October 23, 2015. Phoenix AZ. John C Lincoln Medical Center. Room 540. Through all the training and preparation I have done for this ride I never actually believed I would complete it. I always thought some how, some way there were just too many miles for me not to hurt myself. Prior to this year I can’t remember the last time I fell. But not trying to do the ride was unacceptable. Yesterday morning we were cruising along at 25 mph and I felt great and for the first time ever the thought that I might actually be able to pull this off popped into my mind. We were riding through Phoenix and made it through all the traffic and were on a bike path next to the canal. No traffic, minimal pedestrians, no obstacles to speak of. For the whole ride I have been focused on the road in front of me, looking for obstacles and only occasionally stealing a glance at the scenery around me (and Ian’s butt in front of me).
I think on the bike path I allowed my mind to wander. I got too close to a curb while looking around and just went over it. On the other side of the curb there was gravel as far as the eye could see in both directions. Except for one 10 foot section of large rocks. It happened very quickly, but as I went flying over the bike the irony of where I was about to fall still had time to register. I don’t recall going over the handlebars, but Ian says that I did. I lay there on a bed of rocks yelling in pain, trying to get myself to shut up, but this just had to run its course. Once I gathered my faculties Ian helped me to the curb to sit down. He asked me if he should call Rae or an ambulance then asked a couple of other questions that I should have known the answers to but didn’t. Then he decided himself to call an ambulance. I have never broken a bone before, but there is no mistaking the feeling of cracked bone rubbing on cracked bone. The paramedic who braced my arm said “ooooh, yup, that’s broken.”
In a previous lifetime I would still have been trying to figure out ways of continuing the ride but as they hoisted me into the back of the ambulance and closed the doors I knew it was over for me. There were so many places I could have fallen over the last 5 days in the middle of nowhere. But I ended up falling less than one mile from a trauma center. I have never ridden in an ambulance before either. It was a decidedly short ride though. No flying down the highway through stop signs with lights and sirens going. I felt cheated. It seemed that no sooner had they closed the doors then they were opening them again and wheeling me into the ER where the first thing they did was cut off my Rays Little Ride jersey. Several X-rays, MRI’s, EKG’s and CAT scans later I am told I have three fractured vertebrae, three fractured ribs, a pneumothorax, a fractured humerus and a concussion. On the X-ray they also pointed out to me my collection of old fractured ribs from previous falls. Apparently my rib cage is a living history of my cycling mishaps.
I have never spent the night in the hospital either, at least not when I wasn’t being paid to be there so it was a day of many firsts. The question is, now what? It is now the morning after and on the wall at the end of the bed there is a checklist on the whiteboard of people that have to come and see me to give me the all clear. The only blank box left is a cognitive evaluation. Once they arrive and sign off, we will be on our way. What exactly that means for the future of the ride? This we will be talking about with the team when we get out of here. They are waiting back at the hotel room with fresh bagels, cream cheese and lox.