best of the worst

hi everyone.

i haven’t been using this site for much lately, but a bunch of stuff happened this month and it felt like i needed to post something about it.

two weeks ago, i was on track to open my new studio, snake mountain tattoo, in north portland in early july. i was really excited to get back to work after a two month hiatus.

then over the weekend of june 13, the new shop was burglarized before my insurance policy kicked and before i had any kind of security system in place. i lost all of my tattoo machines(i had collected over 50), all of my steel tubes, several original paintings and prints, a stencil machine, a bunch of tools, and other equipment. basically everything that was expensive, necessary for my job, and/or irreplacable was taken. it was devastating.

i posted about it on social media, and the internet did its thing. a gofundme was set to help me replace what i could. the tattoo community rallied from around the country and donated their equipment, money, time, friendship, and love to help me put the pieces back together, and fill my heart again. it was amazing, and with everyone’s help i was almost to the point where i could get back to work.

then two days ago i was trying to replace a window, alone, in the new shop. the glass broke unexpectedly, and severely cut deeply into my left(non-dominant) wrist. my ulnar artery, two tendons and many nerves were immediately severed, and blood starting spurting out everywhere all over the shop, uncontrollably. i ran outside, holding a wad of paper towels on my arm, yelled at some people across the street to call 911, and sat down on the sidewalk and tried to focus on breathing while some brave and kind people on the street tended to me and called an ambulance. they compressed my arm to try and stem the bleeding. they gave me water. they talked to me and helped keep me calm. they locked up my shop because i had left the door open. they did their best, but the blood wasn’t stopping. i had never seen that much blood. i hope i never do again.

it was in this moment, sitting on the sidewalk across from the shop that i realized i might die here on the street. i didn’t know how long it would take for the ambulance to get there. i didn’t know if they’d have what they needed to handle it. i didn’t know anything except that everyone was trying their best, including me. i called my partner and told her what was happening, and she said “i’ll be right there.” she asked if i was okay. i looked at the blood gushing out from the towels around my arm and told her the truth. “i don’t know,” i said. i told her i loved her and i’d see her soon.

these in-between moments were the scariest part. i kept telling the lady compressing me that she was doing a great job and i was thankful for her. she didn’t say much and i got the impression that she had been in situations like this before, perhaps ones that didn’t have a great outcome. i understood why she wouldn’t want to try and make a friend minutes before he dies.

the ambulance came pretty quickly, within about 10 minutes. i was surprised and thankful. i was immediately surrounded by 5-6 uniformed dudes who kept asking me the same questions but separately. i probably repeated my name, address and phone number a dozen different times to different people while sitting on the ground bleeding, and i think i got pretty mad and yelled at them to get on the same page because i was sick of repeating myself. my partner arrived on scene just as i was being wheeled into the ambulance. there wasn’t enough room for her to ride with me, but i got a kiss and a calm “it’s gonna be okay” from her before we left. i believed her.

this post was supposed to be purely informative for clients, but now that i’m writing this it’s clear that it’s also for me to process a pretty traumatic event that i don’t know how to handle. i am going to leave the above story in place, however incomplete, because it’s an honest account of where my brain is going right now(and also because it took forever to type with just one functioning hand). but i’m going to now try to snap back into my original goal for this post.

in short, i survived. i had emergency surgery to stop the bleeding and close the wound, and i was bandaged and sent home. because my tendons and nerves were severed, i can’t feel or move my pinky or ring finger on my left hand… they are just dead weight right now. i can operate my thumb and forefinger somewhat normally for now, and my middle finger sort of halfway works. i’m faced with at least one future surgery to re-attach the tendons, and then months of rehab to gain strength and feeling back into my hand. it will likely never be the same, but i’m pretty confident that i will be able to work normally again… it’s just going to take a while. my health insurance should be covering everything, god willing. i’m kind of nervous about that part too but i have to not think about that too much.

i posted a video yesterday about the above story on instagram, and many people have reached out in support. the gofundme campaign, originally intended as a burglary recovery, has now unofficially morphed into a fund for emergency medical leave. i don’t know how long i’ll be out, so that money will be a vital lifeline for me while i’m out of work.

perhaps the best news of this nightmare ordeal is that i still have a fully functional right hand. with surgery and rehab to be done on my left, there is little else i will be able to do this summer besides sit around and paint. i’ve said before in years past that i would love the chance to spend 3 or 4 months with nothing on my plate except painting stuff, and now here we are… obviously not how i’d choose for it to happen, but it could be a lot worse.

my plan now is to spend my summer painting and rehabbing. i hope to have a handful of prints and shirts for sale within the next month or two, which i’ll post here, on instagram and on my bigcartel. any purchase of anything there, along with gofundme proceeds will be hugely helpful to keep the bills paid until i can tattoo again. until further notice, i guess i’m a painter by profession.

so many people have reached out to support in the wake of these twin disasters, and i am hugely thankful for that. i don’t know where i’d be without it. i’m humbled to my core… i only hope someday i can thank everyone in person an pay the goodwill forward to next person facing a tragic loss like this.

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