Monday, June 11, 2012

Perspective and the Art of Bicycle Maintenance

>>This was written 3 weeks ago.  Life's been busy!<<

Perspective.  It's an easy thing to lose track of. 

I've had a rough couple weeks.  There's nothing more upsetting to an active person than the loss of their mobility and I've been injured.  I've got a nasty case of Anterior Compartment Syndrome in the front of my lower legs, nasty pressure in my shins.  For now, the treatment has been rest, icing, acupuncture, stretching and getting the swelling under control.  I have had 21 days on my butt and last week, my depression was compounded by the gorgeous weather we were having here in Banff.  Oh Woe Is Me.

The worry was (and still is) that this might be injury that might stop me dead in my tracks on the Pacific Crest Trail and that was upsetting.  Keith was away enjoying 6 days of amazing road riding in California and glorious weather.  This was probably a good thing because I would have been lousy company in this state of mind.  It takes a lot to get me down, truthfully it's an extremely rare event.  But, this injury had me worried and that got me upset and stressed.

When I talked to Keith in California he said "Things could be a lot worse.  You could be Janna-Cate or Lori".  Naturally, this is not what I wanted to hear but was a very fair and timely comment to put things in perspective.  My friend Lori has just spent the past 2 weeks in intensive care in the Mayo Clinic after getting brain surgery for a large tumor in her head. Her surgery was terrible beyond words and recovery has been excruciatingly painful.  My friend Janna a young mother of 4, is currently struggling with an undiagnosed illness which is leaving her with MS like symptoms, pain and chronic fatigue.  Imagine, if you were to sick to take care of your kids with no idea of how to improve the situation.  Now that's brutal.  Me, I've got a silly athletic injury.  WTF was I thinking?

Naturally, he was right and this was just the thing I needed to hear.  Things could be much, much worse.  The dark clouds lifted as I shifted my perspective.  Hell, yeah things could be worse.  My current injuries are small potatoes.  They will go away, I'll get better and life will go on. Maybe I'll go on a long hike, maybe I won't.  But, I'll be fine either way.

I was feeling better emotionally when I went back to work on Monday morning.  My perspective had changed, the moping was done and it was time to make a plan and focus on the "What can I do" instead of the "What can't I do".  And then, I got a phone call that changed everything.

It was nearing the end of my work day when the phone rang and I got one of those phone calls that nobody wants to get.  "There's been an accident" said my friend Beat phoning from distant California.  "There was an emergency call and all I know is that Keith was hit by a motorcycle".  I took a breath, stayed calm and thought:  No need to worry, until you know the details.  

I soon discovered through a few phone calls, that Keith was in an ambulance in transit.  I couldn't get any details until he arrived at the hospital, wherever that was.  I knew he had been riding his bike in Yosemite, on Tioga Pass Road far from cell service and far from ambulance service.  This could take awhile, so stay cool.  I ate a bagel.  I had a cup of tea.  I kept phoning the hospital.  I stayed cool.  The woman at the hospital on the other end of the phone was awesome.  When I told her my story she said:  Call me as often as you want, honey.  When his name appears on my screen, we'll get you an answer.  And so, I waited.  I phoned.  I repeated.

After close to an hour and a half, Keith's name miraculously appeared on a computer screen in a hospital in Sonoma, California.  Immediately, I was put through to the nurses station.  I told the nurse I was looking for a status on my husband and she said "I've got him right here, would you like to talk to him?"  which surprised the heck out of me.  And just like that, Keith was on the phone and giving me some needed answers.

The first thing he said was:  Hi honey!  I get to get a new bike!  Then he said:  But I think I broke my back.  In fact, I'm rather sure I broke my back.  But guess what?  I can wiggle all of my fingers and toes and my helmet barely got a scratch!  But, apart from that I'm fine. I'm the luckiest guy in the world.

Jill's account of this adventure gone awry is here.

Her thoughts following the accident.

>>I'm taking up this story many weeks later.  3.5 weeks have gone by.  We've been busy. Keith is healing.  Actually, Keith is healing incredibly.  We weren't sure what to expect, but his progress has been rather amazing to say the least.  He is going to be just fine.<<

So, the story is this:  it was a crazy fluke of an accident. Keith and Jill were just biking along when he got hit from behind, by a large and heavy Harley Fat Road King.  All he heard was a loud "Nooooooo!" seconds before being hit.  Jill, was in front and did not get hit.  The driver of the bike, lost control, dropped the bike and it slammed into Keith and his bike from behind.  It hit his back wheel first, which simultaneously launched him up into the air and broke his back.  He bounced off the asphalt, where he came to a stop and suspected that he had broken his back.  Jill was carrying a SPOT beacon, there was no cell service and the emergency 911 call went through the Spot Call Centre.  It took a long time for the ambulance to come, because he was on a road in the middle of the mountains and far from a town.  He lied on the asphalt so long that he got a sunburn.

At the hospital, he got incredible treatment and found out that yes, he had broken his back.  He's got a compression fracture of the L-2 Vertabrae. He spent 24 hours in the American Health care system.  Fortunately, we had insurance.  He got another ambulance to a hospital in Modesto where, he got a good nights sleep.  The next day he saw specialists, got and MRI, got a back brace and a walker and got sent home.  I suspect that Jill had a very stressful 24 hours.  Indeed, a traumatic and stressful 24 hours.  I'm so thankful for her being there, to take care of my man.  It was weird to be here, unable to do anything. 

And so it is.

I've read that a little perspective, like a little humor, goes a long way.

Keith has been recovering now for 4 weeks today.  He is a pretty amazing guy.   His perspective is, and continues to be that he's the luckiest guy around.  He's got a broken back, yet he's almost downright giddy.  He's been a good patient.  He hasn't complained once.  He's healing fast and furious.

And he gets a new bicycle.