Wednesday, 31 December 2008

One crash, two ambos, three hospitals, countless x-rays...

So every year a few people stack coming down Tawonga, this year the ToB organisers even posted a note on their site saying "slow down, use your brakes, etc, etc,"... well it turns out that sometimes people fall off regardless. Posting tips on slowing down in a race won't stop that. Some people asked why the road isn't closed from cars for the short period of time people are racing down. Good idea, but it won't stop us from pushing even harder and still crashing. I'm still trying to work out why I screwed up the descent, was it just descending inexperience? I think I can rule that out, I've bombed down enough hills at full tilt to know how to ride my bike... leading up to the ToB I'd bombed down a few big hills...Hotham, Buffalo (chasing Kor who was flying!), Mt Donna Buang flat out in the wet (chasing Jono)... so I can only put the stack down to circumstances. Pushing hard to gain time, changing our line due to the oncoming car, too close to the rider up, not enough road. Shit happens. I didn't take down anyone else and I'm still alive.

So after coming to a grinding halt from 60km/h, I lay there for a few seconds trying to catch my breath. The hardest part of crashing isn't the cuts or brakes, but the jolt to the body of being at near max heart rate and being in the 'zone', to everything stopping in a split second. It took around a minute for my HR to drop down enough that I could sit up and see properly. I wasn't knocked out by the fall, I still remember it all. Once I was up there was a medic on a motorbike next to me. "You OK mate?". I was assessing what was moving and what wasn't..... "Yeah, I'm not too bad, but I've broken my arm or something in that area". Standing up there was pool of blood on the dirt. Damn it, that was meant to be inside me, not on the ground! The driver and passenger of the car coming the other way had stopped to check on me. They were in a bit of shock as they'd seen my acrobatic display into the dirt. They were apologising (not sure what for?) and asked if they could do anything. I composed myself as much as possible and explained to them that this wasn't their fault in any way, it was just a racing accident. I told them not to worry about me I'd be ok, and to keep driving and have a good weekend. They were a little confused at what to do next, I think the medics told them everything was good. I hope I didn't ruin their weekend!

I was moved over to the other side of the road and within minutes the ambo was on site. There were two other stacks within a few kms of where I was so they sat me up in the front seat as they collected the other casualties. Dave Tennant had face planted (on his nice new Fuji!) and wasn't in a good way, and another rider had blacked out taking a similar tumble to me. My first request to the ambos was for 'the green whistle' to take away some of my pain. (The "green whistle" contains methoxyflurane, powerful pain-relieving agent). After a few minutes that kicked in but only numbed things, it didn't make things much more comfortable. On the trip back to Bright I was assessing my helmet (broken), gloves (torn), and injuries. My left collar bone felt OK, but something wasn't right in my shoulder. My elbow was ripped up, very dirty, and felt like something was broken, but my hand movements were OK so it couldn't have been too bad. They checked my HR and blood pressure... medic: "you're a fit bugger ain't you!?". I replied something about having to be fit to be at the front end of the race at that point. To pass the time, and distract myself from the pain, I got out my mobile and called Von telling her to meet me at the Bright hospital... not a call I'd like to be on the receiving end of. Sorry Von :(. I also got on Facebook mobile and updated my status to "In an ambo, on morphine, oh yeah!". That caused a bit of a stir and my mobile stated ringing hot! I was able to slur out the events and tell people I wasn't too bad.

I walked into Bright ER and was up on a bed in no time. I was still sucking on the whistle that had run out of juice long ago. I was soon on an IV drip and the morphine stopped my shaking (a touch of shock there I think). Next up the nurse says "oh, look at that arm, wow, um, that needs cleaning up". I knew it was bad but c'mon people, lets keep things positive! They attempted to clean up my elbow but it was a mess and needed a proper going over, which was going to take place at Wangaratta Base Hospital. The Bright x-ray machine could only do arms, not shoulders so they looked at what they could and told me there wasn't anything structurally wrong with my elbow/forearm. That was good news, but something was broken! They took a blood sample to check my kidneys or liver (?) and the doc came back asking questions..!! "So you've just raced 100kms?"... yes... "So what did you eat and drink?"... I gave him the rundown.. "wow.. your numbers are perfect. Only a very slight indication of dehydration, but after 100kms I'd expect that. I'll be using your numbers at my next meeting to show everyone else". So my eating and drinking strategy was good!

They asked me if I could sit up long enough to ride in the front seat of the ambo up to Wangaratta. Sure, I did it off the mountain so I didn't think it would be an issue. I was helped off the bed, walked to the door with my drip in hand... then almost blacked out. Just another challenge I thought, and tried to fight it - nope, whole body over heated and broke out in a massive sweat. Back up on the bed and I had to wait for another hour or so for my very own ambo. They upped the morphine for the trip and I had a good chat to the medic all the way to Wangaratta. It was around 4pm and I had 4:32 Sharpie'd on my hand - my star time for stage 2, the time trial. I was looking at the trees blow around and was trying to work out a pacing strategy for the stage... not that I'd be riding it. Von followed the ambo up to Wangaratta in our car.

Into Wangaratta Base, into x-ray department, and onto the bad news. The radiologist takes a few happy snaps and announces right away my left clavicle is broken. But broken in the 'best spot' out near the end where the ligaments hold it in place (so, no displacement). Soon after the x-rays Dr Dan Chubb walks in with a problem. He wasn't happy that I got in a nice 100km ride and he was stuck indoors working! Dan spent the next hour or more cleaning up my elbow which involved lots of needles, cutting away lots of dead skin, more needles, a few really gory photos I wanted taken, a Tetanus shot, and nine stitches. We had a 'small world' moment when we found out we both new Jess Sloane (a Hawthorn rider, and also a medic!). Dan also wanted a copy of the photos we took as a memento of his handy work. I found Dan on Facebook a few days later and sent him the photos.

After 11hrs I was diagnosed, patched up, and out the door at about 10pm. I got into the car and suffered a long dark drive back to Bright in the back seat. Von said Laurie and Jono had retrieved my bike it it was relatively ok. The PowerTap was good (phew!), the rest looked ok, but on closer inspection the bars had swung around and smashed into the top tube putting a small ding in the carbon. I'm still let to get it properly looked at, but I've had to endure enough pain as it is, I don't want to risk riding a frame that could snap at any moment.

Back in Melbourne I was able to see my specialist from last years right collar bone snapping incident, Martin Richardson. So off we go to Epworth in Box Hill for more x-rays. (un)Fortunately I'm very familiar with that place so I knew where everything was. Martin was impressed with my effort and mentioned they'd get me in the next morning if it needed a plate. After a quick review he was happy to let it heal naturally since there was no displacement. He pointed out some indication of bone bleeding (or something crazy like that) near my elbow which showed that I almost broke a bone there too, but not quite. That also explained why I had the always-dull-broken-bone-aching feeling in that area too. So out the door, in a sling, and off work for a few weeks to heal up.

If you're keen, the photos are up on my public Facebook page here: Friend me while you're at it too! :)

Back on the trainer.....

1 comment:

Steve Caddy said...

Messenger bag full of bricks or sling?