Almost three weeks ago I crashed while riding my bike. Not quite sure what happened. I think I had a momentary lapse in focus, followed by the realization that I was coming into a gravel-littered curve in the road a bit faster than I preferred , at which point I think I accidently grabbed the front brake. I remember the front wheel turning hard to the left, then hard to the right, and thinking, "Oh, (expletive)! This is either going to be the best save EVER, or -" Then there's a gap. I don't remember actually falling or hitting the ground. The next thing that I do remember is realizing that I was lying on the ground, and being VERY confused as to why I was lying on the ground and how I'd gotten to this area. I recognized a house that I could see as one that I ride by sometimes and knew that I had gone for a ride earlier in the day, but wasn't making the connection between the two. There were two gentleman talking to me, trying to keep me calm and still. One of them later told me:
"I saw you lose control, to me it looked like you got into the gravel coming into the bend, your front tire slid out and you went down hard on your shoulder and flipped over a few times and didn't move for a few seconds. I saw that and knew immediately you needed help. I sprinted down to you and got there right as another guy stopped and rushed over to you.
We helped hold you still, he held your head and neck and I held your arm and side to keep you as stationary as possible. You got really scared and upset when you realized you didn't know where you were, I explained to you a few times what happened and where you were and just tried to keep you calm. We had a guy use his car to block the road as you were in the lane a bit..."
I only remember being with it for a few moments before I felt very nauseous and "went back to sleep". Again, a gap. Then I was in the ambulance, thinking, "Oh man! What did I do?? What's wrong with me? I really really don't want to have brain damage. Oh my God! I don't want to have brain damage!" I looked at the EMT leaning over me and told her just that - "I don't want to have brain damage!" As though I could just put in the request. (Man! Just thinking about those moments still makes me anxious.) At that point, things started to stick. I remember most of the ride to the hospital: the EMT's talking to me, asking questions, telling me I was going to be OK. There was also a conversation about calling someone for me. They asked if I wanted them to call anyone, at which point I realized they had my phone. This was completely baffling to me! How did they get that out of my [jersey] pocket if I'm strapped to a backboard?? The answer would reveal itself hours later. I asked them to not call my mom yet, but to call my friend, Julie, instead - I didn't want my mom to be freaked out before we even knew what was going on; I wanted to be able to talk to her and tell her that I was fine. I needed to know that I was fine first, though. (Sorry, mom!)
When we got to the hospital, I was whisked directly in to have a CT scan and several x-rays. I remember everyone that I encountered - every nurse, doctor, tech - being extremely kind and gentle. They were so calm and sweet and spoke directly to me, asking how I was feeling, telling me I was going to be OK, telling me everything they were doing so that wasn't surprised by anything. As I left the testing area, one of the nurses called my mom, put the phone on speaker, and placed it on my chest so that I could talk to her while we waited for the results (I was still neck-braced & strapped to the backboard). A few minutes later, Julie arrived. Not only did she keep me company for the next several hours, but she also provided comedic relief, bought me snacks (including a banana, which she knows I love, but which make her nauseous - what a pal!), and made sure I didn't walk out of the hospital naked! I'm jumping ahead - back to that in a moment. Test results came back - ACED the big ones! NO BRAIN DAMAGE, NO SKULL FRACTURE, NOT PARALYZED. Holy relief!! Neck brace removed. The most unsettling result: concussion. The minor stuff: broken collarbone, one broken rib, laceration on left elbow requiring four stitches. We were given detailed instructions on how to monitor and "care for" the concussion, prescriptions to get me through the next few days, and a referral to an orthopedic surgeon. Time to go! Only I didn't have any clothes. They'd cut off my kit in the ambulance (hence the cell phone acquisition by the EMT's). I was fine with the johnny and bright yellow, anti-slip socks, but Julie said I needed something more. Such a stickler for "decency"! She hailed down a staff member, got me a set of AWESOME paper pajamas, and off we went.
The next several days were filled with naps, meetings with specialists, and visits from friends. Brief synopsis of the past 3 weeks:
- moved into Julie & Mike Dibens' home for 3 days immediately following crash
- met great staff at Boulder Centre for Orthopedics day after accident & booked surgery with Dr. Voss
- was looked after by Julie, Mike, and Kendra (friend who also moved into the Dibs' residence for 3 days to watch over me) - THANK YOU!
- visited & taken on field trips by numerous friends - special thanks to Joycee, EK, Dede, Donna & Jay - THANK YOU!
- Mikaela flew out night before surgery to accompany me to BCO & nurse me through first 3 post-surgery days - THANK YOU!!!
- mom & Mike flew out a few days after surgery to assist as I weaned off meds & regained ROM in my left shoulder - THANK YOU!!!
- 1-week post accident concussion evaluation went well - brain seems to be recovering, but need to continue resting and NOT partake in any activities that risk head injury (i.e., no riding outdoors, skateboarding, cliff jumping, skiing, etc.) for a couple more weeks
- 1-week post-op check-up went well - healing well, but still need to be cautious over next 2 weeks (until next check-up)
- back to riding (on trainer), hiking, strength training, and "swimming" (kicking, sculling, little bit of single-(RIGHT)-arm drill)
I am so beyond grateful that this crash wasn't more serious, that the guys who were there were there and took action right away (called 911, had another guy use his vehicle to block traffic as I had come to rest in the road, stuck around to keep me calm & safe until EMTs arrived), that I was able to get in with a great surgeon and do so quickly, and that I have some pretty AWESOME friends (here in Boulder, back in MA, and all over the country) and an AMAZING family. You guys rock!
Care package from Joycee. Ummm...let's not talk about how many of those cookies were gone before I started sharing.
Care package from Dede. Not only does she know that I love coloring, but she also knows that I love a bargain!
(And that leaving the price tag on would remind me of home/mom.)
Ok, time for a public service announcement:
A couple days ago I actually took a look at the helmet I'd been wearing at the time I crashed. It terrified me (realizing how bad this could have been), renewed my already staunch support of helmets for EVERYONE (even those of us who have been riding for >20 yrs make mistakes), and slammed home how much I love my life (it's a sweet one!).
This is why I don't even look at my bike without putting my helmet on (and, yes, that means I wear a helmet when walking around my pseudo-studio apartment):
The helmet did exactly what it was supposed to do - absorbed the impact. It crumpled, cracked, and folded instead of my skull. THANK YOU, Rudy Project!
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