My Screwed Up Summer
Note the direction of travel.
Funny how dramatically life can change in an instant. One moment I'm having what feels like the best bike ride of the summer and the next I'm sprawled in the dirt and gravel, still clutching my grips, with a broken collarbone, three broken ribs and a punctured lung, accompanied by some classic road rash. Of course I didn't have that instant diagnosis upon impact, I just knew that I had royally screwed myself up. Or as my role model Oliver Hardy used to say, "here's another fine mess you've gotten us into".
Everyone breathlessly asks, "what happened?", as if there's some dramatic tale to accompany my trauma. As usual, it's pretty mundane. I'm riding a semi-rough gravel road down from Fawn Peak west of my house, going just under 20 mph, when I swerve slightly to avoid a pothole. Problem is, I didn't completely go around the pothole and my front wheel slipped down into it, cranked itself 90 degrees to the right, and over I went, slamming down on my left shoulder and sliding across the rocks for about fifteen feet.
Once I had gathered myself I could tell that the impact had fractured my collarbone and that it was overlapping itself. I despise being tethered to the outside world when I'm recreating so I tend to leave my cell phone at the house, but for some unknown reason on that auspicious day I brought it with me for the first time all spring. There was no way I was going to easily make the five miles or so back to the house. Fortunately, my phone had a signal and I was able to call Katie.
"Why are you bothering me?" Her usual affectionate greeting when she knows it's me.
"Well... I wrecked my bike and broke my collarbone."
We worked out that she would drive the truck to the top of Archibald Loop where I would meet her. I was still about 1.5 miles from Archibald and I knew she would never find me where I was hunched pathetically by the side of the road. But, it was downhill from there to the Archibald junction and I figured I could coast downhill one-handed and walk the remaining 2-300 yards to the top of the loop. That's the kind of clear-headed thinking we're prone to when we're injured and shocky, yet still in that independent, masculine frame of mind. I managed to get it done, though, and I arrived at our meeting place well ahead of Katie. Pretty soon she drove up, I lifted the bike into the back of the truck with one arm and we headed down.
Long story, short, once I was in the St. Pat's emergency room and got some x-rays it was determined that I not only had broken my collarbone, but had compounded matters by fracturing three ribs and puncturing my left lung. After a lifetime of avoiding traumatic injury I was efficient enough to combine multiple traumas into one incident. Why play around and waste a golden opportunity? When they wheeled me into the trauma room there were about ten masked and gowned medical professionals in attendance. My first thought was it was a class of some sort but when Katie inquired about all the bodies she was informed that there was concern my lung might collapse. I wasn't sure if that was reassuring or not, but when they started to file out one by one I assumed that I wasn't in any immediate danger of going Code Red and I started to relax.
That was June 30. Nine days later I had the collarbone surgically repaired with a plate and six screws. I spent two months with my arm in a sling, unable to fish, camp, ride my bike, finish my bathroom tile project, get firewood, mow the damn lawn or do anything that might stress my clavicle. Now THAT was an exercise in patience and humility. My one claim to glory is that I discovered I am able to mop floors one-handed. Small victories, no matter how pitiful, are still victories.
My surgeon, Dr. Wright (great guy, whom I heartily endorse), released me from my sling on August 29 on the condition that I stay off my bike.
"Can I fish?"
"Do you cast with your right arm?"
"I don't see a problem."
"My only concern is if I were to slip and fall while I'm wading."
Yet another one of those significant pauses.
"Maybe you'd better not fish."
Mulling it over on the way home, I decided the best interpretation of that exchange was that I could fish, I just damn well better not fall.
August 30. I'm standing in a stream with a fly rod in my hand.
I haven't fallen yet.