Tale #6: Legend of The Pneumothorax by Joe Dagonese
July 14, 2019 I was bored, the sun was out and my ride crew were all unavailable. I typically don’t like to ride solo, but Tiger was calling me so I loaded up and headed out. The route was typical, Master Link, East Summit, NOTG, Inside Passage to NWT and maybe some Legend-Mega Fauna for extra credit. Half way up Master Link I connected with another solo rider that was new to Tiger and only mountain biking for 8 months, but he had some strong lungs so we paced each other to the top. Strava said I hit a PR up Master Link, but you can’t really trust it, can you? My legs said it might be accurate. I told him of all the sweet loam that awaited him below. The dirt was incredible and my new friend laughed and screamed with joy on each descent. If anything, my job as a Tiger Mtn docent was going to get at least 3 stars on Yelp. We finished our route and took a quick breath at Easy Tiger / NW Timber intersection. I asked if he wanted to go check out Legend for “one last run”.
Unfortunately, my new friend has priorities and needed to get home to BBQ with his wife and kids. I decided to take the “one last run”....because, well, I know my priorities too! I jumped right into it, rolled into Legend and felt very good. Little breaking up front and thinking I’m on pace for another PR. Pride comes before the fall. I hit the section of those doubles at high speed, before I knew was what going on I felt my rear tire kick and I was doing a full flip in mid air. Time slowed and I knew this was bad. Landed flat on my back and in the rocks. Whoops! Instantly it was obvious that I broke a few things…my ribs, my helmet and some other stuff. In about 3 seconds my fight or flight set in. I called one of my ride crew friends and let him know what happened, where I was and my state (“Dude…I’m on legend, had a bad fall, it’s bad, need help”). He told me to hang tight and he sent a note to our entire network about what happened since he was out of town. Within a few minutes another of my crew called letting me know that he was already on his way to the Tiger lot and had his wife with him to drive my car and another friend to help with extraction if needed. Wow! What amazing friends I have! It was at this time that I was trying to determine my best course of action – walk / ride out and try to find help on NW Timber or wait for someone to find me where I was. My concern at this point was internal bleeding or a ruptured spleen. I made the decision to walk out and try to find an escort.
Note: Maybe I should have called 911 and asked for a SAR unit to come help me since I did not know my full injury state, but my gut told me to keep moving.
When I got to NW Timber, two riders crossed my path. I told them what happened and without pause they both decided to escort me out..people are not as bad as they appear on social media after all!! It was faster and less painful to ride than it was to walk so I decided to pedal the best I could. I still remember getting to some climbs and having my competitive juices kick in and for a split second and thought about hammering up them, then reality set in. I could barely hold on to my bars. My escorts kept me encouraged and coached me mentally the entire way. We finally made it to the lot and my friends that were on their way showed up about the same time. One grabbed my bike and the other got me in his car and drove me to urgent care. I could not get in touch with my wife so I called my daughter and told her to meet me there. The doctor at UC did some tests and took x-rays, which came back showing 2 broken ribs – no surprises there.
He gave me some instructions and was getting ready to discharge me. Before he did, I asked if he checked for internally bleeding, punctured lung, spleen, etc. He gave me a look of introspection and then said, “lay back for me”. As I laid down, the pain really hit me. I ended up passing out 3 times in front of my daughter. Turned green, yellow and few other colors. My little girl (16 years old at the time) thought I was dying. Seriously. It scared the heck out of her. This part of the story is the hardest for me as no kid should have to watch or feel that. Fortunately, she was much nicer to me after that for at least 3 months. 😊 The doctor called the paramedics and they made the decision to transport me to the ER at a nearby hospital.
Once I came to consciousness my wife was now in the room with another friend who was filming me as the paramedics rolled to the ambulance – this was definitely going on Instagram or Facebook. At the ER they got me in asap and ran more tests. They confirmed the broken ribs but also found a punctured lung, for which the clinical name is a Pneumothorax and not a Dr Seuss animal . I can’t believe the first doctor at urgent care missed this and was going to discharge me. At the end of it all, I spent 3 days in the hospital, but made a full recovery. What I learned was that anything can happen at any time, respect the trails, slow your rebound down, Legend has a lot of rocks, my friends are incredible, the escorts I met are also incredible, not all doctors are created equal and if you want your teenage daughter to be nice to you sometimes you need to “almost” die. It took me about 6 months before I had the nerve to ride Legend again, but it’s still one of my all-time favorites!