Tuesday, February 26, 2013

San Martin de Los Andes: Broken Finger

Before I start, I would like to mention that you may experience a few format and grammatical errors. As you will soon read, I have limited use of my right hand and I am now using a pre-installed Mac voice dictation application  (yes, I bought another Macbook Pro...I have spoiled myself). So, I am doing my best to put my best English forward, but I simply do not have the time to thoroughly edit/review everything I type...it would take too much time.  In advance, thanks for understanding.

Fishing the Middle section of the Limay was a blast, but I was happy to be back in the mountians...a relief from the desert sun and dry-dusty wind!  

As you can see from the picture below, all is well and I am having a good time enjoying myself with friends. Pictured on the right in Miguel Terassani.  He has been a park ranger and hunting guide for over 30 years. Earlier in the day, I spent the afternoon at his house, talking hunting stories and viewing 100's of pictures.  The photos were taken in parts of Argentina, but it's safe to say that if it flies, walks, or swims, he has killed it!  Now days, Miguel is the president of the national park system and a guide for red stag.  I liked Miguel a lot.  I told him that I have hunted deer, moose, pheasant, grouse,  and ducks; but, I have not hunted for years. Regardless, he invited me to go hunting for red stag in March and April.  I am busy the entire moth of March with clients, but I hope I can tag along in April!  

Seated next to Miguel is Gustavou, a psychologist from Sante Fe, Argentina.  As it turns out, when they were teenagers, Gus and Miguel went to school together. This is the firs time they have seen each other in +30 years!   Gus is neither a hunter or a fisherman, but is a very nice man and would soon be a friend in need.

At the end of the table is Herbie, he owns the house.  When I was managing a lodge in Junin de los Andes,  I hired Herbie to be one of many guides.  Initially, I was not impressed with him. Actually, he was a pain in the ass, but once on the river, he was a fantastic guide,  a good oars-man, and clients loved his high-energy, albeit it a bit crazy at times.  In the end, as crazy as he was, Herbie always kept it real; he never hid behind a false character, and he always took every measure to ensure that clients had a good time and caught lots of fish. For that I respected him and we have since become good friends.  

Moving back towards me, we have Matteo and Roberto (son and father).  Not seen in the photo is Matteo's beautiful wife and one year old daughter.  Roberto works at a vineyard, one of the best in all of Argentina, called Cartena Zapata (look for this label in the USA...it's really good).  Matteo, drives a semi-truck back and forth to Chile, filled with wine from Cartena Zapata. 

In Argentina, dinner time ranges from 10pm to 1am

Well, shortly after having an amazing dinner, the conversation focused on American films and in general, the violent nature of our culture.  I love traveling for many reasons, but hearing what other cultures/people think of the USA, is one of my favorites.  As you would expect the violent movies discussed were Stallone and Schwarzenegger.  Current affairs focused on the recent shootings in Newtown, Connecticut.   Everyone was extremely bothered by this and the many others like.  They asked me how it's possible for so many people to easily obtain guns (legal or illegal) in the USA.  I did not have an answer.  Roberto explained to me that in Argentina, it takes a minimum of two years to get a permit for a gun (a hunting rifle/shotgun only).  After this conversation faded, some how, Mateo asked me to arm wrestle...like the Stallone movie "Over the Top."  It was late, I was tired, so I politely declined, yet I offered him to thumb wrestle.  We thumb wrestled for a bit, but he did not seem overly interested in this.  Upon our last thumb wrestle, he wanted to show me another way; a way they do it in Argentina, with your middle finger. Not thinking much about it, I innocently reached out with my middle finger, and he grabbed it.  He firmly squeezed my finger and before I knew it, he twisted it so fast, so hard, it broke!  Actually, the second after it happened we both looked at each other wondering what had happened.  You see it happened so fast that there was absolutely no pain...only the sound of bones cracking...but, who's bones.  As we pulled our fingers apart, it was clearly obvious that it was my finger.  We were all stunned and in disbelief.  So, off to the San Martin de Los Andes hospital I went, at 1:30am.  

Looking pretty chipper for a fly fisherman with a broke finger on his casting hand!

As it turns out, after X-Rays an a brief visit with the surgeon, I learned that my finger was broken in three places.  I was also told that if I did not have surgery that I would lose full use of my hand, within 3-5 years. Also, I was told that I would not be able to use my hand, for up to 2 months! When I heard this, I felt completely destroyed...my heart, mind and body, felt a new low!

Time to fish with my left hand!

Surgical Options?

The surgeon told me that they could not perform this type of operation in this hospital (small regional hospital without the necessary supplies for this type of surgery).  In others words, I needed to find a hand specialist, either in San Carlos de Bariloche or Buenos Aires.  Barilcohe is a quick three hour drive.  Buenos Aires is either a 20 hour bus ride or a 2.5 hour flight.  Health care is nationalized in Argentina, so if I went to a large hospital in either city, I could probably pay zero, or very little (FYI, there was no bill for X-Rays and consultation at the San Martin hospital). But, the question then becomes a matter of quality.   If I opted for a private surgeon (hand specialist), I would have to pay cash.  In the end, to make a long story short, I have health insurance in the USA, I did the math (time + $$),so I flew back to the USA.  I paid $3,000 USD for my flight, but 24 hours later, I was in my doctors office scheduling surgery!  As it turns out the original diagnosis, San Martin de Los Andes, was spot on!  I had surgery on February 6th...I have a few wires and screws in m finger now, and my cast is due to come off on March 6th.

I can't begin to tell what an emotionally challenging experience this has been.  For a short while I was really depressed.  Truth be told, as crazy as this sounds, I felt a bit guilty for feeling sad and depressed.  You see, I don't let little things get in my way of my dreams and goals.  But, picture yourself planning a five month trip, shipping your truck to Chile for $4,000 USD, add in a few 'minor' issues with your vehicle truck, a stolen laptop that cost $1,500 USD, and now a broken finger...what next?  Please...I came to Argentina to fish, rest and relax!

Well,  to end on a more positive note, I was home in the USA for a 21 days.  I got to see a family and friends, and now I am back in Argentina.  My spirits are up and the hand/finger is doing just fine.  There has been an obvious lapse of communication on my part...any recent post were done with only the use of one finger.  I bought a new laptop in the USA and it comes with voice recognition and dictation. I have been using the dictation software, but its slow and inefficient. So, a message to my followers, I will due my best to post updates, but between my finger and now my busy schedule with clients, expect some significant delays.



PS. For all of you who have helped me get through this experience, a big THANK YOU!  And to my clients who are reading this and perhaps wondering WT-Fudge..."how is he going to work/host/guide us?"  Please don't worry, my broken finger will not effect your trip in any significant way!  In fact, if anything you'll be able to say that you caught more fish than the guide!