If you weren’t one of the 170k people to retweet the picture of my mangled leg last week, then it’s time for you to get the full story. Two weeks ago I was in West Virginia for my friend’s bachelor party/wedding and we signed up to go paintballing. After 3 hours of playing woods ball, we decided that our last couple of matches would be on the speedball course. For those of you who don’t know, speedball is a fast paced game played on an all turf field. We had made it to the final game and split to our respective sides. As the ref counted 3...2…1, we all took off. I noticed one of my buddies right in front of me so I went to slide behind the first piece of cover. I felt a sharp pain on the front of my leg and instantly let out a few words that my mother would not approve of.
I looked at where the pain was coming from and saw a small cut in my friends marine issued pants and thought huh that hurt a lot more than that cut size. Then I noticed the pant leg starting to soak with blood. I rolled over and got my teammates attention telling him to call the game. With the sound of paint still flying we eventually got the other team to stop firing. I looked over to see what had cut my leg and noticed a nice rusty bolt sticking up out of the turf and instantly thought “why the hell is that there and uncovered? !?” Everyone else started to gather around and I attempted to roll up the pant leg. I got to the very bottom of the wound and noticed the all too familiar yellow coloring of fatty tissue from anatomy lab. With a quick motion I pulled the pant leg back down as started telling our group that I needed to go to the emergency room.
With the help of two field trained military members (one being the groom to be) we got my leg elevated and attempted to tear the pant leg. Lucky for us the military issued pants were meant to be tough so we couldn’t actually tear them or cut them with the dull knife we had. This led to me taking off my pants exposing a solid gash on my leg and laying in the middle of the speedball course in my boxers. At this point everyone could see the wound and it was decided that yes indeed the ER was in our future. While I was laying there on the field the PT in me kicked in and I decided to test to see how much damage was done (yes PTs know how to assess acute situations for musculoskeletal damage). After realizing I could move my foot in dorsiflexion and eversion, I was thinking I got super lucky with how I got this cut.
Once my brother navigated his car onto the course (because ain’t nobody got time or money for an ambulance) we then made our way towards the hospital. Honestly, it was a rather interesting experience to be in the back of a car with my leg elevated going 100+ down the interstate. Even though I had suffered a rather significant trauma my head was pretty clear. I asked my friend to take a picture so that we made sure to have what it looked like prior to stitches, told my brother to get my wallet because I would need an ID for the ER, and told them to get a wheel chair once we arrived to the ED. To which my brother with his minimal health knowledge responded with “here drink this water. I don’t know anything about how to handle this but I am sure being hydrated is a good thing”.
We then pulled up to the ER and wheeled into the waiting room. The receptionist looked at my leg grimaced and said, “let me guess what you’re here for” to which I responded, “is it that obvious that my head is killing me”. After taking my blood pressure and covering the wound, they sent me to the waiting room for 5 minutes until a bed cleared out. The next 5 minutes were spent having short interesting conversations with people in the waiting room while I was in my boxers. By far the most conversations I have had in my boxers since being in a locker room.
The nurse then met us in the waiting room and said the room was ready for us. My brother and the groom came back to the room with me where we met the PA and her student. Two nice looking women who promptly made sure to tell me my leg looked gnarly. After discussing that they would be able to stitch me up, I was sent to get my first ever radiograph. This was a very simple process and ended with me finally getting a sheet to cover up with. Next the fun really started. They had the room set up with all of the tools necessary to pull my skin back together and hold it in place until it healed.
For anyone who has had some sort of trauma I am interested, was the lidocaine shot the worst part for you as well? Something about getting stabbed with a needle and having something injected into acutely injured tissue left me feeling like I wanted to vomit and pass out. I expressed this to my PA to which she responded, “I have that effect on a lot of guys”. Hell of a time to have a sense of humor. She did give me some medicine though and all of that eventually calmed down. Once the lidocaine kicked in, the procedure began. My friend, the groom, asked if I cared if he recorded the procedure. Of course I told him I would love to see all of this after it was finished. The next hour and a half or so was spent stitching up my leg and having conversations about marriage, medicine, physical therapy, and what the student planned to do after she was done with this rotation.
With the final stitch was in, they injected me with an antibiotic that hurt much worse than a tetanus shot and told me I was all set to go. After the lady came in to confirm my insurance and have me sign a waiver saying they were clear to treat me, we prepped to head home. We discussed that the only restriction I had was no squatting or bending my knee past 90 degrees to make sure it healed properly and no swimming until it healed completely. I was actually excited that she ended the conversation with “you’re a DPT, use your judgement, if something doesn’t seem right then go to urgent care or a doctor.” Much respect Ms. PA in Virginia.
Overall the experience could have been so much worse. I left the hospital walking, my ER visit was rather quick in terms on hospital stays, and I would still be able to partake in my best friend’s wedding without having to use crutches or anything. While this was by far my worst injury, it was very manageable as far as trauma goes.
As a medical professional, it was interesting to see how fragile and resilient the body is all at the same time. I had a freak happening that could have affected anyone else in our group, but it didn’t; it happened to me. I literally was able to look inside my leg and see all of the fascia, muscle, fat, and blood. All of this because I decided to go to the left of the course and slide behind cover to avoid a paintball that would not have hurt nearly as bad as a bolt to the shin. However even with this trauma, 4 hours later I had my skin pulled back together, stitched shut, antibiotics injected into my arm, and was walking out the door of a hospital after an overall great stay. Life really is a crazy thing when you think about it and this made me again so thankful for how lucky my life has been thus far.
Happy Monday my friends—until next time!
I am a new graduate DPT and am interested in personal growth and becoming a connector within my profession.