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The Big Crash

Posted by on September 13, 2015

Going to write this up here so I can stop repeating it so many times.

I crashed…. Hard. I almost got run over by a truck and had my melon popped. This didn’t happen, but it was not a crash I was able to walk away from with just road rash. I couldn’t even walk afterwards.

So it was Friday the 4th, but really it starts on Thursday the 3rd.

I had an operational maintenance that night, starting at 11pm. The remote hands were slower than any I’ve ever worked with, and happened to cause a secondary issue that I had to spend more time fixing than the actual maintenance. I finally completed maintenance at 6:30am — 7 1/2 hours later, which was about the time the rest of my team was just getting started in Ottawa.

My team lead told me to take the day off, not that I was going to ask — I was fully 24 hours awake and I’d do no good thinking without some rest.

I rolled into bed around 7:15am, and slept until about noon. Had lunch with my wife and daughter, and was going to go roll out and do a double Arlington Loop, just so I could get some more mileage in my new saddle before the Amish Country Bike Ride on the 12th of September.

I put on my team kit since I was going out during the day and might see a lot of people and wanted to represent the team. I grabbed a full two water bottles, put 3 gels in my back pocket and set out.

I made my normal route out going towards the W&OD Trail — a route that I’ve ridden probably 500 times. I turned onto Graham Rd, then onto Terry Lane, then left onto Wallace Drive.

I’m on Wallace Drive for less than 750 feet. There’s a slight climb up from Terry Lane, then a small decent into the turn from Wallace onto Jefferson Ave. At the top of the hill, it’s possible to start lining up the right hand turn, and pretty much until the last 75 feet, you can see the entirety of the turn, except that there’s a tree not in the apex, but further down the turn.

So, I look down the street – no one’s coming. There’s a car parked after the driveway, but that won’t be an issue. The Pho powered SRX is where it normally is. Nothing else looked out of the ordinary — I did not see any moving vehicles. Pretty much I’m 30 feet from the intersection.

As line up the turn I pick my line and then realize that will put me into a but of a pothole in the road, so I adjust, and then look up.

And I see what so far has been one of the biggest surprises in my life — A big huge pick up truck is now there in the road.

And then I make Cat5 rookie mistake #1 – I grabbed my rear brake. Which set in motion the rest of the story.

So with increased brake pressure caused the friction to be too much for my rear tire which slid out from underneath me. And at the speed I was riding, there was no recorrecting that slide. As I hit the ground my first thought was “Crap, in my team bibs as well.” But then the crash started to get fun.

My momentum in my slide took my back wheel into the trucks front left tire, which then started me to spin in the opposite direction, and when my eyes opened from bracing for the impact, I was staring at the truck’s undercarriage, with the dualies right in front of my face. I then spun my best out from under the truck without thinking, and by the time I stopped moving I was laying on my left hip pulling my bike out from under his truck.

The second most painful thing I ever tried to do occurred next: I tried to stand up. Having failed, I then tried to drag myself over to the curb to be out of the flow of traffic in the road.

The driver got out and tried to help me, but his broken english wasn’t decipherable through adrenaline pounding ears. It was pure adrenaline and pain I was in, laying on my left side, with the curb jutting into me just under my rib cage. Another gentleman arrived asking if I had called 911 and if I was ok. I still hadn’t been able to grab my phone out of my jersey pocket until just after the barrage of questions. I first called Becky and delivered the bad news. A woman arrived and offered me a drink from my water bottle.

I told the gentleman that my wife was less than a quarter mile away and we would see if I could get into the truck first before calling 911. Another person arrived and people were trying to put together what happened.

And really, it wasn’t anyone’s fault.

The truck driver was backing out from a driveway completely concealed from my view by the tree near the corner. I didn’t see him, nor was he able to see me. I wanted the people there to make sure to place no blame on the driver, who was pretty upset at the string of events as it was, Becky would tell me later.

Becky quickly arrived and was doing her best not to be a jumbled mess, as she always worries about me when I go on my rides. She grabbed my bike, which was out of my sight until now. I was just able to briefly see some damage on it — right side bar end was gone, and the handlebar tape was ripped. When she came back to me, I started the most painful thing I ever have tried to do: Roll Over and Sit Up.

I made it onto my butt with only a slight jarring of pain, but when I tried to then stand up, it was all I could do to not pass out from the pain. At that point in time the gentleman called 911.

Also very quickly, an Ambulance arrived and the paramedics had some troubles getting me onto the stretcher. The road was angled just the wrong way, and so I would have to at least try and help, and the pain was bad, but I’d classify it now as the 3rd most painful thing I had done all day. I layed on my left hip while on the stretcher.

In the ambulance I gave them the information they needed, because I always ride with my drivers license, health insurance card, and debit card just in case I need cash. I hadn’t any cash today, but I wasn’t expecting to need that anyways. The paramedic got a main line put into my arm, and gave me a shot of fentanyl before we left for the Hospital.

I was very cognizant of what we were doing – giving the driver some alternatives for getting to route 50 and then to Inova. It took about 8 minutes to get to the hospital, and as we arrived I received a second dose of fentanyl because the paramedic knew it would be at least 30 minutes before the hospital would be able to really attend to me. The paramedic team was very professional and kept me at ease throughout the trip.

Once at Inova, I had to be transferred from the stretcher to the hospital gurney, which was quite painful — guessing the fentanyl was wearing off. Lots of questions, and eventually a dose of morphine was administered… Which did nothing. More questions, and then waiting for transport for X-Rays. Also at some point in time, my bib shorts got carved off my frame. Part of them had adhered to my right hip, because no one cared a bit about the road rash that was causing me to stick to everything, and they cut off the rest. I made Becky keep them for some bizarre reason.

Road Rash

Road Rash

I eventually went off for 9 Xrays, 5 of my right knee, and 4 of my hip. And yet more pain; the morphine had worn off, so we moved up to dilaudid. Then I went for a CT scan. The folks there had to move me onto their apparatus, and when I mentioned possible broken hip, three people quickly became eight. Though painful for the transition to and from, they were very aware to keep my hip from getting jostled.

Every time I came back from somewhere else, Charlotte would cheer me “Way to go Daddy!” as if I had accomplished something. It helped to keep the spirits up.

I was finally seen by the attending ER physician, who told me I might have a broken pelvis at my hip joint – acetabulum is the right word and that I might need surgery and probably a pin in my knee.

Now up until this time, I hadn’t done anything I hadn’t done before… I’ve ridden in an ambulance, had Xrays, had CT scans, had a main line and pain medication administered, but now we were going to start moving into the realm of First Times.

Of course, I didn’t want any of these first times. A pin in my knee? How freaking painful would that be? Possibly need surgery? How about we avoid that too, I’ve never had surgery before.

By this time the dilaudid was wearing off and I had asked for more, which meant I would go off for more hip x-rays before I got pain medication. And they needed to put plates underneath my hips, and needed my hips to align, and needed me to roll over and put my hip just *this* way… All without pain medication. Woof, that really sucked.

When I got back, Becky had left to go take Charlotte to spend the night with her godparents, Uncle Scott and Aunt Ruby, who by sheer luck had just come back from working a week in NYC and even though he didn’t recognize the caller id on his cell phone (Becky’s number had changed when she got her new phone this year), and he gets tons of cold sales calls because of his position, he answered Becky’s call.

However, the attending was there waiting for me, ready to do the thing I had feared most in the world – putting a pin in my knee. Worst thing why? I knew it would not be general anesthesia and I would be completely conscious for the entire event.

I have what I describe to people as “an aversion to my own blood, and to seeing the wounds and pain of others.” I tend to empathize and expand upon what I think is happening. One July 4th when we were living in Texas, we were having a party. And we threw a really good July 4th party. Our house was in Cedar Park, north west of Austin, but also happened to be 2 blocks from where Cedar Park launched it’s city firework display. So we would invite our friends and family and coworkers over. We’d start in the backyard, cooking out, and then migrate to the front yard to watch the firework display the city executed, then move back to the back yard to watch as the neighborhood then out did the City’s fireworks display, because in Texas, you can buy anything but M80s and quarter sticks, but only two weeks before July 4th, and two weeks before New Years Eve.

I had a stack of really good frozen burgers (at the quantity of people we had over, we didn’t have the space to make Becky’s onion soup mix burgers) that I was putting on the grill, in addition to the hot dogs and baked beans we were also doing. The burger flipper we procured from Home Depot came with a really nice serrated edge, in case you needed to cut something while it was on the grill, but it also worked well for getting frozen burgers apart. Until that frozen burger becomes your thumb.

So yea, I sliced a really nice gash into my left thumb (scar still there if you want to see it), and as I tried to do clean it in our bathroom, I almost fainted. Scott had to doctor it for me, less I really faint and make things worse. My friend Chris’ father kept the grill going for me.

But to summarize, the nurse told me they call that a “vasovagal” response, triggered by the anticipation or imagining of pain.

So I told the attending about this. And I don’t think it made much of a difference. He gave me a shot into the left side of my left, which wasn’t bad UNTIL THE NEEDLE WENT INTO MY BONE! And then a SECOND ONE on the other side! Just the shots were as painful as my bike wreck. I prayed he was done.

Then he started drilling into my leg. Muscle and then BONE! I couldn’t see what he was doing, but it smelt bad, and felt bad, and there was less pain than the shot but the disconcerting pulling and bone vibrations almost made me pass out. And again, he repeated this on the right side of my leg. So I thought:

That was the worst pain you will experience today.

Then, to just make things a little more uncomfortable than they already were, he attached a 20 lb bag of water to the pins, and then lowered that over the front end of the gurney, you know, to pull on my knee and make me hurt more… Or to pull on my knee and pull my femur away from the socket.

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What he explained to me, after I got some more pain medication, was that the landing of the crash had pushed my femur up into my hip socket so hard that it pushed thru into the socket and fractured the bones in the socket, and that they needed to pull the femur out of the socket to get it back to alignment, and to save the ligaments.

He also explained to me that I would not be having surgery that night and that they would admit me overnight, because the hip specialist was coming on call saturday morning and would need to look at my xrays and ct scan to make the decision for surgery. He thought it was probable that I would have surgery, but it would wait until tomorrow.

Becky arrived a little later, and I tried to bring her up to speed. She thought the pin in my knee was cool. I just shook my head.

A tech showed up to take an Xray of my shoulder with a mobile unit. Huh? Why didn’t we just use this thing earler? But because my right shoulder was becoming more and more painful, it was a good thing to make sure I didn’t do something to my socket or rotator cuff.

And again the pain medication was wearing off, so what do we do? Move Pete! They took me up to my room, and with the 8 people transferring me from gurney to bed, I think I only screamed in pain for 20 seconds.

After finally getting the dilaudid in my system I was finally able to get some comfort. Nurses were in and out for the next couple of hours, asking me what my pain level was, giving me other medications, and I was able to get some dinner but was warned; no water or anything after midnight — I guess going into surgery is akin to being a Mogwai. Around 11pm Becky went home to sleep so she could be awake and cognizant in the morning. The surgeon would come on call at 6am, so that would be the earliest that I would conceivably go in for surgery. 5 hours of sleep at home would be better than 6 hours of interrupted unconsciousness in an uncomfortable hospital couch.

I slept from about 1am to 5am, saying a prayer and thanking God for all the things in my life, and that though this had to happen, that he was on my side and had everything else lined up.

By 5am the morning ritual started — tech checked blood pressure / temperature / blood O2 content. Nurse shift change happened around 6am. Becky’s arrival in the morning brightened things up, but I was still afraid. We held hands and talked a bit, and waited. And finally, with a very parched throat, I was wheeled down to pre-op at 10am.

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In pre-op it was a party. Well, at least there were more people there. Trying to distract myself from the pain, I let my ears wander, which made me a little ill — someone there for a few bullet wounds, someone else with complications from another surgery where they had his entire intestines out. When the pre-op instructions started coming, I was quite happy to meet and talk with the anaesthetist and listen intently on what he was saying. Then the nurse came over and Becky got to sign which leg they were going to do the surgery on.

We were just a bit shocked when the surgeon showed up. Well maybe not Becky so much, but the surgeon was the same doctor that saw and set Charlotte’s arm when she had her buckle fracture from falling off the playground. Among his first few sentences to us were that “Now I’ve seen two of your family, this is the last time I want to see you all,” with a sly grin. He autographed my knee while no one else was looking, and explained in fuller detail the what he would be doing it and why it was necessary. Primarily the risk of permanent arthritis. And it would shorten the recovery time frame as well. And if I really ever wanted to get back to bike racing competitively, this truly would be the only way.

As they were getting ready to wheel me off, neither Becky nor the nurse could remember if they saw the surgeon sign my knee, which he had to be found to come back and show where he had signed.

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The anaesthetist showed up to take me into the operating room, and within 20 seconds of him administering the anesthetic, I was out and off by 11am.

One of the things I feared with regards to the surgery was what would I dream about? Would there be nightmares? “Oh you won’t remember anything…” and Becky again was right. It was just a short blackout between the drugs taking affect to me opening my eyes again. It felt like 30 seconds at most. But when I did wake up, it was pure unadulterated pain I was in. I think I got the words “Owwwww. I’m in a lot of pain” past my lips long enough before I blacked out again. When I woke up again, the pain was duller, but now I noticed my brain was as well.

I spent the next 30 minutes trying to figure out where the heck I was. Like a numb leg, my brain started to come back to me in bits. Eventually I realized I was in a hospital. I still wasn’t sure why I was there or what I was doing. It wasn’t until the nurse wheeled me up into room 816 that my life finally came back into place and I remembered much. I still couldn’t concentrate for more than a few seconds, but I did realize the pin was indeed out of my leg and that I wouldn’t have to endure the removal of that while I was conscious.

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While I was out, Becky retrieved Charlotte from Uncle Scott and Aunt Ruby’s house, and they were waiting for me. Pretty much the best thing in the world to ever happen to me was having them there.

I got taken down for a few more Xrays and a CT scan, and the Nurse eventually let me see the Xrays.

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I emailed the Veloworks team to let them know we needed to get a second bike sponsor as now the majority of the team had so much titanium in us someone like Seven Cycles would be a good fit for us.

So pretty much the prognosis is as follows:

  • No weight on my right leg for 6 weeks
  • No getting back on the bike for 6 months
  • I might be able to get back to form in 12 months.

The rest of the week is just one of recovery — I will never again question why it might take someone a week or two to recovery from surgery — the anesthesia and everything else that goes along with just the surgery itself is amazingly taxing on the body.

And with all the “what ifs” and “could haves”, I’m happy with that. It’s not like I haven’t done something like this before, you know, set out a 12 month plan and kick its ass. Being in shape going into the accident was one of the best things that I had going for me. Plus having a Level 1 Trauma Center just 5 miles from the house isn’t a bad thing either. Then having the surgeon whose primary specialty is my specific fracture and has submitted articles and textbook chapters on this surgery is another.

And I’ve got one of the best nurses (well maybe she’s not a nurse) and little nurse to help me through things at home for the next few months.

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