On a wet Saturday morning in September, I had the worst accident I hope ever to have on a bicycle.
And yet again it was all thanks to neglect in the upkeep of our roads.
For the second time in as many years, I hit a pot hole with poor visibility and was launched from my bike. There was no trying to correct my steering. No time to react. I heard the sound of my carbon fibre bike bouncing off the road, and the next thing I knew, I was skidding along the tarmac next to it.
Last time this happened was a setback in my training. This time, I’m writing from a hospital bed five days since the accident. I’ve had surgery on my arm, and several x-rays on a suspected broken ankle.
Hospitalised and thoroughly fed up, at times the only way I could stop the horrible vision of my crash replaying in my head was to fantasise about selling my bikes on eBay and forgetting about the sport forever.
I decided to write this post instead to keep myself busy during my recovery.
The rain wasn’t forecast to arrive until early afternoon. That was all right; I planned on completing my training and be gently spinning home by then. I had a decent ride planned. 100 miles or so, with some hill efforts to try and wake the legs up a bit. You see …
The week before I had spent fully off the bike visiting (and spending time with) family in Scotland. Myself, Angela, and baby Arlo drove up towards Fort William for a few glorious days of food and company to celebrate my sisters birthday.
During that trip, every meal was an event.
Arriving on Friday evening, greeting us was the distinct smell of mumzee’s slow-cooked Chilli Con Carne: Huge chunks of tender beef swimming in a rich stock full of beans, peppers, love, and more. Slopping it generously on top of some rice With a handful of grated cheese truly is one of life’s simple pleasures. For dessert, Mumzee had made a pavlova as big as a pavilion. I had a slice weighing roughly two tonnes.
The next morning the smell of crispy bacon drifted up the stairs. Served alongside American style pancakes and maple syrup, it’s as good a wake-up call as you’ll get.
The exact order of the remaining meals gets a bit fuzzy now. But during our stay we had; a gigantic Brunch with home made scotch eggs, frittata, cheeses, meats, freshly baked bread, pate, oh god, what else? Oh aye yeah! Kedgeree; A Build Your Own Burger feast with a choice of toppings like black pudding, crispy bacon, cheese, onions, lettuce, loads of sauces, all served on a brioche bun and a side of sweet potato and regular potato fries; A BBQ with just about every type of meat available, chicken, beef, pork, veal; And to top it all off a Full Scottish breakfast of beans, eggs, bacon, tattie scones, freshly baked bread, more pate, mushrooms, tomato, and whatever leftovers were still edible from the days before!
…So I had been off the bike for a bit. I was well rested, but the legs needed a kick-start over the weekend.
I set out Saturday morning with the skies still clear. My short-sleeve gabba pockets loaded with enough food to fuel me for 5 hours or so and my legs were fresh and ready to feel the burn of a good hard dig or two.
Very quickly the signs that this could turn out to be a bad day began to appear.
I wasn’t five miles down the road before the heavens opened. By the time I had met up with two riders in Kirkham it was raining heavily and showed no signs of stopping. It was about 9 am at this point; the day was warming up, and I was still just about comfortable in my short sleeves.
Before long I was separated from my small group due to a kamikaze Garmin, which threw itself dramatically from my handlebars and bounced off down the road out of sight. I stopped, turned around and freewheeled back the way I had come, scanning the road frantically for my small, easy-to-miss-in-the-wet device.
I looked without success for a good five minutes before coming to the conclusion that it must’ve plopped down a grid and was gone forever. Not wanting to fork out a few hundred quid for a replacement I propped my bike against a nearby post and in a last-ditch attempt to find it, shuffled onto a patch of wet grass nearby. Another few minutes of squinting at the ground and the Garmin was back on my bike.
Now a little cold for having stopped riding I popped on a pair of arm warmers and then almost, almost decided to make my way home and call it a day.
But, y’know. I’d only done 12 miles or so. And that’s not good enough just because of a little early rain when you planned a tonne.
Not many miles later I found myself on a road I’ve ridden hundreds of times. It features on many of my local training loops, and I’d say if I were on Master Mind and the choice for a specialist subject was between that road and that back of my hand, I’d probably choose the road.
The rain had been coming down hard for a while, leaving plenty of surface water lying around. This particular road is in a terrible state of repair. There are long trenches where it appears to have been dug up for maintenance work, potholes scattered over the entire length and width, and some sharp corners covered with everything from diesel to cow poo. You’re very limited in choice for roads out there. This is the best of a bad bunch.
The first I knew that something wasn’t right, I was already on the floor and sliding remarkably fast on my side. I covered quite a distance too, barely coming to a stop before instinctively standing up as if to say “Ha! I got away with it this time. I’m fine! Now to see how my bi…”, but I barely had time to finish that thought before I had collapsed in a heap on the kerb.
I still didn’t think I had broken anything. But fuck me I was hurting. My ankle felt like a pinata bashed open by a jackhammer. The pain was instant and shot through my foot, ricocheted around my ankle a bit, and ended somewhere around my shin.
I perched on the edge of the kerb. Knee’s up to my ears, forehead resting on my right arm, which bridged between my legs. I noticed a huge star-shaped hole in my left knee, white flesh torn around the edges, with grit and blood flowing down my leg.
The gutter was turning red at an alarming rate. My mouth went dry, my head throbbed, the world zoomed out and became fuzzy. My head went light, and I knew I was about to pass out.
It’s a popular road for cyclists, and there were plenty on the scene helping me within minutes. “I just want to go home”, I remember pleading. I wanted someone to order me a taxi. I had no idea how else I’d get home quickly enough. Everything was really starting to hurt now. A few guys I was with pushed Haribo sweets into my mouth. They took a great effort to swallow. My mouth felt like cotton wool, I was on the edge of consciousness, and fighting back throwing up.
During the time I was struggling to eat, or even stay awake, another group of cyclists just arriving home had stopped to offer assistance. One chap lived close by and decided to go home to get his van in case I needed taking anywhere, and a kind lady from the group had knelt down beside me and was in the process of trying to convince me to lie down.
“It’s wet! And I’m cold”, I protested. All I wanted to do was get home.
“You’re looking very pale”, she said. “I would feel much better if you were lying down”.
I think it was around then that I realised she was applying significant pressure on my left arm. It had been throbbing since the crash, but I hadn’t given it a look. By now the gutter was full of blood, and I realised it was from my arm, not my knee I was losing the most blood.
I eased back onto the pavement, my head coming to rest in a bush. The rain continued to hammer us all, and my face was getting slapped by huge droplets of water from the leaves above me. Someone called an ambulance as I settled into my bushy surroundings, then nipped over the road to ask the owners of the barn opposite if they had any sheets to keep me warm. By now I was shivering uncontrollably, but at the same time starting to come around a bit. A little colour returned to my face, and I no longer felt like I was going to throw up.
I was under the hedge for what seemed like an eternity. My ankle and arm both fighting each other to be the most painful injury. A battle that continued for the next couple of days! The kind lady was an absolute saint. She took charge of the situation and managed to contain the bleeding from my arm.
The ambulance was taking so long to arrive, and I was getting so cold, that I eventually decided it would be worth trying to accept the earlier offer, and hobble into the van. Heading straight for Preston Hospital.
I gave my toes an experimental wiggle and slowly, with a lot of help, got to me feet, and up into the cab of the van. I still felt a lot better than I had in the minutes directly after I sat limply on the curbside.
The kind lady who had held my arm together for me over the last half an hour or so came with me in the van to the hospital. My friend (and now legend) Dan went with Man With Van’s wife in a different car to meet me at the hospital. Dan’s girlfriend was also on her way with a change of clothes for Dan and myself. I can’t believe how kind our local cycling community is.
Travelling to the hospital, I got talking to the kind lady in the van. She eventually asked where I was from, to which I replied Lytham. Coincidentally she also worked in Lytham, “Well, Ansdell actually”. So I told her that actually I lived in Ansdell, not Lytham (but who’s ever heard of Ansdell really?). It turns out she’s a GP at my medical centre.
“I bet you don’t even know who your doctor is?”, She joked. But I did, “It’s Dr Reed”.
“Ah, well he’s retired”.
Yeah, it’s a while since I went to the doctors.
“It’s very likely I could be your new GP”.
To quote peepshow – that part of the conversation was “Coincimental!”
By the time we arrived at the hospital, I knew I was done. I flopped into a chair, was wheeled into A&E, and felt the world go fuzzy again. Only this time there was no place to lie down. I sat in a waiting room, soaking wet, dripping blood and rainwater all over the floor, in skin-tight lycra. I don’t think I was just paranoid that everyone was looking at me. I kept dipping in and out of consciousness now. Sweating. Burning up. I just remember my head rolling around all over the place and an overwhelming desire to throw up and have a sleep.
Luckily this meant getting seen to much quicker!
I feel like I can probably skip the details of every single detail of Hospital and multiple trips to the walk-in centre over the next few days. They’re boring enough when you’re there. I can’t imagine they get any more exciting reading to read about second hand.
So here’s a brief summary;
- Preston didn’t do a great job of cleaning me up. They wiped my wounds with some sterilised water and nipped the cuts back together with steri-strips.
- I woke up the next morning and picked up Arlo. Something stank of fish. Really hummed. “Oh god, Ange! Arlo’s done a weird fishy poo!”. To which Ange reminded me he doesn’t do fishy poos. He’s a baby.
- We realised my arm smelled like Fleetwood docks and went to the walk-in centre for the first time that day.
- They said yes, you absolutely stink! But changed the dressing, putting in about 3 inches of padding, told me to come back if the wound seeps through, and sent me on my way.
- By the time we got home it was seeping through.
- We went back again. Dressing got changed again by some kind of witch-woman.
- By the time I got home I could barely stay awake. Everything hurt. I was in a bad way. My body began to shake, and I couldn’t do more than 2 or 3 steps before I wanted to sit down and give up on life. I got into bed and shivered uncontrollably for almost an hour.
- We called 111, and they said to get to A&E.
Which almost brings us up to speed. It’s a long post so far, and I didn’t mean it to be. It’s proving to be a good way to pass some time in Hospital, though. So I’ll carry on for a bit.
On Sunday night I was sat waiting to get my infected arm examined in A&E. By the early hours of Monday morning, they admitted me to Hospital. With surgery on my arm scheduled for some time that afternoon!
During the night my ankle was x-rayed another four times, and my arm was also done to see just what was still in there. Apparently most of Catforth Road.
My admittance was completely unexpected. I had no idea how bad I was. To be honest, I thought I was just a bit soft.
Anyway, this meant all I had with me was a phone on 1% of battery and a book. I had no easy way to call Angela (who as it was 4 am had by now gone home to be with Arlo) and tell her I wouldn’t be home, or even that I needed surgery. I used the hospital phone but of course, it was 4 am so she didn’t answer. Neither did mumzee, who was next on the list.
Both called back though almost straight away and were brought up to speed as I was settling into my (own) room for the morning. The early days in the hospital are a bit soft around the edges. In fact, everything up to Wednesday is a bit fuzzy.
Monday morning I was taken to Ward 34. Loaded up with painkillers and fluids, I finally fell asleep. It was impossible to do so in A&E Sunday night. There I was parked beneath a bright fluorescent light, and the usual weekend ‘characters’ were in causing trouble. Typical Blackpool scum shouting abuse at Nursing staff, kicking off with each other, and being more of a pain in the arse than the pain in my arm. I was nil by mouth, and except for a slice of toast and midnight didn’t eat or drink from 2 pm Sunday until after my surgery at 6 pm Monday.
I was on a drip for fluids until Tuesday evening. There isn’t much else to say about my time in Ward 34. Just before I went up to Theatre, I was asked to pee in a jug for a sample. A jug was handed to me (it looked like the kind your mum would serve gravy in!), and with some difficulty, I shuffled myself to the edge of the bed, flopped myself into the jug and went. But I wasn’t stopping, and the pitcher was getting scarily full. As panic set in there’s a knock on the door but before I could say “I’m in the middle of pissing everywhere!” a male nurse had walked in and taken in an eyeful of my junk and a very dangerous looking container of pee. Luckily I stopped just before spilling over, handing it over to the guy as carefully as I could, and looking a little sheepish.
Mid afternoon I was taken up to the Operating Theatre. They wheeled me behind a curtain where I waited for my go. I felt like I was in an episode of Green Wing. It’s difficult to remember, but it sounded like a team of doctors arguing over the colour of their hair. Best to get the important matters dealt with first, though. Before the mundane task of surgery.
It was the first time I had ‘gone under’, but I wasn’t nervous. I was looking forward to being asleep again. They popped a new drip in my arm, put a mask over my face and before I had time to finish thinking “this is taking longer than I expected to wor….”, I was gone.
I woke up some time later in the corridor. I think. I don’t really remember. I was shaking violently again. So much so that my groyne and core began to hurt from clenching in an attempt to keep everything still. I shook for a long time, long after getting taken to my new ward, 15b.
I shared a room with three others. Who we will get to know a little too well in just a moment.
The first thing I did in 15b was to call my wife. I needed to let her know I was okay, a change of underpants, and of course my laptop!
My first few hours are woolly. The clearest memory I have is having a cup of tea. My first drink in probably 20 hours. Dinner could’ve been anything; I wolfed it down without it touching the sides.
I slept like a baby my first night. My wife and mum came to see me at 7 pm. It was great to see them, and I felt much better for having company. After visiting hours ended just an hour later, I put my head down and slept soundly until morning. The only time I was disturbed was when the nurses fed more antibiotics through my drip.
I think now is a good opportunity to introduce you to my roommates. I nicknamed them Mr Belcher, Mr Farty, and Eneman.
I barely spoke to them during my stay in Hospital, but just observing their behaviour told me the kind of characters they were!
The duffers I’m sharing a room with are driving me insane. No idea how nurses put up with this nonsense daily.
Considering they were a bunch of old dudes, I struggled to keep up with their shenanigans!
One of them constantly belched, another other repeatedly farted, just as loud. The third kept telling the same graphic story of his enema yesterday and the events leading up to it (and his disappointment at the “tiny skidmark afterwards” being all he had to show for his pain and efforts).
You can probably guess how I came up with those nicknames?
Mr Farty kept trying to play the nurses off against each other – the standout story involved him asking for a coffee from one, who went to make it for him only to demand to another “TAKE ME FOR A WALK!”, So by the time he got back to his bed the coffee was cold, and when nurse one came to collect his cup and noted he hadn’t touched his brew he told her the other forced him to go for a walk and that he never gets a minutes peace in this place. Blah, blah blah. As soon as they collectively got on to “them bloody Muslims” I zoned out completely.
Not content with today’s mischief, Mr Farty then enjoyed spending time leaving voicemails for his family members. Guilt-tripping them into calling him back and then complaining to the nurses about being disturbed while he’s trying to sleep when they call the hospital and ask for him. He did it at least three times. Later, he would make calls telling people not to bother visiting him at all tomorrow.
Just before visiting hours, Eneman chose and paid for a paper. Then when his family turned up said “look at this crap we’ve been given, I wouldn’t read this! See if anyone else wants it”. They then offered it to me but unfortunately I declined it. “See! You can’t even give it away. Bloody waste of time this place”. Mr.
Belcher then denied his diabetes to the kitchen staff. I’ll keep an eye on where this leads, I thought. Because yesterday he refused his dinner (and offers of a replacement) so he could spend all night telling everyone how the kitchen “must have forgotten about him tonight”.
At tea time Mr Farty spent a good five minutes picking what he did and didn’t like on the tray of food offered to him. Eventually persuading the nurse to make some changes to his order. By the time she’d served me my vegetable soup and lamb with an ice cream scoop of ‘mash’, he was shouting at her to take it all away because of a terrible stomach ache that ‘had suddenly come on’ (no doubt so we can hear all about how he didn’t have any tea last night tomorrow morning). Anyway, seeing a fella get to £75,000 on The Chase seemed to perk him right up. As he was practically bouncing in his chair with excitement, telling all of us how close this chap was to “winning the whole bloody lot!”.
Then Mr Belcher started up again so I couldn’t properly hear Eneman, who was now moaning about how he’s going to refuse being moved to another ward until he’s done a poo.
At some point, Mr Farty got offered an enema too, which made me wonder, am I next? Is it a complimentary treatment the hospital provides these days? **SPECIAL OFFER**! Stay three nights, get a free enema on your fourth!
Not long after, Eneman appeared to shit himself in some dirty protest about being moved. He emerged from the bathroom naked, except for a paper towel covering his bits. A nurse went back in with him, and I saw neither of them for some time. Typically, I needed a wee at that exact moment!
I’m sure that if the trio focussed as much energy on getting better as they did going out of their way to find something to moan about, they could’ve got discharged weeks ago.
That evening We got a new roommate called Brian. Mr Belcher offended him before he’d even unpacked, by telling the nurse to “just stick him under the sink” as she wheeled him in looking miserable and rather unwell. But Karma was swift and within the hour Brian was keeping the nursing staff busy looking for a T.V. remote he sat on while Mr Belcher burped himself sick.
He then sat whimpering half naked in the corner, blaming the catering staff and his diet over the last few days for giving him (additional) wind. Telling the doctor who turned up to try and sort him out a huge list of unfulfilled dietary requirements of his. I just don’t understand. You choose your own food the day before, so why would he decide on something he knew was going to cause him trouble? Or not say anything beforehand (even though he’s been in here weeks I believe).
And as Mr Farty joined Mr Belcher in the wind section of the 15b orchestra, I decided it was about time I call it a night.
The long road to recovery
On Wednesday, my fourth day in Hosptial I was discharged. Probably a day early, it took a bit of persuasion to convince the doctor to sign my release papers. In a way it’s a shame – the food menu was pretty good Thursday.
If you’ve made it this far, I doubt you’ll make it much further. I’ll try and tell the story of my recovery through pictures. And summarise it like this, “OUCH!!”
I will mention that concentrating on home-cooked, nutritious food helped my recovery significantly. In just a short week of eating well, and some Bowens treatment, it felt like I had come on MONTHS. Not just days. A week and a half after my crash, on a beautiful September afternoon, I managed to get back out on my bike. I did 26 miles outside, on the road. There’s a long way to go until I’m back to where I was, but I know I can get there.
I’d like to thank everyone who has helped me since the crash. The North West cycling community in general. Everyone who wished me well. My parents, Angelas parents, the Nurses (who I’ve got to know quite well!), and of course Angela, who’s been my rock throughout. I wouldn’t be half as well as I am now if it wasn’t for her.
My crash and recovery in pictures
The day after my accident. Smelling a bit fishy
Ankle swelling the day after my crash.
On a drip in A&E during the early hours of Monday morning. Waiting for a bed on Ward 34.
Waking up after surgery.
The first time I saw the wound to my elbow after surgery. You can see just how much dead / infected skin they removed! Shortly after this picture was taken I got to go home.
Getting it cleaned. Full of slough!
The amazing Velo Perso sent me socks to aid my recovery. They helped. A lot. Thanks!
Ankle looks like someone stuffed a tennis ball up my leg! It continues to be the most painful of my injuries.