A photomontage from the moment of injury until now.

A photomontage from the moment of injury until now.

I haven’t had the greatest luck as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Colombia. But until now, my woes have not involved physical contact with a Colombian’s shin. That all changed the night of  August 3rd, at a school built by the pop-star Shakira, that just happens to have one hell of a soccer field.

[Check out my injury and trip to the hospital in this video I took with my GoPro HD2 headcam. I also recorded podcasts (part I and part II) featuring audio from the accident and my time in the hospital, as well as a recent update about how I'm dong now. Here's a photo album of my injury-related pics. And of course the blog post below!]

I was playing goalie, just as I always do. I’m a rather heavy fellow, so running has never been my thing. Standing around the goal not only saves my breath but I actually rather enjoy jumping and diving to stop someone from kicking (what can be a very painful) soccer ball into my team’s goal. Growing up in rural Iowa in a town of roughly 1,200 people, I never played a real soccer game or had the opportunity to play on a team while growing up. (In contrast, pretty much everyone I knew played baseball, football, or even wrestled at one point of another.) But, since moving to Colombia, I have discovered a passion within myself for a game I used to consider (pardon the French) “retarded.” Unfortunately, soccer seems to hate my ass like no other. Torn cartilage just days after returning from my med-evac and now this.

Here I am covering my eye with a dudes shirt to stop the bleeding.

Here I am covering my eye with a dudes shirt to stop the bleeding while another player gets a photo for his cell phone.

After playing for maybe an hour, around 9:15 pm a fellow Volunteer kicked the ball towards me while her teammate ran to catch up with it (kind of like an alley-oop in basketball where you lead the player with the ball). I dove for the ball, her Colombian teammate tried to kick the ball away from me (not to score a goal but to prevent me from getting it), and we had an epic, epic collision. His knee landed squarely in between my right eye and nose. My glasses and GoPro HD2 headcam (a sports camera I used to record this video that details the collision and subsequent trip to the hospital) immediately shot off, my head sprung backward, and I hit the grown hard. I remember the feeling as if someone had bunched me in the nose and then realizing how warm a puddle of blood feels when you’re holding it in your hands. I had immediately reached up to check the damage only to find a waterfall coming out of my forehead (while quickly realizing there’s no point in trying to cup your hands to save blood as it pours out of you; it’s not like it’s going to go back in), and after inspecting the damage, called out to whoever was listening that we needed to call the PCMO and get me to a hospital. I say “to whoever was listening” because right off the bat, I couldn’t see. Blood had covered my eye enough to block any chance of seeing, which really, really freaked me out. Getting kicked in the head and then finding you can’t see is a pretty scary thing to go through. (But as you can see in photo montage above, I don’t appear to have any eye damage.)

Long story short, we couldn’t get a taxi once the group had walked me outside the school’s gates. With waiting and the eventual car trip, plus time in the hospital waiting room, I probably didn’t see a medical person for an hour or more. During the taxi ride, I recorded some more video on my headcam noting that my mouth, nose and lip (on the right side of my face) had started to go numb. (This was the beginning of nerve issues that I’m still dealing with now and will detail towards the end of this tale.) When I eventually got to a medical bed and had someone check out the damage, I was told they were sending for a plastic surgeon. I thought this would mean actual surgery, but apparently the stitches he eventually gave me were some kind of special type that are reserved for injuries like mine. They seemed to be pretty straightforward stitches, so I’m still not sure exactly why that was done.

Im lying on the hospital bed waiting for the plastic surgeon to numb me up and seal the whole in my head.

I'm lying on the hospital bed waiting for the plastic surgeon to numb me up and seal the whole in my head.

I spent that night in the hospital. They originally put me in a room in the emergency room, but after an hour or so someone decided I would be better off (and what a correct decision it was) in the more traditional area of the hospital. I was wheeled up to the 2nd or 3rd floor where I was delighted to see a comfy bed, a couch, and a giant tv with satellite television. During the course of that night, I got pretty loopy (as you’ll hear in audio I recorded on my cell phone and posted to my podcast here) and discovered that the hospital room was complete with not only dozens of Colombian channels, but also a few channels from the United States, Great Britain, and even a channel that played PORN. Talk about a full-service hospital.

Throughout the night, a nurse or doctor would come in to check on me and give me new ice. My face had gotten pretty swollen, so much so that the nurses started taping the ice to my head so it wouldn’t fall off when I got tired and fell asleep. I had been told I would see my plastic surgeon the next morning and get discharged after he checked out my progress. In reality, I wouldn’t see him until 3 pm the that afternoon. In the meantime, I slept, watched some more tv, got served some pretty good hospital food, and got bored as hell in my hospital room. When I woke up, I called my Peace Corps Medical Officer and told her about the situation: none of the nurses knew what was going to happen with me today, I didn’t have any clothes (my blood-soaked clothes were in a bag on the floor as I had to beg an emergency room nurse to give me a gown so I didn’t have to sleep in them all night) and my cell phone was about to run out of battery (with no way to recharge). I also told her that I couldn’t feel a huge portion of the ride side of my face (to which she said was caused by the ice and medicine I had been given, which I politely accepted while at the same time began thinking there might be a bigger problem lurking in the shadows).

Here I am one of the times the need to go to the bathroom outweighed the effort and pain to get up.

Here I am one of the times the need to go to the bathroom outweighed the effort and pain to get up.

This monotony of cable tv and deciding whether or not I had to go to the bathroom bad enough to outweigh the pain of walking around lasted until about the 4th or 5th time I pressed the “help me” button and spoke with a nurse who either came to my room or spoke to me via an intercom built into the wall. By this time, they had called my plastic surgeon who then miraculously appeared around 3 pm. He took a look at me, asked me how I was, and was pretty surprised to hear that the feeling in the right side of my face and mouth was more or less “missing.” He set me up with some new x-ray/CAT scan/MRI type of tests, and an hour or two later gave me the lowdown: I hadn’t broken any part of my skull but the impact was so strong that it had damaged the nerves that carried the signal for the eye, right side of my nose, cheek, lips, and teeth. He assured me everything would probably be fine, but after his initial shock to hear that so much of the area had gone completely numb, it’s safe to say I was less than convinced about his diagnosis of “wait a month and let’s see.”

My plastic surgeon really likes his iPhone 4 and sent me this photo he took.

My plastic surgeon really likes his iPhone 4 and sent me this photo he took.

I still didn’t have clothes and my cell phone had died, but some really cool nurses found a plug that fit my Peace Corps phone which allowed to call my guest mother and arrange for her to bring me some stuff and take me home. The next week was spent taking it easy and revisiting the hospital every 3-5 days to get my wounds cleaned and covered with some sort of tape. If memory serves, I got my stitches out a week from the day the went in. At first, the cuts below and above my eye seemed to have healed quite nicely, but at this point they’ve become a little red and there appears to be more scarring. I had asked if I needed to use some kind of healing antibacterial cream, but I got a resounding no from my Peace Corps Medical Officer as well as the nurses at the hospital. A little more than a week after the accident, I was also told that the scans of my head revealed I had a sinus infection, but it took another two days after I was told to get the medicine I needed sent to my house, so I ended up getting pretty sick. I didn’t miss any school but it hasn’t been a fun time rocking the head wound and sinus infection simultaneously.

I lied in bed with a giant coke bottle full of ice to dull the pain.

I lied in bed with a giant coke bottle full of ice to dull the pain.

And that’s sort of where I am now. I sometimes get headaches when I walk too much or take a bus and my eye hurts from time to time or when I’m out in full sunlight. But more or less, I’d say I’m surprised out at the situation considering what my head looked like by the time I got to the hospital. I’ve pretty much given up on playing soccer anytime soon (or ever again while I’m here) but I sometimes attend our weekly Volunteer soccer games to take photos and shoot the shit with the people I used to face off against every week. Some of the students at my school give me crap and say a Colombian “punched me in the face” which has been pretty funny to joke about from time to time. I’ve also had some Colombians exclaim “que feo” when they see my eye, which means “how ugly.” But all in all, maybe not a terribly horrible situation, but one that has and will continue to improve.

I have red spots on my right eye and the scars have turned red since the stitches came out. You can clearly see the outline of my glass that I was wearing (the Peace Corps does not recommend using contact lenses during our service in Colombia).

I have red spots on my right eye and the scars have turned red since the stitches came out. You can clearly see the outline of my glass that I was wearing (the Peace Corps does not recommend using contact lenses during our service in Colombia).

I invite you to check out my Photos + Videos + PodCasts about my injury and all the other stuff I’m in doing in Colombia at www.ChanceDorland.com