Forum — From the August 2015 issue

Self-Portrait with Daughters

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The speedboat never hit me. Not really. At the last possible splinter of a second, it swerved. It missed. Instead of hitting me head-on, as it had been on course to do, the boat clipped the nose of my kayak, dumping me into the lake. I remember being upside down, underwater, and thinking, So this is what it’s like to die.

I did not die. I came up for air. I coughed up a bunch of mucky lake water. I remember that the water tasted like gasoline, but it was probably just the fumes coming from the boat’s engine.

I also noticed that my right leg was sliced straight through the middle of my calf. It must’ve made contact with the speedboat’s propeller when I was rolling out of my kayak and into the water. I screamed, Oh my God! I screamed, Holy fuck! Actually, I don’t remember what I screamed. My leg was still attached to me, but barely. It was hanging from just below my knee by a little bit of bone, some shredded muscle, and some skin. I held my freshly severed leg by my ankle and kicked with my other foot to stay afloat. I tried to hold it level, my limb. I tried to hold it steady. It must’ve been the shock, and the bath of adrenaline that my body was, at that moment, awash in, but the pain, at least initially, wasn’t all that bad. It simply felt like I was being stung by a few hundred thousand wasps at the same time in the same spot. I gripped my shredded limb with one arm and dog-paddled with the other back to my kayak. When I reached it, I flipped it over and threw myself on top, and I waited.

a doctor’s words:

Near-amputation of the right leg with open tibial/fibular fracture. Patient has a more than 4 cm segmental loss of the fibula, anterolateral and posterior compartment soft tissue injuries which were very extensive.

The tibial nerve is intact as is the anterior tibial artery and vein. The remainder of the limb save for a small skin-bridge is not.

a wife’s words (to family and friends):

A’s foot is still down there, swollen and yellow. Yellow from the cleaning solution they douse it in before surgery, which he had today, and which went fine, except for they removed a whole hell of a lot of dead muscle. The muscle dies because it is being serviced by only one artery, instead of three, like the edges of a lawn might brown if you had just one hose watering the center.

Today we had surgery to flush the wound, get out bits of stray bone, and set up a medical erector set around the lower half of A’s lower right leg below the knee. Both leg bones down there are shattered, and a big chunk of muscle and nerves and skin are no more.

In the best scenario we keep the foot and we have 6–12 months of surgery (plastic and reconstructive), and some kind of walking assistance (cane?) for ever and ever. I’ll have to find out more on that tomorrow.

A. misses his girls, bemoans never skating again, and wants a Gatorade.

words of the responding officer:

Suspect, R, stated that he had just put the boat in the water. Had been on the water for just a few minutes. R had launched the boat at the public launch. R stated that when he went to launch the boat, it would not start and he used a jump-pack to start the vessel. It should be noted that the battery of the vessel is located in the rear (stern) portion of the vessel on the starboard side. In order to access this battery, the seat cushions need to be removed, then the battery pack can be placed underneath. R stated that he had just launched and was traveling around the lake in a direction that would be counterclockwise. R stated that when he made it to the other side of the lake, he noticed with his peripheral vision that the boat cushions that had been removed from behind the driver’s side of the vessel to the passenger (port) side, and were stacked, had begun bouncing as if they might be bounced out of the boat. R’s description would indicate that he diverted his attention to the boat cushions and had begun to reach for them so they would not fly out of the vessel. R stated he hit something in the water. R stated he never saw what he hit. R stated that after having hit something in the water, the vessel ceased running. R stated he heard a loud male’s scream.

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is a poet who lives in New York.

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