Friday, September 6, 2013

It could have been worse. A short story.

"Oh god, I don't know what to do..." said Justin.
"I think Brandon's really hurt."

Brandon wasn't moving. He was laying in a creek bed with shallow water and large rocks, his eyes closed, and suspiciously shallow breathing.

He had come down the singletrack descent, seen the tree at the other side of the plank bridge, braked, and wobbled for a moment before going off the edge onto the rocks.

Now we were watching and waiting. 911 had been called. An hour later, the EMTs and Fire Fighters would make their way through the woods with equipment to pull him out of the creek without damaging his spine. In another half an hour Justin and I would be standing next to a Police van as the ambulance departed for the hospital - two people with three bikes, both wondering, "what now?" and making dark jokes about showing up on the news in spandex. We got into the paddy wagon with the bikes and hitched a ride with two kind officers back to Justin's house, the whole time thinking about our mortality and how such a beautiful morning could have gone so wrong.

"He should have walked away from that. I've seen crashes worse than that so many times and guys have walked away."

But, he was lucky. Maybe the luckiest guy around that day, with 8 broken bones all in all; 4 ribs, his sternum, clavicle x2, and part of his T4 spine. Plus, one punctured lung. But, no spinal cord damage. He would make a full recovery.

It was only at that point, at the hospital, did I look down at myself. I was stilly dirty and bloody. I had crashed too - an epic crash over the handle bars as I had braked too hard and catupulted myself face first onto the ground, in a gruesome approximation of a belly flop on land, with serious speed behind it. I had been dazed, and tasted blood from where I bit through my lip, but it all seemed trivial in comparison to what had happened to Brandon. And, I hardly felt it until now.

One of the ER nurses handed me a stack of towels and pointed me to the bathroom to clean myself up when I asked.

My chest was skinned over my sternum and ribs where they stick out, particularly the left side. And, both of the bony prominences at the front of my hip bones were skinned and bleeding a little when I scrubbed the dirt out of them. The tops of my quads the same, with a big blue splotch visible under the skin of my legs. Arms scratched up, right ankle slashed open on the inside. But, nothing to talk about compared to Brandon.

What is amazing thinking about it now is both how lucky I am, and how amazing it is that today's ostomy appliances can withstand such a beating! Not only can an appliance stay stuck on for 3-5 days of life with hours of cycling training thrown in, but it did not get ripped off or even slightly compromised in my own full-front crash. So, thank you to both the universe for such luck, and to the folks at Coloplast and Skintac for making these things so darned durable and adhesive.

It could have been so much worse. For everyone. But, we are all pretty darned lucky after all. And, we will all ride another day. Soon.

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And, even the worst days have their highlights:

- Getting into the back of a paddy wagon with three bikes, and the local news filming - probably wondering why 3 bikes and two guys were being arrested! (We weren't)

- Justin looking at my bruised quads where they had hit the handle bars on the way over and saying, "Wow, are your quads swelling or are they usually that big?"

- Watching bullfighting in the ER waiting room and saying out loud, "Now, that's a dangerous sport".

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