Some good. Some bad.
I certainly wasn’t planning on spending two days of my life in a hospital. But there I was. Trapped. The hospital was giving me the run-around. They wanted me to stay a second night. I, on the other hand, wanted to get the fuck out of there and felt they were perhaps doing more harm than good.
How did I get myself into – and out of – this situation?
It all started on a hot 100-degree October day in Los Angeles. I was at home in the Marina Del Rey neighborhood. Everyone was commenting just how hot it was outside. As usual, I was working outside on the front porch. It felt hot but, unlike many of my fellow Angelinos, I was actually enjoying the heat.
WTF does the weather have anything to do with my accident?
It was a pivotal moment because I decided that I would escape the heat and go to the beach. By the time I wrapped up my work it was after 5pm so I hopped on my single speed bike and made the 3 mile trip to the nearest beach: Playa Del Rey. My usual spot.
My intention wasn’t to simply hang out at the beach. Rather, I was going to do a quick workout and turn around and go back home. That was about it. I was there just before sunset. It was beautiful – as usual. I completed a quick neuro-mass workout consisting three sets of single-leg pistol squats, jumps and isometric holds.
Then, as I often do after a workout on the beach, I decided to go in the water. I wandered out until I was fully immersed in water then turned around to head home.
But I looked back and saw a beautiful wave forming behind me so I swam out to catch and bodysurf it. I knew I was a bit late but thought I would try to ride it in anyway.
The wave was breaking right behind me as I caught it and, rather than riding the wave, my head was jammed into the beach causing my head to roll forward and my neck to snap as I did a neck-snapping somersault forward.
In that moment I knew I’d fucked up. Big time.
I blacked out and quickly regained consciousness underwater. I had no feeling in my body. I was completely numb. I somehow struggled to get my head above water and pulled myself onto shore. I couldn’t see quite right. I looked down at my left arm and it wasn’t there.
My wits were coming back. Sensation quickly came back to my body. My vision seemed back to normal. There was a group of tourists that were hanging out next to me while I exercised walking away. I knew I had messed myself up in a very bad way so I yelled to them, “Help! Help! Heeeeelp!”
They were confused because they couldn’t see that I was damaged. I told them I hit my head and blacked out and asked them to help me out. They took my bike and we walked to the boardwalk. Afraid of the costs of a 911 call and ambulance, I called a Lyft, locked up my bike, and was off to the emergency room at Cedars Sinai in Marina Del Rey.
I realized I was fortunate to be alive.
I stepped into the emergency room barefoot wearing just a t-shirt and shorts. I was carrying my keys and cell phone. No wallet. No ID. No money.
This is where/when I became a patient.
The waiting room was much more crowded than I’d expected. I was trying to patiently wait as a receptionist appeared available at the checkin counter. I checked in and waited longer. Perhaps half an hour. Perhaps an hour. I don’t remember. I was a patient. And, as such, I needed to be patient.
I spent the next six hours or so at the emergency room. Most of the time I was laying in a carted bed in the hallway. Usually to pass time I’ll read news updates or listen to podcasts. However, to pass much of my waiting time I played a breath pacing app to guide my breathing. Six seconds inhaling and eight seconds exhaling.
My general mood during this time – over, say, the next eight or so hours – was actually relatively good. I’m sure that my body’s hormone response had a lot to do with it. I was pumping out all kinds of good stuff perhaps to keep me going in what could have been a life ending situation.
I have good news. And I have bad news.
Eventually I was taken for x-rays and an MRI. And eventually a doctor came back with the results asking me the uncomfortable question, “I have good news and I have bad news. Which do you want first?” I said, “The good news.”
The good news was that my head looked okay. The bad? My neck was in bad shape with muscle and tendon damage, along with a lot of swelling. For this reason, they ordered me to the Cedars Sinai hospital in Beverly Hills.
But not until 1am. So I waited longer…until I was taken in an ambulance to intensive care at Cedars Sinai in Beverly Hills where I was hooked up to IVs and continuously poked and prodded throughout the night.
ICU at Cedars Sinai in Beverly Hills
Nurses, doctors, and seemingly random people came in to make sure I had feeling and strength in my limbs. They all asked me what happened. It was nice that there were so many people who seemed to care and were helping me out. However, at the same time, it all seemed a bit excessive.
So I asked the first nurse,
How important is sleep to recovery?
She just laughed knowing that I was alluding to my lack of sleep from being continuously poked and prodded by all the people coming and going.
Thinking about getting rest.
Around 3am I realized that I should be sleeping during this time so I requested an eye mask and ear plugs that the nurse eventually tracked down for me.
At some point some random person came in to take x-rays. I was trying to rest and initially ignored what was going on around me. But when I uncovered my eyes, I saw that indeed they had an x-ray machine pointing at my chest. I told the guy they already took x-rays before. He said he was told to take x-rays. I said I didn’t want x-rays if it wasn’t necessary so he took the machine away and left.
Throughout that night, morning and into the early afternoon it was much of the same… People coming in, poking, prodding, asking what happened. They did take me to another building for x-rays. I joked that if they let me get up on my feet that I wasn’t coming back; I was outta there.
Getting some rest and food.
After the x-rays I finally did doze off while sitting in the chair back in the ICU. The nurse offered juice and cookies and I said that water was fine. She brought the juice and cookies anyway and asked if I wanted anything else. I said that I didn’t want any sugars or carbs. So the nurse asked if I wanted applesauce. Go figure. They served me lunch and I sent it back.
It wasn’t until maybe 2 or 3pm that they finally released me from ICU and transferred me to another room where they mostly left me alone. In fact, they never told me the result of the x-rays. They said we were going to do physical therapy but then said it may not happen until the next day.
Get me out of here!
I wasn’t really excited about spending another night away from home because I knew I could get much better quality food, supplements, light, and more at home.
As time slipped away I realized that the PT simply wasn’t going to happen and they were going to keep me overnight. They served dinner. I ate a few pieces of lettuce and a couple of peas and that was about it.
I finally had enough because every time I asked for something, they told me we had to wait for someone or something else. We had to wait to hear from the doctor. We had to wait for PT. They didn’t know what happened with my x-rays.
So, after going back and forth, I finally got out of there.
What were my lessons learned?
Well, this is what I learned from my experience and this is what will likely happen to you with your upcoming doctor / hospital visits.
You will have to wait. You are the patient – so be patient. To hack this during my stay I used a breath pacing app that kept me calm. I recommend you do something similar during your next visit to the doc. That is, don’t just be patient; be present and mindful.
You won’t be allowed to rest (very well). In my case, the people simply wouldn’t let me be for more than 20-30 minutes at a time. How can you hack this? Get some ear plugs, a sleep mask – and blue-light blocking glasses.
You will be served food that is not going to support your recovery. Have a friend bring you food that will support your recovery. Or, better yet, do what I did: fast. I fasted for nearly 30 hours. Depending on your comfort and ability, I might not recommend going that long. For me, I strongly felt that skipping the food and fasting was a better option than putting toxins in my body when it’s already stressed by severe physical trauma.
You will be exposed to artificial lighting. Fluorescent and LED lights may save on energy consumption. But not your energy. You want to avoid lighting that doesn’t support your recovery. So, once again, get yourself a sleep mask and blue-light blocking glasses.
You will get bad information. That is, you’ll often be left in the dark as to what’s really going on. I was told different things by different people. They led me to believe I would be released fairly quickly. And that didn’t happen. So ask questions and don’t stop asking until you get answers.
You won’t be offered things that really help. I’ve found that there are other things that will support your recovery better and hospitals won’t know or offer these things. In my case, I wanted glutathione (as a powerful antioxidant), progesterone (as a powerful neuroprotetor) among many other things. In this case, it’s good to have someone who is in the know and can get these things for you. Talk to your functional medicine doctor.
More lessons learned.
Also, I realize I should be more careful going in the water by myself. I’m confident in the water and ocean but it just takes a simple mistake to end a life. It’s good to have a buddy when going in the ocean and respecting the power of the water and waves.
Overall, I’m grateful to be alive. I’m grateful for the support of my family and friends. I’m grateful for the care I received at the hospitals. Because, although I don’t agree with everything they did, I know that they did care.