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How Lots of Good Friends & a Hard Head Saved a Neck & other great news

March 23, 2010

Dear friends and fans of Art Predator.

Some of you may know that my husband broke his C2 vertebrae in a bicycle accident on Friday, February 5. The accident occurred during a rehearsal where we were being honored as bicycle activists in our community. Several cyclists in our group were going to do a simple stunt; Marsh went first (and last).

This C2 break is known as a “hangman’s break”–it’s the kind of break where 95% of the people die instantly; for those who live, almost all have limited mobility (that means they are in a wheelchair–like “Superman” Christopher Reeves). Typically, doctors fuse the vertebrae in the neck which means a loss of 75% mobility in the neck. They do this to reduce the risk of full paralysis as well as the risk of injury during the healing process. They also typically put a halo on someone with this sort of break.

In case anatomy isn’t your strong point, as I understand it, C1 is like a ring at the base of the skull. C2 is like a point, like finger of bone that slides into the ring and connects the brain and the head with the body. The “ring” moves around the “finger” so that the body can move on the head.

In Marsh’s case, because of the nature of the break in the “finger,” Dr. Sabit told us fusing his neck (his C1 and C2) was a huge risk. Not only would he lose 75% of the mobility in his neck but he might be paralyzed in the process.

So Dr. Sabit took a different risk: he put his hand down Marshall’s throat, moved the bones into place, then, in his words, “shoved” his body back into his head, sliding and popping it back into place. This is a move he saw once as an intern and had never done himself.

The next day the MRI showed that the bone was indeed where it needed to be. Dr. Sabit told us that as long as Marshall was not in too much pain, he wouldn’t need to fuse his neck. Pain would mean pressure from the bones on the spinal cord.

Because Marshall also split open his scalp from his eyebrow to behind his ear (in a shape Reed describes as a rainbow with out too much color!) and fractured his skull, putting a halo on to stabilize his head was not an option. This also increased the risk and his fear during the recovery period.

For six weeks, we lived with the fear that Marsh might do something that would move the bones out of alignment and require Dr Sabit to fuse his neck or worse. For six weeks, we did everything we could to create a calm, quiet, healing environment at home, one very conducive to rest and sleep, and Marsh did indeed sleep and sleep and sleep. During this time, only at the beginning was Marshall in any pain and it was completely manageable with prescription then OTC drugs.

Our friends and family did so much to help: from getting the house Marshall ready while he was still in the hospital (thanks Laurie, Kyle, Kathy, Alan and my mom), to giving Marshall baths (thanks especially to Charles and Jason), to finishing the remodel of the upstairs bath so Marshall could take showers (thanks Dave, Kryz and Jerome), to hanging out with Marshall so I could take a break or take Reed to school or get to the grocery store (thanks again especially to Charles and Jason and my mom). Lucy in the Sky even did a “PortaLucy” and evened up the haircut Dr Sabit gave him.

The many meals, especially in the first few weeks, allowed me to focus on taking care of Marshall and Reed and not worry about food. Thank you too to the people who called from the store to see if we needed anything or offered to pick stuff up for us. The first week we were blessed several times with home baked and fresh baked breads and Charles brought us homemade bread one or two times a week almost weekl;. Jenessa and Kyle for taking care of Reed that night and during that first crazy scary weekend; Kathy, my mom, and my sister for being there with Marshall in the hospital when I could not be and for being with me too.

Taking care of Reed was a HUGE need. A six year old is prone to leaving toys around and having meltdowns. So we made as many arrangements as possible to have Reed away from home. When Reed was around, for the most part, Marshall stayed in bed where he felt safe. Karen and Ted took Reed most Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays and made sure he made soccer practice and games. Harmony and Mike helped with Reed, made us meals, and stayed with Marshall twice so I could do activities with Reed. Kathy came at least every Monday, brought dinner, and stayed with Marshall and Reed, and put Reed to bed so I could go to a class.

So many people helped–too many to name, and I am sure there are many more people I should have mentioned in this email. In addition to these ways of supporting us, we know you all were there with us in spirit, sending healing energy and light.

Suffice to say, there is no way I could have done this alone.

Six weeks later, on Monday, March 22, we took new X-Rays and today, March 23, we went to see Dr. Sabit. He showed us on the X-rays how the bone was healing beautifully and that it was in perfect alignment in his neck.

Dr. Sabit even told Marshall he could take the brace off. For the next two weeks, he’ll be taking it easy, getting those muscles loosened up and functional again, then he’ll start physical therapy. In about six more weeks, he will probably be ready to go back to work; he sees Dr. Sabit again Monday May 3.

One last note: many people have asked about his helmet. No, he wasn’t wearing one. Yes, he usually does. If he had been wearing a helmet, he wouldn’t have injured his scalp and skull. But his neck vertebrae would have taken more of the impact. You could say his hard head saved his neck.

We are very grateful and very lucky. He wasn’t wearing a helmet. An ambulance was there within minutes, the hospital was close, we went to CMH instead of the county trauma center and Dr. Sabit was coming out of surgery, saw him soon after he was admitted, and immediately he was on his way to surgery. Because of Marshall’s athleticism, good overall health and healthy habits including being a non-smoker, Dr. Sabit decided to try a risky procedure; six weeks later, all is well and the prognosis for the future is very positive..

I wanted you all to know how he was doing and recovering and to publicly thank our community who supported us during this difficult time. Thank you to everyone who sent cards, emails, facebook wishes, and called as well as helped us out through these harrowing six weeks.

Sunday April 18 is our wedding anniversary; Reed and I plan to be on the Steampunk ArtWalk ArtRide which leaves the Artists Union at 2pm. I invite you to join us on the ride, or meet us at the after party at Bell Arts at 4pm. Marsh should be there too–but it will be awhile before he rides with us again! You can learn more about the ArtRides on my blogs and

Thank you again for being there for us during this challenging time. During this time with my focus on Marsh’s recovery, it took me awhile to get back to blogging; thank you for continuing to read and for waiting for my return!

much love, gwendolyn
aka Art Predator

22 Comments leave one →
  1. March 25, 2010 10:01 pm

    OMG Gwen, I literally had tears in my eyes reading this post. I’ve been thinking about you guys so much lately, and wished I lived closer to do more than send healing wishes your way. What an amazing community you/we inhabit! I’m so so so so amazed at this miracle!

  2. March 26, 2010 4:19 am

    Wow, what a traumatic experience for you all. I’m so happy that everything turned out as good as it could. You are very lucky to have such a great support network around your family.

  3. March 26, 2010 4:51 pm

    Thanks, Gwen, for the update….much love to all of you.

  4. March 26, 2010 7:22 pm

    Holy crap Marshall… working as a medic, I saw quite a few of these fractures and only one other person that came away as “unharmed” as you were. Glad to see you’re doing better, and hey, love the haircut! Hopefully we’ll get to see you guys on one of our trips back to Cali. Take care.

  5. March 30, 2010 6:03 pm

    Thank you friends…we’re very grateful to be moving out of “scary” healing mode and into a “safe” recovery zone! We look forward to seeing all of you one day soon in person–on this side of the grass!

  6. February 8, 2013 5:14 am

    I am awestruck by this story! Thank you for sharing it here.

  7. February 8, 2013 5:50 am

    You’re welcome! As a yoga teacher yourself, Suza, I am sure you can appreciate the role that his yoga practice played in helping him heal.


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