First off, thanks to everyone who has wished me well, and to the media which attempted to help find the driver involved in the Jan. 2 incident that forced me into a ditch on Hwy 202. This blog has put me at a nexus of several of Seattle’s cycling subcultures, and my healing process has felt the boost from all the positive vibes coming from so many directions.
My close encounter with the ditch resulted in a broken left clavicle and a left rib, and a broken right wrist. It’s also notable that my helmet broke; things could have been significantly worse.
The clavicle was left to heal “as is,” so a nice kink now bulges from the shoulder, while the wrist reassembly required a couple of screws. The wrist has been in several casts and splints since the incident, but I think I’ll be free of that bondage this week. The screws may eventually get removed, but that decision won’t be made for a minimum of 6 months. I initially thought I’d be riding outdoors by now, but realistically it will be early April. A physical therapy goal is to be able to ride outdoors pain-free 3 months from now.
Unfortunately (or fortunately?), I am a veteran of traumatic injury, and I’m able to use past experience to help get through this. In 1996 I was in a near-fatal auto accident on Hwy 410 between Crystal and Enumclaw. In that case I was driving home from a climbing attempt on Mt. Rainier, fell asleep at the wheel, veered off the road, and into a ditch and where my vehicle impacted a tree stump. A “jaws of life” machine was required to extract my body from the wreckage, and I was airlifted to Harborview. Years of surgeries and recovery followed, and as recently as 2007 I had to have an emergency surgery related to that accident.
Compared to the 1996 accident this is a walk in the park. Still, it’s been an arduous experience. Healing takes an enormous amount of physical and mental energy: When the body goes into healing mode you just have to accept whatever limitations you experience.
Surgical procedures further sap energy. I’ve noticed that even a small surgical procedure causes a sense of disconnect. The combination of the anesthetic drugs and being cut open cause the mind and body to react defensively, which results in a feeling of retreat. The combination of intense acute pain and narcotics can further deepen that sense of retreat.
During the past few weeks a part of me would think “ahh, it’s only a couple broken bones” and my legs were fine, so no big deal to go grocery shopping or take a walk. But, an accidental bump here, a twist in the wrong direction there, and I’d be thrown into a cycle of pain and reaching for the percocet bottle.
To counter the negatives, I tend to have an unrealistically positive attitude, a meditation practice that calms the mind, and a robust interpersonal network that I can lean on.
This has been an ominous start to 2010, the year of my 50th birthday, but I’m optimistic that between the 1996 accident and this most recent experience, I am definitely done with injury by sudden impact.
Ride and drive safely, everyone.