I consider myself a pretty experienced cyclist. Sure I take some chances bombing down hills where I know the terrain pretty well and don’t expect to have to make any sudden evasive maneuvers, but I feel that I’m a pretty safe cyclist. Three weeks ago today I had a pretty bad crash where I went over the handlebars and landed face first in the road. The last thing I remember was my handlebars dropping unexpectantly. I came around to a man standing over me advising me to stay put and that EMS was on the way. I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised this happened because as An Old Guy On Two Wheels pointed out, 50% of all bicycle accidents are solo accidents, in other words they just involve the cyclist.
So, there I was, in the middle of the road trying to gather my wits, but it was virtually impossible. I was clearly dazed and confused. I attempted to form some words but my face and mouth were not responding so it sounded like mumbling. In fact, I couldn’t really feel my face, but my shoulder was pretty sore. I was pretty out of it, but somehow I managed to reach into my back pocket to grab my phone. I found my wife’s number on my recently dialed lists, dialed and handed it to the man standing over me.
The next thing I remember was an EMT asking me questions. I have no idea what he asked me or what I responded with, but I do remember telling him that I had a RoadID. It wasn’t on my wrist so they went and found it. The EMT told me he was a cyclist as well and I do remember feeling better about that. I vaguely remember him telling me about starting me on some pain medication via an IV. I then realized I was in a full neck brace. He’d already started cutting away my favorite jersey. He was about to cut my heart rate monitor strap and bib shorts. I managed to undo the strap and convinced him to just pull down my shoulder straps. I’m not sure what was actually going through my head, but I was somehow worried about these. I vaguely remember the ambulance ride and feeling thirsty. I definitely could feel the pressure of the neck brace as my face continued to swell up and I was a little panicky about losing my cookies on the ride. I mustered up whatever concentration I could to keep down the contents of my stomach. I think I was successful, but honestly, I don’t remember.
I don’t remember much of what happened at the hospital…glimspes of a CAT Scan, the pain from the local anesthetic they used to numb me up for stitches and the EMT coming back to check on me. At some point my wife was there. After they taped me up and stitched me up, I walked out of the Burnet ER. My wife says I asked her about what happened multiple times, but I don’t remember this either. The next week I was in a fog. Some of it was probably due to the painkillers I was taking. Normally, I don’t use the painkillers they give me, but the side of my face, my jaw and teeth were very sore and swollen.
The next week was a total blur. I attempted to work from home, but I had a great deal of difficulty concentrating and slept a lot. This was actually a good thing. If you have a serious concussion you’re supposed to limit the amount of mental stimulation you’re getting. They also recommend avoiding alcohol and caffeine. I was also taking Ibuprofen. I read somewhere that you should avoid that, too. However, my shoulder and back were still pretty sore and it was the only thing that was helping. The other thing they want you want to avoid with a concussion is strenuous activity.
All this was very frustrating for me because I was just beginning to get back into decent form after some abdominal surgery I had earlier in the summer. I had been off the bike for 6 weeks and had to ease myself back into riding per doctor’s orders. But, I knew from previous concussions that this type of head injury was not something to take lightly. Too much too soon could easily lead to permanent brain damage. As I get older, I’ve learned to listen to my body more and more, but I’m still an athlete at heart so I’m always pushing myself. I have a pretty high tolerance to pain, so I really needed to be careful this time.
Accident’s like mine are pretty common for cyclists. They are usually accompanied by a concussion and, more often than not, a broken collarbone. It’s a good idea to have some form of identification on you to help first responders determine who you are along with critical medical and emergency contact information. That’s why I wear a Road ID. It took about a week and a half for my concussion symptoms (short-term memory lapses, difficulty concentrating, headache, etc.) to go away. Hopefully sharing my experience will better prepare you in the event you are involved in an accident while riding your bicycle.
I am very thankful to the good Samaritan who called EMS and my wife. He also brought my bike and other belongings to the hospital.