Today I get my cast off!! Woo hoo! There is still quite a bit of physical therapy and pain to work through before I’ll be back to myself. It’s been a crazy 7 weeks, but strangely enough, I’ve been thankful for breaking my wrist. Before I get there, why not give you the full story…
I’m not what you would describe as an athletic man, trust me. I’ve always been, let’s just be nice and say “plump”. Over my life I learned that there is really only one exercise I enjoy doing that is fun and relaxing.
So, you can imagine my excitement when in September of 2014 we moved to Louisville, CO and I was inspired to see how active everyone was here. Runners, bikers, families just walking for pleasure. Sadly, settling into a new town demanded my attention and the winter hit quickly after that, causing me to stay physically dormant until the following summer.
In June 2015, the company I work for moved from Louisville to nearby Westminster. This was the exact excuse I was looking for! I got myself a crappy bike of off Craigslist and drummed up the courage to make the 10.5 mile commute to work. The first time it took me a sweat-pouring oxygen-deprived hour and twenty minutes… but I did it. The thinner oxygen in the mile-high city had shown me who was boss… and it was definitely not me.
Over the course of the next few months I’d bike to work 2-3 times a week, and I watched my fitness level slowly improve until I was able to get to work in only 35-40 minutes. Over that time, the awkward route I had been taking became obsolete as the new “36 Bikeway” opened, a dedicated concrete bike path that stretched almost the entire distance and reduced my commute to just over 9 miles.
In a strange twist of fate, my car decided to die, so I decided to double down. Instead of buying a new car, I took the $400 salvage and put that into a fun new hybrid bike, a Giant Escape 2. I wanted to work up to biking 5 days a week. I was now getting almost 1:30 of cardio exercise 3 or more times a week and I felt the healthiest I ever have. I had finally found my fitness fun. On a whim I signed up for the Good Sam Bike Jam in nearby Lafayette and placed 20th out of 129 riders. Not to bad for someone of my historical plumpness.
October hit and winter was on its way again and my new bike would soon have to get stored away for the season. I felt like Indiana Jones, having just discovered a new precious treasure, only to have it torn from my hands. I discovered a Facebook group called the “Icy Bike Winter Commuting Challenge“, a group of dedicated bikers from across the frozen parts of the world who commute to work year-round. They hold a public challenge to ride through the winter, giving updates and support to one another along the way. YES! It IS possible to commute on my bike year round. I was able to keep my newly found treasure!
Turn of Events
Three weeks into the challenge, on October 21, 2015, I looked worriedly outside as the temperature had dropped into the 40’s with some light raining. I would normally skip biking in the rain, but if I was going to start taking this seriously and bike through the winter, I needed to find a way to be comfortable with it. I took extra time to prep, putting on rain gear, winter gloves, additional layers of clothes, started my iPhone exercise app, powered up my lights, and headed out. I took everything very easily, riding about half the speed I normally do and taking extra care in each corner. I was about 3 miles into my frigid ride, and had just reached the bottom of a long downhill getting ready to turn for an uphill. BAM!
Before I could even think, let alone react, the left turn I was making had caused the narrow rear tire on my hybrid bike to slide out from underneath causing me to go down hard. My left elbow and left knee took the first hit, absorbing the impact of my 240 pound body at a leisurely 10 mph. Driven by reflex, my right hand then slapped down into the concrete to break the fall for the rest of my body. An immediate numbing sensation of pins and needles shot through my right hand and all of the other impact points screamed as I slid along the wet concrete about 10 feet to a dizzying stop.
A moment of quiet. Just the sound of rain bouncing off my helmet as I realized what had happened and finally let out a groan. I rolled myself over and immediately started a self injury assessment. Everything hurt, but I new immediately that there was something not normal with my right hand. In addition to the throbbing pain, which was fighting for attention from my left arm and leg, my right hand felt stiff, swollen, and nearly immobile. I immediately tried to move my fingers and thumb and they seemed to be moving ok, but any attempt to bend my wrist in any direction was meet with what I can only describe as my body screaming, “DON’T DO THAT!”
I stood up, gathered myself awkwardly like Ed Rooney at the end of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and stumbled over to my bike to call my wife Sharon. She started on her way to get me but as it turned out I had crashed on a dedicated bike path, and my nearest landmark with car access was either a mile back or a mile forward. Time to start walking.
I’m pathetically limping along towards the rendezvous point with my wife, when the inner filmmaker in me started to giggle as I saw this scene play out in a film. I was walking a mile, in the rain, cold, uphill, limping, holding my right hand above my head to keep the swelling down and pushing my bike awkwardly with only my left hand. I don’t know why, it just made me laugh out loud.
Right about now, you’re probably really confused. The headline that brought you here lead you to believe I was thankful for all of this. I am, in a way you may not expect or understand.
I’m thankful for the overall experience, because it gave me the opportunity to practice my patience and appreciation for the things I do have in my life.
Why I’m Thankful
- My wife Sharon.
- This is the FIRST time I’ve broken a bone. I didn’t want to live my whole life without breaking at least one, just to know what it’s like.
- My new bike was undamaged.
- Sharon works from home so she was available to pick me up quickly and spend the day with me.
- The urgent care I received at the Community Medical Center was so kind, gentile and empathetic. The nurse practitioner John was really cool. It makes me smile when you can tell people are doing what they enjoy.
- I was wearing heavy winter gloves and extra rain protection, so the hematoma on my knee and elbow were much smaller and cleaner than it could have been.
- I was able to walk to get picked up. I don’t know how long I would have waited before someone else came down that path on a rainy morning to find me.
- I was able to stay calm after the accident and made rational decisions.
- I got my first CT scan, yay!
- I only had two fractures: a Colles’ (Distal Radius) fracture which would need surgery and two plates, and a small Styloid fracture. It could have been much worse.
- After my accident, my kids hugged me harder than they ever had.
- The surgery was performed by the talented Dr. Daniel L. Master of Mapleton Hill Orthopedics in Boulder. Dr. Master had re-attached both of a man’s hands back in 2013, so I had implicit trust that he’d be able to take care of simple my little fracture.
- Modern anesthesia.
- The nurse, Susan, who took care of me after my surgery.
- Thanks to my insurance, I only had to pay $1500 instead of the $26,000 surgery bill. I shudder to think if I was still working freelance.
- My boss and my work have been super-supportive and helpful during my recovery. I work the best place ever!
- My wife Sharon is a superstar. In addition to her normal part time job, and being a stay-at-home mom to our kids, she now was taking care of me and picking up on the housework I could no longer do.
- I lost 7 pounds since surgery.
- I was able to stay positive, when sometimes I just wanted to cry.
- The Oxycodone slowed down my appetite and digestion for 3 days. BOY was I thankful when I finally got to poop again!
- I was able to take advantage of disability insurance through my work, so I could recover properly at home.
- Seeing the artistry of the stitching on my two long scars before my hard cast went on.
- It gave me a reason to start blogging. Typing with only a few fingers and the help of Siri was challenging, but I made it work.
- I can now shave my head with my left hand nearly as quickly as it used to with my right.
- I figured out how to tie my shoes with one hand. It’s not pretty, and it takes forever, but I can get it done.
- I learned how to write with my left hand, even if it still looks like a 3rd grader. I practice while I wait for my computer to boot.
- Being out of work, I got to spend quality time with each of my kids.
- I had the time to watch all the Netflix shows that I’ve been meaning to, plus some.
- I was unable to help the kids with this year’s gingerbread house creation. It completely fell apart, but my kids still finished it and were proud that they made it work despite the mess.
- I got to read a cool book I’ve been meaning to read.
- I learned I could rake leaves and shovel snow with one arm. BAM!
- I finally learned how to play Dungeons & Dragons. I’ve always wanted to learn.
- I had fun painting my cast, and did it with my left hand. When I’m out and about, kids tell me it’s cool looking.
- I have never been more thankful to wash my right arm and hand. Ahhhhhh.
- Being away from it, I now realize how much I LOVE biking, how much I want it to be an ongoing part of my life, and I look forward to getting back on as soon as I can.
It would have been just as easy to create an even longer list of all the things I was angry about. Secretly, my brain still complains about them anyway, but that’s ok. I don’t try to suppress anger about things, I just don’t let it win. It’s a lifelong process to constantly seek gratitude regardless of what the circumstance.
I just realized all the extra time I would now need to get through the TSA with those metal plates. UGH! Hmmm… time to dig DEEP.