As good as it gets, after a crash

I guess it was always going to happen. In some ways I'm lucky it hasn't happened before. Sure, I've had a couple of spills. Landed in a garden bed after going over my handlebars once. Went down like a bag of spuds once or twice too. But that's as spectacular as it's been, at least until Sunday.

It wasn't pretty. Crashing your bike never is. But there are reasons why Sunday wasn't the worst day of my life. All things told, they ended up as good as they can get.

I left home at 6am with a planned ride to Caboolture, via Petrie and returning via Scarborough and Redcliffe.  I'd had a good training week and, now with 12 weeks till Challenge Cairns finally felt my mojo was back.

I'm usually a diligent cyclist - I scan for cars and try to predict their actions. Maybe that has added to my reasonable safety record over the years. 

I'd taken a route I don't normally, following the railway line through Narangba and Burpengary then to Caboolture via Morayfield Road, then back the same way, but across Boundary Road to Deception Bay Road. Because of the unfamiliar route, I'd been on high alert for motorists.

I'd just hit 100ks and was cruising along the Hornibrook Esplanade when I lost my vigilance for just a moment. I was back in familiar territory, I felt safe. The day was turning into a delightful one and my mind started drifting off to the best way to get my ks up to my desired 140-150.

I didn't see the car until the last moment. The driver had failed to give way, and instead turned right directly across my line.

I pulled on my brakes, but it was too late. That moment passed both too quickly and also as if in slow motion. My bike pulled to the left and my right side slammed into the passenger side of the car.

The next thing I knew I'd rebounded and landed flat on my back on the road. I didn't know where my bike was, but I was no longer attached to it.

My thoughts went like this.

"Probably shouldn't get up, in case I'm really hurt."
"I have to get up, I'm in the middle of the road."
"Where's my bike, is he ok?"

And before I'd had time to process any of these thoughts and act on any of them, the helmeted head of a fellow cyclist popped into my sight.

"Hi. What's your name?"

I think I managed to respond.

"I'm Eddie," my new friend continued. "Don't worry about anything. I was right behind you, I saw it all. We'll look after you."

My new friend Eddie didn't have much choice. I grabbed his wrist with my good arm and squeezed it. I wasn't letting go. By now the pain had kicked in and I needed something to hold on to. I was a little relieved to at least be able to assess that the pain was coming mainly from my right side, not my head, neck, or back.

There was a swarm of heads entering my line of vision, mostly cyclists. They called an ambulance for me, while another new friend, Cherise, took charge, performing a first aid assessment and rallying passers by to direct traffic aound me rather than moving me from the hot bitumen road.

Someone picked up my bike, my beautiful Jens, and reported that he looked pretty good.

People came with towels and held a windscreen shade over me to try and keep me as comfortable as i could be. Someone phoned KKB and someone else who lived close by offered to take my bike home to keep it safe until I could collect it.

"My name's Melanie," she said. "My husband's a cyclist. I live in Margate. I'm going to take your bike home, and phone your husband. You can pick it up later on."

"OK," I replied. "can you leave your details here with me? Cherise, can you get Melanie's number for me?" I trusted Cherise. I didn't know whether to trust Melanie. Let's be real, I don't think I'd trust any stranger to just wander off with my beautiful Jens.

Time seemed to move slowly as I lay there waiting for the ambulance. Different heads popped in and out of my line of vision, which was straight up at the beautiful blue Brisbane sky. One of them looked vaguely familiar. I found out much later on that the group of cyclists behind me had sent someone ahead to catch the male cyclist who had passed me just before the crash. We'd passed each other a few times along the Peninsula foreshore, each time exchanging a greeting. We'd done so once again right before my crash, so it was understandable that someone had assumed we were together, and went ahead to catch him to tell him of my fate.

No wonder they'd looked at me a bit funny when I asked if someone could ring my husband...

Still, in all this time, the motorist stayed away from the action. I heard, though, that he was still on site. My new friends weren't letting him go anywhere...

Soon, the ambulance arrived and the paramedics took over, doing many of the same checks Cherise had already done. They put a badly fitting neck brace on, and with the help of the fire crew who had also turned up, got me onto a stretcher ready for loading and transporting to hospital.

When I heard a fire crew had arrived, I asked whether there were any hot Firies. Sam, my attending paramedic, took offense to this. And rightly so I guess.

"Hot Firies, what about the hot Ambos you've got!?" I immediately felt terrible. I did have a hot Ambo crew, and not only did they look good, they were attentive, efficient, and caring. What else could a girl ask for?

In amongst this, a tow truck also arrived. One of the ladies jokingly asked whether I thought it was for me or my bike?!

I was happy to hear that the police had also arrived. Hopefully they would question the driver (and some of the witnesses), and issue him with a ticket. All too often, it seems, motorists get off without any charge when a cyclist is involved, which just isn't fair.

On the way to hospital there was time to readjust the neck brace which fitted me really poorly. Sam couldn't get it to adjust small enough to fit me so swapped it for a kids size. Perfect! I also got some pain relief in the form of an inhalable 'whistle', a strange contraption that unfortunately didn't seem to do much for me.

I was a bit hesitant to take anything anyway, because I was by myself and was already predicting the barrage of questions I'd get on arrival at the hospital. Name, address, date of birth, medical history.

Crap, was I going to get into the hospital? I didn't have my Medicare card.

"Sam, I don't have my Medicare card."
"Don't worry about that. It's not the kind of thing you carry around when you're cycling, is it?"
"No, that'd be a bit pessimistic wouldn't it. I've never needed it before."

The paramedic seemed pretty insistent that I get some pain relief, though, and I soon realised why. He revealed that, in fact, the impact my body had made with the car had shattered the car's passenger window and dented the door.

No wonder the driver was hanging around; the cynic in me thought he was probably thinking that I was liable to pay for the damage!

It was a short trip to Redcliffe Hospital emergency. I was wheeled in and it was action stations. I heard the short version of had happened as several people set to work. One getting my personal details, another putting a drip into my arm, others checking for other signs of injury, testing my reflexes (which made me laugh no end). I was hooked up to an ECG and had the first of many blood pressure tests.

They also started finding evidence of the broken window as they painstakingly removed my jersey to avoid cutting it off - there were shards of glass buried in my pockets and right sleeve.

The head doctor asked very specific questions about my pain, and I repeated that my pain was primarily in the right side of my torso. A more thorough physical examination revealed some quite localised pain in one of my neck vertebrae, so it was off for x-rays to my neck and chest. While these seemed clear, I still had the neck pain, so this time it was off for a CT scan. Apparently x-rays are only 85% accurate.

By this time it was apparent that my primary carers were doctor Ryan, who seemed to be a trainee or intern of some description (and reminded me of my cousin's husband Pete), and nurse Gwen. Ryan talked through exactly what he was doing, not for my benefit, but for his. He apologized for talking to himself, as he rattled through all the possible injuries I might have and what tests had already been done to rule them out.

I was fine with his seemingly endless ramblings. I found it reassuring, because to me, this thought process made him sound really thorough. From time to time he talked through his options with Ben, a more senior doctor. Again, to me, this was reassuring.

Nothing major seemed to be showing up in any of the scans, except, to my delight, an exceptional heart.

"That heart is beautiful," doctor Ben exclaimed after performing an ultra sound. I was also happy to hear that he didn't find any internal bleeding in amongst his viewing.

In amongst all of this mayhem I'd been visited by the attending police officers, one of whom was Ewan McGregor. No kidding! Unless they were joking. But surely the fuzz can't joke about their identity? I don't know. The other officer was S(ean) Irwin so I felt flattered that the celebrity duo had been sent to my aid.

I'm hoping that they didn't joke about issuing an infringement to the motorist. They had come with the intention of 'questioning' me, but it seemed that there wasn't much more for them to find out.

Things had settled down a little now and pretty soon I was wheeled around to a room out of the main emergency room. KKB had since arrived, still in his cycling gear. He'd been given a bunch of forms to fill in, and since we've only been married for just over two years, and it's the first time either of us has had to take this responsibility for one another. I was still flat on my back in a neck brace with instructions to keep still, as they we're still trying to clear me of neck damage. So, he stepped up and did his husbandly duty.

Finally, I was able to be administered some proper pain relief. A small dose of morphine was topped up a short time later, and at last the pain subsided. As this happened I became more aware of my body, and realised how uncomfortable it is to lay in one position for long periods of time. I'd been lying still for three or four hours by now.

I had a bit more time still to come, but finally, the CT scan to my neck came back clear, so they removed my neck brace, propped me up, and moved me once again to Emergency Medical for some more observation before sending me home.

I was glad to sit up, but movement still hurt. A least I could eat. KKB and I shared a sandwich and a serving of lasagna and salad that the hospital staff brought. (I thought sharing was the least I could do. He also hadn't eaten since his ride this morning, and by now it was well and truly evening.)

We were expecting the green light to go home at any moment now, unfortunately it wasn't to be. Dr Ryan was concerned at the amount of pain I was still feeling in my abdomen. He brought another doctor (who happened to be a fellow cyclist) around to perform an ultra sound and physical exam.

The ultra sound was clear but my abdomen was too tense to perform the physical exam. My punishment, back for another CT scan. Not only did this mean another wait of an indetereminant amount of time - it also meant I was back to nil by mouth.

I was still bloody hungry!

I sent KKB home to shower and change while I waited and importantly - to pick up my beloved Jens! I was not so worried about his wheereabouts by now; Melanie had been true to her word and had phoned KKB earlier today.

I dozed while I waited to be wheeled off again. This time, a new orderly, and another smiley face. Though this one wasn't a cyclist like the previous one had been.

I'd never had a CT scan and now I was lining up for my second in less than six hours. It's kind of disconcerting that the operator leaves the room, and that the voice that gives you directions when to breathe has an American accent. My first time I went in head first, this time I went feet first. Luckily, both times, most of my body protruded from the machine. I don't know how I would have gone had I been plunged deep into the bowels of this imposing cylinder.

It seemed like an eon before I got the results of the scan and was finally given the all clear go home. KKB had since returned with a hopeful prognosis on Jens, and the news that Melanie had not only proven herself worthy of the trust I was initially hesitant to assign her, she had loaded us up with a pasta meal to heat up when we got home.

I had a prescription for some serious pain relief, so the only remaining challenge was to find an open chemist. Even this proved quite simple.

So the day hadn't worked out as I'd planned. I hadn't got in all of my ride, and instead crashed my bike. Sadly, I'm down a cycling jersey and don't have a cool story to tell. "They had to cut it off me" sounds way cooler than "I lost it". Unfortunately, the latter is true.

The things that made it as good as it gets included:

No serious injury. Not even one scratch. How is that possible?

The cycling fraternity. I still don't know what I would have done without Eddie, Melanie, and the random guy that someone thought was my partner.

Cherise. I don't know whether Eddie, Melanie and the random guy would have known what to do without you.

KKB.  Thank you for being the kind of husband you are, and not the kind of partner we encountered in Emergency.

Sam, George, and the other guy, the caring and hot Ambos. Yes, I forgive you for putting a child sized neck brace on me. I hope you forgive me for mistaking Firies as the hotties of the emergency services fraternity.

The comedy duo of Sgt Irwin and Ewan McGregor. Thanks for booking the guy.

The emergency staff at Redcliffe hospital, especially the constantly-talking-to-himself doctor Ryan.

Did I mention, no serious injury. The best possible outcome from what was a pretty serious crash. Though I've been slowed down a little this week, hopefully the car is the only thing that ended up dented and smashed, and my confidence and training mojo returns unscathed.


  1. Hi Powerhouse
    My god, i'm so glad you're ok. What an ordeal. Hope you're on the mend soon.
    So glad that the motorist got booked, I've had endless trouble with people in cars in that very spot.
    Get better, and hope to see you out training again very soon.
    Sarah Crealy

  2. lyndell
    If I've told you once I've told you 100 times you are not as hard as a car so stop trying to prove otherwise. Glad you seem to be o.k!!! Expect to hear you back on you bike very soon...

    p.s book'em Dano!

  3. AP I'm finally somewhere where I have the time and free internet to give this story its due diligence.

    A number of things ran through my head while I read this, but my other organs, the heart one and the stomach area ones, were constantly clenched awaiting the outcome.

    I'm so glad that you're okay. I'm so sorry that you had to go through such a scary ordeal.

    I love the fact that you know that when things go wrong, there are people who will be there to help with things you never even knew you had to know about.

    With much love and well wishes to you and Jens from Koh Lanta

    Speedy Reidy xx

  4. Hiya Powerhouse,
    Please get well soon..

  5. Thank you all for your messages!
    I am on the mend, slowly. I am still getting a bit of pain but it's time to start getting mobile. I'm off to the pool tonight... here's hoping I can manage something more athletic than dog paddle!

  6. I have avoided reading this blog because the thought of you hurt is just too much to bear. I am bawling my eyes out right now. I am so relieved that you are OK, but so freaked out that this happened to you. Thank God for those wonderful people who helped wonderful you. The key line in your blog is this, "That heart is beautiful." Because it really, really is. Love you forever my beautiful friend. Don't ever do that again!!