Saturday, January 19, 2013

Frostbite

I can't feel my fingertips and some of my fingers are noticeably discolored, swollen and blistered. For the first time in my life, I've got frostbite. 

How did I get myself into this mess? Let's start at the beginning. 

It's Friday, January 18th and, surprisingly, the local weather forecast calls for temperatures in the high 20's. "How can that be?" I asked myself. "A high 20's day sandwiched between nothing but single digits?" I decided to check the Weather Channel to verify. Sure enough, the Weather Channel had the same forecast. 

"Awesome," I thought. "I can end the work week with a day on the river." 

When I left the house at 8:35 a.m. it was 6 degrees below zero outside. This surprised me, but I figured the sun would work its magic in short order and the temperature would rise dramatically.

By the time I got to the river, the temperature had risen a few degrees, but it was still too cold to fish.  I sat in my truck and waited, listening to NPR while hammering out a few work e-mails.

After about an hour, I decided to go ahead and get on the water.  Since I was expecting much higher temperatures, I'd packed my half-fingered gloves in the truck and, being the stubborn ass that I am, I proceeded to fish with them.

I got into three decent trout right away but, given the cold, I chose not to expose them to the frigid air for photos.  It was a windy, bluebird sky day - typical during one of our winter high pressure systems - and the fishing was pretty tough.  When the wind and cold caused my reel to seize, I decided to call it a day.

Happier Days, Pre-Ice Planet Hoth. Feels Like an Eternity Ago.
I hiked back to the truck and reached into my wader pocket to grab the keys.  That's when I realized I couldn't feel my fingers.  When I pulled my hand out of my wader pocket, I noticed my fingertips were off-color white in some areas and purple in others.  It was an image I had never seen before and my stomach sank.

I got back in the truck and fired up the heat.  Even during the peak heat of the afternoon, the dashboard thermometer indicated it was only 9 degrees outside.  My fingers started to tingle like pins and needles.

24 hours later, they are still numb and blistered.  I went over to see my sister-in-law, who is a doctor and mountaineer with a background in wilderness rescue medicine.  She confirmed it was frostbite.  While it typically takes days (sometimes weeks) to observe the amount of damage caused by the crystallization of skin and muscle tissue, the good news for me is that it appears so far to be a mild case of frostbite.  The blisters have not filled with blood, which is a good sign. I should be OK in a few weeks.

Two days earlier I'd uploaded a blog post on safe winter fishing tips.  Trust me, the irony of this fact is not lost on me.  Honestly, I feel like an idiot.

Be safe out there.  Respect the severity of the elements.  The fish will still be there when the weather turns.

No fishing for me for a little while, so I will focus on fly tying,

My Attempt at Matt Drahos' "House Special"
and getting the band back together....


...so we can cover Japandroids songs...


BTW, Japandroids' drummer gets extra points for wearing a Hot Snakes t-shirt in this video.

Take care of yourselves.

16 comments:

  1. jeebus. Normally I am immune to frostbite due to the fact I cry like a 6year old girl when exposed to cold extreme enuf to cause irreparable damage. heal up! mike

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Mike. I appreciate it.

      Hopefully in a few weeks only my ego will remain permanently damaged.

      Delete
  2. Hi, Brent, sure hope all goes well in your recovery and you soon can feel your fly line burning your fingertips again with a big trout screaming in the distance.

    For what it is worth, your story brings back an ol' memory of mine from a day on the Madison near Quake Lake. I, like you it appears, had to overcome the scare of Frostbite.

    Added your blog to my Blog roll over on the Rainbow Chaser!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much. I just reciprocated on the blog roll.

      I lived in Boulder for 8 years, so I really enjoy your posts and seeing some familiar waters. The first time I read your blog there was a great post about one of my favorite spots ("the mailbox hole") on the Big T.

      Take care,

      Brent

      Delete
  3. oh man! i feel your pain... i had the same symptoms minus the blisters a few weeks ago on a steelhead trip. the tip of my middle finger is still tingly but i consider myself lucky. hope you recover quickly!

    Tight Lines

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Luke. Glad to hear it worked out well for you.

      That's the strange thing about frostbite - it takes a couple of weeks just to evaluate how much damage was done.

      However, I've passed the "soft skin indentation" and "blister opacity" tests, so I'm optimistic I'll be healed up in no time.

      Take care,

      Brent

      Delete
  4. We've all taken chances. It's why I tell people fly fishing can be an extreme sport sometimes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep - I just need to work on taking smarter risks moving forward.

      Delete
  5. Wow, Thanks for posting this about FrostBite, I will have to be more careful also, I sometimes forget to put on my gloves.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, even with gloves, I got bit.

      It's easy to take the elements for granted, but once the damage is done, it's irreversible.

      Best,

      Brent

      Delete
  6. Ur a mad man Brent...And that's alright by me. Well done and i hope those fingers cinch up soon. As a commiserator of intense finger pain (level 10 psoriasis all over my finger pads) I can literally feel your pain. Keep the eyes fixed on the upcoming spring!
    Laters.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks CB! The fingers should be A-OK in short order.

      I am counting the minutes until spring....

      Delete