On the road to recovery
After three long weeks I can see the light at the end of the tunnel
Unless you've suffered broken ribs before I doubt there's anything I can write that can adequately describe what a diabolical experience it is. Still, I thought it might be useful to document how I've been coping (and not coping) over the past three weeks....
The initial impact was excruciating. I couldn't breathe or talk. I felt I was knocking on death's door. Turns out I had a partially collapsed right lung which together with the broken ribs, pain and shock was responsible for my breathing difficulties. A night in hospital with loads of morphine and ibuprofen took the edge off the pain provided I didn't move, breathe too deeply, cough and above all sneeze.
The real fun started when I got home. I was discharged with a morphine derivative in tablet form, more anti-inflamms and instructions to "Breathe deep and cough regularly otherwise you could end up with pneumonia" Yeah right. This person obviously has no idea. Deep breathing was just not an option. Coughing was best avoided. I couldn't raise my arm. I couldn't bend to put on my shoes. I couldn't turn or twist. Even with the morphine, pain was always there - it just got worse if I stopped taking the tablets
Night time was especially bad. I could only find one partially comfortable position to sleep in - on my left side. But two hours later I would wake up very sore and stiff, totally unable to turn or get up. For the first few nights I needed to wake up Ann every couple of hours who would slowly and painstakingly roll me over and out of bed so I could walk around a bit, take more drugs and get back into bed - again with help. The drugs would make me sleepy and yet I couldn't sleep. And so it went on for most of the first week.
Initially, pain is the most obvious emotion but as the pain started to subside a little my mind would turn to cycling and I became increasingly frustrated, depressed and angry. I was being told I'd be off the bike for up to six weeks and it could be six months before full strength returned. Put simply, this was just not fair. The crash was not my fault. I was totally innocent and unlucky. The guy who caused it remains a mystery. No one had seen him at DISC before or since. He didn't race that night. Just picked himself up and went home apparently. The more I thought about it the angrier I got. I should be training my butt off right now. This summer was supposed to be big for me. We had plans.
Frustration grew. Immediately following my crash the weather turned spectacularly good. God wasn't just content to put the knife in, now he wanted to twist it as well. With Emily's help I managed to climb onto the wind trainer and did a couple of 30 minute easy spins. I couldn't do anything with high cadence because the bouncing hurt. Likewise anything at high resistance strained my back. The wind trainer is in my old darkroom. No windows or natural light of any sort. And yet I knew outside it was glorious sunshine and everyone would be spending their weekend riding outside. Except me. More bitterness. Why can't it be raining?
At the start of week two I did something I should have done straight away. I consulted a couple of friends of mine who are sports physiotherapists. One of them is a cyclist who races with CCCC and has broken his ribs before. The other is the clinic owner who I have known since uni, was my best man and works with footy clubs and the Victorian Rugby Union team. Again he has plenty of experience with broken ribs.
I can't over-emphasise how therapeutic it was talking to Gary (the cyclist). He put things in perspective while providing the sort of empathy that can only come from someone who has suffered the same fate. The next day I went to see my regular phsio/osteopath who likewise had broken some ribs while playing football. I wish I'd gone earlier. He explained that it is impossible to break ribs without traumatising the soft tissue around them and I had significant damage to the muscles around and between the ribs. And although I'd only broken ribs 8 and 9, I'd badly bruised ribs 4-7. Everything was in spasm. Tendons and ligaments had been strained. A very significant portion of the pain and discomfort I was feeling was therefore not the ribs themselves. There's nothing we could do to make the ribs heel faster but we could certainly start working on the other problems.
And so we did. Treatment by Mr. Physio and Mr, Osteo over the past week has certainly helped. I have more movement and can now do most things for myself. I've been able to complete an hour on the wind trainer a couple of times. I've even managed to do some E3 intervals. I'm still very restricted in my movements and the pain is certainly still there but I'm hoping to do my first outdoor ride this weekend. Just something nice and easy. Any takers?
I'm probably another 2-3 weeks from "proper" outdoor riding but I'm increasingly optimistic that I'll be able to make the first round of the Trek Summer Sprint Series at the start of October and the start of the Blackburn track season a week later. I'll be unfit and probably just making up the numbers but someone has to come last and I'll consider myself a winner just for being there!