.
The x-ray department was located next-door to the E.D., as it should be. The staff there, once again were very friendly, caring, efficient and skilled. They took several films of my shoulder and spine.
Dr. Hancock and a radiologist looked at the films and advised me that I had two compression fractures of my spine, specifically Thoracic 12 and Lumbar 2. He then ordered a CAT scan to assess the stability of the fractures and to rule out any others not seen in th x-rays.
Again the C.T. unit was close to the ER and the operator was quick, efficient, wonderful, and caring. A radiologist who I did not meet read the results and passed his assessment to Dr. Hancock. Roxy returned several times to check my pain control, take vitals, and be sure I was doing ok. She is a wonderful skilled nurse who has a ready wit, motherly reassurance and loving touch. You are very lucky to have her. She deserves a raise.
Dr. Hancock returned to tell me the fractures were stable. Then told me he would prescribe a muscle relaxant, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory and narcotic pain medicines. He also advised I follow up with my PMD in a week or so. He laid out a set of restrictions in my activity. He seems very knowledgeable and business-like.
Roxy returned with a disc of my CT and x-rays, and I assume the chart since I live in Seattle/Tacoma area. She also gave me prescriptions with a set of very detailed discharge instructions. I am sorry for the length of this letter, however, I wanted to express my sincere thanks to your staff, and compliment them on their skill, expertise, and over all mastery in the delivery of emergency care. That care provided in a well -quipped, bright, and, clean emergency department.
I hope you will pass my sincere gratitude on to the staff of you E.R. They did a great job, and are true professionals in every right.
Firefighter Paramedic Supervisor, City of Tacoma Fire Department-Retired
Lakewood, WA 98498