This is a great story, one that I can pull a bunch of positive learning opportunities from, and simply great education. Check out this abbreviated version from a well known CrossFitter employed by CrossFit Headquarters. FULL STORY HERE
CrossFit is Dangerous??? And How It Very Literally Saved My Life.
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 bad). I was more fit than ever and so excited about the progress I was making. 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.
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.
After having a REALLY difficult time finding a Orthopedic doc to cast my hand (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 (CrossFit) Games was still up in the air, but I was confident I would feel good in time.
Fast forward to Tuesday, July 17th (2012).
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!
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.
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… 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. 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.
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.
This is a very abbreviated version, you can click HERE to read the rest (language concern).
Dr. Eric –
My points of education in this. First off, don’t discount the JAMA published study that says that 250,000 people die every year due to medical errors. That is real, and this would likely have been one of them in most cases. You are your own advocate, remember that. Any time we have a patient with any kind of auto accident, we take three cervical x-rays, one in neutral position, one in flexion and one in extension, so that we can see any instability in the spine.
Next – she was told by multiple people that she was saved by the strength of her body. Not the flexibility (which is still also important), but the strength, which creates protection in a moment of impact. I have heard people talk about going limp in a car accident… you might think you are going limp, but you have a reflex which you cannot control which will tighten muscles to protect ligaments and bones. This is important. Get strong, not rich with endurance, but strong.
Last – The medical mentality is usually one that operates out of fear. This is what they do. Have you ever had anyone else you know that was told, “if you don’t do this you will die”? Or “this is necessary, you don’t have a choice”? Even though Miranda’s injury was/is very serious, she did a lot without any additional injury. Had they found her injury early, and if she had refused treatment and said she was planning on walking around, doing life, working out, etc. They would have said, “you will surely die then.” I get the urgency, and in Miranda’s situation, I see the need for treatment. But did you notice that one option was a halo? Basically, don’t do anything, but make sure you don’t do anything that could hurt you. An option other than treatment that doesn’t result in death… huh?
My point in this, many times what is said to be necessary in the medical model, is not. Advocate for yourself, dig in, find answers. It would have taken Miranda three months to heal without surgery, and in the end I would have chosen surgery. But what if you could avoid another treatment or surgery by making three months of lifestyle change? I think it might be worth it.
Be well, be blessed, Dr. E