So...as you may know, I had a bit of a life changing experience on Saturday 7/28. Not life changing in the sense that my mobility has been temporarily impaired, or in the sense that I'm dealing with a short-term setback. Life changing in the sense that I appreciate the perspective that this accident has brought me. That's why the word accident is in quotes in the title. It wasn't an accident. It was the universe delivering exactly what I needed at exactly the right time. With that in mind, I don't want to spend a ton of time talking about the accident itself, but since you want to know...
I wrecked descending off of Brasstown Bald. I came into a corner at a high rate of speed, but allowed my self adequate time to brake and get around the corner safely. I had safely navigated that same corner twice within 12 hours of my accident, so I knew exactly what I needed to do to get around the bend. With about 75 meters until I needed to make the turn, I started applying the brakes hoping to slow the bike down from approximately 35 mph to 18-20 mph. That didn't happen. Instead, the brakes locked up almost instantly. The bike began fishtailing and I tried desperately to bring the bike back under control. I managed to ride out one fishtail at about 30 mph, and release the brakes to stop the bike from further fishtailing. The problem is that the bike and I were now right on top of the corner, and we were still traveling at a high rate of speed. So I grabbed the brakes again. They locked up again. And this time the fishtail was too violent to manage. The bike lurched sideways and I was thrown off the bike at approximately 20 mph. Luckily, I was deep enough into the turn that the upper part of my body was launched into the dirt. The lower part of my body landed on the road, with the brunt of the impact being directly on my hip.
When I wrecked, I flagged down the first person I saw. An older couple stopped their vehicle and offered to call an ambulance. In denial, I asked if there was anyway they could just drive me and my bike back to my car. Another group of people then stopped and offered water, and a physical therapist in the group tried to help diagnose what was going on. I was scared, in pain, in shock (not actual shock) but I wasn't alone. The comfort and care that they provided to an absolute stranger was amazing. After unsuccessfully trying to lift me into the SUV - the pain was too intense - they set me down, offered comfort in the form of water and a towel, and loaded my bicycle in the back of their car. Sweet, one less thing to worry about. We tried a different method to get into the SUV, and I slowly, painfully dragged my muddy self into these complete strangers' vehicle. They took care in coming off the mountain to not turn too quickly, or to hit any bumps, and they provided water and a couple Aleve. As we were driving to my car, I started to come to grips with the fact that something was really wrong. The couple suggested going to the hospital and I conceded. They didn't just call an ambulance or drop me off at the hospital though. Instead, they drove to my car, and drove my car to the hospital. They loaded my bike up on my car and everything, and waited to make sure that I was in good hands and able to contact my family before leaving. Complete strangers that leapt into action - didn't think once about stopping to help. They didn't think about the inconvenience or liabilities associated with loading a guy and his bike in their car, and then driving that guy's car to a hospital 30 miles away. They just did what the could. They were my heroes on that day.
When I arrived at Union General Hospital in Blairsville, the severity of the accident still hadn't really set in. I attribute this largely to the level of care provided by my newfound heroes as well as the staff at the facility. Anita and Tiffiny became my new heroes. Anita took charge in managing my pain, my expectations, and was just a really steady, comforting force. Tiffiny on the other hand, initially came in to get me to fill out paperwork. Great. This is the last thing I want to deal with right now. She dropped the paperwork off, asked if I could fill it out at my convenience and left. When she came back some time later, I figured it was to hound me about the paperwork. Instead, she conveyed that she felt horrible about me being there alone, and asked what she could do to help. She made sure that I had a phone charger, she ran out to my car to get my laptop and iPad, she had security go out and ensure that my bike and car were secured, she brought me Chapstick, etc. All before I filled out a single form. It seemed like her job description shifted, and instead of being the paperwork person, she was the hospital mom. I can't express how grateful I am that she executed this job so well.
Anita and Tiffiny's care took my mind mostly off the injury. I wasn't thinking about the severity of the accident, or the long-term impact. I was comfortable that no matter what it was, that I would get the care I needed. It was only when a doctor came in post-X-rays that it started to really set in. To paraphrase, the message was: this is really bad, you're very lucky, but you may never ride again. And this is where I should have hit my low. But I didn't. I called my girlfriend, who had already developed a plan with my parents to get up to Georgia as quickly as possible, and she comforted me. Her words plus the outpouring of support from friends via text and Facebook never let me get down. Concerned? Maybe a little. But how can I fail with a support network like I have, and with strangers in this world that are heroes in hiding.
After the X-rays came back, a plan was devised. I'd be taken to Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville, GA for surgery on the hip and femur. Ok, now I'm scared. I've never had surgery and I've heard all the horror stories about surgeries gone wrong. This is bad. But this was the situation. And all I could do was attack the situation with the best mindset possible. So I tried to get myself to this space. They loaded me into the ambulance for a bumpy ride across the mountains, and Anita loaded me up with pain medicine for the journey. The EMT chatted with me in the ambulance, and I appreciated his demeanor. He wasn't talking to fill the time, or to take my mind off the pain. He was talking to me genuinely, and he became my pal for an hour. I appreciated his friendship so much in that moment. He paused our conversation when I was obviously struggling, he stopped to allow me to speak with my parents, and he just all-around cared. I was so thankful for his friendship.
I arrived at Northeast Georgia Medical Center at around 6pm. I was taken into the ER while they prepared a room, and I was struggling. I had become very nauseous from the pain medicine. I became very pale, light headed, and started to sweat profusely. The nurses calmly dialed up some anti-nausea medicine and walked through the gameplan with me. I was going to be transferred to a room when it was ready, I was going to meet with a surgeon and an anesthesiologist, and I was going into surgery as soon as possible - either tonight or tomorrow. By this point, my mom, dad, and girlfriend were only a couple hours away. Their arrival became the perfect landmark. Just keep it together until they show up, and everything will get better.
My recollection of my time in the ER room at Northeast Georgia Medical Center is quite foggy. I don't remember much from what I believe was a brief stay, but I do remember being rolled away down a bunch of hallways, an elevator, and what felt like an endless number of turns. I had made it to my hospital room. Another landmark. By this point, the anti-nausea medicine had started to kick in, and I had started to feel just a little bit more human. I was still overwhelmed by what felt like 10 people that descended on my room within minutes of my arrival. The nurse, the nurse tech, the surgeon, the anesthesiologist, etc.
Even in the moment, I found myself astounded by both how difficult these individuals' jobs are, and by how perfectly they perform their jobs. To offer someone care and comfort to the extent that they're not even worried about their pain, their injury, or their long-term status speaks to how well-suited the staff at NGMC is to offer primary care. Their ability to empathize, to be patient, to be consistent, to be caring, and to be really, really intelligent is an impressive combination. I found myself blown away by their excellence, as we talked through the next steps. I especially appreciated the surgeon's approach. Here's your situation. Here's what I'm going to do. Here's my goal - to get you back to doing what it is that you love. Here's the thing - it's going to be a long, hard road, but you're going to control your own recovery.
As the surgeon was talking to me, my family walked in. Another landmark. And man, what a major landmark. Despite all the care that the various individuals offered me throughout the day, there's nothing like a hug from mom and dad and a kiss from the girlfriend. They came at the perfect time too. The staff was gearing up to rush me into surgery, and everything felt very hectic. Add to the mix my own nervousness about surgery, and it was a very unsettling moment. It was nice having them there to talk to the surgeon with me, and to ask questions that I was either too doped up, or too dull to ask.
Everything was happening so quickly. It felt like every time a staff member left, they were replaced by a new staff member. I was trying to catch up with my family, but everything was moving quickly. They were intent on getting me into surgery as soon as possible. The surgeon felt as though it gave me the best shot at a successful surgery, and a full recovery. Before I knew it, we were on the move. I say "we", because mom, dad, and Yasmin were not going to leave my side until they had to. We got to the operating room and said our goodbyes. I was so, so thankful to have them there.
I talked very briefly with the anesthesiologist. He mentioned seeing a nasty wreck in the Tour de France due to a riders' brakes locking up. This guy understands. Comforting. He then says that he's going to hold my Adam's Apple to help put me under. I was out before he even touched me. I woke up gasping for air. I was drugged and had no idea where I was, but I remember almost yelling "Was it a successful surgery?". I asked a couple different times, as I darted my eyes around the room. I must have looked like a possessed man. I pretty quickly slumped back down into the bed and closed my eyes. I was so disoriented and so drugged. But I heard the doctors clear as day, when they said that the surgery was a success.
The next couple days were slightly less chaotic, but filled with more of the same - incredible care by the NGMC staff, heartwarming messages from friends and co-workers, unconditional love and support from mom, dad, and Yasmin, and just a general sense of comfort. Yes, there was a lot of pain, and there were some tough times, but the luxury of comfort - afforded to me by all the love and support - is so important at such a difficult time.
I don't have any concerns about making a full recovery. I know that I have the support structure to help me through this process. I always knew this, but the love and support that I've received from friends, acquaintances, and co-workers has reminded me once again of this. I'm talking about friends from Ohio that I haven't spoken to in 20 years sending me stories of cyclists that have returned to form following hip injuries. My boss checking on me daily and encouraging me to take my time in my recovery. My girlfriend being a steady source of love, compassion, and day-to-day assistance - like discarding my pee when I peed in a urinal container because it was too painful to get out of bed. My mom and dad dropping everything and not ever letting it show that they were annoyed, or worried, or anything besides loving and supportive.
I also have the benefit of perspective - a renewed sense that people are inherently good. My experience could not suggest otherwise. But beyond that - there are heroes that walk amongst us every day. They could be a complete stranger, they could be caretakers, or they could be the people that are the closest to you. Don't ever take these heroes for granted. This accident gave me that perspective, and man, that's a whole heck of a lot more important than is riding a bicycle.
I'm a proud Big Brother, and despite my Little wishing that I wouldn't run so much, a proud endurance athlete. I started my endurance career by signing up for a marathon when I couldn't even complete a 10k, and I started my Big Brother career by volunteering when I wasn't sure I even could offer a youth much. Both processes have showed me that stepping outside of your comfort zone serves as the best method of improving yourself.