Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Happy New Year!

Crashing to the ground two days before New Year's Eve left Roger and me in no shape to party. We got ourselves dressed and out to our bridge club on Saturday night (because we hated to miss dinner with our friends) but we were ready by the nine o'clock ball drop in Times Square (12:00 am EST) to call it a night.  (It really is a wonderful thing to live three hours behind New York City, which has allowed us for many years to celebrate the new year and still get to bed at a decent hour.  I wonder if they have any idea what a great thing they do for all of us across the country!) Although we were both taking some pretty serious pain meds, we allowed ourselves a glass of wine with dinner, which was excellent. Speaking of those meds, it was obvious that they had an impact on our play. I'm never much good at keeping track of what has been played, but that night it was impossible. Even Roger was missing tricks and having trouble following the play.

Friends in town were at our home on New Year's Day, bringing black-eyed peas, ham, and sweet potatoes. We had a fine feast, Southern-style, and I, for one, was happy not to be troubled with cooking. I continued to use the crutches to get around for a couple more days, and then began to feel like I could take the weight okay on my own, so I put them away.  Roger fixed us a steak dinner one night about a week into the new year, and we opened a bottle of wine, and things began to feel a bit more normal.

Sleeping was tough, though.  I am still uncomfortable - even four weeks after the accident - and it was particularly bad in that first week or so.  Since both of us had lots of abrasions on our hips, legs and arms, we mostly had to sleep on our backs.  I have gotten used to that, but Roger had a very difficult time.  Turning over was torture for him, with the bruised ribs, fractured shoulder and other wounds.  I would hear him start to roll over and then catch his breath and groan.  (Sneezing was a special kind of hell for him, and is still painful.) For my part, it was two weeks before I could sleep on my side, and then only on my right side. I counted it as a major advance when I was first able to slowly skootch my hips over to one side, roll my knees over and stay on my side for a bit. We were thankful to have some pharmaceutical assistance during this time.  After a couple of days, I wasn't using any of the pain meds during the day, but I still took a tablet before bed.  I tried going to bed without it, but it was no use - I just could not get comfortable enough to sleep. And it's no good lying there without sleeping. Your body needs the sleep in order to heal.

By this point (tomorrow will be four weeks since the crash), Roger seems to be feeling pretty good physically. He is riding his bike again, although he has said several times that he "wasn't enjoying it" after he got home. He reports being nervous riding in the group.  I can totally appreciate that! I won't be riding for a while yet. And I am more than a little concerned about how it will be to sit on a saddle once my pelvis is healed. In the past week or so, as the bone has begun to knit, I am actually having more discomfort than I did before that time. It's like I am sitting on a pebble, or something. I have a bit of a catch in my groin with each step. I figure this is temporary, but who knows? So I am nervous. What if this remains? Am I going to be able to ride without squirming all the time?

Our bruises are finally clearing up, and most of the abrasions are healing pretty well, although some of them are still in the "scab over, fall off, blister, scab over" cycle. We got some Tegaderm patches for some of them, and they really do work great. But others, like on our knees, just are very difficult to keep covered with that film.  So they are taking the longest to heal. And of course, I had just about made it to the end of the cycle with the last tiny little bits of scabs from our first crash - just a wee spot about a quarter of an inch by one half inch in size on my ankle and my knee - when we crashed the second time and ripped them all open again. Geesh! I remember being a kid and having scraped up knees all the time - but they healed in a flash. We are too old for this sort of thing!

Psychologically, as well, we are healing - I guess - but it's harder to gauge that kind of thing. I miss being able to get out and do things like kneel down and pull a few weeds on the way to the mailbox. If I want to shower, wash my hair and dress to go out, it takes twice the time it usually would. Getting into and out of the car requires thought and some specific action. Hell, even getting into and out of bed is a bit of a process now. It's humbling. I have thought quite a bit lately about one of our friends who has MS. She gets around quite a bit, but as she has said, "I have good days and bad days. Some times I'm not too steady." Her balance and coordination affect every action she takes. Going through this period where I have to think about my motions constantly, which I assume will be temporary, I wonder what it would be like to have to deal with something like she does all the time. I appreciate the grace with which she handles it, and wonder if I could do the same.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Going out with a bang!

Some posts are just harder to write than others. This one has been tumbling around in my mind for better than a week. Remember that "tumbling around" phrase.  It will come back later in this post.

Roger and I had a wonderful visit with our daughter's family up at Lake Tahoe over the Christmas holidays. There was a fresh blanket of snow, and everyone was enjoying the food, company and beautiful outdoors. We had a chance to take the snowshoes out for a hike, and really had a good time in the quiet woods above the lake. But, Roger was feeling a bit of cabin fever, and was ready to head for home on Wednesday after Christmas. He was ready to get back to the bike, and get some exercise. (One can only take so much holiday eating and drinking!)

Nice fresh snow!
We headed out with our riding group Thursday morning on what turned out to be a gorgeous day. It was crisp and chilly but not too cold, very clear - the mountains were beautiful all around us as we rode up on the Sunset ridge road and over to Yucaipa. Since we expected a tailwind coming down San Timoteo Canyon, we decided to go all the way to the upper end of the canyon and enjoy the ride home.

It was glorious! There were another eight or ten riders with us, and the tandem was out front, pushing the way through the canyon and just sailing along.  At the upper end of the canyon, where the road is new and the gradient is the steepest, we were probably doing about 43 mph.  Behind us, I could see everyone coasting along, drafting the tandem and only barely touching their own pedals. Up front, Roger and I were pedaling like mad!  Our borrowed bike does not have gears as high as the Silver Queen, so we could still push them around and we were feeling great, so we kept the pace up.

After we passed Alessandro Road, I leaned forward and said to Roger, "I am cooked. When we hit the railroad tracks, we're going to slow it way down." That's usually when we start our cool down, as it's just a few miles from the coffee shop. We were just passing the white wooden fences at Johnny's Nursery when I heard a loud BANG! like a rifle shot. I could see Roger trying to wrestle the front end and straighten it out, and then I knew we were past the point that we could right the bike as we tilted over to the left and I shouted, "Shit!" And then we were down. Damn!
The culprit

There isn't much you can do when you have a front tire blow out at 40 mph. I didn't pay any attention to the bike, but Roger said later the tire was all wrapped up in the wheel. That's sort of what happens. What happens to the riders is that they "tumble around" and get thrown to the pavement. I ended up seated, right next to Roger, who was lying down. I shouted to call 911, and some of our friends got the bike off the road and began directing the cars around us. In a flash, several of the others were with us, helping me keep Roger steady and talking him through it. He looked pretty bad. He kept asking "what happened?" and I would say, "the front tire blew out." Then he'd close his eyes, and open them again, and ask, "what happened?" Thank God we went down when there were no cars approaching us. We ended up on the middle line, so we could have been crushed by an oncoming car.

One family in a car that stopped gave us a fleece jacket to prop Roger's head up. Our friends were great. They stayed with us and took care of the bike when the ambulance came.  I didn't think I had any issues other than the road rash, but I didn't want to leave Roger and I didn't have any other transportation so I rode with him to the ER. They took us to Loma Linda, which is the nearest trauma center. By the time I climbed out of the ambulance, I thought there was something just a bit wonky about my groin so I decided I should also be checked out.

Roger was thoroughly beat up. He had abrasions on both sides, a cut above his eyebrow, and he'd bit his cheek going down so there was blood in his mouth and all over his face when he landed. I remember thinking as we sat there: "is this it? Am I going to lose him? Does it happen like this?" To be honest, that is why I went in the ambulance with him. I did not want to let him out of my sight. They ran all the tests, and did X-rays, and eventually we learned that he had a small fracture in his shoulder, but no broken ribs. His lung was bruised, and he is still having a lot of pain. Most of the abrasions are starting to heal.
This time it was Roger's turn

Meanwhile, I thought, "well - I have already met my deductible for this year so I might as well have them check me out"!  So I hobbled over to the Triage Desk, and filled out the form, and then went into the waiting room - where I almost gasped. It was full to the brim, and I figured I would be waiting there for hours. But it turns out that when you have visible blood on you, you move up the list!  I had only been there a few moments when a woman came out and called three names, and mine was one of them.  Hurrah!

I was taken to one room, and then another, and eventually got my wounds cleaned up and dressed, and had an X-ray of my pelvis. Turns out, I fractured it. It's just a small fracture, stable, will heal on its own. After I got pretty well taken care of, they let me walk over to see Roger. He was a mess. They had stitched up his eyebrow, and were working on his wounds. He was taking fluid and was on the monitors and all that. Yuck. You could be perfectly fit and healthy and if they put you in that gown and stuck you up with tubes and hooked you up to a monitor you would just look and feel awful.

They finally decided he was "stable" and sent him over to Kaiser for the night. He didn't want to go, of course, but this time I really was in no position to do anything for him and I told him he just had to go along with it.  Our neighbors came to pick me up, and fed me, and later took me back to I could take Roger some clothes and his phone. Thank goodness for our friends!  Kevin and Mary were so nice and so helpful and since I had not had my phone with me, theirs was the only number I knew.
Don't want any more of these

The whole community has been great. Our bike was in the backyard, waiting for us when we got home. We had meals delivered for days. People have run errands for us, had us to dinner, We are so blessed to have such loving, caring friends. I don't encourage anyone to do what we did, but if you are going to have a crash, you could not pick a better place to do it!

Right before I got into the ambulance, I gave my friend Robert a hug. I told him, "there are not many things in life that are absolutely certain. But one thing I know for sure:  I will not fall off a bike again in 2016!" And that much has been true. So 2016 finished for us, nearly finishing us. Here's to a better 2017.