Wednesday, 11 January 2006

January 11, 2006 Mark's Story

Well, things have finally settled down here a little and I thought I'd take time to tell you our tales from Sunday night (Knik 200 stories from both of us will follow at a later date).

I finished the Knik race at around 2:30 on Sunday afternoon. Our friend, Doug was waiting at Knik Lake with the dog truck. We fed, loaded and took my team back up to Willow. We got them all put back in their yard; I had a shower and then headed back to Knik for the Race Banquet and to wait for Mark.

Somewhere in the evening, I realized this was going to be a late night - and with only a few hours sleep during the Race, I was not going to be a good candidate for driving the hour back home after Mark came in - the Grilliots to the rescue again. After having dinner in Wasilla, they dropped Doug off in Knik so he could drive Mark and I home later in the evening.

Okay, I confess, I quickly learned just how boring it is to wait for your dog team to come in in the middle of the night. As all the Ham Radio operators had been pulled off the trail, information on when to expect your musher was a< little sketchy. Based on the fact that Mark had apparently left Skwentna at noon - a fact that annoyed me a little because no where in the Race Plan I had written for him did it say "spend 11 hours resting in Skwentna" (turns out he didn't - they had his 'out time' recorded incorrectly) - I figured he would be in somewhere between 10pm and midnight.
Around 11, Doug and I decided to sneak into the bar and grab a beer. As I took my second sip, a headlight showed up on the lake. I took a quick swig and told Doug to drink it for me if I didn't come back in 5 minutes. Of course, the team was Mark's and Doug was kind enough to finish the beer for me.

Mark was in a great mood and the dogs looked fantastic. What a good job he did with my rookies. I am immensely pleased with all of them (Mark and the dogs, that is!). I'll leave his 'Tales of the Trail' to him - we fed, loaded his team and headed home.

Doug just drove us to his place, so we could drop him off, and Mark drove the couple miles back to Jamie and Harry's.

Mark parked the truck in front of the kennel and we began to unload. I was snapping up Q when I noticed Mark on the ground behind the truck. "You okay?" I called - "No, I've broken my ankle." he replied (apparently he actually heard it break). Sprite, who he was leading behind the truck when he slipped, was hovering over him. I quickly ran her to her kennel and came back to help him to his feet. No luck, he was in far too much pain to get himself up, even holding onto the ladder on the truck and with me helping him. He was starting to go into shock and was shaking like a leaf. I put a coat on him and ran for the house to get Jamie and Harry - who were, of course, sound asleep (Jamie had gone on an overnight trip with her dogs the night before).

Harry moved his vehicle over next to Mark and the 3 of us managed to get him up and into the backseat. Harry and Mark headed for the hospital. Jamie and I finished unloading dogs and then followed them.

By the time we got there, Mark was coming out of x-rays and it was pretty obvious that this was not going to be a quick fix. I thanked Jamie and Harry and sent them home to get some sleep.

The doctor came in and slapped a couple x-rays up on the wall. He pointed out 2 (actually, I thought it was 3, but maybe I was tired and hearing wrong) breaks and 2 dislocations. The nurse busied herself cutting 2 pair of expensive long underwear off Mark. I was very grateful for the 'boot zippers' Cabelas builds into their winter pants, which made it possible to get them off without scissors.
They doped him silly and then announced that it was time to 'pop' those dislocations back in. I left the room.

While they worked on admitting Mark, I sat down with the cashier to deal with the financial end of this. Unbelievable. You all know that I love my US neighbors (not your moose though) but what kind of civilized nation puts their citizens through the stress of "And how will you be paying for this?" in the  midst of an already stressful emergency situation? What an eye opener. It completely boggles my mind - and makes me very grateful to live in country that has National Health Care.

Just because I know a few have been wondering and asking - our Alberta Health Care plan will assume all the bills for what similar treatment for Mark in Canada would have cost. Mark's insurance plan through Alpac will cover the rest - so this should not put us out of pocket at all.

Anyway, Mark's orthopedic surgeon turned out to be one that both Jamie and Doug recommended, which gave us some piece of mind. After he explained the surgery to Mark, he asked Mark if he had any questions. "Do you know what your doing?", Mark asked. He assured him he did - and off Mark went to surgery.

I gotta say, Mark has maintained a very good sense of humor through this all. Many of his nurses have commented to me on it. I tell them they should meet him when he isn't out of his mind in pain and drugged to the max.

Doug had his son, Nate drop him off at the hospital so he could drive the dog truck and I home, so I could feed dogs and get some sleep. I was far too tired to drive myself the hour home.
So, details on exactly what when on in the surgery are a little sketchy to me. I haven't been able to catch up with Mark's doctor and Mark claims he doesn't remember everything the doctor said.

What I do know is that the surgery was not a simple one. Mark made some reference last night to having the ankle joint rebuilt with cadaver bone - and I know a couple plates and some screws went in.
His recovery is going pretty slow. Personally, I think the fact that he was tired, sore, and dehydrated from his race when he went into surgery is one of the reasons.

He's been battling a bit of fever and some issues with his blood oxygen levels, on top of still being in a lot of pain. All those issues need to be resolved before they will let him come home.
And this is just the beginning - I'm told that he will not be permitted to bear any weight on that ankle for at least 8 weeks.

As for what this means for our winter plans, right now I can't exactly say. We are taking each thing as it comes, with Mark's health, comfort and well being the primary consideration. We will keep you all posted as we figure things out.

On the 'big scale' of 'things that can go wrong' - this is just a molehill. We are fully aware of and grateful for that. Things will sort themselves out.

Thanks again to all that have been so gracious - taking time to visit, call, email - or just thinking good thoughts for us. We do both really appreciate it.


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