At 8:00am on Sunday 29th January 2017 I ventured out for a 25ml training ride. It was a bright, cold winters morning.
It was very cold , approx 2°C, but with no frost or ice visible. I thought it was a good opportunity to get some winter miles in.
10mins into my ride, at a speed of approx 25mph (40kph) I hit a patch of Black Ice… And I don’t remember any more…!
I came ‘round, some 5hours later, in the Major Trauma Unit of Fazakerley (Liverpool) Hospital.
I had been brought in by ambulance and had been initially processed with an MRI scan and full body X-Rays.
Cyclist fall off their bikes all the time, generally, if nothing is obviously broken, they just get up and ‘ride on’.
Their first reaction is always “Is my bike OK…?” Unfortunately, I wasn’t so lucky…
I hit the road on the corner of my cycling glasses, which broke the frame and forced the lens into my eye socket.
Fortunately, the glass didn’t break, otherwise the nurses would have been picking glass out of my eye.
So what damage did I do to myself… in reality, very little…
CT – L maxillary sinus #
L lateral wall
Fluid in L maxillary sinus
possible L orbital floor #
no intracranial bleed
O/E – partial thickness 4cm laceration to lateral margin of eye which was closed with dissolvable sutures with LA
Which translate to:
> Eye Socket Cracked
> Cheek Bone Broken in 4 Places
> Facial Nerve Damaged (Frozen Mouth)
> Cuts & Bruises (all over)
And that was it… apart from finding out my right leg had ended up 1½” longer than my left leg, and that my Balance and Spatial Awareness had been ‘knocked out’.
The first think that happened was an MRI scan and full body x-rays, to see if I had any brain damage and any broken bones, (apart from my face).
I was unconscious for all this and remained so for 5 hours.
So, there I am in hospital a hospital bed, slowly coming ’round, while the doctors tried to decide when to operate on my cheek bone and put my face back together again.
Once I fully gained consciousness and was awake, with no signs of serious concussion, I was going to be kept in for a couple of days.
However, all my “vital signs” were good and the doctors were happy to send me home with a big back of drugs and an appointment to come back 10 days later.
My wife had been called by the paramedics and was already at the hospital.
I was discharged by 8:00pm and with the help of my wife and a taxi managed to get home and took myself to bed.
I slept for about 16hrs per day for the next week.
I was back to see the consultants 10 days later – it’s very odd looking at a 3D model of your head on a large computer screen, with the consultant pointing out all the breaks.
The surgery team wanted to operate there and then for full “reconstructive facial surgery” to put all the bones back together, however, the theater operating list was full. I was scheduled for the following day – Wednesday 15th Feb.
But had to go down to the Pre-Op ward to have blood samples taken, height & weight measured and asked a torrent of questions, such as Smoking ? Drinking? and “Do you take any recreational drugs?”
Turned up the following day and after more questions was given a full anesthetic and the surgical team went to work.
I woke up in a ward a couple of hours later, with a few plasters and a few stitches on my face.
The surgeons had ‘gone in’ via a cut in my eye socket. I was now the proud owner of a couple of titanium plates holding my cheek bone and the left hand side of my face together.
And so I started on the long slow Road to Recovery.
Most cycle accidents are either ‘road rash’ or a broken collar bone. Mine fell into the category of neurological; the physical damage wasn’t too bad, but the knocking out of my balance and spatial awareness was going to take some time to restore, if ever!
Feb – June 2017
The first few months of recovery were not easy. Energy levels were virtually nil and a mind-fog engulfed everything else. And still having a business to run, I was spending far too much time in the office!
It became clear very quickly, that I would not be able to ride my bike for the foreseeable future, and driving was next to impossible.
My left eye was virtually closed and the double vision I was experiencing was quite disturbing.
I was back to see the consultants at the end of February – stitches out, and ‘signed off’ from any further hospital care. They accepted that my eye socket and double vision would correct itself ‘in time’ and that the loss of balance and spatial awareness would also return and correct themselves, again, ‘in time’. With an estimate of 12 to 18 months.
By the end of February, I was determined increase my energy levels and bring up my level of fitness.
The first thing to do was to try and lossen up my muscles – everything had stiffened up, and I was finding difficult to move around with any confidence. I contacted Larry Howard of Energize Sports Massage, to see if he could help.
He started to come to the house twice a week to give me a full massage. I still had reasonable flexibility, so the massage made a big difference to any movement. I also started with a series of gentle exercises and some basic yoga.
Looking at my levels of fitness, it was obvious I needed to get back on my bike. As I was not able to ride out on the road, I looked at the possibility of a set of static rollers.
A set of Tacx rollers were duly acquired and installed and I set about exploring the world of indoor training. (See Zwift)
July – Dec 2017
Summer 2017 dragged into Autumn 2017 – I missed riding out – but the weather wasn’t very good, so I was able to ignore it. We were also having a lot of building work on the house, so with everything going on, riding in the spare room, became the only choice.
With help from Larry and slowly riding, the mind-fog gradually started to clear, and my fitness, such as it was felt that it was returning. Larry
By Autumn, I felt that I needed to look at my riding and ‘move up’ to a ‘smart trainer’. Using the on-line programme Zwift, I would be able to maximise on actual training.
The “Pain Cave” was moved around, with a new Turbo Trainer and a 32″ TV connected to my laptop.
During my weekly massages, Larry had managed to get rid of most of my aches and pains, although there was one area he couldn’t shift – my lower back right hand side.
Nearly all bike riders have lower back pain, however, mine wasn’t shifting. So, Larry recommended a Chiropractor – Donna Strachan at the Chiro & Physio Centre, Thingwall, Wirral.
An appointment was made and I was examined, it was at this point, we discovered that my right leg was 1½” longer than my left leg. This explained the reason I was tending to walk in circles!
My pelvic tissues and ligaments had all become stretched and locked in the forward position. Donna started on a course of manipulation to release these tissues, and a course of specific exercises was organised to strengthen my core back muscles.
With riding and strengthening exercises on alternate days – I was getting plenty of exercise. However, by double vision was still way off, and my balance was getting better, but was nowhere near back to normal.
I finished the 2017 riding 1,950mls at 17½mph or 3,100kms @28kph; which is about 1,000mls less than I normally ride. But overall not a bad year…
And so 2018 came around…
Jan – July 2018
As the New Year dawned, I was still riding and working those exercises. However, with a lot of Family Issues to overcome, it was difficult to concentrate on the ‘getting fit…!’
An early year visit to the ophthalmologist confirmed that although my eye socket was moving back to ‘normal’ the double vision would be with me for some considerable time.
My balance was getting better as was my strength and riding fitness. I had completed my massage sessions with Larry, but it was still necessary to visit with Donna the Chiropractor.
It was a case of continuing riding and keeping on with the exercises – there was no ‘quick fix’.
With some warm / hot days in May / June / July, I managed for the first time to actually ride ‘on the road’… Not actually on the road, but on the seaside ‘prom’ that runs by the house – traffic free apart from the dog walkers.
First time out – IO needed stabilisers – it was like trying to ride a bike all over again…! But a few rides, helped to get the bike under control. It was magical riding out in the fresh air again, and enjoying the sunshine.
Aug – Sept 2018
The UK summer had finished by August, and after the Tribe had been up for their annual holidays, it was back to the trainer…
I was now riding 4 days per week + exercises, and a full exercise programme on 2 days a week. The months passed, and visits to the Chiropractor became a couple of months apart.
Keeping the regime going was the key to improving fitness, and getting the core muscles a lot stronger.
I finished the 2018 riding 2,915mls at 17.9mph or 4,700kms @28.8kph. A good result for the year.
And so we roll on into 2019… 2 years after “The Crash”… feeling a lot fitter… and ‘ready to rock and roll’…
Certainly not 100% back together again… a few niggles… keeping up with the exercises and riding…! It’s all you can do…!