Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Tale of Two Breaks

Well, I did it now. After about 7 years of biking (but less than 1 of real serious mountain biking) I broke my first bone(s). I went over-the-bars during a fast downhill section in the Sagebrush Safari US Cup race on April 5, my second race as a Cat 1 racer. Landed (I assume) on my left arm and suffered a compound fracture of both my ulna and radius about 4" up from my wrist.

From Broken Arm
I was having a great race, enjoying the scenery and course and was really into the last long descent when I lost balance on a series of small rollers and flew over the bars. I think I was riding the front wheel into the last roller and couldn't bring the rear down before hitting the incline.

It felt like any other OTB crash; I stood up, assessed my head, neck, back, all felt good. Knew that I was a little scratched up. A fellow racer named Justin passed me and asked if I was OK, to which I replied, "Yeah I'm fine!". At this point I bent to reach for my bike and saw my arm pulling this wild gooseneck trick I had never seen it do before, S-shaped with the ulna protruding about 1-2". "Oh, wait! I broke my arm!".

As Justin came to help it became quite clear to me that I was in shock. I felt completely calm, felt zero pain, and I actually wondered if I was really looking at my own arm. I was already up and walking. Justin helped me stabilize my left hand with my right hand, I was trying to straighten my hand but my bones were all that moved. He took my bike and kept the trail clear as we walked down, all the while telling me I'd be OK. We cut through the brush to the paved road, and hiked some more. This all could've lasted 5 minutes or an hour, I have no idea. We stopped a passing truck and serendipitously the passenger was an anesthesiologist. They loaded me in the back, we found the course medics and they wrapped and stabilized my arm, put me on oxygen, and we started the drive back down.

I was loaded into the ambulance about an hour later thanks to the help of many people acting calmly and efficiently. I have no words to express my gratitude or amazement at how well I was taken care of, but thank you to anybody who played a part in this, I owe you an arm (or at least a beer!).

The paramedics put me on antibiotics and morphine right away. My capillary refill, which was almost 10 seconds after the fall, was back down to 1/2 second on the ride to the hospital and I was beginning to feel slight pain.

We checked into Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa and I was again amazed at how quick and friendly everyone at the ER was. They dressed my wounds, took x-rays, and got me all cleaned up for surgery while joking around. Eventually my surgeon arrived and, after unwrapping my arm, she broke into a huge smile and said, "This is going to be fun!".

Of course I remember nothing of the surgery. The anesthesiologist was talking about the history channel and before I knew it I was awake in a cast. Surgery took over 3 hours and she ended up having to shorten the ulna due to dirt ground into the bone, in fact she said the whole wound was filled with dirt and required extensive cleaning. I have a small 1-2mm gap in the ulna which will require about 3 months to completely re-grow if all goes well. I was on antibiotics for 72 hours to minimize the risk of infection before being released last night to the comfort of my own bed.

From Broken Arm
More on how life has been after the break later! I can say that I was extremely fortunate to have such a "simple" injury. Screw on a few plates, close everything up, wait a few months, and hopefully I'll be back in business. This could've been much more serious, such as anything dealing with joints, my neck or back, or even my brain. Heck, I'm even right-handed and still have full use of my right arm. Even if I do walk around like C-3P0 now...

From Broken Arm

UPDATE: Justin's account of the accident is worth a read:

I was pushing hard on the descent. Everything was clicking! I was in full BMX mode pumping and doubling up bumps. My Specialized Sworks Stumpjumper HT was on FIRE! I was passing quite a few people and came upon a group of three that obviously had a slow guy not letting people pass. I yelled up that he had three people back and needed to let everyone pass. Shortly afterward he graciously pulled aside and the pace came back up some. I was starting to think that it would be best not to pass and just stay where I was at as we were nearing the bottom of the descent when the guy at the front made some sort of mistake at very high speed.

The guy in front of me speed checked, swerved to miss the downed rider's bike and sped off. I braked hard and asked if he was alright, he replied that he was... for some reason I hesitated for an extra second and he turned to face me and said calmly, "I think I broke my arm." I had only seen one other compound fracture, but there was no mistaking that he had broken his arm!!!!

I dropped my bike and ran back to help. I made sure he could walk and then sent him walking in front of me while I pushed both bikes. Another rider came up from behind and helped to slow down traffic. Once we got to the road I looked both directions and saw a truck coming up the road through race traffic. I flagged him down and let him know what the situation was and that we needed help. The driver of the truck was extremely helpfull and we got Jeff into the back and tried to help make him comfortable. The drove off up the road in search of aid while I pedaled my bike up the hill, pushing Jeff's Kona.

Some distance up the hill the race officials had dispatched paramedics in a Rhino and they met the truck and were working on Jeff. They asked to take his bike and I was glad to no longer be riding two bikes! :) My legs were almost as toasted as my mental state after the ordeal.

No comments: