Archive for June, 2009

bike meets car v4.0

June 20, 2009

If you noticed my disappearance from most of the known world, it is because a few minutes after leaving my apartment in Rome to meet some other cyclists for the usual Sunday AM giro on June 7, I was hit from behind by a Fiat.  As happened in 2002, when I was similarly hit by a car while riding a very similar Carbon Colnago bike on a similar Sunday morning, the bike was destroyed and I did my best to share the pain. This time I ended up with long fractures of both the left and right femur, and the head of the right femur was completely separated from the rest of the bone.   I was spatula-ed from the pavement by an ambulance, and to make a long story short, ended up 18 hours later in my 3rd hospital, a beautiful place called The European Hospital.  Thanks to Tom and several friends here with medical contacts, a team of three surgeons reconstructed me on Monday night, and I woke up Tuesday morning with many segments of tubing leading from various regions of my body, and oxygen trickling into my nose, flat on my back staring at the ceiling.  I have a philosophy that any day I wake up with no tubes connecting me or other hardware attached to my body, is a good day.  Tuesday gave the affirmation of the converse of that principle.


The result of 7 hours of surgery, 4 units of blood and 35 mg of morphine, besides a truly miserable experience first recovering from anesthetic, was some hardware in both legs, plates and screws, titanium left, steel right presumably so one day I can do a true side by side comparison, and lots of staples to hold the insides in and outsides out.  Leave us not forget long stretches of dressing covered in longer stretches of surgical tape, the removal of which every other AM for cleaning is definitely a sufficient substitute for any espresso I’ve had here.  


The people who took care of me there were just outstanding, without exception, working my diet and fluids and moving and cleaning me, it’s quite an experience being totally dependent on medical people to do any more than lift a glass from table to lips.  I don’t recommend, but I do appreciate the dedication of these people.  My surgeons were in to check on me daily, or more.  Amazingly, post surgery I have had zero pain medication – zero – just loads of nutrients to rebuild blood, fluids, antibiotics etc.   My only pain is trying to get back moving – otherwise I’m what you would call resting comfortably.  Though resting is not my favorite activity, it beats resting uncomfortably. 


My energy level is well approximated by the number zero, and I was reluctant to even log on.  i hope you’ll understand that if you send me an email, I will definitely read and appreciate it, but unlikely I will reply to it.  My focus is on doing what they want me to do, and being stationary with the computer on my lap is not going to be possible – or desirable anyway.  When not trying to move, or eat, I’m mostly asleep.  But I did want to at least get the news out and assure everyone that my passport to remain on planet earth has yet to be revoked, though the authorities are wondering how many ways I’m going to test their patience.  


Gradually during the 9 days all my lines came out, and  I was ambulanced to The American Hospital in Rome (you really have not fully experienced driving here without that ride), which has a specialty in rehab, where I will be for a few weeks until I can fly back to RI.  Like the European Hospital, and my health club here ‘all around sport’, the English ends at the stationary… it has caché.


Today is about my 12th post crash and I feel pretty much myself as one can given I spend all day on my back, excepting two hours practising sitting in a chair, which at the moment is a big deal to do, but also progress.  Monday I’ll be in the therapy pool, starting to walk without weight on the legs, and they also take me to the gym in the hospital to enjoy more creative torture than available in bed.  American Hospital is bigger and more bureaucratic, but has all the cool rehab facilities, and also an excellent place to be if you have to be somewhere like this.  


Looking forward, I am told I’ll be at home with live-in 24/7 help in July, and walking by end of August, maybe sooner.  Given my quick recover to date, I am planning on the optimistic side, but a few days or weeks one way or the other is what it is.  The body will be ready for the next thing when it’s ready.   


On a philosophical note, It’s a big shift in a few hours to go from looking forward to some free time after tough teaching stints at Brown and La Sapienza, plus my teaching and consulting at ASI, to hoping to be recovered enough to resume it all end of September.  But overall I am grateful for many things – foremost that I am alive and will recover 100%.  I have rolled these dice maybe too many times and nobody has to tell me what can happen to a cyclist hit by a car – an experience I have now had 4 times in the past 20 years.  The fact that I have ‘only’ orthopaedic injuries I consider amazing.   If you don’t think you need to wear a helmet, I have some remaining pieces of mine you might wish to take a look at.  Having had 4 serious bone breaks on the bike in the past 7 years, having spent almost 50% of that time in some form of recovery, I look at this outcome as a chance to make some necessary changes in my lifestyle and I’m committed to doing that.   I was only 5 weeks off crutches from my Feb. 1 bike crash when this happened, and that was my first thought lying on the pavement Sunday AM – how can I muster the attitude for another long campaign to recover.   Somehow I did / am, but I see my next challenge as making sure not to again face this kind of challenge.  Life is full of risks, one can’t exist in a bubble, but this is ridiculous.


Thanks for reading.  I hope I haven’t worried anyone – worked on this all day hoping to be clear that I’m comfortable, in good hands, and recovering, but without putting any makeup on the reportage.