[Warning – this is a bit graphic]
Over the years I have been incredibly fortunate to have been able to cycle many thousands of miles and stay pretty much on my bicycle. Sure over the years I have fallen off a mountain bike, but it has always been my fault, often a combination of too much speed and not quite enough talent in the dirt.
On the road though I have been either very lucky, or very observant, managing to avoid a road-crash for at least the last thirty years. I think that the last time I fell off my road bike was back when I taking my O-Levels.
Now I have a Titanium plate holding my collarbone together.
This is the story the crash and of my recovery so far…
Let me rewind.
Friday August 1st 2104
At just a few minutes before One PM, I rode my bicycle onto a large roundabout, ahead of a number of cars, indicating with my right arm that I was turning right. I sprinted the first few tens of yards, standing up and accelerating quickly, passing the first exit still ahead of the cars. As I reached my ‘high spin’ speed – about 15-17mph, I sat back in the saddle and started to turn to follow the roundabout, intending to take the third exit.
For a very, very brief moment, I was aware that there was a car trying to overtake me on the roundabout. This was between the first and second exits, on the corner of all places.
I consciously gave the car a little extra space, maybe 15cm (6inches) and changed my line enough to not get hit. I will not share my thoughts on how I viewed this move, but trust me, I was not only not impressed, I was not surprised either.
The next moments I see in slow motion virtually every night as I attempt to sleep.
The driver did manage to get his nose ahead of me, but as he was still alongside, maybe fractionally in front, he turned into me, in an insane attempt to take the exit that we were pretty much already alongside.
The next moments are a bit of a blur, I remember grabbing the brakes and trying to avoid it, but had no space at all. I collided with the car, with my front wheel hitting the car just a few inches from the leading edge of the passenger door. The noise was that of car vs human, a ‘whump’ that is horribly sickening. At this point I was merely a passenger, riding the outcome and hoping that it was not going to hurt much more.
The passenger door window exploded inwards showering a young child in the passenger seat with granulated glass. The door mirror mashed my right hand that was trying to control my braking, turning the bike even harder into the side of the car and applying the (front) brake really hard.
I cut the inside of my arm on the glass, or maybe the mirror, I’m not sure.
I lost my footing on the pedals, my big toe got lacerated on the left pedal and the right pedal mashed into my right shin. The left pedal, then took a second chunk out of my left foot as a sort of insane encore.
Then suddenly I was taking a trip over the front corner of the car. Still holding on to my bike for dear life it would seem.
I landed heavily, entangled with my bike, on my left shoulder and my helmeted head.
At some point I probably put my right hand down as there was substantial gravel embedded in my palm afterwards, plus my poor left foot. Somehow both knees, left thigh, left shoulder and my bottom all gained gravel rash.
Perhaps I rolled, I am not sure.
I ended up in front of the car lying on my right had side still entangled with my bike. The car had by now, thankfully stopped. I pushed myself up to a sitting position and yelled ‘That F**KING HURT’ at the driver. it was the only thing I could think of saying at the time. It was the truth, everything was hurting, I could feel myself descending into shock.
I tried to get up, but fell back down onto my bum, so I did a quick ‘systems check’. My legs, although bruised and skinned in places seemed fine, my right hand was hurting from bruised fingers and gravel in my palm, my right arm was bleeding and battered, but nothing felt broken. My left side was another matter. My shoulder was in agony and the muscles spasming. I realised at that point that either my shoulder was dislocated, or my collarbone broken.
I knew that this was bad, but I also knew that I had to move, I was lying in the middle of a busy roundabout. My phone was on the road next to me, I picked it up and pocketed it. Then, somehow I managed to pick myself and my bike up and move to the side of the road.
I pulled my phone back out of my pocket and took photos, just in case I needed them.
The drivers’ first words ?
‘Sorry, I did not see you’.
He did not once ask how I was.
A couple of people saw the crash and they gave me their details, The driver changed his story to ‘I thought you were turning’ over the course of the next few minutes.
The driver gave me his details and I took photos of his licence and his address and his face and the car and my foot and I went off to hospital. At this point I was on the edge of passing out due to the pain from my shoulder.
A&E confirmed that I had broken my collarbone, gave me a sling, prescribed me some drugs, bandaged my wounds, scrubbed the gravel out of my palm – which is insanely painful, and told me to come back on Monday. I did not black out, but it was very close.
Sunday August 3rd
As this is an injury crash, I needed to fill out a Police report T28. This was done today, the WPC that took my details told me that there has been quite a few accidents on that roundabout.
The driver is apparently not the car owner. Although the owner shares a surname. The driver is also not a named driver on the car owners insurance policy.
hmmm, this might get messy.
My bike looks like it took a beating, the front wheel is bent, the carbon forks are probably toast, the seat is ripped, the bar tape rashed, the levers and pedals rashed, the QR levers rashed and there is some paint missing in places. I am not sure if the frame is still straight, I need to get it to a bike shop at some point.
My shorts are toast, my teeshirt wrecked and my phone is scratched to hell too. Oh and my helmet is wrecked there are graphic signs of the impact on the back, it is to be kept though, I feel that it saved my life. I’ll never were it again, obviously.
Monday August 4th 2014
Took a trip to the fracture clinic. After waiting for a long time I saw a consultant, he was of the opinion that the fracture should heal without intervention. He suggested Ibuprofen to help me sleep, but also suggested that I come back in a week for a re-assessment and a new set of X-Rays. I got a new foamy sling, this is a lot more comfortable than the triangle.
Thursday August 7th 2014
The driver sent me a text message with his insurance details at 9:23AM. I had previously sent him a text telling him that I have a broken collarbone. Then several, ‘please stop ignoring me’ txt messages and I had left him a couple of voicemails too. He did not ask me how I was.
Pain is close to unbearable most of the time, Paracetamol, Codine, Ibuprofen all pressed into service.
I can feel the bone floating and occasionally the pieces rub together. This is utterly unbearable when it happens.
I spoke with a bicycling accident specialist solicitor. I have employed them to help me with the claim.
Another quick check of the bike shows quite a bit of damage. I really do not want to deal with this on my own.
Monday August 11th 2014
After a large wait at the fracture clinic, new X-Rays show that the bone is still separated. So the suggestion is that I need surgery to fix it properly. This will involved a general anaesthetic and pieces of Titanium and probably a lot of pain too.
I am not entirely sure how I feel about this. On one hand I understand that this will stop the extreme pain that I am in, on the other hand I will have to go through the operation, physical therapy, maybe a removal operation later and all that entails.
The operation should happen this week.
I expect to get a call later in the week confirming the detail.
Tuesday August 12th.
I am on the list for Thursday morning, I will get a call on Wednesday evening telling me where and when to turn up.
I am scared. But I hope that this will help the recovery process.
Wednesday August 13th.
I have to be on the ward at 7:30 tomorrow. I should be home tomorrow night.
Thursday August 14th.
Surgery day. At 11:12 they took me down to the theatre, I watched the clock right up to the moment I was out 11:18.
I woke up at 14:20 in the recovery area. I was out for three whole hours. It was incredibly cold. For a moment I wondered if I was in the morgue. I had been dreaming about a picnic. My shoulder was on fire, but I was freezing cold.. The nurse was offering me morphine, I wanted a blanket first. I got both. 6 or 8mls of Morphine and a nice warm blanket. The pain subsided.
I was back on the ward shortly afterwards.
The decision was taken that I would stay the night. This was not my choice, I wanted to go home and sleep. But given that I was just barely able to shuffle to the bathroom and back without feeling like I was about to black out, it was a good move.
Every so often the nurses called by, checked my vitals and asked about pain level. They gave me pain killers every other check.
The pain level assessment is a 1-10 idea – 1 is OK, 10 is unbearable.
At several points in the night I told them that it was a 12, 13, 14 or more. It was actually higher, I was being brave.
The night was terrible, I woke every few minutes, I need to go to the bathroom. I was dreaming about the impact, about flying over the front of the car, or being terrified that he was actually going to run me over. I listened to ‘Forever Odd’ on Audible. I did not sleep that I remember.
Friday August 15th
The very kind nurses on the ward wheeled me down to my audiology appointment. I got my new hearing aids fitted and they then wheeled me back up to the ward.
Pain level ? 8/10 for most of the day.
I got discharged in the late afternoon and given dressings and drugs. I promised to behave myself if they let me out. I think that they were sick of me and let me out so that their evening was quieter.
Saturday August 16th.
I finally get to see the dressing that covers the wound. It is not a pretty sight at all.
The pad that they put into place is about seven inches long and maybe 1.5-2 wide. It is heavily padded, which is good. The muscles around the injury keep spasming though, this is incredibly painful as it locks my entire shoulder in place for a while and the injury is ‘pulled’. This is excruciating, maybe a 9/10 on the pain-o-meter.
OK, I am being brave, this is an 11.
I got a call from the owner of the car. Note that this is not the driver, this is the owner. The man came on first, he was keen to settle this without involving insurance companies and the police. I explained, quite carefully that as this is an injury accident, that the police are already involved and that my solicitor is talking to the insurance company already. He was not happy.
Then the woman came on and told me that I had run into her car and damaged it and that it was my fault.
I explained that I am recovering from surgery having had my collarbone put back together, which was broken when the driver drove into me.
She said that she would dispute it, and tell them (who I am not sure), that it was not her car and tell the insurance company not to pay me any money. Never once did they ask if I was OK.
I hung up and detailed the conversation to my solicitor.
Sunday August 17th
I took a peep at my wound.
I am not sure what I expected it to look like really, the dressing was loose around to edges, so off it came. I was close to blacking out and close to throwing up. The thought of what it must look like was actually worse than the sight. Pain is spiking to about 9/10 again.
I have a substantial numb area on my chest now – an area in front of the cut all the way to just above my nipple is almost entirely numb. It also itches. Ugh.
The bruising is hellish ugly.
A new dressing and all is good for tomorrow.
Monday August 18th.
I had to go into London today.
I wore a dress shirt for the first time since before my crash, it was agony to put on. I also had to wear something approaching business dress. Obviously there is no way I can deal with laces, or buttons.
I dealt with the train, that was easy, but the tube was tough, very tough.
The journey there saw the pain spike to maybe 8/10, on the way back I cried my eyes out on the tube, despite taking Codine prior to leaving the building. Spikes of 11/10 were regular.
By the time I got home, it has settled back down to 6/10. I took a bunch of painkillers and went to sleep on my back surrounded by pillows.
Wednesday 20th 2014.
Doctors appointment this morning to get the dressing changed. Everything is healing well. The paper stitches were removed and replaced with a silver gauze. I have another appointment on Monday 25th for a follow-up.
Muscle spasms are still a significant issue, when I get them my shoulder locks up. Pain spikes to 8/10 or higher. Mobility is a major issue, as soon as the wound heals I will be in physiotherapy to try and get things back to where they were.
Had a look at my bike at lunch time. I cannot wait to get back on it, but I need to fix it before I do so. I think I may need to make it more comfortable initially. I will have to see.
Thursday August 21st 2014
Today is a better day, I struggled to sleep though, I only took three painkillers all night. When I woke up my shoulder was locked solid once more. Gradually it freed up and gradually the pain subsided.
Last night I had the same dream, the initial impact is over and I am trying to stay on my bike, I look at the car and see knee gaining its bruising on the mirror and I feel the pain of the impacts of the pedal against my shin. I woke up at 3AM and rubbed my shin, it still aches.
Less painkillers today. The dressing is staying on well too – looking forwards to Monday now to get it re-dressed, or maybe not dressed at all, I am sure it would benefit from some fresh air.
Friday August 22nd
The light at the end of the tunnel perhaps ?
Today I managed to raise my arm up to about 45* from my side. This is is further than I have been able to move it since the crash. Last night, despite waking up several times, I did not take any painkillers between about 10PM and 7AM, this is a big improvement.
I am still suffering with terrible muscle spasms, my entire shoulder tenses, pulling my head to the left. consciously trying to relax barely works, the only solution is to hug my left arm, raising my shoulder further and let it relax gradually. The pain spikes are down to maybe an 8/10 while the general ‘everyday’ pain is around a 3-4/10 while I am on pain medication.
I am getting back ache at the moment too, I think it is as a result of wearing the sling. It is just adding to it…..
Sunday August 24th 2014
Shower time !
This morning I had a shower without the need to avoid my injury too much for the first time since my surgery.
This is a huge milestone for me.
The dressing fell off, so I figured it was time to let my wound get a little air for a change.
My shoulder is incredibly stiff, the skin rather tight, my upper arm aches like crazy and ‘the wrong angle’ is incredibly painful. I am not looking forwards to my physiotherapy sessions at all.
Just having a shower though was wonderful.
Last night I had the usual ‘collision’ dream, I am in the middle of the crash, I have nowhere to do, mid crash, I am heading over the front of the car. I wake up before I hit the ground. Same dream, every single night.
I have an appointment with the nurse tomorrow to check up on the wound and take out any errant stitches. Wish me luck…..
Monday August 25th 2014
Bad night. I went to bed in pain, despite taking paracetamol and codine, the pain barely subsided. I struggled to get comfortable and had a best a fitful night. I woke up several times and once more had what I have come to refer to as ‘the impact dream’. I am once more crashing hard into the car, I have nowhere at all to go, I feel the pain as I hit it and I start to fly through the air. Then I wake up in a cold sweat. Again.
I know that I am going to have to confront my demons and ride my bike around that dammed island to stop this recurring nightmare. That is some weeks away though.
When I woke for the final time I was scared, sweating, freezing cold and in serious pain having rolled onto my right side at some point.
I went to see the nurse this morning and she was very happy with the scar, it is healing very nicely and does not appear to be infected. She effectively discharged me from her care and encouraged me to use Vitamin E moisturisers on the scar to allow the skin to stretch and heal with less of a scar.
Pain remains about a four at the moment, my arm aches badly, my shoulder movement is better but still heavily limited.
Things are a lot better than this time last week, but I feel like I have a very long way to go.
Tuesday August 26th 2014
Another bad night. I woke up at 3:30AM in a cold sweat, once more the same dream, once more, I awoke before I hit the ground. When I woke, I woke with a start that sent my shoulder into spasm again. A drink of water, some paracetamol and I was asleep again before 4AM.
I woke up before 7AM with my left arm tingling, pins and needles are not a lot of fun.
My shoulder currently feels like I still have a knife stuck in it, my range of movements are restricted and my entire left arm is very week at the moment. As someone that has spent the last few years working out and building strength on a regular basis, this is not a very nice feeling at all.
Wednesday August 27th
Not the best nights sleep ever, I woke a few times with the same nightmare once more and finally reached for the codine at 3AM.
I needed to go into London, so at 7AM I dosed myself up again for the trip on the train. LuckilyI was able to get a window seat and the trip in was reasonably comfortable. The underground is another matter though. Luckily I was able to get a seat after couple of stops, but by the time I reached my destination I was toast.
The day was not bad, my shirt was marked by a little blood and ‘ooze’ from my wound and it itches like crazy, but I only had a couple of muscle spasms during the day.
The trip back was a lot easier than the trip there, Luckily I was able to travel back a little early and miss the majority of the rush.
During the evening the muscle spasms returned. Nothing I could do would stop them, so I once more dosed up with pain killers and tried to get comfortable.
Thursday August 28th
Wow, what a difference a decent night’s sleep makes. I only woke once and only took one paracetamol all night. The spasms have died down substantially and the soreness of the wound near my neck is reduced today.
I also had no nightmares last night.