You ever have that dream that you were out riding your bike with your friends, then all of a sudden you’re whisked away to the hospital where you’re helped by shadowy figures you can hear, but can’t really see? I was really sure I was having that dream last Thursday evening. Then the hospital social worker walked Becky into my ER room and I realized I must actually be in the hospital. I believe my first words to Becky were “so, this is really happening, then?”
It started off like a normal Thursday. I’d joined my friends Robert and Chris and a few others for their regular Thursday night social ride around town. The ride starts at the Summit Pub for a beer then heads off on a long and indirect route to another pub or restaurant for a bite to eat and another pint. It’s a great way to hang out with friends and get in a few good miles of riding on a weekday evening.
We were only a few miles away from Summit riding through the Westlake bikepath/parking lot towards Magnolia. Nice night that it was, I was enjoying goofing around on my bike, bunny hopping over the wide pyramid-shaped speed bumps in the parking lot as I’ve done at least 50, if not 100 times before. This time, however, luck was not on my side. I don’t remember crashing, but from what Robert told me and from what I can piece together, as I landed on the far side of one of the speed bumps, my front fender somehow got sucked up into the front wheel. It quickly folded and wedged itself into the fork crown and stopped my wheel instantly, sending me over the bars. This must have happened really fast, because I’ve taken my fair share of tumbles off the bike thanks to cyclocross and have gotten pretty good about falling on my back and/or shoulder.
This time, however, I landed pretty much directly on my helmet, forehead, and face. I’m pretty sure Robert said I was unconscious or at least totally incoherent for several minutes. In his words it was “really scary to see.” I owe a huge thanks to Robert, Chris, Andrew, and Chuck, who sprung into action, called an ambulance for me, called Becky to let her know I was headed to Harbor View hospital, and had the foresight to lock up my bike on a rack near the crash site.
I don’t really remember the ambulance ride or my first few hours in the hospital. I just have these hazy, dark images of an EMT telling me I was headed to Harbor View and the ER doctors loading me up into the Cat Scan machine. Once I came to, however, it was just a waiting game for my cat scan and blood test results to come back. I’m very happy to report that all my tests came back negative, i.e. no internal bleeding, no broken bones, no swelling of the brain, etc. I just had a big ol’ concussion, a gash in my eyebrow that required a few stitches, a nice shiner, and a few scrapes and bruises on the body.
My helmet definitely saved me from some significantly worse injuries. I have no doubt about that. I think a lot of equally, if not more, important bike infrastructure and safety issues often get overshadowed by the helmet debate (a conversation for a different time). But, I personally choose to always wear a helmet and I’m glad I do.
After a boring several hour wait, the ER doctors finally gave me the OK to go home and removed my IV and heart rate monitors. Becky and the social worker helped me gather my things, though unfortunately, my favorite blue plaid shirt was lost in the shuffle and nowhere to be found. A worthy sacrifice for my relatively clean bill of health, I think. We met friends Dan, Whitney, and Charlie in the lobby where they’d been kind enough to come by and wait. Dan had driven over and graciously drove Becky and me to pick up my bike on Westlake, then dropped us off at home.
It was almost 1am when we got home and neither of us had eaten any dinner. In an act of desperation, we ordered a pizza from the nearby Dominos. Terrible pizza has never tasted so good.
I took Friday off work and spent the majority of the day laying in bed with a terrible headache, a fuzzy mind, and a sore body. Though I was slightly more active through the weekend, I found myself taking tons of naps, and going to bed really early.
Monday I felt good enough to go to work, but still had a persistent headache and didn’t feel completely clear-headed.
It’s now been a week since the accident and I feel fine. The headaches are all gone, I’m thinking clearly, my body is no longer sore at all. The only reminders are some scabs, the last remnants of my black eye, and the exhaustion. My energy levels are fine during the day, but by the time 10pm rolls around, I’m complete wiped out. It’s a clear sign that my body and mind still have recovering to do, which is why I’m still taking time off the bike (and from other real physical activity as well).
I find myself itching to get back on the bike and ride. I can’t remember the last time I went a whole week without exercising in some fashion or another. But I know in the long run it’ll be far better to be patient and recovering fully, rather than tiring myself out too soon.