My Cervelo P3 is a great bike to ride, very fast in a straight line, but quite ‘skittish’ on corners. This feature was most evident on May 12th when I was on the bike path and came to a tight corner with loose leaves. My P3 and I went down with a vengeance and when I came up I had the second worst injury of my cycling career.
The main point of contact with the path was the left hand side of my aerobars. I ground off about 5 mm of the carbon fibre on the bars and put a very nice bend in the aluminium arm pad holder. As these were coming into contact with the road my leg came into contact with the brake lever just below the knee. This cut me deep, right down to the tendon.
I picked myself up off the road and got to the side of the path, recovering some of the bits that had come off my bike like my computer. I knew it was serious and tried calling Lis. Although I was only five minutes from home I could not clearly tell her how to find me so in the end I hopped back on my bike and headed home – after being abused by at least one cyclist for standing on the bike path. I *really* don’t like these Lance Armstrong wannabies who have such an attitude. At least two others had offered to help.
When Lis saw the flap of skin on my shin hanging down and the tendon behind it she forgot she used to be nurse and had a most un-reassuring look on her face. After grabbing a dressing it was off to the local hospital which fortunately is only a few minutes up the road. After almost six years I finally got a chance to visit the ‘Emergency Room’ (ER) as they call it in the USA. I prefer the New Zealand term ‘Accident and Emergency’ (A&E).
I made the mistake of filling out the form too honestly. They asked how things stood on a scale of 1-10 with regard to pain and I said a 6 since compared to what I went through with my four operations some years ago on the same knee this was nothing. In fact I suspect it was less painful than it could/should have been due to all the nerve endings which have been cut in the leg from those earlier ventures.
In the end they took me through to the examination room and I sent Lis home. We were going overseas in three days – as well as putting the house on the market – and she was already panicking over getting everything done without having to sit in the hospital with injured hubby.
The x-rays showed that there was no broken bones and so they took me in to see the doctor – Julie Day. Julie was what they call a ‘Physician’s Assistant’ which was a new concept to me. No matter what her title is she is one excellent ER doctor. Probably comes from the time she spent in Miami where they have a lot more serious stuff happening than suburban Virginia. I also liked the way that she was really into local anaesthetics: with five injections into the knee I really didn’t feel anything.
Julie put things into perspective. She had another cyclist in recently with a similar injury who had cut the tendon which of course is far more serious. It took her quite a while to clean the road debris outside of the wound, and once done she said it didn’t look like the tendon was damaged. Unfortunately the orthopaedic doctor wasn’t available until after she had completed sewing me up, so I still need to see one. This is Julie doing her nine-stitch needlework. A very tidy job she did indeed – as closing wounds like this can be difficult. At least I’ll now have a reminder of the shape of my Cervelo P3 break levers!
I was sent home with my leg immobilized to two days of bed rest which was *really* difficult for me. Tried to do some urgent work but it wasn’t easy lying on my back. As always, Lis had to suffer through an uncooperative patient. I was a bit concerned about my ability to travel on Friday night to Tbilisi but fortunately when I went back to the hospital Thursday for a wound check I got the all clear. My colleague Alexander in Yerevan has made arrangements to me to get the stitches removed when I’m there in just over a week, and also to see an orthopaedic doctor as well so I’m all set.
This does, of course, put a slight damper into my race plans. My first race was supposed to be 13 June but I don’t think I’ll be at all up to doing a 70.3 mile half-ironman. Fortunately, my ‘A’ race is at the end of August so I’ve got a bit of time to recover. Hopefully once the swelling goes down in the knee we will find that there is no serious damage and I will be able to start training again soon. Failing that, I have my friends Mary and Al Delaney from RehabtoRacing who will put me right.
In case you are wondering, the worst accident was when I got ‘doored’ in Vermont while cycling across the USA and broke my collar bone. But that is another story…
Postscript – Day 17: I flew to Tbilisi five days after the accident, hobbling around like an old man. Fortunately my wife Lis was with me. The knee was coming right moderately quickly but unfortunately on day 9 when we were changing the dressing we found an infection. It was quite the experience to try and explain to a Georgian chemist that we needed antiseptic and in the end gave up and paid a late night visit to the clinic where there was an excellent English speaking doctor. He was very reassuring when he said that I shouldn’t have travelled to a place like Tbilisi with a knee like this! He treated the knee and arranged for me to see a surgeon the next morning. I e-mailed Dr. Julie to ask what the antibiotics were and she was very helpful. The next morning they removed the stitches and some of the infected area, reassuring me that it was only a surface infection. It was somewhat unpleasant and ruined my day :-). The next day I was back for a further check and they gave me the go ahead to drive 4+ hours to Yerevan.
Once there we continued with the treatments and it began to heal quite well. By Day 16 I decided it was time to try and pedal a bike (I had one with a trainer at the hotel in Yerevan) but after only a couple of revolutions it was clear this was not a good idea. Day 17 I tried again and was able to spin with no load on the trainer for an hour. Day 18 it managed with 60% load, and Day 19 with a bit more load. No pain, just a bit of tightness, and one ugly looking knee. That too shall pass. It can’t take any bumping or pressure as it is highly sensitive. I figure I’ll be able to start doing some short workouts on Sunday so the accident will have cost me just under three weeks of bike training. It definitely is not up to running and I can forget about swimming for at least 1+ weeks until the deep wound heals. Anyway, at least I am on the mend thanks to Dr. Julie and her Georgian counterparts.