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Steven’s Story

Welcome to my CaringBridge. My parents and sister created it to keep friends and family updated when it mattered. I appreciate the dedication they had to give others hope and help chronicle the process of my incredible recovery. 

I have continued to add entries to as I was readmitted for surgery to further my recovery, correcting some of my tightest and most raised scars. These have been relatively extensive in so far, giving me much of the range I have lost back, and there will likely be more surgeries in the future, but less and less comprehensive and more cosmetic in nature. 

Here's the story I will tell strangers if they ask about my scars. First of all, I was badly burned (obviously). I was struck by 50,000 volts of electricity directly in the center of my chest and instantly burned alive on 30% of my body; my heart stopped. I was walking home late one night with my friend in Dinkytown, where I lived at the time. I was climbing everything in sight as was in my nature. I have been climbing everything since I was little kid and I even worked at a rock climbing gym at the time. This girl yells out her upper apartment window to us walking on the sidewalk and my response is to climb the pole next to her window, first I yell up "Have you ever seen Peter Pan?" When I get to the top, it explodes! There was no transformer or anything, just the wires touched or something. And I hit the street from 30 feet up while I was on fire.

The most miraculous thing is that my mind is unhindered and I'm still me. When I came in the hospital, a CT scan showed blood in my brain. My neck broke, there was a hairline fracture in one of my vertebra. My heart stopped for 13 minutes and that was 3 days after my accident, when I was in the operating room and they were removing the burned skin. My temperature was dropping and my blood pressure started dropping and all of a sudden my heart stopped! My abdomen swelled with fluid and they sliced me open to release it and started CPR and got my heart started again. My heart stopped in the ambulance on the way to the ER perhaps for much longer than that. Your brain needs that constant flow of oxygen in your blood or it will start losing cells quickly. That anoxic brain damage, In addition to the trauma, should mentally disabled me but the tests they gave me, for example recite an 8 digit number backwards, did not go far enough and I was one of the smartest patients they have ever seen.

The thing I am most grateful for is everyone coming out from everywhere to show support. "I hope you make it!" and "I'm glad you're alive!" Some of my friends from high school came in to visit me because they heard about me on the radio! You don't normally get the opportunity to reunite with people you haven't seen in half-a-decade and say I appreciate being your friend at one point. I really think that everyone's healing vibes, thoughts, and prayers helped saved my life. Many people say that I must be here for a reason or God wants me here, and I don't know if that's true, but it's certainly a good reason. One of the greatest gifts, I have gotten from this accident, other than my really cool scars, is the ability to preemptively tell everyone that I'm happy they are alive with me.

Latest Journal Update

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

It's been two weeks since my operation and the releases have almost completely healed. I was finally able to get the Mepilex dressing off of my donor site on my leg. It looks like it's going to take some time to grow some more layers on my calf because the strip they harvested from is dark red, stings a lot, and is weeping blood. It is so relieving to get it off however because it was becoming extremely itchy especially because they shaved my leg for the operation. I took a bath and I'm happy with how I am healing.

The graft to my lip is stiff and white but continues to look better and better as I'm told will make even larger improvements over time. My doctor cleared occupational therapy to start stretching the areas around my mouth, lips, chin, and neck again and ordered I get a small piece of silicone to place over my lip. My therapists gave me one and my mask goes right over it. I think it looks great and am excited to see how it progresses.

I've kept my left arm in a splint to keep it straight for almost 23 hours a day for the last two weeks. It stays at 0 degrees but now I can't even flex my elbow to reach my face. It is much easier to regain that flexion than fight the scars to extend my arm again. So I've lost full use of my less dominant arm for the time being.

The surgery to my left armpit has healed pretty much completely. It's nice that it healed the most quickly because I was worried about being able to keep bandages on that tricky spot to wrap. The release has allowed me to reach essentially completely full range, however my scars are trying to heal the same way they were. Fighting that scar band is very painful but I do it everyday and after I overcome the initial stretch it becomes far less painful to hold it and stretch back to it. Someday soon it won't be painful at all and I will stay that way. Until then I can feel my skin tearing and even rip open to autorelease, making my blood drip out. I look forward to pain that physical therapy induces everyday.

I have still been taking oxycodone to control the pain but it is annoying to be dependent on chronic medication (at least at the rate they wanted me since being in the hospital) and it throws my system out of sync (e.g. constipation). So I've decided to just take a large dose before therapy everyday and use NSAIDs as needed for the rest of the day. I think this will work well for me because I have been using my opiate use to avoid any alcohol which is overly ubiquitous at my age.

Today has been particularly productive. I had a follow up appointment about my lip in the morning, it was a very short appointment, and I didn't have therapy for several hours after. I went to Uptown and picked up a deposit for a house I moved out of over a year ago. The house was close to my old job at the rock climbing gym so I stopped in to say hi. I was able to talk in person with my old boss and expressed how passionate I was about coming back to work there. Not being able to get my job back has been the single most harmful thing to my recovery and our conversation seemed like the same bureaucratic stance that has continued to make me feel hopeless. I went back to hospital and got an application for the volunteer program because maybe that will help me get back into the swing of things. Plus, I really want to give back and contribute to the wonderful place that saved my life. I also went to the patient representative office and told them my problem about the Ray the mannequin and the burn museum being put in storage. They even wanted to help me get a burn support group started which HCMC is lacking despite the efforts of everyone involved.

I will see my surgeon again in two weeks and there might be a few more surgeries albeit smaller and I would imagine they would be not until next season. I know that I will continue to heal and grow into a more powerful person by then. I will have more interesting things to add to my journal, but until then, thanks for reading.

Comentarios

2 Comentarios

Patrick McKinney
By Patrick McKinney
I am so glad to see your positive attitude toward your recovery, Sven. And I very much appreciate your intention to participate in the volunteer program at HCMC. I'm glad to hear that you talked to the patient rep people about the burn exhibit they have stored away--that was a very useful way to show people who visited you when you were an inpatient there the processes that you have had to go through. Keep up the good work.
Denise Tennen
By Denise Tennen (Ari's mom)
Hey Sven. Check into midwest mountaineering and see if you can get into some kind of involvement in the climbing wall there. Or the MN climbing co-op: www.mnclimbingcoop.com/‎
Denise