Thursday, January 08, 2009

My Christmas Story

My Christmas break was preempted by a little accident that happened on Dec. 10th, a week before I left to start my voyage home to Maryland. I took a little spill on the ice. Now I would love to be able to tell you that I was launching off of a 20 ft. snow bluff performing a perfect southern cross on my backcountry skis or that I was careening down the hill behind the village on my mountain bike with my dog in hot pursuit and washed out on a patch of ice tumbling for 100 feet, but no. No, I was simply walking my dog to a neighbor’s house. One minute I was walking cautiously, the next minute I was trying to pick myself up fast enough to get inside a building so that I wouldn’t go unconscious and die of exposure. After spending about an hour at my friend’s house looking at my dented face and applying ice as much as I could stand, I got a quick trip to the regional clinic here in Toksook. There I got an x-ray, called home to notify my parents, and then went back down to the house for the night where I was awakened every two hours on the hour by either my neurotic dog or my concerned friends.
The next morning, I flew to Bethel for a CT scan. Afterwards I hung out in Bethel for ohhhh……three more days due to weather. I returned to Toksook, taught for two and a half days and then caught my plane home. By the time I had gotten home, I had talked with a surgeon in Anchorage that convinced me that surgery was the right call. He referred me to a facial plastic surgeon in Baltimore and I had a surgical consult scheduled before I got home.
Christmas was good at the Martin household. I got a rifle for spring Ptarmigan hunting and a pair of ice cleats to wear around the village from now until May when everything turns to mud again. Everyone was pleasantly surprised and appreciative for the gifts and we later went to Grandma’s house for wonderful home cooked meal.
The day after Christmas I drove back down to Baltimore with my Dad for my surgery. We found out through my CT scans in Bethel and Baltimore that I had broken my eye orbital in two places and shattered my zygomaticomaxillary complex (cheek bone). It was my first time being under the knife, so I was a little nervous. I was out for about two hours and woke up with my face looking more normal and a small titanium “L” shaped plate fastened and securing my cheek bone. The only incision that was made was on my upper gums inside my mouth. From there the doctors were able to lift my cheek bone back into place and set the other shattered bones in their proper positions so that my face had some normal looking structure again. After a couple of recovery days at home, watching movies, eating soft foods, and pretty much being a slug, I was out in the field with Dad gathering firewood and playing with the dog.
New Years was fairly uneventful, but enjoyable just the same.
The next day I flew back to the frozen hinter lands of Southwest Alaska. When I arrived Bethel, the air temperature was 33 below zero and 55 below with the wind chill. Brrrrr! This morning I finished the last of my antibiotics and am waiting for the rest of the inflammation to disappear. I am looking pretty normal though, except for the cool scar on my cheek that reminds of the split second that I was in the air and then bouncing my face off the frozen ground. The hardest part for me is the next 4 – 6 weeks when I have to take it easy. I want to get out on the skis with the dog and start testing out the slopes around the village. Luckily the snow conditions are not that great for skiing right now, so maybe I will be able to heal a little more before we get enough snow to really have fun on the skis. I would still be excited to see some more snow fall during the next 4 weeks. My fingers are crossed.