When I told my boss how I wrecked my writing arm, I tried to be upbeat and cheerful. I told him I'd been trying out for the Olympics and didn't quite make the cut.
My quick and easy response resulted in a lecture regarding how carelessness leads to injury, and at my age, I can't afford to bang myself up because healing takes longer and things break easier.
My boss then told me a story that will stay with me a long time, even though I was not clowning around when I broke my wrist.
My boss told me about one of our employees in another office, in another state, who had been an Olympic-caliber swimmer in high school. While playfully diving from a diving board at about age 16, he suffered a head injury that resulted in paralysis from the waist down and limited upper limb movement. This employee has been with the company more than 20 years now. He types with a straw.
Makes my left-hand woes pale in comparison.
The Lizard was going to meet me at home to ride to Waterton Canyon with me. He'd already been up it once. He said the bighorn were out, so I packed my telephoto lens. Before he got home, however, he got a flat. He told me to go on without him while he changed his inner tube, and he would catch up to me. And I knew he would. Because he's that fast. He told me to watch out for goat heads. (stickers)
I took off down the bike path, crossed a major intersection and then went down the hill we call The Time Trial Ramp to get back on the bike path. It's pretty steep, so I was moving pretty fast. Just as the bike path began to level out, I caught a glimpse of a fence post completely straddling the path. A jogger and her dog were approaching from the opposite direction. I panicked and squeezed the brakes too hard. The front wheel came to an immediate stop, and the back wheel flipped up and over, tossing me in the process.
I tucked to roll, but apparently the message didn't get to my right hand, which desperately tried to cushion my fall, absorbing all the impact. But, I didn't hit the wood, and I didn't hit the runner or her dog.
I sat on the sidewalk and cried for a minute as the runner and then another cyclist who came upon the scene tried to help me, console me, move my bike, make sure I was all right, offer to take me wherever I needed to go... When I did get up, my first thought was to move the wood, and then I wondered, aloud apparently, why The Lizard hadn't warned me about this obstruction.
Dumb thought. He wouldn't have left it there. He would have moved it. The two women helping me said it wasn't there when they'd gone by earlier. This was recent. Maybe in the last five minutes. I moved the wood while the other cyclist moved my bike and then checked it to make sure it was functional. Thankfully, the bike sustained no injuries.
The investigative reporter in me emerged. Six sections of split rail fencing looked as though they'd been run over by a truck, but there were no tracks. I called The Lizard to let him know I wouldn't be able to ride and that I'd be walking home. Because everything hurt. I asked him if he'd noticed the fence was missing a few sections when he rode by. Of course, he had not noticed, but nothing had been blocking the bike path when he rode through, but what about me? Was I okay? Should he come pick me up? Was I okay? Was I hurt? "Are you all right???"
I assured him I was fine and needed to walk so I wouldn't be stiff. I thanked the two women who had been waiting and told them I'd be fine, then continued studying the fence while describing what I was seeing to The Lizard over the phone.
"Maybe some kids did it," he theorized before instructing me to quit worrying about the fence and tell him exactly where I was so he could come get me.
I tried to describe where I was, but I was in shock, and even I don't remember what I said. Then as the conversation continued, I noticed eight kids down the path bouncing on a fence post repeatedly, until it finally gave way and fell to the ground. They cheered.
"I found our fence vandals," I told The Lizard, which sent him into instant alert.
"Are you in danger? Are they coming toward you?" he asked.
I watched the boys for a bit before replying I didn't think I was in danger, but I'd just watched them take out another section of fence.
"I'm calling the police," The Lizard said.
While waiting for the police and The Lizard, I took pictures of the fence and the boys with my iPhone, because it was more easily accessible than the monster lens in my pack. Also, I could be a bit more stealth with the iPhone. The wreck kept replaying through my head. I remembered the back lower left side of the helmet hitting the concrete. Hard. I remembered being thankful I wore my helmet. I knew instantly, even though I was in shock, if my head had hit the sidewalk that hard, my skull would have cracked. I would have had brainburger to go with the visibly obvious kneeburger. I knew the big camera probably sustained a big hit, too, but I was afraid to look. The pain in my shoulder also prevented me from being too curious. I couldn't have pulled off that pack if I'd tried.
Later The Lizard lifted my bike into his truck, then helped me escape the prison my backpack had become. I asked to peek inside the pack.
"Are you sure," he asked, instinctively knowing what secrets it held.
"I need to know."
One quick zip later, I wailed. Seeing the fractured filter hurt worse than anything on my body. And yet, I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that crack could have been my head.
Before my first Ride the Rockies, I never wore a helmet when I was on the bike path. I thought bike paths were the safest place I could ride. Ride the Rockies required a helmet, so I began wearing one during every training ride so I could get used to it. Eventually, I felt uncomfortable on the bike without a helmet, and I've never gone without since.
The day I saw the hand specialist, news blared reports of a 62-year-old cyclist who had broken his neck, his pelvis and his leg when he hit a fishing line someone had tied across the bike path. I imagine a bit of uproar in the cycling community followed when it was reported there would be no investigation. (Although how could we expect fingerprints to be lifted from fishing line?)
Two days later, the follow-up report included an eye witness, the fisherman, who said the cyclist got tangled in his cast and crashed after taking both hands from the handlebars to escape the unexpected catch. On the bright side, no act of maliciousness occurred.
No ride is safe without a helmet.
Two days after the big spill, while preparing to go to church, I attempted my first full-body shower. Then I attempted to comb my wet, tangled hair with my left hand. I'm all thumbs with my left hand. I had planned to donate my hair in May anyway, and this was one thing I didn't have to deal with if I moved up the haircut. One of my friends at church volunteered to braid my hair, and The Lizard took me to a salon immediately after church.
The last time I donated my hair, I cried. Even though I had planned the cut for months, it hurt to let go. This time, the only thought I had as the scissors sliced away was, "There it goes." Now, more than a week later, I have more movement and mobility in my right hand, and I have no regrets about cutting my hair. It's difficult enough to learn to aim a fork into my mouth with my left hand, tie my shoes with my left hand and mouse with a cast. I'm so thankful I had already made the decision to donate my hair. It made this step so much easier.
I made a list the other day of things I'm not going to try to learn to do with my left hand. First and foremost, I'm not going to try to learn to shave with a razor. I have enough owies. I don't need more.
Same thing with scissors. And the rotary cutter.
I'd have to hold the Nikon upside down to use it with my left hand. It is, by the way, working again. I use it with my right hand when I can hold it comfortably. If it hurts to hold it, out comes the iPhone.
I'm not going to try to learn how to use chopsticks with my left hand. I can't eat with chopsticks using my right hand, so why bother? Just give me a fork.
I can knit left-handed, but I'm not going to try to learn to crochet or embroider with my left hand. I'm hoping I won't have enough time, and I have plenty of other things I can do, such as catch up on some reading.
I've been burying my nose in a spinning book my dear sister-in-law sent for my birthday a while back. I read it on the train every day, now that snowflake production has gone into hibernation. I can hardly put the book down when the train stops. Now I can't wait to get my left hand on a spindle. I may actually try to learn to spin with my left hand. Then learning with my right hand won't be so complicated, right?!?
My wrist didn't require surgery, and I might be out of the powder blue cast in half the time the emergency room doctor initially estimated (perhaps three weeks!!!).
Next week's checkup will include an update on current restrictions, which is no cycling (or crocheting) for two weeks.
Two weeks off the bike just three months before a weeklong ride is a setback, but I still have time to prepare for Ride the Rockies. I am fully aware how blessed I have been. My boss now knows I wasn't goofing off when I wrecked. He wants me to have a successful and fun ride. I'm doing some easy hiking while The Lizard trains. I'm anxious to get back on the bike.
When people ask how I broke my wrist these days, I tell them I was trying out for the crochet Olympics and didn't make the cut. Or maybe I can tell them I was typing super fast when all of a sudden...