I wasn't sure whether I should post this in the cycling forum, or the trip report forum, but figured the injury forum might be a good spot in case anyone breaks their collarbone and is wondering whether or not they should let it heal on it's own or go for surgery as I have.
Long story short: On Mother's Day, I was clipped by an SUV while on my bike. The impact sent me over the bars into a ditch and I broke my collarbone on impact, required 16 stitches in my thigh, and had some pretty horrible road rash on my back. Rather than let the bones heal naturall, I decided to get a titantium plate bolted in and I'm very happy I did. My surgeon told me when he operated on me there was some muscle tissue inbetween the break and it would have taken a very long time to heal...it at all. But now, just a few weeks after getting plate installed, I'm back mountain biking already and it feels great.
Here's the long story in long version copy & pasted from my blog (www.onegeartwoplanks.com):
The waiting room is tiled floor, light yellow walls, and an old analog television set mounted up high in the far corner set to some generic mid-afternoon talk show. There’s a few people ahead of me and we smile politely to each other and take mental notes to ourselves. I wonder what he’s in here for. The nurses at the window look at me with pity in their eyes and offer me some handi-wipes to clean the maroon semi-dried flecks of blood off of my thigh. Health posters line the walls: “If you have any symptoms of the flu, please notify the nurse immediately”. If notifying the nurse of flu symptoms gets me admitted any faster, then sign me up for the latest pandemic ASAP. A door opens. Motorcycle accident dude is next.
I sit and wait. Close my eyes against the pain in my shoulder, thigh, ribs and back and blanket myself with thoughts of how lucky I am. Of how I just may have used up one of my nine lives.
I got away with one.
Through the open window, the sound of a truck rumbles by and I get a chill. Wrong place, wrong time? If I did any one of a million things that morning differently, I would have been in a different spot at a different time.
Or right place, right time? Maybe if I wasn’t in that exact spot that I was at the time, it would have turned out much worse. Maybe choosing to pedal a little harder at the beginning as I had, rather than coast, got me just a bit farther down the road, and just a bit farther out of harms way. Yep, I got away with one for sure.
“How did you get here? Were you by yourself?”
“Yeah, I rode one-handed down to my car, had some kind stranger help me put my bike up on the roof. Funny, I didn’t even have to ask. I guess I wasn’t looking all that together and it was obvious I could use hand,” I tell the nurse who finally admitted me. “I called my wife and some friends, figured out where the hospital was, and then drove myself here”.
“Tell me what hurts.”
“Well I’m pretty sure my collarbone is snapped, and I have some road rash on my back. Oh and my thigh has been hurting more and more since I’ve been waiting out there, ” I say motioning to my mountain bike shorts that have the hole punctured in the right thigh. “I think I landed on a rock with it or maybe on a broken off branch or something. I think the liner short is plugging up the puncture so it hasn’t been bleeding too bad, I haven’t even looked at it yet”.
“Let’s take a look.”
That was the first time, since physiology lab in college I think, that I’ve seen what human muscle looks like on the inside.
- Accident on Mother’s Day, Sunday May 10th.
- Monday, May 11th sneak into an appointment at my orthopaedic surgeons office who orders new x-rays a few days later to see how the collarbone is healing.
- Thursday, May 14th review new x-rays and it looks like bones aren’t lining up correctly. Surgery to bolt a titanium plate to the collarbone is offered as an option, accepted on the spot, and scheduled just nine days after the initial break.
- Tuesday, May 19th, just when I was getting used to having 207 bones in my body, I’m knocked back down to 206 with the addition of a titanium plate by Accumed and eight screws.
- Wednesday, May 20th, my wife’s birthday and I’m spinning in a cloud of post-anesthesia, pain killers, and nausea inducing pain. But by Saturday, May 23rd I’m sitting on my road bike on the trainer in my garage holding on with one arm and spinning away as my buddy’s 60 minute drum’n bass mix on my i-pod carries me through. More trainer time on Sunday and Monday, and then on Tuesday, May 26th I decide to take the road bike outside and spin on the American River Bike Trail. Thirty miles.
- Thursday,May 28th and the 20-something staples finally come out. The days fly by and I’m on the road bike spinning on the multi-use trail nearly every day.
- Wednesday, June 3rd rolls around and it’s Prairie City Race night. I take the bike on down thinking I’ll just do a pre-lap or two as it will be the first time on the mountain bike. Next thing I know I’m on the start line with the rest of the singlespeed Expert group again and we’re off. I feel like my old self for about half a lap, then my chain drops off on the first hill, and by the time I fix it everyone is gone. I destroy myself trying to catch back up and generally get crushed mentally and physically. I come in second to last in 19th place. Ughh. Must-come-back.
- Saturday, June 6th and I ride a century on the road bike.
- Wednesday, June 10th is back at Prairie City in singlespeed expert and I survive with no mechanicals and squeeze out an 8th out of 23. I’ll take it considering I have no motivation to pass in heavy traffic and I’m hesitant to charge hard and give chase. It’ll come back.
Wednesday night after the races, Dos is packed way more than usual. Everyone is there and recalling their laps and times. Congratulating each other over overflowing mahi burritos, salsa verde, and Pacificos. We fall in and plan trips for the weekend, for the summer, for the rest of the season. Laughter rolls into calls for another round and after another, I try to make my way out through the crowd to head home. I’m delayed over and over again to answer the question, “How is your shoulder feeling?”. My answer never feels aged or tired and I’m appreciative of the concern. It feels good to say, “I feel great,” and I’m happy to stay awhile longer.
I drive home through cool night air, all windows down, streetlights burning orange on the empty streets. It seems the only cars on the streets of Folsom at this hour on a Spring Wednesday night are the ones with mountain bikes strapped to the roofs, hitched to the bumpers. And I cruise all the way home with the singular thought of; right place, right time.
I feel lucky to be alive.