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.


Kaz said...

Och, Leslie, what a shame, but such relief that he is healing well. I can only imagine how worrying that time was until you got to speak to him - awful! Best wishes to you both for continuing speedy recovery.Kaz.

Leslie said...

Thanks, Kaz!

Sara Montgomery said...

You're both amazing. Thanks for sharing the story. Keep healing, Keith! Hugs to you both. Sara

HappyTrails said...

Oh wow, Leslie. SO, so, so thankful that Keith is ok. Things could've ended up much worse. I received a phone call like that one morning, several years ago, when Steve was commuting by bicycle to work. It leaves you scared, anxious, and helpless feeling. We are sending warm thoughts for Keith's speedy healing!

And as for you! I know exactly how you are feeling in regard to your injury and forced down time. It's crummy. A little despair sets in, at times, because it seems like you are watching all your plans fade away and you are powerless to change anything except to sit and ice - no fun! But you are right - it is temporary, really! Don't lose hope-you might have to just re-arrange your plans a little in order to flow with the set-back.
But you both will be back, thankfully, no worries there. Hug and love on each other and plan for a big celebratory outing when you both can hit the Comeback Trail! :-) Best wishes....

Olga said...

That was a scary story, gotten scarier because you know (kind of) who is in it. I am so thrilled your man is had it not worse than it could have been, and that he is getting better, and is able to retain his humor. And also that you have friends who carry Spot (because I would not be the right one, although I wouldn't be biking anyway, but I might have been hiking in bear county per Danni's latest post, and everybody would be doomed there). And I hope Keith will have many runs and rides and other crazy things ahead you both love so much.
As for anterior compartment, oh, dear, hang tough and do things. But don't give up. For 7 years (7!) I battled it, at times so bad that was to enter emergency surgery a number of times. Miraculously, it gotten slowly better to the point I haven't had a bout of even a slight pain (knock on something) in over a year. Don't give up hope. And yes, you can run through it when on PCT (I know, very sound advice, right?). My best year of ultrarunning, 2005, with 24 ultras and best results, was in worst pain and symptoms. Just do take care of it, every time, every moment.

Danni said...

How are your shins healing? When is Keith coming to visit? I appear to have more goodies for you that came in the mail from outdoors places :-)

Helen said...

Tears of relief for Keith have just whelmed up, as I read with fear, what your blog would reveal. I've been so very concerned for him. Fantastic news. [in the big picture]
Sincerely hope the arrival of some warm sunny days will speed up the recovery process.
Best wishes!

kristen said...

I doubt that was as hard to read as it was to write - and it was hard to read. I've never met the two of you but I've loved following your adventures and you seem like really great people. I'm glad Keith is doing well and that he can look forward to a new bike when he's all healed up. Good luck Keith - I'm sending some healing thoughts your way.

And more healing thoughts to your shins Leslie! I hope they're getting better.

JeffO said...

I've been biking more and thought of Kieth a few days ago. This blows. I hope you both heal fast.

Leslie said...

Awwwww, thanks Sarah. We appreciate.

@Steve and Kathleen - Good Grief, you've had your share of health battles this year and some! Perspective and Perseverance - "the 2 P's" serve us all well. But that humor thing - it serves Keith well! To each his/her own method of coping. :)

Hey Olga. Thanks for the good thoughts and the advice! It was great to see you the other weekend (surprise!). With my injuries, I've been figuring it all out, but of course - not feeling confident going in to my 2,650 mile long adventure. But hey - I've got 6 weeks! I've dropped the running, as I *only* need to be able to march up and down mountains with weight on my back.

Hi Danni! I'll be sending Keith your way fer sures. Hopefully, I can join too but it's "countdown" time. I don't have enough hours in the day, days in the week at this point. Procrastination has finally caught up to me with regards to my PCT prep. Thanks for the spontaneous visit the other weekend!

Awww, Helen. I'm sorry, I forgot to shoot you an e-mail! All is well. Really. And Keith is amazing, though he is starting to get bored. Time to send him on the 5.5 hour road trip to visit Danni in Montana! :)

Hi Kristen! Good people attract Good people. Thanks for the kind thoughts! XOX

JeffO - Hi! You and Olga always cut to the chase. Yup, this blows. But, reality is things are on the up and up! So, time to get everybody well and focus on that. It's easy with Mr. Happy Smiley Positive in the house - that attitude serves him well. And damn it, people like him. :)

Ellie Greenwood said...

Perspective is a great things but still sending YOU speedy healing vibes leslie for those shins - yikes, I thought you were indestructible and never got injured so almost glad to hear you are human. Of course, more glad to hear that Keith is indeed super-human in both his recovery and keeping his chirpy sense of humour, so wishing superman continued recovery - though are you not worried about the amount of time he will have had to carefully select a shiny new (expensive!) bike. Lots of love to you both, you guys are great x

Jill Homer said...

Healing vibes to both of you. It is amazing how quickly Keith is healing up, and positive outlook has to be a big part of it. I also had to laugh at his first words to you after you spent all afternoon wracked with anxiety over the accident, about getting a new bike. Way to look on the bright side, Keith. Ha ha. Maybe we can send you one of Beat's road bikes, as neither of us have been on them since the accident. ;-)

I hope the prep is going well for your trip. It's getting close!

Linda W. said...

Sorry to hear about the injuries (both you and your husband). Sending healing thoughts your way.

Brian said...

Both of you take care and heal.

Anonymous said...

Be thankful for what you have and all the experiences you have enjoyed on the trails. Life is beautiful, so embrace it to its fullest right now. Because things can change.
..... from someone who was running ultras up to 2 years ago and now can't even button up a shirt.

Unknown said...

Totally off topic (sorry!):
Hi Leslie! Been following your blog for a couple of years now, and really been enjoying reading it. I'm a dutch marathonner who's over in CA every year. Would love to go on big trailruns,but been advised not to go out alone... Unfortunately there are no athletes in Golden BC that I know of that do this kind of stuff, so I was wondering if I could join you on a couple of runs this summer.... Wil be in Golden (Blaeberry Valley) from juli 14 till august 11. I'm a sub-2:30 marathonner, but am aware that running the mountains is somewhat different. Would love to go out and experience the adventure!! Hope to hear from you, Emiel,

Barry said...

There is nothing for me to do but wish you all a speedy recovery from current character builders. If there is anything else I can do, you should let me know. I am close enough to be of assistance if required. Hang in there. In my experience the rough spots make the good ones look better...after awhile. Wishing you the best.

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