As we move further into the year 2010, I think it is a good time to reflect on my most memorable moments of 2009. While 2009 had a lot of exciting events, perhaps the most memorable was my run-in with an 1850s replica pogo stick. Many of you have already heard this story, but even if you have, you likely haven't seen the photos so feel free to skip ahead to those (Warning: Graphic Content!). Here is my recollection of this most exciting moment of 2009:
A few weeks after we moved into our Seattle house, I noticed a wooden pogo stick in the alleyway leaning against our back fence. We suspected it had been left behind by the previous occupants of our house (along with myriad other bits of flotsam and debris), and I gave it a few bounces and then moved it into our backyard since you never know when a wooden pogo stick can come in handy. It had a brass plate mounted on it that was inscribed "1850 replica pogo stick" or something to that effect.
Anyways, the pogo stick lay dormant for a few weeks until American Thanksgiving weekend (at the end of November, not the real Thanksgiving which happens in early October) when Fras and Carla were down visiting us in Seattle. We spent Friday doing some yard work outside, and since the pogo stick didn't escape our notice Fras and I took turns putting it through its paces, with one of the more notable moments being Fras attempting to pogo up the steps leading to the back gate (a valiant but unsuccessful effort). The rest of the day passed uneventfully, and at 10:30pm we were in the living room getting ready to head up to bed when I happened to glance outside and see the pogo stick lying on the ground. At this moment I had a flash of inspiration: wouldn't it be uproariously funny if I were to sneak outside and then go pogo-ing through the back yard so that the others would have the unexpected delight of viewing a late night pogo-man through the back window? Brilliant!
So, I headed outside and began bouncing on the pogo stick. This had the expected effect as Fras came to the window and was obviously very pleased with my course of action. However, on about the 8th bounce something went wrong: at the bottom of the compression phase, the block of wood holding the top of the spring in place split in half, and instead of the spring transferring its compressed energy back my 165 lb mass to propel me back up into the air, all of the energy stayed in the 1.5 lb spring as it shot up off the shaft, and hit me directly in the face. Well, not directly, as I was afterward able to ascertain: it first hit me on the chin (as evidenced by the gash that needed a few stitches), then hit me in the mouth (as evidenced by the chipped tooth that I spit out after I picked myself up off the ground), and finally hit me in the right eye.
Let's take a short side trip through Newtonian Physics and calculate how fast the spring was moving when it hit me in the face:
Mass of Cam: M_cam = 74 kg
Mass of Pogo Stick: M_pogo = 2 kg
Potential Energy of Cam and Pogo at top of bounce phase (assuming a bounce height of 0.5 m): PE_cam = (M_cam + M_pogo) * G * H = 76 kg * 10 m/s^2 * 0.5 m = 380 J
Assume all of this potential energy was transferred to the spring, as I ended up on the ground and the spring shot up to hit me in the face (at a height of 1.85 m)
Mass of Spring: M_spring = 0.6 kg
Potential Energy of Spring at height of 1.85 m (at my face): PE_spring = M_spring * G * H = 0.6 kg * 10 m/s^2 * 1.85 m = 11 J
Kinetic Energy of Spring at height of 1.85 m (at my face): KE_spring = PE_cam - PE_spring = 380 J - 11 J = 369 J
Now, since KE = 1/2 * M * V^2, we can solve for the velocity of the spring: V_spring = sqrt(2 * KE_spring / M_spring) = sqrt(2 * 369 J / 0.6 kg) = 35.1 m/s
Finally let's put it in units that we can relate to a bit better:
V_spring = 126.4 km/hour
It was a really hard impact and I must have been in a mild state of shock, but I remember being pretty worried that I wasn't going to be able to see out of my eye. Fras quickly sounded the alarm and came out to help me into the house so we could head to the hospital, while Roanne came running downstairs where she had been getting ready for a quiet night of sleep. We started out the front door for the car, but I was feeling pretty lightheaded at this point, and I fainted just as we were about to head down the front steps. Luckily Fras caught me (thanks Max!) and sat me down on the front step while we figured out to do. We decided to call 911 for an ambulance since we didn't know how serious the injury was, and in the meantime Carla ran next door to knock on the door of our neighbours (John and Josie) who both happen to be doctors. John came out looking a little sleepy, but immediately took control of the situation by lying me down, putting gauze on my eye, and advising us to ask the ambulance to go to Harborview Hospital and ask for a plastic surgeon since they have a Level 1 Trauma Center. I must say that those words were not music to my ears, but it was at least good to know what we should be doing.
The ambulance arrived pretty quickly, and the EMTs helped me down the stairs, onto a wheely-bed, and into the back of the ambulance. Roanne rode up front, Fras and Carla followed in their car, and we headed off the hospital. This was pretty exciting since it was my first ride in an ambulance (which cost $800 in case anyone is thinking of using this mode of transportation, thank you Microsoft for my health insurance!), the EMT shone some light in my eye and asked me some questions like "What is your name?", "What year is it?", etc. I remember thinking "Man, these questions are stinkin' E-A-S-Y, is that all you got?" but I guess they were just trying to make sure I didn't have any memory loss. We arrived at the hospital (about 10 minutes away) soon after, and I was wheeled into the emergency room. Roanne mentioned to the ambulance driver that it was my first ride in an ambulance, and he apologized profusely for not putting the flashing lights on for me, he said if he had known it was my first ride he definitely would have used the lights and siren.
We didn't have to wait too long before an ophthalmology resident came by to have a look at me, he quickly ascertained that I had a serious cut to my eyelid which had a section that was "flapping in the wind" as it were, attached only by a small string of tissue (good thing I didn't lose it on the way to the hospital!). Here is a photo of me soon after arriving at the hospital, with some preliminary cleaning efforts having been performed on my face but still looking a bit messy:
In the photo above you can see the cut on my chin which had been the initial impact but wasn't nearly as troubling as the final impact to my eye. Since I know you want to see it, here is a close-up view of my eye. You might be thinking "Hey, something doesn't look right!", and you are correct: if you look carefully you can see that one section of my eyelashes is perpendicular to the others.
The ophthalmologist was really nice, and performed a number of tests to confirm that my eye had not been damaged (at which point I breathed a huge sigh of relief, this is why I look so happy in the photos shown above). He then assured us that it was a simple matter to fix, and he would just need to put in a few stitches to put the section of eyelid back in place. He put in a number of lidocaine shots around my eye, which had the effect of making my eyelid puff up a lot so that he could commence sewing without worrying about hitting my eyeball. The shots were pretty painful as the eye happens to be a sensitive area, but he did a good job numbing it and then went to work. After about 10 minutes of work he tried to open the damaged eyelid, only to have the section he had just repaired invert on itself. At this point I heard "Hmm, maybe this is a bit trickier than I had thought", and I began wishing for a more experienced eyelid tailor. He must have read my mind, because he decided to call in a more senior resident to have her do it.
This second ophthalmologist was sleeping at home (on call), so it took a while for her to arrive. When she did finally arrive she was all business, first complimenting the first ophthalmologist on his wonderful work before ripping it all out and starting over again. The effects of the initial lidocaine shots had worn off by this point so I once again had the pleasure of having multiple needles jabbed into my eyelid. She then began stitching, and seemed to be just finishing up when I heard the following verbal exchange:
Opth. #2: "Wait a minute, is this Vikrol thread?"
Opth. #1: "Yes, I think so."
Opth. #2: "Actually, I think it might be nylon."
Opth. #1: "Oh stinker, I could have sworn it was Vikrol."
Opth. #2: "I guess I'll have to take it all out and start over. Oh well, there were a few stitches I wanted to change anyways."
Just kidding about the last line, I maintained my pleasant disposition and made a good-natured remark about what a lovely time I was having. So ophthalmologist #2 tore out all her stitching, and by the time she was done the second round of lidocaine had worn off, so for the third time I had a series of needles thrust into my poor eyelid, which was by this time begging for mercy. She then proceeded to sew the eyelid up for the third and final time, and seemed pleased with her work when she finished. Here is a picture of the results of her handiwork:
We then had to wait around for the results of a CT scan that I had had earlier in the night, so when we finally headed out it was about 5:30am. Here is a photo of me on the way out to the car, looking pretty tired but happy to be all stitched back together again:
It felt great to go home and get into bed, the stinker for Roanne was that she had a Doctor's appointment that morning at 8am, so she only slept for about an hour before heading off to the doctor (sorry Rosie!). My eye stayed sore for a while, but I was really happy that my vision had not been affected. Here is a photo of our protagonist with the reminder of his folly, the now 2-piece pogo stick:
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