I was in triage at an ER trying not to hyperventilate. My mom was saying “Yoga breaths. Take yoga breaths.” One kind nurse looked me in the eye and sternly told me to get my breathing under control. After assessing my vitals she cut off my woolen arm sleeve and exposed The Wound.
Another nurse was taking my info. I’d take two good breaths, then return to panic. She then asked “Rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10.” This made me pause.
I thought “Well if 10 is dying, bowels being eviscerated Braveheart style… and 1 is euphoria…”
Mom in the background was saying “Just say 10!”
I hesitantly offered “5? 7?” Which felt incongruous to everyone. “I’m scared.”
That was it. That was what I kept telling everyone as I was ushered into the actual ER and sat down on a bed.
Facing me in the bed was the illustration of the pain chart.
Later, after the drugs, Will pointed to the 10 face. “That’s the face you were making. Squirting tears.”
On the much more accurate scale by Allie Brosh:
On this scale I’d say my 5-7 rating was spot on.
About an hour earlier I had been biking hill repeats on a crisp cool morning. About 3o minutes previously I had been biking down the Grand Avenue hill in St. Paul.
Grand Ave. is the more gentle, residential option compared to 10% grade, narrow and busy Ramsey hill. It’s a little rough, but at least is wide with low traffic.
I was comfortably coasting probably around 25mph. Weight even between both legs, not heavy in the saddle or locking one leg. Core tight, hands and arms loose enough to absorb and respond to the bumps. Eyes up… BOING! I had hit the kind of pothole that bounces you. Suddenly my hands were not on my bike. I looked down. I saw the ground coming for me, then tilted as I bounced and scraped along on my left side.
Next I was out of traffic near the curb staring at my bike in the road. I was standing, that was good. I was not going to be riding home. I fished out my phone – thankfully intact. Struggling to operate my phone while a bike and some cars went by I realized I needed help. Limply holding my phone, I stepped out by my bike. The next car that came by I eyeballed like some kind of desperate bike zombie.
She pulled over. She helped me call my mom, then Will. It went something like this:
“Honey, I crashed my bike.”
“Are you ok?” Will asked. He was just about to head up north for work.
“I don’t know.”
He asked where I was and what happened, and was happy that my brain was clearly functioning. He asked if he should still proceed with work.
“I guess. Mom is coming. A nice lady is with me. She’s holding the phone to my head.”
The Nice Lady – I never got her name – waited with me. She got my bike out of the road, and got my stray water bottle and food – I didn’t want to litter. She sat me down on the curb, kept handing me water and reminding me to breathe. When I started shivering she got a blanket from her car. Just as it became clear that Mom was getting lost, Will called and said he was coming. He showed up right as Nice Lady was directing my mom for the last few blocks.
I figured they would take me home and clean me up. I was so relieved to have them there. Relieved enough to take a picture with Nice Lady.
Will was just about to pack me up for home when I demanded “No, no. You need to assess me. ASSESS ME!”
So he looked at my helmet and my road rashed hip and shoulder. Then peeled back my arm sleeve. “Ooooo. No, don’t look. We’re going to the hospital.”
This is when I began to flip out. I had never had a traumatic injury. I had never had to go to the ER before. I resisted “What about my bike!” Will firmly put me in Mom’s car, he would meet us there. The hospital was just at the bottom of the hill.
Mom managed to drive all the way around the hospital – pulled into two incorrect drop offs – with me screaming, scared and frustrated before landing in the valet parking for the ER.
Back to sitting in the ER bed looking at the pain scale – feeling pain and fear equally. I was freaking out about everything.
“I’m scared! Where’s my phone? Honey, I’m sorry this is going to be expensive. Ouch oww! Mom, I’m sorry I yelled at you. This is very bad for my training! Ahhhh! Don’t touch me!”
Then they gave me drugs. For the pain and the anxiety.
Everything got much better. They numbed up my arm. We waited. They cleaned up The Wound. We waited. They stitched me up. More waiting. Finally about 5 hours after the crash they sent us home with me in scrubs and a bag of my dirty belongings.
The next couple days were a Vicodin blur of friends bringing food. Whiplash set in, road rash turned oozy-crusty, and bruises appeared on my legs. Mom named them bike hickies. Where my bike loved me too aggressively in the crash. At first my left hand was like a limp fish at my side. I’d have to stare at it to wiggle my fingers. After five days I could type with both hands. The Wound had made hamburger of my muscle.
It’s like my biking badge of honor.
It could have been so much worse – no head, spine, bone or joint injury. It is now 13 days since the crash. I am so over being grateful and just need my muscle to heal faster so I can get back to training. Six terrifying weeks before the big race.
My big race announcement last March in A Blister and A Race