Full stop – an unexpected mid-season break

May 5, 2014 at 3:08 pm 8 comments

“Family sunset walk tonight”, Sunday @ 6:44PM

Quick summary: the cycling community is amazing, the Samford community is amazing, the UAB trauma center and all the workers there are amazing. My wife is incredibly amazing. My friends are amazing. I have determined from this one accident that I am officially the luckiest person on the planet based on the collection of family and friends that are in my life. I’m thankful to be alive and already on the mend, although my jaws are wired shut for the next two weeks. I was in a bike-car collision this past Monday, April 28th on my way home from work. I do not remember any of the details of the accident so rather than trying to speculate/make guesses about what might have happened, I’m just going to take you through a run-down of what I remember.

The timeline is out of order below to reflect the order in which I started remembering things.

  • Monday morning – teach two classes. spend third class and lunch working with seniors on their projects.
  • Monday afternoon – wake up in the emergency room, doctor trying to stitch my forehead, me saying “I don’t remember anything,” “I don’t remember anything,” “I don’t remember anything,” over and over again. Then I remember saying something like “I was coming home from Samford”. In what seemed like very little time, I started piecing things back together to fill out the missing time between the end of my classes and waking up in the emergency room.
  • Monday shortly after 1pm – leave Samford out the back entrance. Straight across Saulter to merge with my normal Homewood – Smyer – Vesclub route. Do my normal route all the way until Rocky Ridge Rd where I decide it would be nice to do some easy climbing over in Georgetown so I’ll take an easier flatter route to get over to S Cove, then out the back of that neighborhood to get over to Georgetown.
  • Monday @ 2:29PM – I take a picture from the Vestavia Hills High School parking lot of all the cars – presumably because Vestavia was in the process of letting out early. If I had not taken that picture, my phone would have been locked and Kristine wouldn’t have found out about the accident until much later.
  • Monday about two or three minutes later – I turn left onto Panorama. At the South Cove stop sign I turn left. I remember making the left turn and then my memory abruptly stops. No recollection at all of anything between that moment, the accident which happened about 20 seconds later, and then waking up in the emergency room maybe an hour later.

What I have been told by others is that I only lost consciousness very briefly at the scene. I was awake, confused, and agitated, but I don’t remember any of that. I took a direct hit to my face somehow cutting open my forehead and cracking my jaw in two places on both sides of my jaw but no damage to my nose or chin. There is some deep annoying road rash on my neck and two sore (but not broken) elbows. I had lots of neck damage, the bruising right now a week later is insane – my body is yellow from my chest up to the top of my neck. I consider myself very, very fortunate.

My friend Boris rode back out there on his way home from work the day of the crash before the rain started and found half of my Di2 shifter, two of my sunglass lenses, and blood splattered on the ground. Also, one of my shoes is lost – no sign of it. Think it might be stuck in an EMT vehicle somewhere. I don’t think the impact was enough to knock me out of my shoes.

Monday night I was mostly out of it from pain meds. By later in the day Tuesday, I was starting to feel better – still a lot of neck and jaw pain. Heading into surgery on Wednesday, the plan was to screw two plates into my mouth — one either side of my jaw to keep the jaw bones in place to allow the two cracks to heal. This went well on the rightside of my mouth, but during the surgery the doctor discovered that the crack was much higher and farther back in my left jaw. This would have meant coming in from the outside through my left cheek – a much more invasive surgery. The alternative was to wire my mouth shut and let the bones heal on their own. They had mentioned this was a small possibility that they would have to do this during surgery, but me being my optimistic self assumed that it wouldn’t happen.

What now ranks as the absolute scariest moment of my life was waking up from that surgery to find my jaws wired shut. The doctor explained to me later that I woke up fighting like a teenager. What I remember is waking up and being unable to breathe. I realized very quickly what had happened, but I was still in a panic because I do not breathe through my nose very well. Plus the surgery involves placing a breathing tube through your nose so there was all kinds of blood and junk still in my nose. I remember feeling like I couldn’t breathe. I was fighting for breath. But I was also very tired, so I remember falling mostly asleep again – then waking up in a panic – falling asleep – waking up in a panic – over and over again. I heard one of the doctors say that my heartrate kept going from low 40s up into the 80s – that was me falling asleep, waking up, panicking, and falling asleep again in somewhat rapid succession.

I think I eventually communicated that I didn’t breathe well through my nose, and they got me calmed down. I remember being awake some and then asleep some throughout the day eventually spending 8 hours in the recovery area. They asked me at the end if I wanted to stay in recovery or go back to my room, and I opted to go back to my room — primarily because of the frustration of trying to relax enough to pee into a bottle while laying at a 45 degree angle and lots of activity nearby.

The one good thing about the jaw surgery is that I no longer felt any pains anywhere in my body other than the Level 10 pain in my teeth and jaws. Imagine grinding your teeth together as hard as you can – not for just a second, but permanently. This is how tight my jaws were initially clamped shut. I think the wires have loosened a bit, but I have also lost all feeling in my lower lip and lower jaw and teeth thanks to unavoidable nerve damage during surgery that should heal up fine.

Wednesday night was horrible because I couldn’t sleep well, being in one position on my back for nearly 24 hours a day was just making my back and skin hurt everywhere as my jaw and teeth pain started to die down. I took this picture and posted it to instagram with a lot of help from Kristine who was there with me all night. This pretty much sums up how Wednesday night went.

“Status update, please send me as many well wishes and rayers. Only way to communicate is to write or type maked it difficult to reposition since I can’t move myself.”, Thursday morning @ 4AM typos uncorrected

Things started to improve a lot on Thursday because I was gaining a tiny bit more mobility and able to reposition myself. Prior to that I was entirely dependent on other people to move at all – which is bad in itself, but when you also are dependent on the right position to breathe well and not gag, it makes it really, really scary as noted on the clipboard I was using to communicate with Kristine. Many people visited on Thursday and Friday – and that was a huge help too as I started to move around a bit more and realize that I was no longer constrained to a single position or asking other people to help me move.

Friday, we got the quite unexpected news that I was ready to go home – we figured at least one more day, and instead I was home after spending all week in the hospital. Things have continued to improve since I’ve been home with my neck and knee starting to be the dominant pain. Enough about that, though, I’m thankful to be alive, which is why I’ve started with all the good pictures first and then included those closer to the accident at the bottom.

“Beautiful sunset walk with @ktoone”, Saturday @ 7:30PM

“Welcome home from the kids”, Friday @ 8PM

“Me and luc during my hot lap. @rapha @strava”, Friday @ 1PM. Luc had come down to visit me on one of his PT walks after being involved in a bad crash in the Tour de Blue over the weekend. I set that as my goal to return the favor – just barely caught him as he was about to be released!

Friday at 10:44AM - life just got a lot betterFriday at 10:44AM – life just got a lot better … totally tongue in cheek but also thankful for something besides chicken broth and beef broth from the hospital

“Ready for a hot lap around the 9th floor tomorrow I’m going to @strava it!”, Thursday @ 12:30PM

“On my way into surgery this morning. Little did I know how rough things were about to get.”, Wednesday@ 10:30AM

“Me and my beautiful wife @ktoone at UAB in a lot of pain but hanging in there. But in a lot of pain.”, Tuesday @ 11:39AM

tuesday knee injuryKnee injury – my knee is in this picture somewhere towards the middle. Tuesday @ 11:39AM
Damage to my neck and face - Monday @ 7:40PMDamage to my neck and face – Monday @ 7:40PM
ABC 33/40 news footage showing the bike and the car. Monday after I was on my way to the hospitalABC 33/40 news footage showing the bike and the car. Monday after I was on my way to the hospital
First responders - the car I ran into was driven by a doctor. I believe that is him on the left in scrubs attending to me from the beginning. This picture was on my phone taken by the person who called Kristine to let her know about the accident. Monday @ 2:45PMFirst responders – the car I ran into was driven by a doctor. I believe that is him on the left in scrubs attending to me from the beginning. This picture was on my phone taken by the person who called Kristine to let her know about the accident. Monday @ 2:45PM

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Cohutta 100+ adventure An adventure out west

8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Mary Denson  |  May 5, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    Brian, years ago while we still lived in Hoover, I had a bad concussion and woke up in ICU Brookwood. Everyone told me I had been awake nearly the entire 8 hours but I didn’t know it. Greg said for 8 hours I kept asking him where was I, how did I get there and what time was it. He said I did this over and over and over. He said that he just kept thinking to himself, was he going to be answering those three questions for the rest of his life. You may not ever get those moments back but your family will have stories to tell on you for the rest of your life! !!!!! So glad you are on the mend. Don’t try to be Superman, just get well!

    Reply
  • 2. pelotondon  |  May 5, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    Brian, I am so sorry to read this, but I do hope this finds you in good spirits, pain free and recovering quickly. I’m so sorry that you’re going thru this, but thankful you have your in one piece, albeit wired. I’m convinced you’ll bounce back, stronger than ever and probably faster than you can possibly imagine. That’s the joy of having the physical attributes of a cheetah. Heal like you ride my friend, fast!

    Prayers for your fast and complete recovery,
    Don

    ps, word of advice re:wired shut, anything with a husk will get stuck in those stooped wires, so avoid soups like split pea etc…oh, and when the wires come off, no matter how hungry, try to ease into the food, don’t try to inhale a t-bone like I did, the gut needs to be acclimated, trust me on that one..

    Reply
  • 3. Jason Perez  |  May 5, 2014 at 7:16 pm

    I was hit by a car Dec.13 of last year. I was extremely lucky to walk away with only bruises and road rash. I did experience some pretty severe depression and a feeling of sadness and violation that I still don’t understand. Anyways it does pass, I hope the best for you and your family.

    Reply
  • 4. Matthew Clark  |  May 5, 2014 at 11:26 pm

    Wow Brian. That’s quite a scary story. It sounds like it could have been much, much worse, so I’m happy to hear that you were able to leave the hospital. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  • 5. Bob Evans  |  May 6, 2014 at 8:28 am

    Brian, thanks for sharing. Like many in the local cycling community I had heard about your accident and worried for your outcome. I am pleased to see that your prognosis appears to be good. I had a car accident that left me less injured, but seemingly equally confused. I have felt fear like you describe and know how pervasive and deep you likely felt it. I will continue to hope for your continued and speedy recovery.

    For your amusement, here’s my story (I recovered completely and am amused, amazed, and fortunate that my accident had only the effects that you can read below. Everyone else involved completely recovered too):

    I woke up one morning, alone in a hospital room. I had IV’s in my arms and I could see that it was dark outside. On the bedside table, there was a napkin that had about 5 questions on it, each with an answer and a series of checkmarks. Something like this:

    Was I driving? Yes √√√√
    Is my car still in the shop? Yes √√√√
    Was I drinking? No √√√
    Is Katrina alright? Yes √√√√
    Was it my fault? No √√√√

    Side note: This was Christmas Eve in Clovis, New Mexico.

    A doctor enters the room and asks me a series of questions:

    Do you feel alright? Yes
    Where are you now? Kansas City
    What time of year is it? March

    Side note: I had vacationed in Kansas City in March of that year.

    The doctor replied, “do NOT get out of that bed without assistance and do NOT leave this room.”

    I asked, “Was I in a car wreck?” After informing him that I had read the napkin. He said, “yes”. He provided no other details at that time.

    Later that day, my basic memory returned and I realized that I was in New Mexico and that it was Christmas Eve. I got permission to move about, but was told to take it easy.

    I had been side-swiped by a car running a stop sign at about 70 miles an hour. It hit the car I was in directly on the passenger compartment at the driver’s side. I was driving. The car I was in was shoved 70 feet sideways. I immediately got out of the car and behaved in a confused manner. The accident happened 2 blocks from the home of the person who owned the car. He had lent the car to me to use while mine was being repaired.

    He ran to the scene upon hearing the crash. He was the one who took care of me at the scene. An EMT asked him to record my questions, the answers, and to add a check mark each time I asked. I was the lowest priority at the scene since I had not obvious physical injuries. Others were bleeding, limping, or complaining of pain. My friend showed showed me the list each time I asked I asked my questions. I apparently had no short-term memory. Except for bruising from the seat belt, I was otherwise alright.

    Later, I learned that while in the emergency room, someone replied to the question “What happened?” to which someone inappropriately said “some beaner ran a stop sign and hit these innocent people”. Upon hearing this, I apparently yelled “I’m not a f*&*ng beaner”. Something I would never say if I were in control of my faculties. But, the image of me in this confused state behaving such, amuses me in retrospect.

    Reply
  • 6. kathy  |  May 6, 2014 at 12:13 pm

    thinking of you … prayers from the Middle TN bicycle community!!

    Reply
  • 7. Brien Welsh  |  May 6, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    You’re indeed a lucky man, beautiful family and on the mend. Best wishes on a speedy recovery! A fellow cyclist from Nashville who has had a few run ins with cars.

    Reply
  • 8. Charley Rome  |  May 18, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    Brian, we’ve never met, but as a fellow cyclist you are in my thoughts and prayers. I hope your recovery is speedy and you are back riding again as soon as possible.

    Reply

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Long commute home Interesting time space thought - if you see this pic within a minute of me posting it, then I will be at the crest of the middle ridge. A little bit more challenging than normal getting this angle of my bike at the cliffs today.

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AT power estimated by critical power curve in Golden Cheetah, which predicts I should be able to maintain 315 watts for 1 hour.

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