Linda Salamone's Blog

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I was pretty satisfied with my performance at the Rob Kells Memorial Competition at the Florida Ridge. My body was sore and tired from 4 hour-plus flights, but no troubles with my back, and I was sleeping well in the pop-up. 3 of 4 days at goal, and the landing out was my best finish! The first day of the Rally sucked for me however, but days 2 and 3 proved to me that I could still finish fairly strong. I am not a fast pilot, but I had been making good decisions to leave areas when they were unproductive, and on Day 4 of the Rally, I left the Moultrie airport after dicking around with bullshit lift in the start circle for too long. Day 3’s task had provided me with my lowest, most outrageous save ever, so on my glide out of there, Overconfidence might have been my copilot…. and Complacency my back seat driver…. I saw Charlie out front and below me, and another pilot turning pretty well, until I arrived. Then the lift disappeared and we scrambled to find a core. Charlie went right, the other glider went upwind, and I headed downwind to a golf course at around 1300’. No luck, try the junkyard…. Nope, 800’, there’s a cell tower, no luck, …. 500’ I can make that plowed field over there…. And when I turned onto base leg for a landing along the downwind tree line, I didn’t get the glider to turn left 90 degrees. Instead, I got kicked right, over the narrow tree line to a smaller, but acceptable landing field behind. I hit a piece of ridge lift off the tree line, or maybe a thermal, but I was low and needed to turn left almost 180 degrees into the wind to land. But I only got around 90 degrees, and had to level out and flare. The ground was screaming by and I thought I’d get away with a crappy skidding roll-out landing. But not in the freshly plowed and planted peanut field… the base bar dug in and end-over I went. Fast and hard and violent. I came to rest on top of the underside of my sail and when I pulled my limbs into a fetal position, I knew I had a broken right arm. I removed my helmet with my left hand after calling for help on the radio and got not response. My teeth and eyes had gritty dirt in them and I was glad to be atop my sail. I couldn’t move around much nor see a lot of my surroundings, but the wind was blowing harder than I anticipated and there was a small house 50 yds away. A road was in the direction of the top of my head, 75 yds away where I could make out only trucks going by while really craning my neck. My broken arm rested on my right hip and felt like five other people’s arms laying on me. Crunching, a lot. I had to think everything through since I couldn’t move too much. I called out for help a few times, but my voice competing with the diesel engine noise in the background sounded so pathetic and I didn’t want to start crying. I tried my PTT again, shouting into my helmet. No answer. I was lying on my radio/phone pocket and I’d have to prevent my broken arm from falling off my body to get at it. Slowly I rolled to expose the zipper behind which my cell phone was stowed. My Blackberry Storm, the buggiest, most frustrating phone I ever paid a ton of money for…. my only link to much-needed medical help…I picked that zipper open, one tooth at a time, balancing my arm, blinking sweat and dirt out of my eyes, choking back the sobbing I desperately wanted to lose myself in. Almost an hour had passed since my crash when I finally freed my phone. I brought it out to place a call to Bill Schell, driver extraordinaire, and saw it was in ‘camera mode’ partially, then it went snowy white screen and stayed that way. Oh god, now I have to reboot? I can barely get the battery out with two hands- now I gotta do it with ONE??? WITHOUT DROPPING ANYTHING??? I did get the battery out, using my teeth, and told the vultures circling overhead that I wasn’t quite ready for them yet. As the little clock timer thing spun around while the stupid phone did a soft-boot, I laughed inside thinking about the coroner having to pry a perfectly working phone out of my cold dead hands. Ten minutes later I was able to call Bill, and try to guide Mark, who thought I bled out hours ago, to the place where I was laying. I could only describe what I knew from the air, and they were near the junkyard I flew over. But frustration set in and I started bawling so I had a 911 operator get a GPS fix on me and relay it to them- and an ambulance. I had dropped the battery cover off the back of my phone into the dirt, and when the first-responders started running across the field towards me, I remembered to ask them to grab it before it got lost. I was so relieved to have help, it was 90+ out there and I was worried about shock and heat stroke and my arm falling off, but I immediately shifted to salvage mode. I remembered Tom Lanning’s account of his equipment being taken by the tide while his broken arm was tended to, and other stories of harnesses being cut off…. And then I told the first guy there not to cut a thing- if he couldn’t figure out how to get me out – then we’d wait for Mark. The EMT started arguing with me about time, and I told him I’d been lying there for more than an hour and I’d wait one more if it meant not cutting my harness… and by the way you’re standing on my SAIL, buddy!!!!! I was singing a way different tune, however, as Mark and the EMT tried to stabilize my arm while getting me upright. I was able to walk to the ambulance and they got me on an IV and morphine push really quickly. I don’t think they liked my new tune so I kept getting more morphine after every pothole they hit on the way to the ED. I’ve never broken anything big before, but the orthopedic guy they got off of the golf course to fix me had seen it a million times. Surgery the next day (Thursday, May 7th) was 2 plates, 16 screws, and around 20 staples to put 6 long slivers of humerus back together. Morphine, Percocet- everyone keeps asking me how can I wipe my own ass left-handed- but with those drugs I might never have to find out at all…..
Than you, Ben, for hearing my first call for help. And Mark and Alex for landing to come find me when he relayed it to them. And Rhett and Bobby for aerial searching. And Bill for driving and reassuring Meesha and breaking down my glider. And Jack and Nicole and Alexia and who else was there 20 minutes out of recovery???? I was sooooo loopy. And the guys at the Moultrie airport. The whole hospital staff (especially the nurses bearing Percocet!) Mark gave up the end of his meet to wash up my glider and get me back home. Bill left my car and my dog in better shape than he found them. And now all these people on Facebook and the internet that have said a prayer, given advice or just shared my pain some…. Wow. When the drugs wear off and the real mental healing begins, I’ll be drawing from all of you. I’ll need you. Complacency and overconfidence almost killed me. I hope someone learns something from me. Because if you can’t be a good example…. At least be a horrible warning……

17 Comments:

  • Thanks for sharing your ordeal. That hour in the field must have seemed like a year. Good luck with the recovery and let me know if I can help out in any way.

    By Blogger Tom Lanning, at 8:24 AM  

  • Thanks for sharing what happened. It was good to see you again at these comps. I hope the physical and mental recovery from this accident is fast and full.

    By Blogger Lucas, at 10:29 AM  

  • That's a lot of left-handed typing! And an intriguing account of what happens when someone has determination and won't give up. Heal well!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:46 AM  

  • Heal well , fast. Hope to see you in the sky.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:04 AM  

  • Lost all your contact info in a biz move. But have been thinking of you daily. Good luck Gal. PK in Rutsville

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:16 AM  

  • Yikes! Thanks for sharing your harrowing experience, so graphically portrayed regardless of the Hunter-Thompsonesque influence of the meds. ;-) Heal well and keep flying and writing.
    Cheers, Jonathan

    By Blogger NMERider, at 11:50 AM  

  • Thanks for sharing this, Linda. Get well soon.

    By Blogger Kreebog, at 12:21 PM  

  • Hi Linda,

    I broke my arm hang gliding in '98 and have two plates, 14 screws and a pretty neat long scar too!

    If I can give you any advice then it is to keep the scar supple. The physios thought I would loose 20% ability to bend my arm and I would have done, if I had let the scar tissue harden. Once the surgery wound heals, use unperfumed baby oil or olive oil to keep the scar tissue as moist and pliable as possible. a) it'll help make the scar less noticable and b) your movement will be less restricted by a lump of scar tissue around the cut area.

    Hope this helps and you make a full and happy recovery and get in the air again as soon as you are ready.

    Take care,
    Judith

    By Anonymous Judith, at 2:30 PM  

  • WOW!
    That's a hell of a story... you are one tough [expletive]!!!

    Heal up well.
    Jim

    By Blogger Jim, at 2:32 PM  

  • My heart goes out to you Linda. I had a very similar break on my first motor harness flight in 2004...took off...the glider had a right turn...tried to correct; stall, spin in, impact was a cartwheel to left. Did not know my left humerous was broken until I tried to do a pushup to get up and just rolled around. Picked up my head and looked where the brain said the arm was...it was gone...phantom limb effect (and numb). Found it behind me. The old Vietnam Navy Corpsman came back out of me and I grabbed the numb arm and set it before getting up. Surgery failed because no solid bone left for rods & screws. Just put it in a cast and let it grow back. Took 5 months. Flying again in 1 year. There were times I wondered if I'd ever fly a hg again...but I'm back flying on a new U2 and love it as much as ever...it's in the blood...like rodeo riders.

    But ya gotta stay positive and focused. Do the rehab and stick to it. Take calcium supplement, drink milk and take multi-vitamins daily. Ask the doc for Boniva if possible to up bone density/growth.

    Pick something mental you've always wanted to learn about and start reading... it sure helps the time go by. I chose Einstein; a personal hero and just branched out. Keep close to your family and tell them you love them daily... It makes all the difference.
    Best wishes and if you ever need to talk about medical/life; I'm here for you.
    Warren Puckett
    H4 #24855 Private pilot
    CHHS Chemistry/Physics/Bio Teacher
    Part time Pharmacy Tech...
    Dallas Texas; wpchem81@aol.com

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:13 PM  

  • Hi Linda.

    I just read your post-flight report. It sounds like you dealt with it well.

    It seems you handled yourself in spite of what happened.The pain must have been tough to deal with to say the least.

    Stuck in field, in pain, wind, road noise, lack of radio contacts, dirt, etc. But you worked your problem, good on you.

    For what it is worth, I am impressed.

    Best Wishes.

    T.B.G.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:38 AM  

  • Hey Linda,

    Your accident sounds horrible! I hope you heal soon and are back in the sky before we know it!

    You now have the official mark of a female hang glider pilot! A scar on the arm! I have also broken my arm in a HG accident, although not as horrific as yours. I managed to snap my upper radial head on my ulna (elbow joint) and my advice to you is that when the doctors ask the question "does it hurt?" or "how much does it hurt?" you must always answer "yes" or "Lots!". I was kinda lucky in that i was allergic to the first painkillers that they gave me, so i got the top of the list Oxynorm which not only took the pain away but also gave me the lovely sensation of flying. But other than drugs, keep it moving, listen to the physio and do what they say. I had two surgeries before my arm was better and it still gives me bother because i didnt do my exercises.

    Wishing you a speedy recovery once again.

    Christina.

    By Blogger Christina, at 9:07 AM  

  • Linda, Linda, Linda

    You've come a long way from flying a ragged out 140 Dream at Hancock.

    I can't add much in the way of good wishes & advice but I am happy that you are more or less in one piece.

    Have you ever considered doing some writing?
    You know... kids stories... with an Alfred Hitchcock twist? Your report just barely made the deadline for being on my desk. Definitely A+

    You should consider coming to Hyner nest weekend. It might do you some good and we could certainly use someone to pick on.

    Be well gurl.....

    JB

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:32 AM  

  • Hi Linda,
    Sorry to hear of your ordeal and good to see your sense of humor is still intact.
    Percs will keep things stopped up, I'd get off them sooner rather than later. I had a rod put in my arm and it took a while to really get hold due to all the bones that were not in close proximity. I think plates might be better under some circumstances.
    I flew about 4 or 5 months later and it was glorious. I am still regaining strength and regret not buying more weights or a BowFlex. Work hard on recovery when the time comes and quick healing to you.

    John Simon

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:51 PM  

  • Wonderful writing; felt like we were right there with you which no doubt is the effect intended.

    Thank you Linda, for an amazing story.

    Your compelling account and your analysis of how it came to that will no doubt help us all fly even safer.

    Knowing you, you'll be back in the saddle in no time.

    -F'''ing B.

    By Blogger Bilbo Bellerby, at 9:45 AM  

  • dear linda,

    just think of your best moments under the clouds and you'll be back up there in no time.
    a whack once in a while just makes you stronger ;-)

    lg robert

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:49 PM  

  • Linda,
    I'm very sorry to hear of your accident, but thankful that you will make a full recovery. I have followed your blog for a year or more now and have enjoyed tagging along on your hang gliding adventures.

    All best wishes.

    Tom

    By Blogger JackieB, at 10:49 PM  

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