Cycling is bad for your health

So I was asked if I fancied attending the Kent Autumn sportive on 8th November. 70miles looping around Canterbury and Ashford. It is cold but worth a go I thought. I knew I was unfit but was willing to give it a go.

As it was, the day before had brought rain but the road was pretty dry so no real worries. I fitted my rear guard anyway to avoid the cycle “skid-mark” down my back and put on my winter riding clothes including my never-yet-worn Northwave base layer:

It soon turned out that I had overdone it and was basically cooking my performance away leaving me trailing the other three guys. Not by much but enough to dent my pride.

I managed to stick it out to the halfway stage and take a breather at the rest stop though so all good. We got mounted up and headed off.

A little after 45miles, I came around a right-hand bend and hit something in the road (the bank, some leaves, pothole? no idea) but it threw me off balance. I remember pumping the brakes to try and slow down even though I knew I was going to hit the road. I steered (if you can call it that – hoped more like) towards a grassy bank just before a tree and the corner of a house I didn’t want to hit.

I went down hard and skidded along the tarmac a short distance, shredding my handle bar tape and left overshoe. I stopped abruptly as my left arm smashed into a square open drain that was hidden from me on the road. My arm dropped uselessly into the cold water and I was lying on my side, still astride my bike. I kicked out of my pedals and attempted to get up. My left arm felt odd. Moving it was very very painful. It was not going to get me out.

Luckily a passing motorist stopped to tell my friends that I was down. They turned around and came back to hear me shout “Get me out of here. Help me up.” This they did, followed by banging on the door of the house for a blanket and the use of the telephone to get me in an ambulance.

Those nice people also looked after my bike whilst my friends rode back to Canterbury and I went off to William Harvey Hospital in Ashford under the influence the wonders of gas&air.

X-rays showed that I had smashed my humerus into four pieces. They put a traction cast on me and sent me to a ward.

Unfortunately they were unable to get the right plate to fix the bone. After two days nil-by-mouth waiting for the plates to arrive I discovered the surgeon would be unavailable for a couple of weeks too. It was optimistic to expect the plates to arrive before he left but we gave it a shot.

The hospital provided copies of the x-rays so that they could be sent over to an orthopaedic surgeon in private practice in Brentwood, where I live. He saw the x-rays and said they were “Nasty” and that it would take the facilities of a major NHS hospital such as Queens in Romford to deal with it.

I discharged myself and got a lift to Queens in Romford, walking in with my arm still in the cast and a potted summary of my injury and the proposed procedure complete with x-rays.

The orthopaedic consultant described the injury to me and explained that the middle piece was actually broken vertically in two. “I know,” I said “it is nasty.”  “Nasty is an understatement.” he said. Without humour.

I was admitted into bay 5 in ward “Amber B”. The plates were obtained and after a few more days nil-by-mouth waiting for my CT scan results to show I had also damaged my elbow (and for there to not be an emergency for somebody else ahead of me in the queue), I underwent just over six hours of surgery on Saturday 14th November.

The surgeons broke my ulna to get access to my elbow and performed an “extension and internal fixation” using 3 plates and the necessary bolts, screws etc. They then repaired my ulna with a third plate and stapled me back together with 42 staples and four stitches at the top (just to be sure).

After a day or so on morphine, the light physio started by way of simple finger wriggling exercises. A couple of days later it was a challenge to be able to raise my arm above my head and behind my back (elbow locked obviously) in order to keep my shoulder moving. I had to sit and sleep with my arm raised high to try and reduce the swelling.

Once I proved I could walk without falling over and didn’t need morphine, I was allowed to go home.

I had a follow-up appointment in the Fracture clinic two weeks later when the staples were removed. I also opted to stop taking the Tramadol as it had knocked me low with nausea and migraines twice as well as leaving me generally groggy.

I now have physiotherapy every week and a bunch of exercises to undertake every day. As of today (Dec 2nd), the Physios are happy with me. I cannot bend my elbow very much nor can I rotate my wrist. That is why I am typing this with one finger and it feels like an age.

The prognosis is good. I should get some reasonable movement in the next 6 weeks. A full recovery is getting 80% normal flexation within 6-12months. Until then, I won’t be doing any more cycling….

I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone for the calls, visits, cards and gifts. I want to thank my family for running around after me (especially my wife). Thank you to Telstra (especially Alex) for keeping me employed and for sending me a huge fruit basket and card. Thanks to Matt for helping to keep me sane. For the record – it wasn’t your fault. A big apology to all those inconvenienced by my absence from work, inability to lift anything or for being grumpy when the pain got bad.

Results page. I was rider 113 and have been curiously omitted from the list. I was riding with 99 David Manning, 112 Matt Hunter and 109 Ben Wright. You’ve got to shave a good 20-30minutes off their time for the accident to be fair.

UPDATE 10/12/09

The consultant is not happy that my motion is still as limited as it is. Physio now officially steps up a gear. He did however let us take copies of today’s x-rays:

Left and right views of the plates

Left view rotated to show position of break and ulna repair. View of elbow from behind.

UPDATE 20/02/10

I am not due back in front of the Consultant until 4th May. Physio continues for now. I went out on the bike today. 5 miles. A bit odd as my left arm is still not quite strong enough. I’m slow because I’m unfit (18mph average and about 27mph on a gentle decline) but I have a little psychological block to overcome. Need to get some gym time in and do a little bit more each time. Doesn’t help that it snowed again tonight.

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