Part 1: Afraid of Nothin'
For my entire life, as long as I remember, I was risk taker. As a kid, I was curious about everything. I was fascinated by things that were dangerous. I quit counting stitches at 172, which was 30 years ago.
When I ski, I view blue runs as a necessary evil to get to the good terrain, which is steep, deep and bumpy. I mountain bike the same way. I look for gnarly trails to hone my skills and get my blood pumping. I like speeding along winding and rocky trails between trees that are just a few feet apart.
Although I have run some road races, I have become exclusively a trail racer. I like running over the same gnarly terrain that I mountain bike.
I often to push to the edge. Then just a wee bit beyond. How do you know you have reached the edge if you don't push? As a result, I have had some spectacular crashes. I have determined that I don't feel pain the way most people feel pain. I can turn off pain. If I have a little warning, I can decide not to feel pain. Which, I think, makes me a little less cautious than I maybe I should be.
Part 2: Uncharacteristically Cautious
I only throw caution to the wind, when I am in total control. I don't walk against the "don't walk" signal when crossing a road. I am a very courteous driver and let other cars in or out in heavy traffic. Although I get an occasional speeding ticket, in over 40 years of driving I have never caused an accident. I have only been hit twice and both times it was not my fault.
I also ride my street motorcycle and road bicycles with utmost caution. So what happened on May 22nd 2013 at 7:05pm took me by surprise. I was pedaling my Specialized Allen easily along the Cherry Creek Bike Path in Denver, Colorado, on a beautiful spring evening. I was averaging an easy 15 mph. I was on a section of the path that runs along 1st Avenue. There were no bikes in front of me. This section of the path is slightly downhill. I picked-up a little speed and hit 20 mph.
I approached the entrance of the Denver Country Club. I had the green light. I quickly checked for cars exiting the Country Club. There were none. There were no cars signaling to turn into the Country Club. I have been there before. I knew I would clear the intersection in a few seconds.
Little did I know that my life would be changed in less than 9/10ths of a second. Without warning, a speeding Toyota Forerunner made a ragged and unexpected right turn off of 1st Avenue onto the Denver Country Club driveway. The distracted driver saw me and hesitated. She then gunned the engine and drove directly across the bike path. Later she said, "I thought I could beat you". As soon as she started across the bike path, I knew there was nothing I could do to avoid a collision.
I had already reached for my brakes when I saw her turn off of 1st Avenue. Given reaction time and braking distance, it takes 36 to 42 feet to stop a bike traveling at 18 to 21 mph. I had less that 12 feet to stop when she pulled in front of me. I watched a massive wall of silver sheet metal loom directly in front of me. Although it seemed to take forever, I had less than 1/3 of a second after she accelerated her car into my path before I got clobbered.
I had turned as much as I could toward the rear part of her car. However, 4 feet of her massive car had not even begun to cross the bike path. I saw I was going to strike her rear tire. I closed my eyes and relaxed.
As I struck the Forerunner there was tremendous noise, but no pain. Due to the Forerunner's speed, I was catapulted off my bike and struck my right side first. All subsequent chronic injuries are on my right side. I felt my neck being twisted and knocked backwards over my left shoulder. Mostly it was just noisy, like somebody hitting a metal trash can with a bat, over and over again. I suppose it should have hurt. But I decided It wasn't going to hurt.
Here is my first blog about this incident:
In retrospect, I needed an ambulance and the Denver Police. But I didn't have a cell phone. The at-fault driver, or the Country Club security guard, made no offer to call the authorities.
I had a serious concussion and was not thinking straight. It was getting dark and I wanted to get back to my office to park my bike before the sun set. I was bleeding, battered and bruised but was not feeling any pain. So how bad could it be?
Part 3: How Bad Could it Be?
Well, it was a lot worse than anyone, including me, expected. It took me a couple weeks to go to the doctor because I thought I could just tough it out. I then went through eight weeks of formal physical therapy.
Unfortunately, the physical therapy was a temporary "fix". What had really happened is that I figured out ways to not aggravate my injuries. My unconscious way of dealing with my injuries flew out the window when football season started. I officiate high school football. When I took the field, I had to move in ways that showed me I was really banged-up.
I started falling apart!
Part 3a: Severe Neck Trauma
For lack of a better word, the doctor's are calling my neck injury severe "whiplash". However, my neck damage is impact trauma. My neck is torn-up pretty badly. I am currently undergoing Cervical Epidural Steroid Injections for pain management.
Here is a link to a video off the procedure. This is pretty gruesome so don't look at this if you are squeamish. The only difference between this video and me is that I don't need any local anesthesia. I just decide not to feel any pain.
My neck is pretty torn-up so this is just to manage the pain while I getting other things fixed. There is some ligament damage in my neck that may need surgery.
Part 3b: Right Eye Damage
I am not going to show a photo of my right eye damage because it is too gross. There is a gooey substance in your eye called vitreous gel. This gel is in a membrane that is supposed to be attached to the retina. In my case, this sack of gel in my right eye slammed forward during the impact with the Forerunner and tore my retina. I have been seeing little spots in my right eye, which are red blood cells because my retina was bleeding. An eye surgeon sealed the tear with a laser. I am now seeing a lot fewer spots. There may be follow-up procedures that amounts to sticking a needle in my eye.
Part 3c: Torn Right Rotator Cuff
I am not too worried about this one because I can still use my arm. The right rotator cuff was torn during my tumble from the roof of the Forerunner. I fell about 8 feet at an odd angle after bouncing like a rag doll off the right-hand side luggage rail. That is why it felt like I fell forever.
Part 3d: Big Hurt - Right Ankle
Here is a big surprise. My right ankle is toast! Here is what my ankle looked like a day after the accident:
This is pretty swollen and it turned all purple and ugly a few days later. I spent eight weeks in physical therapy trying to rehabilitate ankle that was hopelessly ripped apart.
The Superior Peroneal Retinaculum is completely ripped apart. My Peroneus Longus tendon is also torn.
What's that mean? It means my foot rolls over on the little toe and has no stability. It flops around like a fish if I am not really careful.
Pretty much all ligaments on the right side of my right foot are completely torn apart.
My orthopedic surgeon told me that this much damage is very unusual and takes a lot of force from a lot of different directions to destroy so many different tendons and ligaments. He told me he saw this level of damage only a few times. Somehow, that is not comforting.
After I rode away from the scene of the accident, I stopped after pedaling a few 100 yards. I clicked out of my right pedal and put my right foot down. My ankle completely rolled over and I fell down. I had the distinct impression that my right foot was no longer attached to me.
I am going in for surgery this Wednesday, January 29th, to have all these ligaments and tendons put back together. I will be in cast for 6 weeks. Then if everything is healing OK, I will be in a walking boot for 4 weeks. I then will spend 8 to 10 weeks in physical therapy. This time, I will have a hope to rehabilitate the foot.
Part 4: Scared
I am really scared.
I can live with pain. I am not afraid of pain. I am not even afraid of being banged up. I have made adjustments. Well, to be honest, the bleeding in my right eye is disconcerting. But I can ignore that.
I am really afraid of being useless. I cannot imaging anything worse.
Thanks for reading my blog.