Mason lends his voice to the incident that, earlier this week, almost derailed our Summer 2016 tour.
Music means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. For us the North Star has always been to Make Great Art. That comes with an interesting set of side effects, however.
Last night, after a wildly successful show on day four of our tour we loaded out of The Highland Tap House in Louisville (pronounced Luhvuhl), Kentucky. As we were on day four, we were all drinking quite modestly, despite the unending hospitality of our hosts, and were looking forward to turning in early for a good night’s rest in a well apportioned hotel room.
The Great Smokey Mountains are beautiful. Rolling hills and wide vistas covered in an emerald sea of conifers and wandering kudzu, fill the eye at the crest of each gentle turn in the road. Large, rain-laden clouds drift lazily across azure skies and periodic, brief mists cool the mild summer temperatures. At night those mists come from both heaven and earth and the headlights make them ghostly, in a comforting, cradling manner.
As we arrived at our destination and opened the doors to our van I could feel that mist, heavy, across the land, the air and across us. I stepped out first, glad for the opportunity to stretch the miles out of my shanks. Tim, in the seat immediately behind mine, opened his door next and placed his right boot on the mist-slick running board. Almost immediately, I heard a commotion and saw Tim fall to the damp pavement in a heap, yelling in pain. I asked, “What hurts? Is it your hands?” Instantly recognizing the self-serving nature of the question that had spilled unbidden from my lips. Tim replied in the negative, indicating that it was his ankle that was hurt. We all stood about him, encouraging him to take his time while simultaneously beginning to help him up. Tim insisted that we wait and simply let him lie there for a minute to gather himself. As he lay there agonizing quite modestly, really, Will knelt to inspect Tim’s ankle, gingerly lifting the muddy hem of his jeans. This caused Tim a good bit of distress, but Aaron and I were both able to see the knot that was swelling from above the lip of Tim’s high top black boots. Worse, I think we could all see the sickeningly unnatural way Tim’s ankle hung from his leg, and Will, Devon, James, Vanessa and the rest us all unanimously agreed that the ankle was broken. We all commenced volleying various ideas back and forth, ranging from calling an ambulance to picking Tim up and putting him in the car, all the while our collective blood pressure rising. At Tim’s behest, we opted to ferry him to the hospital ourselves. I went to my backpack and removed a neoprene elbow brace that I keep for all the times I injure myself on the road, and removed two drumsticks from my stick bag. I knelt to wrap Tim’s fractured ankle tightly, with my Rich Sticks signature model changing from weapons of mass percussion to the lynchpin of my Neolithic doctor’s bag. Aaron offered Tim a towel to bite down on as the six of us worked together as one hive mind to lift Tim from the moist asphalt into the van.
It had become readily apparent, even before I got him splinted that Tim was going into shock. His pallor had begun to change from his usual rosy Irish glow to an unnatural pallid green, and I found myself experiencing fleeting moments of “through the looking glass” déjà vu as I wondered if this is how I looked when I went into shock.
After we hoisted Tim into the van, both me and someone else, I’m not sure who, got blankets on him just in time to get him stabilized before that morose veil fell over him and things got infinitely more dangerous.
Will had already pulled the address of the nearest hospital and texted it to me, as Aaron, Tim and I sped into the early morning Smokey Mountain darkness, leaving the rest of the band to bed down for the night.
Pulling into the nearest hospital, I loped inside explaining to the orderly, a blank faced career under achiever, that we were bringing in an emergency trauma case, possible tibia/fibula fracture (not compound, thank God), that was just getting stabilized from being in shock. Her response was like unseasoned oatmeal, and did nothing to indicate any sense of urgency, though she did deign to rise from the seat of her chair, deeply and permanently indented with every corner of her square buttocks. Gathering an equally capable counterpart, they both shuffled outside, along with an old wheel chair that looked rescued straight from the set of The Shining. The entire trauma unit, and I use the term loosely, was under construction and given my initial impression of Nurse Ratchet and her counterpart, I was already circumspect about the quality of care my gravely injured brother would receive. I was not to be disappointed. As the two nurses met us outside with the chair, they left transferring Tim from van to wheelchair to the professionals; Aaron and me. Once inside, yet another paragon of professional excellence took Tim’s vitals. Tim was uncovered and beginning to go into shock again and I suggested to The New Nurse Ratchet that she cover him to get stabilized once more. “I’ll get him a blanket in a minute. There’s rails on the bed so he won’t fall out.” At that point I walked outside to see Aaron coming in from parking and asked him to bring in the blankets, which he did, and we again got Tim stabilized. Next, the nurse cut off Tim’s jeans, yet quite strangely left his boot on. I assumed that since the good doctor, Dr. Mahfield Ofuckslay Barren, was approaching, they were leaving the boot to him. Dr. Barren did a quick inspection, ordered X-rays, and then went to his computer to google. Meanwhile as the X-ray tech worked, Tim’s foot was growing in size, swelling within the ever present boot. I walked up to the front desk and told Doctor Google to go take Tim’s boot off and put some ice on his foot to minimize the swelling. He begrudgingly complied. I then asked him what the course of action was and he explained that after giving Tim some morphine for the pain, they would need to transfer him to a different hospital with an orthopedic surgeon as they did not have one there. Imagine my surprise. By this time, it was nearly 4:00 AM and Tim was stable and dozing, so Aaron and I retired to the relative comfort of the van to sleep only to be awoken a few minutes later by Tim’s limo. The EMTs responded with a refreshing level of competency and the journey to the real hospital was uneventful.
The staff there was confident, professional, and reassuring and determined that Tim would indeed need surgery to install a titanium nail inside his tibia and a metal plate on his fibula. They worked him in quickly and by late afternoon Tim was repaired, heavily drugged and happily flashing his balls to Aaron and me. Tim will forever bear the scars of this surgery as will Aaron and I.
Through all of this Tim never buckled. He was the consummate warrior, never once bitching out. He stayed stronger than I have been in similar circumstances and Aaron and I were both quite impressed. More impressive was how all of us came together to handle this crisis. Vanessa, James, Will and Devon ensured we had a room waiting for us upon our return. They fed us and helped with laundry. Little things, yet important things. Things that don’t just make us a band in the musical sense but a band in the sense that we serve a common, communal purpose; A truly rare and precious thing. Side effects. See you on the road.