Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving, friends, family, mountain people, mountains too

Just touched down in Jackson Hole on Wednesday, after a 14-hour snoozer (maybe I should say "yawner") of a drive from the Bay Area. Dropped into town without a place to stay or a plan at all really. Not very pro-active, sure, but that's the way I do it. Just so. There's a bit of time "winging-it" until I get more settled, like staying at the Jackson Hole Bunkhouse and eating canned soup. There will be a room in my future and with confidence that the pieces will fall into place soon enough, I am going to work and skiing.

I just talked to Steve Romeo of Teton AT. Steve's a long-time local and avid backcountry skier, so of course we chatted about what to do around here this winter. The place is full of rippers and I still want to beef up parts of my own skiing repertoire so I just feel like putting in a lot of vert, testing myself on some of the classics (E Face of Buck, mabye the Grand). Steve sounded a little nonplussed at this, or so I thought. Maybe living in this isolated community you look to newcomers for fresh influences and I think he is particularly looking to keep pushing backcountry skiing further. I mean, have you checked out his trip reports? Skiing is vital to me, and I do want to improve, but I'm pretty sure I'd like to get my snow-legs under me before I try to pick up the torch. This winter I will land a 360 and also take lessons on steep skiing.

Today, I am thankful for a fully-functioning body, my family who loves me, my dear friends who push -and support- me, and good people everywhere. Thanks for good people like the generous owners of the Teton Steakhouse who put out a free Thanksgiving spread for over 400 people in Jackson today (they've been doing it for 21 years!):

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Why? Tell me: why? Bigwalling and snail climbing

I went to Yosemite and got spanked by the "beginner" big wall in the valley, but I would prefer to spin the experience this way: I slapped some sense into myself and will henceforth avoid aid climbing like it was a sink of dirty dishes.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Colorado Blue Ribbon Commission for Health Care Reform

I couldn't help but think about this as I lay there
From Fun Daze at Hospital High -SF Oct 21-24

I had a common infection, it needed immediate attention, and I didn't have a regular doctor anyway. Nevermind that I was in a different state too, but I just got back from New Zealand where, for health care at least, that doesn't matter. I noticed the infection less than 48 hours after returning from down under and was wishing I had gotten sick down there because it would have all been paid for. Well, we don't get to choose when medical calamity strikes, do we? Maybe some of us are more accident-prone...talking to you MTBers, snowriders, and sword swallowers out there, but even though I do a lot of adventurous outdoor activities, it was something completely normal and commonplace that led to this. Two things actually: riding my bike to the store and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Yeehaw! Fun name for a bacteria that is absolutely everywhere including living on your skin right now.
So I rode down the street, took a digger, skinned up my knee and that was how the MRSA got from outside my skin to inside my leg. This really could have happened anywhere, to anyone, but it happened to me and here I am, in the ER cuz I have to, but wondering how I'm going to afford it. Getting sick and hurt (hopefully not too bad, but sometimes seriously), is a part of life. As a society, we have our head in the sand if we expect all the injuries to happen to those with insurance that covers it. Instead of paying more than any other industrialized nation for less-effective health care, we should accept that our nation's health is a public good like national defense. If we are healthy as a nation, we are more productive...or we'll get to use more sick days as "sick" days ;-) like this one:
From Utah, Jan 08, Day 5, 6, 7, 8

Besides, the numbers are pretty simple: single-payer national health insurance (i.e. Medicare for all) would cost less than we currently spend on health care while covering all Americans, preserving consumer choice among physicians and freeing employers from providing health care. That's why I'm supporting (and calling on my elected representatives to support) HR 676, The US National Health Insurance Act and I urge you to do the same. Take a look at the article below for some recent findings from a study done in Colorado showing that only single-payer would reduce costs and also cover all residents

Saturday, November 1, 2008

A Cautionary Tale of Wound Management

Back from the hospital, looking at my leg to see if the swelling is going away and looking at my watch to see if it's time for another pill, I'm at least glad that, when I came down with acute bacterial cellulitis, I was in the care and company of an excellent nurse: my very good friend Naomi. When she said I needed to get to the ER, I didn't question her, besides she works there!
I didn't really expect to see her work under these circumstances (had hoped to be climbing with her and her husband in Yosemite), but she gives excellent care and I'm glad I got to see her in action. She wheels and deals between four patients in her section and they could be sick and elderly, drunk and crazy, or cut and bleeding. It's always something new and that's what she says she loves about it. Otherwise, it's pretty fun at the hospital -NOT! I was bored stiff most of the time, waiting two hours for the bags of antibiotics to drain through the IV. Luckily, I thought ahead and brought my ipod, a book, and my phone. That's how I survived 18 hours at the hospital, and got the upper hand on the infection.
So now you're asking: what infection? How did this happen anyway?
Well, the answer is short and sweet; I did not take care of my open wounds carefully enough.

Granted, the road rash I had from the bike wreck a month ago in New Zealand was pretty big (three areas larger than a quarter on my knee and plenty of other scrapes), but it was fine for four weeks without any problems. The pronounced swelling
I discovered the day after I returned from NZ probably means that the lone shower I took during my last week on the North Island -amongst much skiing, hiking and camping out all wearing the same clothes- was probably not enough.
When I took my Wilderness First Responder course from WMI, they told us to aggressively irrigate abrasions and change the dressing regularly or else it could get infected. When I heard that, I always thought "What? Like a little bit of pus draining out of there? Big deal!" Now I know what you should too: open wounds are a potential entry site for infections that can rage out of control in no time and threaten your limbs or even your life! Scared? I was definitely perturbed.
Here's what happened first: I noticed my knee was swollen on Wed. and took some ibuprofen. The next day, my whole lower leg was swollen, red, warm to the touch, and achey. That sort of rapid spread of symptoms shows that the infection was overwhelming my immune system with a quickness.
Imagine being a days' walk from a trailhead or medical attention with this condition. This would be a serious problem, especially since it will start to limit mobility in short order, increasing the amount of time it takes to self-evacuate, but also making the infection harder to treat.
So remember to thoroughly clean your open wounds -and keep them protected from dirt, water, and any other contaminants until they are healed. Don't pay attention when someone tells you it just needs to get some air. Sure, you can let it dry after washing, but it needs to be covered (preferably by antibiotic ointment and bandage) whenever it could come in contact with bacteria-carrying surfaces or environments.
It's your body. It's OK to take care of it. You treat it well, and it will do the same for you. I gaurantee.