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A Painful Reminder

Posted on February 5, 2016

On a sunny 65 degree Saturday afternoon in Denver, it seemed like a great idea to take my two huge dogs for a run before the snow moved in overnight. Nothing different from our typical routine, and on a route we have taken many times.

In a split second, Moose saw something and cut directly in front of me, clipping my leg and causing me to fall. A 6’7”, 235-pound man in motion doesn’t just fall – he tumbles! Unfortunately, there was a metal fence to the right of me, and I fell head first into its sharp edge.

Being 6’7”, my head has taken a beating throughout the years. Between elbows in basketball, low basement ceilings, and snowboarding wipeouts, I have had more headaches and concussions than I like to think about. So this crash wasn’t the first head trauma I experienced, but there was one thing unusual about this time: BLOOD!

I felt the warmth spread across my head, a head that just a week earlier experienced a really bad haircut due to a self-imposed mistake, leading me to basically shave my head. At first, I was just thinking my run was over, until I reached over to grab the dog leashes and blood ran down my forehead, blinding me and covering my sunglasses. I soon realized this wasn’t just a little cut that might end my run early, but something much more series.

I quickly sat back down and soon found myself sitting in a pool of my own blood. Knowing I shouldn’t stand up, I did the only thing I could, and called out for help. It has been years since I’ve experienced a situation where I needed someone else and couldn’t handle a situation on my own. To make things scarier, I quickly realized that if I didn’t get help, I could lose enough blood that I could pass out or worse.

Fire Engine 17In my moment of vulnerability, my community came to my rescue. A nice man called 911, and an angel of a woman pulled over and gave me a towel to use to put pressure on my head. A moment later Fire Engine 17, from the station just across the street from my house, pulled up and started first aid. The sensation of knowing things would be okay because I was in someone else’s care was of amazing comfort. As the paramedics arrived, the Engine 17 crew even took my dogs home for me as I got an ambulance ride to Lutheran Medical Center in Wheat Ridge.

I was such a sight that the paramedics “cleaned me up,” so as not to traumatize anyone in the emergency room! This included two set of head bandages (as I bled through the first one), and hydrogen peroxide to get the blood off my hands, arms, legs, and face. I remember being worried about having huge cuts on my arms because my shirt was soaked through with blood – but it turned out that it was just all from the head wound.

The paramedics were great and got me into the ER right away. I was walked back and the physician assistant and nurses started to not only take care of my wounds, but take care of me as a person. The first step was to stitch shut the artery that had been cut, accounting for the blood. This needed done immediately, so there was no anesthetic or numbing involved.

I remember them asking the scaling question about my pain level before they worked to control the bleeding, and I answered 7 out of 10. During the next ten minutes, while they were working to close the artery, I experienced a level of pain that was well beyond anything I’d ever felt in the past. I had a new 10! That 7 is now a 4 in my book, as it felt like someone was turning a knife slowing into an already-existing wound.

I tried, with limited success, practicing mindfulness as a strategy to not hyperventilate. I was doing my best to survive the pain, and the nurse kept apologizing. I kept telling her it wasn’t her fault and that I appreciated her for doing the work. I guess it was great that we could have a very empathetic and compassionate conversation, both of us trying to get the other through the experience emotionally intact, but I really just wanted the pain to cease.

After the stitch from hell was finally in, I was immediately taken for a CT scan, which didn’t show any internal bleeding or fractures to the skull. This was a huge relief, because once the pain dropped back down, I started to fear the possibility of a traumatic brain injury. I know I’m still not out of the woods for this to be a possibility, but at least the CT scan and my symptoms seem to be indicating that I’m free from both concussions and TBI at this time!

My wife Sarah was at a performance of Dirty Dancing at the Denver Performing Arts Center, so she didn’t get my message until intermission. I had sent a couple of texts that tried to downplay the urgency of my situation, but knowing me as well as she does, she understood if I was in the ER, something serious was happening. As she rushed into the examining room, she found me still pretty covered in blood, but smiling.

I was glad that I had been cleaned up three or four times at this point and so relieved not to be in pain anymore (the PA had numbed my head at this point) that the smile came easy. Seeing my wife, I knew everything was going to be okay. This feeling comforted me, even knowing I had staples and stitches left to go. My bad haircut was probably a blessing in disguise, as it made it easier for the PA to put in 25 staples and 12 stitches, which were painful but, compared to my earlier experiences, easier to take.

In recent months, I have taken a moment at the beginning of each of my trauma trainings to discuss the different roles we play. Sometimes we are the helper and sometimes we are the client/patient, and while roles help us discuss key concepts, it is critical to remember that we are all people struggling to find our meaning and our best selves in this world.

Little did I know that just a few hours after saying these words to a great group of helpers in Michigan, I would be the patient in an Emergency Room in Colorado, not able to take care of myself, and literally putting my life in the hands of professionals and community members that I had never met and may never have a chance to thank. I don’t think I would call my experiencing traumatizing, though like my TBI worries, it is probably too early to cross anything off the list.

What I do know is that the compassion, concern, and professionalism of everyone I met throughout my ordeal reinforced the importance of all of us in the lives of those we serve. No one really needed to care about me to provide me care, but the fact that everyone did care likely made a possible traumatic event into just a crappy afternoon. The fact that my Coldspring Center family is so understanding and compassionate makes a slow return to work possible, and the sense of care continues in both my personal and professional worlds.

As I was administering my own concussion protocol and trauma first aid throughout the process, I did have a thought…at least there might be a blog post in here somewhere! And so I guess anything I get to share with my valued community isn’t that terrible after all. Thanks for reading!

51 responses to “A Painful Reminder”

  1. Joni Wellman says:

    Matt,
    Very happy to hear that all is well. It’s a wonderful thing to see how everyone comes together to help another in need. Stay safe.

  2. Sara Carrillo says:

    Matt, only you could turn all that into a mindful blog! That said, I’m very glad that it is going well. As an older person, I’ve had my share of physical issues the last few years, and I always try to be as cooperative and thankful to hospital personnel as possible.

    Take care of yourself, don’t rush getting back full time, and let your Sarah take care of you, it will make her feel better!

  3. Matt Bennett says:

    Crazy right! Sarah is taking great care of me…honestly she won’t even let me out of the house! Not sure if she is more worried that I’ll re-injure myself or scare children!

  4. Matt Bennett says:

    Crazy right! Sarah is taking great care of me…honestly she won’t even let me out of the house! Not sure if she is more worried that I’ll re-injure myself or scare children!

  5. anisha from NYC says:

    geesh, it would be you to find something positive out of a negative and scary situation lol. Thankfully, you are ok! This was a really good blog and makes total sense. Thanks for sharing.

  6. anisha from NYC says:

    geesh, it would be you to find something positive out of a negative and scary situation lol. Thankfully, you are ok! This was a really good blog and makes total sense. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Katy Howe says:

    Wow Matt! Thanks for sharing how an awful experience turned into a mindful, learning opportunity for you. Glad to hear that you are recovering well and in good spirits. Take care of yourself!

  8. Katy Howe says:

    Wow Matt! Thanks for sharing how an awful experience turned into a mindful, learning opportunity for you. Glad to hear that you are recovering well and in good spirits. Take care of yourself!

  9. Heather says:

    Two words, Road ID! I would get one, if you did pass out, this could be your lifeline. As an avid triathlete, I don’t leave home without it. I sure hope Moose is aiding in your recovery. Best wishes on the healing process. It’s always nice to hear that you are in capable hands with both the community and the healthcare system.

  10. Heather says:

    Two words, Road ID! I would get one, if you did pass out, this could be your lifeline. As an avid triathlete, I don’t leave home without it. I sure hope Moose is aiding in your recovery. Best wishes on the healing process. It’s always nice to hear that you are in capable hands with both the community and the healthcare system.

  11. Anonymous says:

    OMG Matt! So sorry to hear this…but grateful you had caring folks in the vicinity to help. Wishing you a speedy recovery in every regard.
    Peace,
    Hassan

  12. Anonymous says:

    OMG Matt! So sorry to hear this…but grateful you had caring folks in the vicinity to help. Wishing you a speedy recovery in every regard.
    Peace,
    Hassan

  13. Brooke Bender says:

    Thanks to all of our community members and emergency workers who took such good care of our colleague! Thanks to Matt’s tough head and training in mindfulness to help him through this!

  14. Brooke Bender says:

    Thanks to all of our community members and emergency workers who took such good care of our colleague! Thanks to Matt’s tough head and training in mindfulness to help him through this!

  15. Anonymous says:

    Wow, Matt seems life hit you unexpectedly, as it does our clients sometimes. Please rest up and get better.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Wow, Matt seems life hit you unexpectedly, as it does our clients sometimes. Please rest up and get better.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Yikes, Matt, I had to put my head between my legs to keep from passing out just reading your description, especially of the stitch from hell! So glad you got great help and good healing!

  18. Anonymous says:

    Yikes, Matt, I had to put my head between my legs to keep from passing out just reading your description, especially of the stitch from hell! So glad you got great help and good healing!

  19. Courtney Buehler says:

    Thanks for sharing such a personal and scary story! How extra terrifying it must have been for you, having the knowledge base that you have on TBI. I like the angle this story takes on the roles of community and patient/caretaker in different situations. Keep healing and I’ll send my husband over with a beer for you-you definitely deserve it!

  20. Courtney Buehler says:

    Thanks for sharing such a personal and scary story! How extra terrifying it must have been for you, having the knowledge base that you have on TBI. I like the angle this story takes on the roles of community and patient/caretaker in different situations. Keep healing and I’ll send my husband over with a beer for you-you definitely deserve it!

  21. Meybol Rivero Geramita says:

    Oh Dear! Thank God you are O.K., Matt – I do not have to tell you, so many things could have gone wrong… I just posted the following on my board & it is very apropos in your case:
    “Because we are so engaged with the world, we can forget how fragile life can be & how vulnerable we always are. It only takes a few seconds for a life to change irreversibly.” John O’Donohue

    Heal & feel 100%, my friend!

    • Anonymous says:

      Thanks my friend! I love the quote and amazed how life can change in a blink of a second…overall I was lucky as it could have been much worse in a million different ways!

  22. Meybol Rivero Geramita says:

    Oh Dear! Thank God you are O.K., Matt – I do not have to tell you, so many things could have gone wrong… I just posted the following on my board & it is very apropos in your case:
    “Because we are so engaged with the world, we can forget how fragile life can be & how vulnerable we always are. It only takes a few seconds for a life to change irreversibly.” John O’Donohue

    Heal & feel 100%, my friend!

    • Anonymous says:

      Thanks my friend! I love the quote and amazed how life can change in a blink of a second…overall I was lucky as it could have been much worse in a million different ways!

  23. Tracy James says:

    Oh wow Matt! I bet nurses wish they could have someone as pleasant as you to work on all the time! I’m always impressed too, with how kind people are in situations like that. I love that the firefighters took your pups home so it was one less worry for you. Be good for that wife of yours 🙂

  24. Tracy James says:

    Oh wow Matt! I bet nurses wish they could have someone as pleasant as you to work on all the time! I’m always impressed too, with how kind people are in situations like that. I love that the firefighters took your pups home so it was one less worry for you. Be good for that wife of yours 🙂

  25. Philip J. Malebranche says:

    Matt, it’s the first I’ve heard of a bad hair-cut day gone good. I send positive healing vibes and recommend a good Miles Davis album, say, “Kind of Blue,” to soothe the soul. Listen with Sarah–the dogs may like it, too. Peace…

  26. Philip J. Malebranche says:

    Matt, it’s the first I’ve heard of a bad hair-cut day gone good. I send positive healing vibes and recommend a good Miles Davis album, say, “Kind of Blue,” to soothe the soul. Listen with Sarah–the dogs may like it, too. Peace…

  27. Lisa Taton-Murphy says:

    Hi Matt–Lisa from Michigan–Sorry to hear about your fall, but glad you got what you needed and are on the mend. It is indeed humbling when we are on the receiving end of care, and MUCH better when it’s done by compassionate folks. We had a great time having you here and wish you well!

    • Anonymous says:

      Thanks Lisa…I had such a great time in Michigan. I have really got to know the area lately and it has been a tremendous pleasure and honor.

  28. Lisa Taton-Murphy says:

    Hi Matt–Lisa from Michigan–Sorry to hear about your fall, but glad you got what you needed and are on the mend. It is indeed humbling when we are on the receiving end of care, and MUCH better when it’s done by compassionate folks. We had a great time having you here and wish you well!

    • Anonymous says:

      Thanks Lisa…I had such a great time in Michigan. I have really got to know the area lately and it has been a tremendous pleasure and honor.

  29. Matt what an experience So glad you are alright !

  30. Matt what an experience So glad you are alright !

  31. Ayesha says:

    HolaI lived in the Mission from 1993 to 1997 and painted mualrs and read poetry and did art there. I worked on Clarion Alley with Rigo and Aaron and crashed there a lot, too.I also briefly worked the door for and helped with the dawn of Dalva in ’94. I was at the Tuesday night Elbo Room sessions of Charlie Hunter Trio that year, too which was sublime.I wrote a novel in which the Mission is a significant character in a way, but it wasn’t very good.I miss things which don’t exist and explore the nw arrivals with trepidation, but begrudging acceptance things change.cranky though about it.miss my first $400/month apartment in SF, my first home in the years I became a man which will always have been in the Mission.sigh.Karthik

  32. Ayesha says:

    HolaI lived in the Mission from 1993 to 1997 and painted mualrs and read poetry and did art there. I worked on Clarion Alley with Rigo and Aaron and crashed there a lot, too.I also briefly worked the door for and helped with the dawn of Dalva in ’94. I was at the Tuesday night Elbo Room sessions of Charlie Hunter Trio that year, too which was sublime.I wrote a novel in which the Mission is a significant character in a way, but it wasn’t very good.I miss things which don’t exist and explore the nw arrivals with trepidation, but begrudging acceptance things change.cranky though about it.miss my first $400/month apartment in SF, my first home in the years I became a man which will always have been in the Mission.sigh.Karthik

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