For years I have said that CrossFit has changed my life! I have said over and over again that it SAVED my life because of how it changed me as a person and brought such a passion back into my days.
Well, now I can say it LITERALLY...
CROSSFIT SAVED MY LIFE!!!
But, CrossFit is so dangerous right??? High rep olympic lifting! Muscle ups! Rope climbs!! You could hurt your back! What if you fall from the rope or the rings?!! You can't have perfect technique when you are moving that fast!! You might lose your positioning!!
What is dangerous?? You tell me.....
The few months preceding June 30th (2012)....were chalk full of all that crazy stuff!! I mean, I had been training with 2 of the most INTENSE athletes in all of CrossFit, Jason Khalipa and Neal Maddox (and the soon to be well known Garret Fisher). I would show up every day and just try to do what they do....including TONS of heavy oly lifting, 3-4 workouts a day, ring muscle up to handstand push ups (yep...I am a bad ass). I was more fit than ever and so excited about the progress I was making.
Me in danger....
Amanda with 105# June 22, 2012
60' Cargo Net June 28, 2012
So, how could training with these movements under such intensity actually SAVE someone's life?? My life??
On June 30th (2012), I was out and about doing something completely NOT dangerous....grabbing coffee for my co-workers from the Level 1 CrossFit Seminar team. In fact, THEY all stayed behind to work out!! Round trip it was about 2 miles...something you and I, all of us, do every day.
I was turning left on a pretty busy 6 lane road, but had an arrow.....and within an instant...found myself smashed across 3 lanes and on the sidewalk facing the opposite direction.
Immediately when the car stopped I was in severe pain, mostly in my neck. Both of my hands were on the dashboard and I was leaned toward the passengers side. Because my neck hurt so badly I just kept repeating to myself out loud "you're ok...don't move...it's ok...". All of the airbags were deployed and the entire passengers side where I was looking (trying not to move) was MANGLED. The door panel and glove box were almost unrecognizable. The windshield had shattered and I had glass, and coffee, ALL over me. I was bleeding but I didn't know from where. I was too scared to look...too scared and in too much pain to move.
Luckily, there was an ambulance that saw the whole thing go down. Pretty quickly I had someone talking to me. I realized my hand hurt...and shortly after learned why. The paramedic (I think....I couldn't turn to see any of these people) asked me to turn the car off. I couldn't. Because somehow I had managed to karate chop the keys during the accident and break the key of in the ignition.....with my hand.
I was pulled out of the car via spine board with my head strapped down. I honestly thought I was never going to be able to move again.
In the ER I was super excited to learn that my nurse was a CrossFitter, and also super embarrassed that she recognized me. I didn't have to wait too long before a Dr came by. They did some tests of my reflexes...if I could feel and move both of my hands and feet. Took me to x ray my hand. I think I probably asked 7 times if I was going to die or be paralyzed. I also kept telling the Dr. that my neck hurt much worse than my hand. I asked at least 3-4 times if I needed a neck X ray. Because of my concern he checked my neck out a little bit more...poked at it a bit...but still no X ray. I was SO happy and relieved when he told me it wasn't broken, just really bad whiplash.
What was really cool was that everyone...from the paramedic to the cop on scene to my coworkers who saw the accident to my ER Dr told me "If you weren't so strong....you would be in a LOT worse shape. We have seen people killed, necks snapped, from that exact same accident. Your muscle saved you."
And that was it. In the most pain I had ever experienced in my life, the nurse helped me sit up (the pain was so bad I literally almost blacked out). They gave me a prescription for some pain pills, told me to find an orthopedic surgeon to cast my hand when I got home, and I was out of there.
Moving at all was excruciating. Any little bump in the road, turning, getting in and out of the car...sitting, standing. I couldn't turn my head in any direction AT ALL. They gave me one of those little soft collars, but no real direction on if I needed it or for how long.
Although I was pretty scraped and bruised up, the last thing I wanted to do was sit in my hotel room by myself....mostly because I was worried to be alone. I've heard stories about people who have concussions and then die in their sleep that night...I watch Grey's Anatomy!! And also....I am stubborn. I decided I was FINE and I was going to prove it. So...I went to dinner with the crew from the seminar. Wore the neck brace in the car and then took it off!!
I had to prove that I was fine. Within 5 minutes of the actual collision, I remembered that the Games started in less than 2 weeks! In fact, we were set to head down to LA for Games WEEK in only 8 days!!! I had been prepping for my role with media for months. I wasn't about to let a broken hand and some whiplash ruin the biggest week of my year!!
With the help of my fellow trainers, I was able to get home the day after the accident. The pain in my neck made it impossible to do some of the most simple tasks. Knowing that I needed to regain mobility QUICKLY so I could interview the athletes at the Games I pushed myself by going for a hike 4 days after the accident, air squatting and trying to turn my head as much as I could....you know..."stretching". I actually read that all of that stuff, movement in general, was just what you should to for whiplash.
4 days after the wreck...trying to walk and move around to help with the whiplash.
After having a REALLY difficult time finding a Orthopedic doc to cast my hand (no shit it was next to impossible to get an appt), I was finally able to go up and meet Dr. Bhuva in San Jose. Dr. Bhuva noticed how painfully I was moving with my neck as he was casting my hand and asked if I had my neck x-rayed after the accident. When I told him that I hadn't, he was shocked! He told me that he wasn't the right type of Dr. to treat neck injuries, but would not feel comfortable letting me leave without checking it out. To be honest, I was somewhat relieved to have it looked at. They took the x-ray and said that it was probably nothing, but they would let me know.
My neck continued to "feel" better and better. So I continued to do more and more with it. I rode the airdyne bike, climbed stairs with a weight vest, and was starting to be able to turn it a LOT more. Whether or not I was going to be doing my job at the Games was still up in the air, but I was confident I would feel good in time.
Airdyne with the support of NorCal CrossFit Santa Clara
Games Week: Awesome.
I could write 10 pages alone on the fantastic time I had at the Games....and I surely will in a different post. But, I will try to keep it in the context of this story right now.
Games week for those who work for CrossFit is a combination of a family/high school reunion, hell week, finals week, attending the Super Bowl and the Oscars. It's incredible, and busy, and hard work. There is so much standing, walking....not a lot of sleep and A LOT of hugs.
I loved the hugs...but I remember a few that hurt my neck pretty bad....dang whiplash...RIGHT?!
The hotel that we were at for Games week had an AWESOME gym set up for us in one of the ballrooms. Rogue had set up a bunch of equipment for the athletes/judges/media to use while we were there! Moving seemed to help me feel better throughout the day so I made a commitment to work out Mon-Thurs. I went for a 5k run 2 of the mornings, did some rowing and 4 lb med ball cleans one day too. I was super stoked to do those med ball cleans because up til that point I hadn't been able to bend over at my waist enough to pick anything up off of the ground!
Just trying to get a little workout in during Games week! Stoked to be doing cleans!
During the day, I was doing what I could do OFF camera. I was still moving too weird to be put on camera UNTIL Wednesday! I was put at the desk for the Games Update show that day and I was SO happy!! After doing that, and looking ok there...I got the green light to do what I had come down to do in the first place, interview the most amazing athletes in the world.
Me and Annie T. My shirt was ridiculously huge...hence the weird pin job!
And lets not forget the after party!!
Fast forward to Tuesday, July 17th (2012).
My neck was feeling pretty good and didn't really notice it too much. I still wasn't ready for explosive movements like oly lifts or jumping. I could still feel some pain when I would sit up the first like 6 inches in bed or the last 6 inches laying down. There were some sticky spots where my head would get kinda "stuck" and I would have to really concentrate to get it to move.
After witnessing the glorious performances at the Games, I was excited to get back and train.
I headed down to San Jose that day for a follow up appt. for my hand to get a new cast and then to train at NorCal CrossFit! When I walked into the Dr's office and checked in EVERYONE, from the woman at the desk to the nurse to the assistant to the Dr said they were SO WORRIED about me! They said they had been trying to contact me all week!
Dr. Bhuva said that they had tried EVERYTHING....calling, sending a letter, and finally Facebook. That's where Dr. Bhuva said he realized why he couldn't get a hold of me. He ended up watching the Update Show and then the feed on ESPN 3. (Loved it by the way!)
Why?? There was something weird with my x-ray. Again, Dr. Bhuva is not a neuro-surgeon, but said that it looked like I might have a slipped facet joint. He explained to me that it could be kind of serious and that I needed to get a CT Scan and see a neuro surgeon. I explained that I was headed to Florida for a seminar on Friday. He explained that I wasn't going ANYWHERE until having this checked out.
He had 3 different people calling around trying to get me an appointment, first for the scan and then to meet with a neuro-surgeon to go over it with me. I thought they were acting crazy! My neck had continued to feel better all of the time. Besides, the Dr in the ER said I was fine!!
They found me an appt. to get the scan right away, which was going to make me miss my workout with some of the boys, but I decided I better play along. I was kind of pissed. The scan didn't take long, but then I had to wait 30 min after it was done to get the disk. While I was waiting I was thinking about what I could do for my workout that day....I decided that I would load up the yoke and pair it with something. Loading that doesn't require me to hold a barbell, bend at the waist, and isn't explosive was just what I needed.
After the medical goose chase, I was FINALLY at the gym getting ready to work out when my husband called. He was frantic. "Babe, you need to call this Dr. back. He keeps calling me. They said it's an emergency about your neck scan." he said. Being a total brat, I think my response was a sarcastic "Really?! Am I dead? Am I in heaven? Have I been dead for the past 2 weeks and I didn't know?!". He was not amused. I told him I would call.
I spoke with a Dr. Fox who had just read my scan. This is how it went.
Dr. Fox: Miranda, I was just handed your scans from this afternoon. I know you have an appt. with a neuro-surgeon in 2 days, but you need to go to an ER RIGHT NOW. You have a break in 2 places in your C2 vertebrae. I honestly can't believe you have been walking around like this for the past 2 weeks. You are in serious danger. Any little fall, or bump or wrong twist of the head and you could be a quadrapolegic for the rest of your life. Can you get to a hospital? Where are you?
Me: (in tears and shaking) Yes. I am in San Jose on Saratoga and Stevens Creek.
Dr. Fox: Ok, you need to go right now, don't drive yourself, to the nearest ER. It is O'Connor Hospital. Tell them you have a VERY unstable C2 fracture. Do you have any questions?
Me: Yes. Should I be as terrified as I am right now?
Dr. Fox: Yes. You are in serious danger walking around like that. If you were a member of my family I would have you in the car on the way to the ER right NOW. Tell the person driving to drive VERY carefully.
At this moment, I was the most scared I have ever been in my entire life. I was afraid to even move. I couldn't believe what I just heard and I was positive that at any moment I was going to be paralyzed. I was shaking, my heart was pounding as I went from excited to train to worried if I was going to be able to walk tomorrow.
Luckily I was with people I trust and who care about me. I asked one of my training "bros", Garret who now had a look on his face like "what the f@*k is going on?!" to drive me RIGHT NOW to the ER. I was lucky to not be alone in that moment.
The drive to the hospital seemed like it was very long, even though it was only like 2 miles away. The wait to see a doctor was the same. Finally in the hospital bed with the neurosurgeon and my husband there, I was shown the scans that caused such a panic. I couldn't believe my eyes!! My C2 was broken into 3 pieces!! There was no leaving the hospital for me that night. They were so concerned that they didn't even want me leaving the hospital bed!
I was told AGAIN, by the neurosurgeon now, that the strength of my neck saved me from having much more serious complications with the break...as well as that muscle acting as a legit neck brace for 2 1/2 weeks to keep that vertebrae stable. In the morning, I was given two options for treatment: surgery or 3 months in a halo. I consulted a few Drs who also understand CrossFit and my personal goals, and chose surgery.
Going into surgery that night was scary. I felt SO uncertain about what life was going to be like on the other side. I was SO MAD that I had been walking around so RELIEVED that nothing serious had happened in the accident! I prepared myself to be in pretty bad shape. I have a tendency to be dramatic in what I picture in my head...this was the ultimate opportunity for that.
But, I was wrong. That night, just hours after surgery, I GOT UP (even though the nurse was NOT happy about it) and walked myself to go pee!! The next day they had me walking down the halls and up and down stairs. They said I could "squat", and showed me some weird version of a squat...I showed them MY squat. They were all very surprised that I really wasn't that interested in a lot of pain meds and that I was wanting to be up and walking around as much as they would let me. I spent one more night in the hospital and was sent home the next morning.
So, that's the story up to that point...
I will continue to post about my recovery with details and video of me getting back into training.
I will also try to get my hands on my actual scans and x-rays so I can post those gnarly things!
But, again...the point is this...
WHAT IS DANGEROUS???
In the "What is CrossFit?" lecture that we deliver at the Level 1 Seminars we often talk about there being a hierarchy of danger. We say that, yes, you CAN hurt yourself doing CrossFit, but the LEAST safe thing we can do is to avoid the movements that we use in CrossFit altogether...the movements we use in life. Usually we say the reason for this is because these movements are the movements that we WILL end up using in real life. They are the movements life demands.
In this specific case, my ABILITY to perform heavy cleans and handstand push ups isn't what saved me. BUT the strength I had gained because I had been performing them regularly did.
And I am so lucky.....
And if you are wondering what it sounds like when I rap while also on morphine....look no further...
THANK YOU to all of my wonderful friends who visited me in the hospital!!