Saturday, 7 February 2015

How not to fall off a bike

Cycling, mountain biking and motorcycling.  I'm pretty careful because that is a good list of bone breaking activities.  It took 41 years to catch up with me.

If you want to learn how to fall off a bicycle, then go off road riding.  When you fall its generally at a slow speed with soft-ish ground and there is no traffic to run you over.  I've fallen off my mountain bike so many times its become instinctive. Hands out superman through the air or just to the side, initiate a roll, dust self off, carry on riding.

Mid November, I left work on my motorcycle got to a T junction and stopped.  Looked both ways several times, all clear, revved engine to go, final check, saw cycle ... brake on, pull clutch in, stalled it - whoops - oh hang on the bikes leaning too much, can't hold it, ok initiate roll, oof, big mistake.  I've never thought about how to get off a toppling motorcycle but my instinctive bicycle roll is not the way to do it - you leave your legs behind. Fine when its a few kilo's of bicycle, but now 200 kilos of motorcycle are pinning me to the ground.  Passers by removed my motorcycle from me and helped me to my feet. My lower leg was very sore, much like stubbing a toe.  It'll be ok in minute.  I put a small amount of weight on it and it didn't feel right.

I was only a few hundred yards from work so on my instruction my aids turned my motorcycle around, put me on the motorcycle and I scooted it with my good leg back to work with them pushing.  I was wondering if I should just shake this leg pain off then ride home but a colleague and taxi were right there.  The pain told me to go get it checked.  A grimacing twenty minutes later I hopped into Addenbrookes A&E.

I was seen fairly quickly - obviously not too bad given I didn't arrive in an ambulance and the pain wasn't too bad while remaining still. My ankle was pretty swollen at this point.  I was taken for an x-ray, and while the radiology staff were looking at their computer I asked if they could see anything on the output.  They explained it was a low-resolution version, but no they couldn't see a break.  Now I'm feeling like a right pillock making such a fuss.  

Within the next hour I was told my ankle was broken. Annoying but slightly relieved I wasn't making too much of a fuss. My entire leg was was set in plaster after straightening then x-rayed again to make sure the bones were aligned ok and awaited sign off from the consultant.  I began to make pre-emptive reservations for a lift home assuming I'd get a pair of crutches and pain killers next.

The consultant came, spoking with an air of seriousness.  The nature of the accident was a crush injury and they wanted more detail. I was to be given a bed, awaiting a CT scan (3d x-ray). Within four hours of my arrival I was on a ward.

Once on the ward I had a settle into what I called hospital-time. All time moves into slow motion.  Upon arrival you expect everything will happen quick snap but the reality is you are always waiting for something. The routine of the day kept you entertained.  Blood pressure and temperature check every four hours, even through the night.  Medication rounds.  Breakfast, lunch, dinner, cups of tea.  Washing.  Visitor time. Swapping health stories with fellow patients.  Watching patients leave the ward for operations and return. 

After two nights I finally got a CT scan. This was exciting progress!  Half a day later the consultant visited and explained the complications of my fracture inside my ankle joint, and a partial fracture going up my leg.  The best course of action to save me from bad arthritis in later life was to pin my ankle back together and plate my tibia.

An operation - my first - was a pretty nerve racking prospect and you have plenty of time to worry in hospital. Nerves combined with nil-by-mouth and operation delays caused some patients to get pretty grumpy.  I didn't have too much time to worry in the end as a slot became available sooner than expected. My notification came before breakfast first thing in the morning, so nil-by-mouth was an easy and normal overnighter for me. I saw the anaesthetist and was off the ward within the next hour.  I didn't see the main operating theatre, I saw a few staff in an adjoined prep room, took a couple of puffs in a mask and awoke 5 hours later.

The next 24 hours were spent working out how I was going to live at home with one leg in a partial plaster.  I saw the physio, got crutches and plenty of pain pills.  I left hospital after a total of four nights.

I cannot praise enough every member of staff at Addenbrookes.  They truly made my stay as comfortable as possible.  And they weren't just doing their job, their attitude and banter and enjoyment really helped my morale.

It was great to be back home to begin my recovery.