Like the skate community at large, I was deeply concerned when I heard the news on January 14th that Element's Skate Camp Director, Andy Dicker had suffered a "life-threatening brain injury" bombing hills in SF. I had met Andy at Skate Camp only last July and his radiant stoke made me an instant fan. Andy is the real deal. 100% Skateboarder. When I finally saw the good news that he was back home recuperating at his parents' house in Sacramento, I called him up to get a handle on the whole situation. While Andy still has a ways to go before he can stand on a skateboard again—he still needs to wait for part of his skull to be reattached as crazy as that is to even type—hearing his signature good spirits and razor sharp wit was the best sign that this too shall pass. Here's Andy. Long live Andy.
Andy: How are you Mackenzie?
ME: I'm good man. How are you? This all sounded crazy.
(Laughs). Yeah. Honestly, I'm doing pretty well. I'm finally back home in Sacramento.
Can you give me the broad strokes of what happened?
I fell in SF then was in the hospital in ICU (Intensive Care Unit) for almost a month. I didn't really understand what was going on for a while. When I finally woke up I realized that half of my head was gone. They had sown it up and I still have like a big missing piece back there. They had shaved all my hair off back there too. I was out of it though. People would ask me questions and I'd try to answer them. Then they'd leave and the next day I'd realize like, "What did I just say to them?" It was crazy. But it ended up working out. I finally moved into another room with three other people, stayed there for another week, and then they let me come up here to the hospital in Sacramento for acute therapy—basically rehabilitation for people with serious injuries. At first they told me I would be there for maybe two weeks, maybe a month, maybe three months. I wanted to leave that day (laughs). They told me that wasn't going to happen, but thankfully I'm back home now. I still go to therapy at another hospital up the street. My head is still swollen but my brain is coming back. Everything is starting to come together. It's still going to take a little bit of time but it's on the right track.
“I AM THANKFUL TO BE ALIVE. I AM MORE THANKFUL TO HAVE SUCH LOVING PEOPLE IN MY LIFE.”
Did they give you a timetable from here?
Yeah. Basically they told me that when you hit your head and have part of your skull removed like I did—you usually wait a month until they can put that piece of your skull back in place. But if it's swollen you have to wait up to six months. If you do it sooner it could lead to infections. So in April I have to go back to SF and talk to them. They took that part of my skull and sent it to Carlsbad. So once they clear me for that they have to send the skull fragment back up and I get it put back on. Then, once that's all healed I can return to skating and being my normal self.
That's crazy. So they keep that part of your skull on ice down there?
Yeah. Pretty much. I guess there's a whole zone down there with people's bits and pieces where they just have them waiting.
Whoa. Well, you sound really good over the phone.
(Laughs.) Thank you for saying that. I feel pretty good until I get into these little situations where my brain usually makes a joke but instead I'll just say something so stupid. Like "What the hell am I saying?"
That's gnarly. I've been there but not to that extent. I remember waking up in ER where I could watch myself not know my own name. It's a scary and crazy feeling all at once. Do you remember the actual day at all?
Dude. Yes. The day was so sick. I was living in San Francisco at the time, my friend, Mike Kershnar who has been a big part of Element invited me up there to do an artist residency at this place called The Growlery for a few months. I had a show that was supposed to happen on Feb.4th. This was on Friday, January 13th, I was preparing for the show, hung out with my girlfriend for a little bit, talked, painted some more. Everything was going good, I got things situated, made some orders, then the owner of the house asked me like, "Hey Andy, do you think you can shoot photos of the artist who's coming tonight?" I was like "No problem." So we did that, took a bunch of photos then all my homies from skate camp and just skating in SF came over. We ended up hanging out the whole night. I lived on Broderick Street, right below Haight. So I would just take them outside and we would bomb that hill. Then we started going even higher up to Buena Vista Park just below it and bomb that hill too, straight down Haight—it was so fun. So we did that for hours, met up with my girlfriend and some of her friends, then at like 3:00am my friend Connor asked me "What do you want to do?" I was like, "Let's go bomb the hill again!"
So we went up, at 3:00 in the morning, Connor started asking me a question at the top but I didn't hear him. I just tre flipped in and started bombing the whole hill. But what I didn't know is that recently they've been rebuilding parts of the street at night—right at the bottom, where the hill and the flat meet—with different metal pieces. It's hard to see at night, so I clipped one part, buckled down and smacked the back of my head. Cracked my skull open. It started bleeding and getting crazy. My friend Connor saw it, freaked out and called the ambulance. And that was when I went to the hospital.
Damn. Were you sort of aware of all of this as it happened?
No. I didn't remember any of it. I remember the whole day up until that night. I remember the party and taking the pictures of the artist and being there. But I have no memory of skating the hills even. I didn't remember any of it until Connor came and visited me in the hospital. He explained the whole sequence of events and then it started slowly making sense and coming back a little like, "Oh yeah. Oh my God! I ruined it for everybody (laughs.)
As far as coming to in the hospital did you have any idea where you were?
No. I no idea what was going on. When I first got there, they cut all my clothes off me. I was not down. Then they sedated me and plugged me into the machines (food valve in nose, oxygen tube through mouth, brain pressure monitor through brain, stabilization medication plugged into leg and much more). From there I was passed out and my brain began to swell. After monitoring my vitals they decided to put in more work. They shaved my head, carved/removed out a portion of the bone in my skull and waited for my brain to reduce its swelling. As they monitored my brain's vitals, they continuously cared for my recovery.
Unfortunately, while monitoring my brain I also experienced pneumonia, bacterial infection and fevers. After being there for nearly two weeks under sedation, they started allowing me to wake up. They would turn it off at times and I would come to, then they would ask me all these questions. At first, I guess I was cool. But they kept on doing it and I was slowly seeing my mom, dad, girlfriend and all her family, my cousins, aunts, and uncles. So I got to a point where I was so over it. I started trying to take out my feeding tube, my breathing tube, doctors would come and try to talk to me and I would lose it and try to fight them. I was like the worst patient ever (laughs.)
Upon waking up this one time, I got fully agitated by the nurses and started to react. I actually punched a nurse. I am so stupid. At the time, I just didn't understand why I was there or what I was going through. I've just now started to see that website, Caringbridge where my dad posted all these photos and updates. It's almost like a Facebook but for hospital stays where everybody can check in on you. But seeing those photos, of me just lying there unconscious with all these tubes in my brain and my loved ones—that was insane. But at the same time, seeing how much people cared too was pretty wonderful.
I'm just glad you're okay. When I first saw the news it was pretty vague. Like it sounded real bad. I'm glad you're in one piece.
Thank you. Since it happened I've tried to explain it to my friends and they're all in that same vibe like, "Oh my God, Are you okay?" And I'm just like, "Yeah! I'm fine. Let me explain." Then they listen to me and are like, "Oh my God. You need to think differently about this." Then the more I listen to them; I'm like, "Oh shit. Maybe it is bad." (Laughs.)
Right now you feel like you'll skate again when you get healed up?
I 100% wish I could go skateboarding today. That would be the most amazing thing ever. But since I'm still missing this huge portion of my skull in back, and all of it has affected me, the way I walk around—everything. Slowly but surely it's getting better but I still have a ways to go for sure. I get super tired and dizzy throughout the day because I have to take all these meds. I mean I've had situations before where I messed up my knee or ankle and had to get surgery, but this is different. My whole body works but my brain has taken a huge portion of my physical capabilities away. So in time, once I get everything fixed, I'll have to work at rehabilitation, and then I can get back to skating. But right now I just have to be okay with where I'm at now.
So in April you go back to possibly get that piece of skull re-attached?
I go down to San Francisco in April to get check ups and talk about it, then I think in May or June, if my brain is fully healed up I can get the skull back in.
You gotta be ready for camp right?
(Laughs.) Dude. Yeah, I might have to sit this one out unfortunately. But I have been thinking about it.
Might be a good year to go as a civilian and just swim in the lake and hang out.
Yeah. I was thinking of going up mid-way through with my girlfriend just to visit. At least I can get some of the good vibes.
And the Element family has been taking care of you I'm sure.
Yeah. Dude, they're all so sick.
Well take it slow man and you sound super good over the phone. What's next?
For the next few months, I have to let my brain heal. I love and miss skating so much. It shall return when the time is right. I love and appreciate my girlfriend, family, and friends (many of which were friends from skate camp). Although I fell, being alive with the best people in my life means everything to me. I am thankful to be alive. I am more thankful to have such loving people in my life.
The Growlery is so rad. Although I was meant to have a show February 4th, the brain surgery limited me from finishing. My good friend Mike Kershnar put on a show with my work. Then he invited incredible skaters to perform or show off their work on the 4th. Evan Smith and Josh Unger played music, Ray Barbee had photos up, and the staff from DLX brought over incredible art. I may have been hurt, but the show was much better with the help of all of the incredible talented skaters.
For info on the surgery, my dad created a page on caring bridge to explain what was up with me and post photos. https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/andydicker/journal He is an amazing human being. Although I was super jacked up, he let people know the daily routine and shared the love of the family. I sincerely appreciate being apart of TWS. This means a lot to me. You all rule!
– You can help contribute to Andy's continuing medical bills here: https://www.gofundme.com/39tyb9kw
– Follow Andy’s progress here: https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/andydicker/journal
– Follow Andy on Instagram: @yawnsnarlos
Get well soon Andy, rest up, heal up and see you back at Skate Camp soon sir.