Universal Music Anyone who's ever had to endure the graveyard shift knows…
- Posted on Jul 28th 2011 4:00PM by Karen Bliss
"That's why I put it up there," Hall tells Spinner. "A few friends are like, 'Dude, I look at that picture every day.' When the doctors took the bandage off, they were like, 'You better brace yourself,' and luckily I had a bit of morphine in my system. It just totally blew me away so I took a picture."
Hall has since been posting progress-report pics, as it heals up. Meanwhile, Tim Fletcher, formerly of the Stills, has been filling in with the Sam Roberts Band, playing on such prime gigs as a Canada Day show in Ottawa for which Prince William and new bride Kate were in attendance, and a late-afternoon slot at Montreal mega-festival Osheaga this weekend (July 30).
The most immediate natural question -- and excuse the expletive -- is WTF? What on earth happened?
It started on a Saturday at his home in Montreal. He awoke in the middle of the night with a sore right wrist, he recounts. He thought he must have slept on it strangely. Over the course of the next day, it became incredibly swollen. "It looked like a rubber glove that was full of air and felt like this insane pressure," Hall describes.
Warning: Images Are Very Graphic
He went to the doctor who sent him to the emergency room at Jewish General Hospital. Believing it a skin infection, he was put on antibiotics, but it wasn't responding. "By Wednesday, I was in agony," he says.
"They gave me this diagnosis of 'pseudogout,' this weird thing in your joint, and put me on steroids. The swelling went down and I was like, 'Good it's over. Thank God.' That was on the Friday of the first week and by the next Wednesday, I went in for a follow-up and it started swelling up again. Luckily, I was at the hospital."
More tests followed -- he was looked at by rheumatologists to infectious disease specialists. It was finally determined he had an infection in his wrist. "At that point, I was in so much pain," he says. "I went into the ER and they kept me overnight and it got swollen like crazy all the way up to my elbow.
"I woke up in the morning and a plastic surgeon came and [said], 'We're going to have to cut your hand and arm open because it's way too swollen.' It's called 'compartment syndrome' when it swells like that. The surgery is called a 'fasciotomy' where they cut it open to let the pressure out," Hall explains, expertly. "If you don't, it just crushes everything in there; it kills it, and they have to amputate your arm.
"They found the infection in one of the joints in my wrist under my thumb and cleaned it all out, stitched up my hand a little bit around where the infection was, but basically left the rest open. It's called 'healing by secondary intention' when you don't stitch it up. The whole point of it is to release pressure and if you stitch it up, the pressure will build again.
"Once they opened it up, they did tests on what it was and it turned out to be a strep virus, not the flesh eating one; that's strep A, but strep G, which is apparently more common."
The cause, Hall says, is usually a cut that gets infected and the bacteria travels and the body is unable to fight it. Doctors asked him if he had any cuts on his hand, but he didn't. "I fell the Friday night putting curtains up at my girlfriend's," he told them. "It wasn't a big fall and it didn't hurt and they were like, 'It doesn't sound like anything.'
"All I can think of is I did have a sore throat on tour for a couple of days. I thought I was getting sick. We came right off the road two days before this happened. What I think is I was so rundown that when I wiped out at my girlfriend's, I didn't hurt myself but maybe inside my wrist there was a little tear and that bacteria was like, 'Hey!' Because the doctors don't know how it got there, they said, 'If what you're telling us is true about what physical state you were in, and based on your blood work, you were really rundown.'"
When Hall awoke from surgery, his right arm had a bandage the size of his leg, he laughs. The next day, fully prepared by hospital staff about what he would see, they removed the bandage and he snapped an ultra gross photograph with his cell. Since the surgery, Hall has been keeping the curious informed by posting these update photos.
"It kind of blows me away that it looked like that because it doesn't look like that anymore," he says. "My arm is healing up; it will have crazy scars; my hand's pretty numb. I have to do therapy to get my strength back. I can't make a fist yet. I've been playing guitar and I picked up the bass. Basically, my thumb is really weak so I keep dropping my pick but it's getting there."
The bandage is changed every day by a nurse and his left arm is hooked up to a semi-permanent IV "attached to a fashionable leather fanny pack that makes weird sounds," Hall laughs.
He actually laughs a lot when telling the story -- and the opportunities for jokes (now that his arm is safe from amputation or permanent damage) are endless, from the horror movie prop to getting a tattoo now feeling like a feather duster. When he one day becomes a father, he can tell his kids not to be babies when they get a minor boo-boo.
"It's the greatest story ever," he agrees. "In the eventuality I have kids, they're gonna grow tired of hearing the story."
Hall was aiming to play Osheaga on Saturday, but doesn't feel 100 percent yet. "I'll be watching, though. It will be pretty cool to be an audience member for once." He did watch Sam Roberts Band play 'Let It In' from the new album, 'Collider,' on television for Canada Day, with British royalty in the audience. "A tear rolled down my cheek," he jokes.
Hall says it was cool to watch with Fletcher as his stand-in. "I love Tim so much that if there is gonna be any guy up there, Tim is maybe the coolest guy that I've ever met in my life so there's no jealousy. I only saw one song, but he plays it a little differently than I do and I like how he played it better than I do. It's kind of cool to see your band; you never get to see your band."
Hall also wants to give a major thank you to the staff at Jewish General. "I can't say enough about them. All you have to do is go into a hospital for a little while to realize how amazing healthcare workers are in Canada."