Thursday, September 27, 2012

What's Your Name Again?

I have been told there are two types of cyclists.  The ones who have crashed, and the ones who have not crashed yet.  I have been an avid cyclist for several years now, and I have been in the "not yet" category.  Until Saturday.

The ride started as most do in late summer/early fall, we were all bundled up chatting and shivering.  It was a beautiful, sunny, crisp 49 degrees. The only thing darkening the day was a forecast of high winds.   A small group of us met as the sun came up.   It was a fun bunch of cyclists I ride with every week.  I was excited, as I was taking my new Specialized Amira road bike for it's maiden voyage.  I was literally giddy.   If it's possible to be in love with an inanimate object, well then I'm in love with this bike.  It's a dream, weighs almost nothing, and is fast!  Just the way I like it!

We completed the warm up, joined a larger group and set out on the main ride.  The temperature had warmed, and the sun was starting to climb into the sky.   I was one in a group of 50 cyclists,  one of my happiest places to be.  A smile played across my lips.

We rode single file at 20+mph each taking turns pulling the group.  The wind had picked up significantly, and drafting was a must.  The wind made it difficult when it was my turn to lead.  After about an hour, several of us broke from the group, and started to make our way back to the start.  We had busy days ahead, and opted for a shorter distance than the pack.   I was the last in the line and I took in the scenery, the countryside and the chance to draft.

I'm not exactly sure how it happened.  The section of road we were on had been recently paved and was smooth.   I felt relaxed and was enjoying being lost in my thoughts, as we were not far from the end of the ride.  It was still very windy.  The last thing I remember was looking down at my computer to check speed and mileage, and when I looked up I went off the road.  I hadn't noticed the drop-off before.  I remember yelling "oh no!!!" then darkness.

I didn't feel pain, but blood was pouring down my face.    I'm pretty sure I was lying on the road.  I couldn't remember anything.  It was a blur.....then I heard sirens.  I remember being very confused, and frustrated that I couldn't remember what day it was or what was going on.  I knew there was something I had to do that day but I couldn't remember what it was.   My friend Lisa told me what happened, that I had crashed and they had called 911.  She held my hand as paramedics circled me.  I was lifted onto a gurney and couldn't move (I was told they immobilized me due to head trauma.)  Apparently my sunglasses punctured my temple because I heard one of them say "she's got a hole in her head".  Oops.  I don't remember anything until I was on a hospital bed.   I couldn't make myself remember where my family was.  It hurt trying to force memories.  Lisa had gotten my phone from my bike and had given it to me in the ambulance.  I vaguely recall thinking it was strange that I was allowed to have my phone.  While waiting for the doctor, I called my daughter to let her know what happened, and she filled me in on things I couldn't remember.   My husband was in Michigan golfing and my son had spent the night at a friend's house and had a football game that day.   I was he going to get there?  Even though I was confused I contacted people who are closest to me while we waited for the doctor.  I don't know what I said to them, but I contacted them.  It seemed familiar to be doing so, which I think gave me comfort.  The hours in the ER were a blur.  I remember getting a CAT scan.   I remember the ER doctor was a triathlete (and an Ironman).   I remembered him numbing my head and suturing me, and I vaguely remember the nurse who cleaned my face, shoulder and hair.   (All of the blood had turned my blond hair red.)  I always wanted to be a redhead, but I don't recommend this route.

I was diagnosed with a concussion, a hematoma on my left temple that resembled a large goose egg, a hole (a.k.a. contusion) in the same temple which required the stitches and painful road rash on my face, head, shoulder and knees.  Bruises everywhere.  And a enormous headache.  I am so thankful, it could have been so much worse.

Lisa and her husband got me home safely, and my daughter appeared traumatized when she saw me.  I hadn't seen what I looked like yet.  It couldn't be good judging from the terrified look on her face.  She said "Mom, your hair is pink".  I said "Cool!"  Then she said "ewww your face"!  Fantastic.  She got me into the shower (very awkward) and stayed with me because I was completely out of it and the room kept spinning.  She got me into bed, and turned out the light.  I don't remember much about the rest of the night.

Over the next few days,  I noticed symptoms appearing that were troubling.  I was forgetful.  I was irritable, and very emotional.  I couldn't sleep, and seemed to be acting impulsively and even irrationally.  I would lash out.  I didn't want to talk to anyone, and the people I did want to talk to I couldn't reach.  I remember being overly irritated by this.   I felt reduced to the equivalent of a sniffling, emotional little girl.   By Tuesday afternoon, I was isolating and I was not myself.   Old behavior which I had thought was gone for good was creeping back.  I was a wreck.  My normally calm demeanor appeared to be gone.

Had my usual outlets been available to me I may not have gotten so nuts.  But they were off-limits.  No exercise.  No TV.  No computer.  No phone (well I clearly broke that rule).  I tried writing with a pen and paper but I couldn't stream a set of thoughts together.  I could literally not concentrate and I was so frustrated.  I had never felt like this before.  To top it off, when I tried to stand up the room would spin.  And my head throbbed.

This morning I had an easier time getting out of bed.  The room didn't spin and I didn't have to hold on to anything in order to stand.  But I was still irritable and emotional.  On a whim I cleaned up the basement and reorganized all of my work files.  I felt productive at least.

I wasn't planning to leave the house today, as I had a deadline.  By noon I was so restless I decided to get out of the house to meet with friends.  Women who always seem to ground me,  and bring me back to reality.  I needed a dose of reality and some honesty.   I needed to be quiet and listen.  I also needed to be with other people.  When I talked I was honest, I cried, but it felt good.   They reminded me to be gentle with myself.  I was being overly critical, this time of myself.  I felt renewed, as I always do when I'm with them.   I left, went home and made some phone calls.  I gathered facts so I could take action.

I spoke to my primary care doctor and expressed my concern over my change in behavior since the accident.  She gave me a possible explanation, Post Concussion Syndrome, or PCS.   What gave me comfort and made me laugh for the first time all week is that these symptoms of emotional distress are particularly common in higher functioning individuals.   This made me laugh.  A much-needed laugh.   She said that typically many PCS symptoms will clear within a few days to a week.  She said that since my headaches are tolerable I am most likely on the mend.  We scheduled an appointment for tomorrow for a re-check and suture removal.

It made me feel lighter knowing what might be wrong with me,  and being given an explanation that makes sense for why I've been acting like a crazy woman.  I'm full of hope tonight.  My mood is lifting and I'm not dizzy (well, not any more than I was before the crash).   Friday I pick up my new helmet, and hopefully I'll have an opportunity to wear it soon.  I'm thinking group ride Saturday?  Call me crazy.   I know one thing for certain....I am not afraid to get back in the saddle.

If I called you or texted you in the last day or so, please accept my apology.

I hope this post was semi readable...if not blame it on the head injury.  :)

P.S.  The bike, a.k.a. Lover,  fared better than my helmet or me.  Some good news came out of the crash.  It's as tough as I hope to be.

Stay tuned.....

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