Posts Tagged ‘Cycling Related’

 

This post is a rather short and sweet explanation for why I’ve taken a hiatus over the last few weeks. First, some background details:

In August, 2012, during a training ride on my bike in Superior, Colorado, I was involved in an accident. As I rode downhill at a pretty good clip, a driver, apparently mesmerized by his GPS, cell phone, tablet, Bluetooth, laptop, desktop, and everything else, was too busy to watch where he was going. He pulled his car out directly in front of me and stopped. I was suddenly faced with the decision to steer my bike in front of him – and into oncoming traffic – or to steer my bike behind his Jeep Grand Cherokee. I chose to ride behind him.

I probably would’ve crashed into the bushes and possibly sustained some broken bones and some pretty awful road rash. However, that did not happen. At the last second, the driver saw me coming and, evidently in a panic, backed up his Jeep to get out of my way. Of course, he backed directly into my path and the last thing I remember is hitting the front left side of his car.

The next thing I remember is lying on the pavement, thinking that it really should be painfully hot, given the heat of the day. Of course, I was in shock, and had I been able to feel the pain of what had really happened to me, I probably would’ve croaked right there. But it wasn’t meant to be, I suppose.

My injuries were many, and very severe. The paramedics arrived and did their thing, then carted me off to Boulder Community Hospital. By the time evening came around, I was pretty doped up and not feeling a thing. My only recollection of the time is a surreal memory of two men in dark flight suits and helmets loading me into a helicopter for a quick flight to the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora. Happily, I have no recollection of that flight whatsoever, nor of anything else for the next two weeks.

At the time of the accident, I had been in strongest shape of my life. In an instant, I was nearly dead. One surgery followed another. Rebuilding my broken jaw and my shattered hand were among them. My punctured lungs and broken neck bones, of course, required considerable attention as well. Still on morphine, I was feeling no pain. It thankfully postponed the physical agony I’d soon have to live with for the next two years.

Thankfully, the excellent physical condition I was in kept me from dying at the scene of the accident. However, it didn’t come without a cost: I sustained what’s known as a brachial plexus injury, meaning that the nerve in my left shoulder – the point of impact with the vehicle – was stretched beyond its breaking point, to where it could never heal.

In plain English, it meant that I could no longer use my left arm again. Eventually, after some negotiation with hospital staff, I was discharged from the hospital. I could barely walk, but I had to prove it to those in charge so they’d know I could take care of myself at home. So, I took what may have been the most painful walk of my life. With the assistance of a physical therapist, a young woman who I could tell even then really cared about my well-being, I successfully navigated one lap around the courtyard in front of the hospital.

Since being discharged, I’ve yet to feel any sensation in that arm other than pain; numbness in it was the best I could hope for, since it muffled the pain, even if only briefly. All I remember is that everything hurt more than I’d ever known, and each day seemed to last forever. Suddenly, I felt stuck in my own body, with no possible escape the pain, ever. In a very real sense, I was.

Friends and family all rose to the occasion to help my wife, Kami, get through it all. She, by the way, didn’t find out about the accident until hours later when, using the information on my Wrist ID, someone from the hospital telephoned her. All she knew up to then was that I was not home, and she had no idea what may have happened.

The ordeal she was about to experience from all of this was different, though no less serious. What she experienced with me as a result of my accident – my pain, my lack of mobility, my sudden inability to do even the simplest things, etc. – are things that no married couple should ever have to endure.

But enough of those dramatic days. Over time, I’ve come to see there remains much to be thankful for, and there always has been. I have long since adapted to my condition, and have spent the last few months working my way out from under the nagging feeling that I was at the mercy of the world. Opening or closing doors, for example, or getting into and out of the car on my way to appointments with every imaginable kind of doctor, etc. are no longer the daunting challenges they once were.

Certain things, however, are gone for good. Tucking a dress shirt into my slacks? Tying my shoes? Tying a tie? That, and so many other things, are a thing of the past. By necessity, I’ve revamped many aspects of my appearance. Friends who knew me before the accident may not have immediately recognized me.

Adaptation has become my middle name, and I can do things now with only my right hand that I would never have imagined possible. Zipping zippers, for example, and buttoning buttons, and so much more. If you still live in a two-handed world – as I once did – and have ever wondered just how much you rely on them both to get things done, tie one hand behind your back and get on with life as usual. It’s really the best, and only, way I can think of explaining it. Incidentally, I’ve grown so used to just using my right hand that, if my left hand were to suddenly start working, it would just be in the way. Interesting, eh?

For the record, Sophie, my four-legged service doggie/friend, has been a Silent Angel to Kami and I both. She clearly watches out for us and I, after all this downtime following my crash, feel naked without her. Happily, between Kami, family and friends, and Sophie, I’ve had no shortage of love and positive energy sent my way, and I am grateful for every bit of it.

Alas, the end of this painful chapter is in sight. Just yesterday, I attended a Preoperative Procedure at the same hospital where they’d put me back together after the crash, like Humpty Dumpty, as they’ve reportedly said. Essentially, a nurse briefed me on an upcoming surgery next Tuesday, at which time my left arm will be amputated from the elbow down.

Hopefully, this will be the last accident-related procedure I’ll have to endure. Aside from the procedure’s obvious gruesomeness, however, the removal of that damned dead weight that’s been hanging from my shoulder since the accident will be an amazing relief.

Thankfully, I did not lose the use of my dominant, right hand, and it’s made adapting to life as a one-handed person much easier. This firsthand knowledge of learning to live with only one hand, however, makes me feel confident that I’d have adapted no matter which arm I’d have lost. When you think about it, people in this situation have no choice, right?

There is, however, a lighter side to all this which has created many funny moments. For example, when people ask “How are you?” I typically respond “I’m all right, thank you.” Most people don’t get the joke, of course, though it’s something that often makes Kami and I smile. “Can I give you a hand with that?” and “I love to help you now but my hand is full…” Perhaps it’s a reminder to us both that even though I’m living in a different body now, I’m still the same person underneath. And, following the amputation, I literally may be able to give someone a hand… and part of an arm, too!

At any rate, while I haven’t spent much time on a bicycle since the accident, I still plan to resume my training and, eventually, competing again. I don’t feel I’m getting ahead of myself, as I believe the excellent physical fitness that save my life two years ago will also help me heal that much faster today. Actually, I know it will, and that knowledge gives me all the power I need to keep going.

There will come a day, I’m sure, when I’ll be out on the road once again, riding with teammates with whom I’d once raced only two years ago. But I have found many new doors to open that I’d thought had once been closed, and I’ve found myself in many wonderful, new places I couldn’t have conceived of before the accident.

In the weeks and months ahead, I will update this blog as things unfold. For now, I will leave you with this tongue-in-cheek thought:

Amputation truly is one quick way to lose weight fast..!