It was one of the biggest swell days at a remote break. 50 Kilometers of dirt road to the next tiny little village, 160 Km to the next medical facility. The rides were so long that surfers would get out after every wave, walk back to the point and then chose between paddling out duck diving the sets or jumping off the rocks at the point. With this long period swell it seemed easy to time the jump well and a strong current would pull you into the take-off zone in no time. However, getting to the jump-off zone was a bit of a climb. Most surfers opted for the paddle but there were always a few doing the scatchy jump. It was too tempting.
One of them timed it bad and got smashed on the rocks by three set waves. Miraculously, he made it back up with a scalp injury, bad bruises and in shock. The first day after the accident he got better. Then he got a lot worst and did not sleep. He wanted to go home, to Montana, USA. So here I had a somewhat confused older surfer in pain who could not stand up wanting to drive for three days straight.
I did not feel good about it. I was thinking he might have a subdural hematoma since he was taking aspirin against the pain. Or he had some internal bleeding causing the deteriation. Or some broken rips would cause a pneumothorax on the road which could have him collapse while driving through the desert. After a physical check with auscultation of the lungs and palpating the abdomen and sceleton I didn’t see any signs that supported my doctor’s phantasies. But he was still in shock going on about how he could have died and nearly went unconscious under water.
Even though I could not detect a neurological deficit I still felt uncomfortable seeing this guy on the road for three days. But what can you do? I am comfortable telling a sixteen year old not to drive after a six pack of beer. But somebody twice my age without any signs of a severe injury? Even though he would not have left a German emergency room without a bunch of exams and probably another night of surveillance he wanted to leave. I gave him some pain medication (ibuprofen, paracetamol) which wouldn’t affect his driving and told him which symptoms to take very seriously and go to a hospital right away.
When he had made it home safely he sent me an email. He went to the hospital. They found nothing major.
Two weeks later the next surfer was crushed on the rocks. The scene was dramatic, the result medically boring. So this round goes to the surfers but we should do the next one closer to medical facilities…