I recollect my weight pitching forward, my arms desperately seeking a perch to stave off the coming catastrophe. Peripherally green foliage on the side of the road beckons – I have a particular dislike of road rash and thought I could soften the landing a bit. It’s the second time that preservation instinct has come back to bite me. The next recollection was being pushed into a CAT scan machine. My arms were on my chest and thus too big to fit in the small space. Everything else is a blank…
Seems there was an ambulance ride, and thirty seconds of unconsciousness preceding that. The park rangers came as well. I don’t recall them either. An oxygen mask on my face and the dull sensation of pain, lots of pain. No idea how long I was in the ER before being transferred to the ICU where I would remain for the next two and a half days. Intensive care was certainly intense, they had me exercising my lungs within a few hours of arriving via a breathing apparatus that measure inhalation – I was pleased to pull 1500mL. My cadre of nurses took good care, great care of me and I am thankful . Finally deemed stable enough for the trauma recovery ward, I earned another three and a half days of breathing exercises, not much appetite and a “once-every-fifteen-minutes” pain button that, I guess, dumped a bunch of opioids into my bloodstream.
A few weeks shy of my 50th birthday, yet a few more weeks before my season target of Cyclocross Nationals it all came apart. Any thoughts of a “quick” return were immediately dispensed thanks to the lung exercising machine. I’d made 2000mL a few times, but it hurt in that deep way of serious injury to do so.
Yet, even in the midst of the pain and fogginess there was a modicum of enthusiasm for the opportunity presented. I wasn’t dead – yea, sounds cliche to me too, but honestly a few inches to the right and perhaps my spine is broken more than the 12 cracked transverse processes. A harder hit and maybe my brain is more deeply traumatized or maybe the rib that punctured my lung goes deeper and causes some heavy damage. I don’t dwell on these what if scenarios, but i am aware of them and with it comes some emotional rawness…
A few days after leaving the hospital it all becomes too much. I hurt all the time, my body is broken, I am alone in my house with no one watching over me and I cry. I sob quietly, for to sob unreservedly is beyond the tolerance threshold, so I sit shaking as tears fall. They fall from sadness at what I’ve done to myself, they fall in longing for the sweet voice of my lovely daughter, the fall from hopelessness. I won’t not hurt for a very long time. I won’t walk, run, ride or laugh as I usually do. I have to go back downstairs and it is daunting. I cry for the first time since putting my cat down 18 months past, but this time I cry from the anguish of what’s happened and what’s to come, not from the heartache of loss.
The next morning it is better. I feel energized and alive again, I talk to my family – my dad calls me everyday in the hospital just to see how I’m doing, and keeps doing it when I’m home. I am thankful for my friends and family and for the respite from the black clouds that hung over me. I will cry again in much the same way a week or so later while visiting my family in Colorado, and again will feel restored the next day. I will spend everyday with my kid, with my family. Doing simple things or nothing. In these moments I find a certain calm, a deeper patience with myself and others.
Now five weeks out I see improvement each week. I slept on my back for awhile last night instead of sleeping upright as the past four weeks had dictated. I can put a shirt on without pain, my back is not stiff all the time, the bruising is gone. I am on the “path back”…but I will be different from the experience.