Monday, November 22, 2010

The Road Back, Cane Edition

It's been three weeks since the big crash. A painful three weeks. The good news is I'm up and about and can walk unaided for most of the day. After a long day though, I do tire more easily than before, and use a cane (no more walker!) if required.

Physical therapy is going well, generally consisting of
  • stationary bike
  • arm bike
  • treadmill, forward/backward/side to side
  • inclined platform (for the legs, resembles the 'Total Gym')
  • movements to get the elbow back to full extension
  • range of motion tests
  • specific lower abdominal exercises for pelvic stability
I've also been using my mountain bike at home on the trainer, however, for comfort, that usually requires a lean forward. At present, I'm not placing any weight on my left arm. Thus, time on the trainer is somewhat limited at this point.

And so it goes.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Sweatin' Burnt Orange Bike Tour 2010 - Broken Bones Edition

I like the SBOBT (GPS route) since it's a more intimate ride, not so many riders as other ones rides I participate in.  This year, the number seemed to be lower than usual, perhaps since the event was on Halloween and many people had already made other plans.  That also meant I could more or less stay with the leaders for a good distance (not that I treat it as a race, but I like the challenge of keeping up with the youngsters). A couple riders took off about 25 miles in on some of the first sets of the more severe hills. Still, I thought I'd have a good day at it and finish in a time comparable to the other times I've ridden this route, I was maintaining a good pace and only occasionally would another rider appear. Little did I know that would not be the case.

For the first part of the ride, there was nothing remarkable, other than an abundance of chip-seal roads, they tend to be rougher than normal. And when fresh, have an excess of gravel near the edge. Gravel and road bike tires do not go together. At all. Nada.

I stopped at the Sisterdale rest stop, the person manning it was still setting up, I didn't think we were that fast! After a short rest, I proceeded along, staying with the guy in the yellow kit for a while. Once we got into some steeper hills though, he lost touch.

This ride has one very memorable and steep climb up to the Old Tunnel Wildlife Management Area. It starts about mile 40 and goes for about 1.5 miles. Some pitches are in excess of 10 degrees, which doesn't sound like much until you try it, then, trust me, it's steep.

I stopped at the top and took in the view, it's quite spectacular especially on a nice clear day.

I started down the backside of the climb and just after passing Grapetown Cemetery (a couple miles down the hill), crashed down hard.  I have no idea how it happened. I have no recollection of any car or other bike around me, or any other road hazard. One second, I'm fine, the next, I'm on the ground. According to the GPS data, I went down at about 30 MPH.  Yes, it hurt, a lot.

After the crash, I remember thinking I needed to pull my bike off the road, just in case a car came over the hill. I did that and just sat down next to the road to check how bad I was hurt. My elbow was bloody, but I thought from road rash, only later at the hospital did they tell me I had an open fracture, meaning bone was through the skin. Yea, that hurts even more. Perhaps the most fortunate occurrence was the first person to stop was a trauma neurosurgeon that happened to live in the area. When he was first talking to me, I could not understand him. Looking at my helmet afterwards, I hit very hard on my head. It's hard to see on the pictures, but the foam is cracked completely through below the impact site, and the obvious significant cosmetic damage. I never lost consciousness, but was definitely on the woozy side.  Thanks for helping Dr. Senelick!

After a few minutes, I was more attentive. The Doc flagged down the next car and sent it up the hill to the prior rest stop, a couple miles back. They sent down a pickup truck that eventually transported my bike back to Austin. My son retrieved the bike from Mellow Johnny's a few days later. There's minimal damage on the bike which I interpret as my body taking the brunt of the collision to the ground. Given the injuries, I believe it. I remember discussing with the young man handling my bike that he should just drive me back to Blanco, at that point, while I hurt, I did not realize the extent of the injuries. I'm glad no one listened to me!

The Doc had dialed 911 and they arrived about 30 minutes after the crash. They told me I did not have to go with them, but the Doc indicated I needed to, that I was not capable of a rational decision (now some of you would say that regardless!). Shortly thereafter I was on the backboard, with the cuff around my neck to immobilize me. Given the remoteness of the location, they called in a Life Flight helicopter to fly me to Austin. They discussed San Antonio, but Austin made more sense. That was my first helicopter ride, and, of course, all I could see was the ceiling of the helicopter. The paramedic helping me was nicely pointing out items of interest as we flew - I suggested adding some mirrors on the ceiling.

We landed at Brackenridge where they rolled me into the trauma unit to assess the injuries. After numerous portable X-rays and CT scans, the injury list is something like
  • Fracture of Olecranon Process of Ulna (that's your elbow bone).  There's a double row of stitches, one directly over the elbow where the repair was done. The other is where the bone broke the skin. The operation was done that evening (10/31) given the exposure of the bone.
  • Stable fracture of the pelvis (breaks in 2 different spots, the sacrum and pubic bone)
  • Stable fracture of the scapula (shoulder bone)
  • Slight dislocation of shoulder
  • Road rash, left shoulder, left arm, left hip, left foot
Glad I'm right-handed.

And while it probably helped, the two doses of morphine I received in the ER had little impact on the pain, or at least that's what I thought at the time. When they were transferring me from the gurney to the CT machine, they needed to roll me about and turn my pelvis. That was one of those 10 out of 10 pain moments. And it was done two different times. I'm trying to forget.

For those who care to look, here's the remainder of the pictures.  Some are a bit gruesome.

After 4 days in the hospital, I was able to go home where I've been resting since. The physical and occupational therapists in the hospital had to approve my release, showing them I was modestly mobile. A big shoutout to the nurses who took care of me, all were very pleasant and kind. They told me they didn't want to see me again - as a patient - I'll agree with them on that point.

I've started physical therapy, and expect it to take a while to get back to my former level of fitness. The first equipment they had me use was, you guessed it, a bike. Stationary though, and going really, really, slow.

My new best friend is to the left, I'd be hard pressed to get around much without it. As someone noted, it has 2 wheels, just like a bike! Only different. A lot different. A crutch after this.

Hopefully, since I was in good shape before the crash, that will help with the healing and recuperation.  I had my son bring his trainer, we setup my mountain bike so I can start using it when I build up some strength.

Note to self, do NOT do this again! Ever! Geez.