This is going to be a long post. Maybe I’ll split it up. I know that supposedly people get bored with more than 400-500 words spilled out in front of them and move quickly on to whatever squirrel darts in front of them at that moment.
On June 5, 2016 I had a bicycle crash. The result was a broken elbow in two places, sever hamstring strain, bruised ankle, bruised hip, sore shoulder/bicep and the mother of all injuries, a concussion complete with a gash above the left eye.
I was taking an easy ride on the local greenway to wash out the lactic acid from the previous day’s training. I hopped aboard my beloved mountain bike and cruised down the near empty trail. It was mid-morning just after a nice rain earlier in the morning. In fact it had rained off and on the previous days leaving the asphalt trail damp in places but certainly navigable.
As it happened I was cruising down a hill right before a wooden bridge that crosses over Stones River. I hit the bottom of the the bridge and increased my speed to the top where it makes a dog leg to the left. It was at that point at 15-16 mph my bike slid out from under me and I slammed onto the decking taking the full impact all down my left side. No sliding. No give. No notice. I was up. Then I was down. Bam! The bridge was as slick as ice from all the rain and constant moisture.
I’ve crashed many times. I’ve had plenty of road rash to prove it. Typically when you’re crashing you have that feeling, “well, I’m going down”. You put out your hands. You slide across the ground, hence the ever present road rash. Not this time. Just an instant full body slam.
I immediately knew my elbow was broken. As I was lying there trying to untangle myself from my bike, clipless pedals don’t you know, I realized I couldn’t see out of my left eye. I reached up to undo my helmet thinking it was covering my vision. Nope. I pulled my hand down and it was covered in blood. Great. As I struggled with one hand to get myself unclipped, a man and his son who heard the crash came back and asked if I was okay. He blessedly helped get the damn bike off of me. “Dude, you’re bleeding. Are you okay?” I told him I was and thanked him. I pulled my arm into my body as tight as I could, collected my broken sunglasses, helmet and mounted my bike with one eye closed and rode back to the car.
All I can say is thank goodness for adrenaline. I somehow made it back to the car. I dropped my bike and pulled out my phone and texted my wife. “I had a wreck. Elbow is broken. Come get me.” I opened the car and grabbed my towel and tried to get the bleeding to stop, which I did.
The first thing I knew I had to do was somehow get my new Quebec City cycling jersey off. I did not want to go to the emergency room and have them cut it off. It was at this time I was getting really dizzy. Nauseous. Seeing all kinds of double. I sat in the front seat and struggled mightily to get that jersey off and did with much grin and bear.
I remember thinking I forgot to tell Kelli to bring my glasses as I wanted to remove my contacts. But I was sitting in the front seat trying not to pass out and the phone was in the back seat. I couldn’t move.
Five minutes passed and my vision was getting really shaky. I couldn’t focus on anything. I thought maybe I should dial 911 because I am about to pass out and I’m not sure how far my wife was to me. But I realized 911 wasn’t any closer, the phone remained in the back seat and I wasn’t moving. I just tried to stick it out.
My wife and daughter came. My daughter to drive my car home and my wife to take me to the ER.
The ER was blessedly quick. I was the only one that Sunday morning. I got a room and they immediately started taking X-rays. Elbow, head, shoulder. Elbow broken in a couple places. Everything else in place. Later on I realized my wrist was hurting. X-rays were negative for that. They splashed some super glue into the cut.
As I laid there waiting on the various tests and enjoying the pain meds I realized, as well as anyone talking to me, that I was, what I called, losing words. The concussion was having its affects. They would ask what happened and I could not think of words like “bridge”. It just wasn’t there. Typical concussion.
My priest came to visit which was awesome and offer a prayer. The power of social media and my wife posting the situation on Facebook I guess.
Some tech came in and slapped a splint on my arm and after about 5 hours I was discharged. They gave me (my wife) instructions to see the ortho and neurologist in a few days.
They referred me to a local ortho group for the elbow. They referred me to Vanderbilt for the concussion. We called to confirm the appointments the next day which was Monday. I was to see the ortho the following Thursday.
The neurologist group in Vandy was happy to see me in 4 months. We called the ER and they referred me to another group who were happy to see me in 3 months. We called the ER back and they got involved and got me in to see a Murfreesboro neurologist that Wednesday. By the way, in case you have a head injury, Vandy is happy to see you if you are young and an athlete. Too bad if you are old. Check with them in 4 months.
I burned through my company sick leave quickly and was subsequently put on short term leave. It was a blessing because as you will see I used every bit of it.
The week after the wreck I pretty much slept all day. 14-15 hours was nothing. I slept through the neurologist visit. Literally. I sat down in the waiting area and fell asleep. I got back in the examination room and fell asleep before the doctor came in. Same the next day with the ortho.
Neuro was basically nothing but “the cure is rest”. Ortho x-rayed the break and I was pleased no surgery was required. They reapplied a splint on the arm and sent me on my way. Of note was how swollen the arm was. My hand was also numb.
Later in the week I kept telling my wife that my leg was hurting. She said “well, the ER doctor said you would begin to feel other areas that might have been affected.” Sure enough each day my leg hurt worse and worse. By about 10 days in, as my wife dried me off after a shower, I had to say “don’t touch the back of my leg. It really hurts.” She took a look and the leg from the back of the knee half way up was bruised. Each day the bruise got darker until it was black. Great.
We decided on physical therapy for the concussion. The next week we started various eye kinetic exercises that I continue to do to this day. She also started working on my hamstring which by this time was painful and diagnosed as a sever hamstring strain.
The issue with PT was that I couldn’t do much without getting a dizzy and increasing my ever present headache. That problem remains today, three months out.
Three weeks after the wreck I went back to the ortho doc. She removed the splint and put me in an adjustable brace. Time to start moving the thing. I was quite happy, frankly, in the splint. No pain. Not having anything support the arm was painful but once I strapped into the brace it felt okay again.
A month in and I was still sleeping like crazy. I was fatigued all the time. My body was having to repair my head, leg and elbow. It had a lot of work to do.
It was about this time I discovered what I thought was a problem with my shoulder. As mobility was coming into my arm I found I couldn’t raise my arm above shoulder level. I had another ortho visit and asked her about it and she said we’d only know with an MRI. I said I have enough to deal with right now with the elbow, head, and leg that we’ll just wait and see what happens.
Meanwhile, all systems go at PT. After two months the leg was getting better. The bruising had faded. It was good that I wasn’t able to do much physically because it gave the leg time to get better as I wasn’t on it very much.
Two months in I was still having headaches and dizziness. I had begun PT on the elbow which is less than pleasant. I also decided to get an MRI on my shoulder as it was just unbearable at this point.
Thankfully the MRI was negative for tearing. Just middle-aged fraying and inflammation. So along with the elbow we began PT on the shoulder area, which upon further work, it was determined it was not my shoulder anyway but in fact my upper bicep. Should have had an MRI on that but whatever. What’s another $175 at this point? Man this was getting expensive. Anyway, the therapist began hammering the elbow and upper bicep. Oh sweet pain.
The other problem has been stiffness in my wrist and fingers. The numbness was replaced with unbelievable stiffness. I can barely work my fingers into a fist. In the morning it takes about 20 minutes before I work the fingers into a decent fist. As I now type it is a claw. I can’t bend it forward or backward with much flexibility. It’s just too stiff.
So three months in I’m returning to work with an elbow that has limited mobility and can only lift maybe 15 pounds. Actually it’s more like hold. The upper arm reduces my arm movement up and down, with the elbow stationary of course. My wrist and fingers remain stiff beyond any understanding. And I carry a headache around with me all day, every day. The only question is how intense.
The only real activity I have done in three months is PT. Unfortunately I still cannot exert myself more than 5-10 minutes without getting dizzy. When I leave PT my brain just shuts down. My wife notes that I am non-stop yawns to home upon which I go straight to bed for a couple hours sleep. By the end of the week the headaches are worse. I have no idea how I am going to deal with an eight hour day.
More to come…