Monday, May 29, 2006

The crash

I had my first serious bike crash on Saturday. I spent nine hours in the hospital, stoned out of my mind on morphine to ease the pain of a fractured shoulder and a skinned thigh.

I’m at home now. Still in a lot of pain but feeling better. If I balance the keyboard on my lap and tilt it so it rests at a 45 degree angle against the edge of the desk, I can (sort of) type with both hands without hurting my shoulder too much.

The accident happened really quickly. I was racing in a triathlon and had just finished the swim. I hopped out of the pool, strapped on my helmet and jumped on my bike. I wanted to win and so I wasn’t paying as careful attention to the road as I should have been.

About two minutes into the bike ride, I was flying down a short, steep hill. There was a sharp curve in the road ahead. I was approaching the turn too fast. It had been raining earlier in the morning and the road was slipperier than I thought.

As soon I touched the brakes, the rear wheel instantly skidded out from underneath me. I had no time to react. I landed violently on my left side and slid about 15 metres across the road. My left arm was yanked out from underneath me and I felt a pop and heard a snap.

I remember thinking, "Oh no. This is bad" as I was skidding across the road. I don’t remember feeling any pain. Not even when I heard the bone snap.

I came to a stop when my bike hit the curb. Luckily, there were no cars on the road or any other cyclists right behind me. It would have been a lot worse if I had started a Tour de France pileup.

I crawled out from underneath my bike and sat up on the sidewalk. I must have been in shock because nothing hurt too badly. My left arm was numb. I didn’t even realize my leg had been shredded until I looked down and saw blood. My bike barely had a scratch on it.

By the time the ambulance arrived, the shock had started to wear off and the pain in my arm was becoming more intense. Because there was a crack in my helmet, they assumed my head took some of the impact so they put me on a spinal board and tried to put a collar around my neck. But I suddenly felt claustrophobic and tried to rip the collar off my neck. I started panicking and they gave me laughing gas but this only made my anxiety worse. I bargained with them. I promised not to move my head or my neck if they didn’t put the collar on me. They agreed. Probably because they were wasting too much time fighting with me instead of loading me into the ambulance.

The rest is a bit of a blur. Shortly after I arrived at the hospital, a nice Australian nurse named Simon put me on an IV and started pumping me full of opiates.

The morphine didn’t take the pain away. It just made me not care about the pain. It was like being drunk, but better. Simon would come by and ask, "Do you want me to top you up with some morphine?" I would just smile and nod. Simon confessed that he had a soft spot for me. I remember feeling really content.

Because the doctor suspected a possible spinal injury, I wasn’t allowed to move my head or my neck. This meant that I had to pee while lying down in bed. Maybe it was the morphine (or just because I am lazy) but I found the experience of peeing into a pan rather enjoyable.

It’s so convenient and easy. The nurse just slides the pan under your bottom, closes the curtain and you just pee. You don’t even have to sit up. After the results of the CT scan showed that I didn’t have a spinal injury, Simon told me it was okay to get up and walk to the bathroom but I told him I wanted to keep using the bedpan. I’m seriously considering buying one for my apartment. It would be great for long movies.

During my nine-hour hospital stay, I only cried twice. Both times when I was being X-rayed and they had to move my arm around. The pain was excruciating. I may have screamed. Simon kissed his fingertips and pressed them against my forehead. "We’ll get you some morphine as soon as we’re done with this."

I didn’t even cry when Simon used a brush to scrub the dirt and tar out of my leg.

I had a lot of visitors at the hospital but only my friends Annelle and John stayed with me the entire time. Annelle spent the night with me at my place. She helped me get dressed and undressed. She put my hair in a ponytail. She made me dinner. She sympathized as I vomited (the morphine made me sick). She took me grocery shopping on Sunday. If there anything positive about my crash, it is that it has deepened my friendship with my best friend. I don’t even care how cheesy that sounds!

I’ve been touched by how many people have been calling and emailing and stopping by. My friend Jason came over tonight to wash my dishes. I also made him put my hair in a ponytail but it took him five tries before he got it right.

It’s frustrating being temporarily right-handed. Brushing my teeth, eating soup, taking a shower -- everything is challenging. There are certain things that are impossible to do with one hand. I can’t floss my teeth. I can’t do the dishes. I can’t put my hair up. I pretty much can't move my left arm at all.

I’m bummed out about having a fractured shoulder at the start of summer. I won’t be swimming or biking for a while. I probably won’t be blogging much either. Or at least until the pain subsides a bit. It took me the entire day to write this post and my arm is throbbing from the effort.

The good news is that the bone will heal within four to six weeks and I don’t need surgery. So I’m trying to stay positive. When I start to feel depressed, I try to remind myself that it could have been a lot worse and this fracture is only a temporary setback.

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