Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Accident

I call it "The Accident" because I hope there's no "The Next Accident" but we never know, do we?

On May 24, I was just a few miles into my weekly 28-mile ride home from work. It's a pretty good route, mostly bike lanes. There are a few sketchy parts where I wish the road was more bike-friendly but it's fine. I was at a two-way intersection with a car across the way (a Ford Escape, actually). Cross-traffic had cleared so I looked at the car to make eye-contact with the driver. However, I couldn't see him so I started to slowly pedal across. He didn't move so I assumed he saw me so I kept pedaling. Then he started moving...right at me. He was headed so at me and was so close that the only thing I could do is go "Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!" and hope that hitting me broadside was the best of my options.

So I get hit. It was a pretty slow speed hit (I'm guessing at most 20 mph) but it turns out your body does not like being hit by big hunks of metal at any speed. I was hit on my left leg. I remember flipping over my handlebars, maybe even the car's hood. I'm not sure what part of my body I landed on or on what I landed on but the large bump on my lower back suggested that I landed there. I don't know about you but the first thing that goes through my mind afterwards is, "OUCH! OUCH! OUCH! OUCH! OUCH! OUCH! OUCH! OUCH! OUCH! OUCH! OUCH! OUCH!" All my brain feels is pain. I knew my leg hurt but I didn't feel anything specific, just pain. The driver is apologizing to me but I can't say anything. All I can do is limp, trying to walk the pain off. After a few minutes I am able to ask that somebody move my bike out of the road.

Okay, time to take inventory. Leg hurts. Shoulder hurts near the collarbone. That might not be good. Felt the collarbone but couldn't feel anything broken. Notice that the tip of my right pinkie is in an unnatural position. Okay, that's either broken or dislocated. Hey, where did that blood on my jersey come from? Oh, my left thumb got scraped up, that's all.

I didn't call the police because, while I was injured, I figured urgent care would be enough for me. In L.A., you don't call the police out for every car accident. After exchanging information, including that of a witness, I ask the guy who hit me if he can take me back to work (I drive my car to work with the bike, then I ride home, then take the train back to work the next day (though I was toying with the idea of riding back to work this time)) so I could drive home. He did. If I had to be hit by someone, I was glad it was this guy. Apologetic and very helpful.

I was at my car and now comes the hard part: calling my girlfriend. She gets nervous about me riding my bike anyway and now I had to tell her that, not only did I have an accident, but that it was with a car rather than solo. It's nice to have someone at home that worries about me.

I drove myself home, changed clothes (didn't want anybody slicing through my cycling clothes), and drove to urgent care. They took x-rays of my left leg/ankle/knee, lower back (which was already spectacularly swollen by this point), right hand, and right shoulder. Nothing broken. The Doctor did smush my pinkie back into place (ouch) and splinted it up. Got a precription for big ibuprofen and a muscle relaxant (both of which came in handy at bedtime) and I went home.

This was the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend so I took Friday off, since I wouldn't be able to concentrate on my job anyway, and spent the weekend mostly on my back with my left foot elevated (my whole lower left leg was nicely swollen). When I went back to work on Tuesday, I was in sandals because my foot was so swollen. Stayed in sandals for the rest of the week (good thing this happened in spring). I was able to use a previous experience with leg swelling by getting on a (stationary) bike to help get rid of my leg swelling. Worked, too, but not right away. I had to wait a couple of weeks for my body to want to get rid of the swelling.

I did take my bike into the local bike shop to inquire about repairs. It was while I was unloading the bike from the car that I noticed one of the carbon seat stays was badly damaged. Nevermind that the wheels were pretty messed up, too, if a seat stay is broken, then the frame is toast. The wrench at the shop confirmed this. The components seem okay but I, at the very least, needed a new frame (weeks later, I noticed a pretty good dent in the aluminum top tube, too).

Followed up with an orthopedist, which eventually resulted in an MRI of my left knee, because he was afraid I had torn my ACL. The MRI showed no tearing, so I just stretched it pretty good. Found I had a sprained left ankle, too. Originally my left leg hurt so bad that I hadn't noticed the sprain. Funny. The pain in my left leg also blotted out the right IT-band pain I had been having. The doctor recommended I just have physical therapy.

I had been in irregular contact with the driver who hit me and once the bills started piling up (totaled bike and PT), he turned it over to his insurance company. That was great because his insurance company loved writing checks to get things cleared up.

Where I stand today is that this past weekend I went to a bike shop to order a new frame (more on this in another post). That will take a couple of months to show up. In the meantime I have started to ease into running. I am done with triathlons for the year, of course, so now the focus is on doing the Full Vineman a year from now. I am skipping doing a HIM between now and then but I do want to do a marathon in that time. My left knee feels a bit unstable, my left ankle gets better every day, as does my shoulder (albeit more slowly).

I have newfound empathy for any pedestrian or cyclist who is hit by a vehicle. I was lucky, in that my accident happened happened at a slow speed. It could have been much, much worse.

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