Ben Schroeder healing broken tibia
When I heard that legendary skateboarder Big Ben Schroeder -- all six-foot-six, 230-pounds of him -- got into a head-on collision with a car while bombing a hill on his skateboard, my sympathies instantly went out to that poor car. But then I heard the gory details. His high-speed run-in with two tons of moving metal was nothing to joke about. And to this day, more than a year after that fateful crash, doctors are still uncertain about a full recovery.
In the meantime, Schroeder has a lot of bills to pay. That's where Dwindle Distribution's Steve Douglas has stepped in to help out. Through Rebate -- "a coalition of skateboarders dedicated to providing members of the skateboarding family support, encouragement, and financial assistance in times of crisis," according to its mission statement -- Douglas is heading up fundraising for Schroeder, who's currently stuck overseas waiting for the next surgery on his severely broken leg.
For more details, ESPN.com pieced together the following Q&A via email.
ESPN.com: Tell us about the crash.
Schroeder: In August of 2011, I was bombing a hill in the San Gabriel Mountains northeast of Los Angeles, going approximately 40 mph, when I came to an intersection and encountered a car running the stop sign. I collided with the car's bumper before it ran me over. The car came to a stop with its right front tire parked directly on top of my left leg which was already fractured by the bumper. My friends that were following me in a car took me directly to the hospital. There was no time to get the driver's information.
At the hospital, the X-rays showed that my tibia (shinbone) had been broken in two, but the fibula was unbroken. Doctors gave me a full leg cast for a few weeks then a short leg cast for several more. Then they told me that the two broken pieces of the tibia had reconnected and that I should start walking on it to encourage the bone to heal more quickly. They said that bones need to have push-and-pull on them to stay strong or get stronger. The doctors in Los Angeles said there was "zero-percent chance" of the two pieces disconnecting. So I started walking on it, a lot, but it never seemed to feel any better.
Then your company, Locomotive Skateparks, hooked up a job to build a pool in Denmark.
I asked the doctor if it would it be okay for me to be walking/working on it, and he said that since they were going to straighten it out in surgery it would be alright.
About three weeks later I went to Skørping, Denmark, and started building a kidney pool with a crew of 5 guys. I tripped and hurt my injured leg badly so I went to the local hospital to have it x-rayed. The doctors there said that it was now an "acute fracture" and that it would need emergency surgery. They also said that my broken left leg had become 22 millimeters shorter than the right, and this could cause severe spinal issues over the years, so I needed to have an operation to straighten and reconnect my broken tibia.
It turns out that these doctors here at Aalborg Sygehus hospital are some of the best in the world at this procedure and that people travel from all over Europe to receive their attention. And the Denmark medical system is free to Danish citizens and also workers for the state. I was a worker for the state because I was building the little skatepark for the city and was paying taxes out my wages. This was such a wonderful and synchronous coincidence. I do believe in synchronicity, and this trip has given me a whole bunch of it.
How'd it go?
The procedure went smoothly and I woke up in a hospital bed in my own room on the fifth floor of this nice Danish hospital. There were tall and long-boned Viking men and women working there as doctors and nurses – it was beautiful. I had to be on lots of medicines because the hunk of metal that they had screwed into my leg bones was CRAZY. Meds like penicillin, paracetamol and morphine. They also had an electric wire in my hip to shock the nerve going down my leg so that I could not feel a thing. It was all fine with me. I was getting saved by these docs and I felt no pain. I stayed in the hospital for about one week and then was released, healing more quickly than they predicted.
It would be dangerous to the leg to endure the swelling and shrinking that occurs during the flight back home to California. So I am required to stay here until the device is surgically removed. The device consists of 4 aluminum rings around my lower leg with 11 steal rods screwed into the two broken pieces of the tibia. There are adjustable struts between the rings that I cranked 3 times a day for the first month after the surgery in order to re-align the tibia ends. The date to remove the device was scheduled for September 3, but that date has been consistently pushed further back as a result of the gap between the ends of the tibia still not filling with new bone.
So you have to wait it out through the Danish winter?
Recently I have been sleeping in a back room of a skater-owned restaurant. It sure would be nice if I could afford to rent an apartment for these upcoming cold winter months.
That's what Rebate is working on. What else do you need money for?
Paying people back that have given me loans. Food. Transport to hospital. Medicine. Child support. Holistic therapy. Winter clothes.
In the meantime, sounds like you're trying to stay positive about your leg.
It has been an uncertain situation for many months. The lack of the two tibia ends reconnecting has been called a "nonunion" for many of those months. However, at the most recent x-ray visit, doctors said it has finally begun to heal. I have allowed myself to maintain confidence that it WILL definitely heal and the gap WILL fill in. The doctors have expressed confidence as well.