I can’t believe I crashed my bike just one year ago today.
I was on the second mile of a 60 mile bike ride on a country road in Asheville, NC. It was the day after a beautiful 20 mile run. I was getting ready for a half marathon the next day, a half Ironman the week after and the Great Floridian, my second 140.6, the next month. I was a newlywed two months into marriage.
To this day I’m amazed at how that day played out. I left work stressed and just felt myself being drawn to the ride. I drove my car without direction and stopped in a new area where I’d never been before. I had my usual riding spots but decided to skip them this day. I moved so quickly, like I just had to get on the bike, to fall. I left my car a mess, didn’t text my husband like I normally did and left my gloves behind. I was on a mission to fall and I didn’t even know it.
I made a right turn off the highway onto a small country road. I rode to the top only to discover it was a dead end. On the way back I glided downhill and hit some gravel as I was turning toward the right. From there my memory blacks out but I’ve pieced together that I slammed against the road, my shoes unclipped and I landed near my bike. Luckily someone found me, called the ambulance and stayed with me until help arrived about 10 minutes later. Apparently there was a woman who stopped to care for me and even brought my bike to a fire station the next day.
I only remember pieces of the next few hours- the screaming at the pain; not knowing who I was, where I was or what time of the year it was because of the concussion; how terrifying it was to be rushed around the ER for test after test to find out what was wrong; the fright of being in so much pain but not being able to move my head, arms or legs to see my body. I just remember being so scared and sad.
Eventually I learned I had a severe concussion, deep road rash all on my right side and a pelvis broken in three places. A broken pelvis isn’t isolated like a broken arm or leg; everything is connected to the pelvis and everything hurt. I received a catheter and cried in pain any time I had to move over the next week.
Two days after the accident, September 11, I had a 4.1 inch screw drilled into my hip. It was my first broken bone, first surgery and first time in the hospital! The gravel slowly started coming out of my road rash but the effects of my concussion were lingering. I’d stop speaking mid-sentence and have no idea what I was saying; retrieving any word or memory felt almost impossible.
Meanwhile, the blog community and my family and friends rallied around me. My friend Ryan flew up to just sit with me for a few days. You all donated to a Beams of Grace fund Callie set up to help us survive the medical expenses; you left encouraging comments; I received mail from strangers; and I made so many new friends who were going through battles of their own. I learned how to really receive love from you guys.
I was broken and it was the kindness of friends near and far that built me up and pushed me when I was too weak to push myself. I am forever grateful.
After a few days physical therapy began. It started with two PTs helping me sit up in my hospital bed. I’d overheat, maybe throw up, cry from the pain and have to get help to lay back down. End of that day. Eventually I did start to move with a walker. Holy moly were those the most painful, challenging minutes. I was not very nice to those PTs!
After eight days in the hospital they finally let me get home. I still remember how unbearable every bump in the road felt on the drive home, even with my cocktail of pain killers and the two pillows I was sitting on. Richard was amazing and got me inside and set up on the couch which would be my home for the next few months.
My mom came up from Florida for a week to take care of me and I will never forget how wonderful that time was. She dressed me, painted my toes and wiped my tears. I so appreciate those moments just hanging out with my mom, watching television and eating home cooked meals. I received in-home physical therapy and nursing care. They asked me to try to use my walker, lifted my legs so I could get in bed and made sure my special toilet (an attachment that essentially makes the toilet seat a full foot higher) was set up right.
And then there was my husband. Oh, my poor husband. The accident taught us how to communicate what we really need. It asked him to give me shots in my stomach two times each day, mix cocktails of meds and wipe urine off the bathroom floor. He handled things perfectly, especially when he decked out my walker and took me out for dinner for my birthday.
Even more than the pain, I think the hardest part was dealing with losing my self-identity. I was no longer independent. I was no longer an athlete. For several weeks I couldn’t even get into the bed on my own, much less drive a car, work or run. All the races I was looking forward to were gone. It felt as everything was lost and I listened to the facts that it might never all come back.
So I re-evaluated. I wrote and meditated and laughed and reminded myself who I was without moving my legs. And I wiped away those old goals (as hard as it was) and set a new, big, seemingly impossible one: I would run the Disney Marathon in January, just four months after the accident.
I could hardly move when I set that big goal, but I believed in it with all my soul. Setting that goal was the light at the end of the tunnel; it was a reminder that I was strong and not afraid to think big and go for it with all my heart.
About two weeks after the accident I found acupuncture, Chinese medicine, herbs and Reiki. Or, rather, I was given them by healing friends who wanted to help. Alternative healing methods weren’t just incredibly effective (I quit my pain meds, muscle relaxers and anti-nausea drugs cold turkey the day I first received acupuncture) but they showed me love. I believe with all my heart that love is an intense healer of the mind, soul and body.
I did my physical therapy exercises like a superstar. I squeezed my glutes. I rotated my ankles. Eventually, I lifted my legs. During the evenings Richard would help me lie on my yoga mat where I’d listen to music and just accept my body. Eventually I could move into a modified child’s pose but the intention remained the same.
Seven weeks post-op I was given the permission to start walking. Oh boy, that was painful and weird! I swore I could feel the screw with every step. I slowly built up my mileage. Walking slowly for one mile demanded more recovery than my marathons months before. December 1st was the happiest day: I was told I could run. Richard kept by my side as I “ran” 1.5 miles. Pain is an understatement.
Still, I ran and walked and ran some more. I started off slow, worked with my PT and found a balance of pushing my body while still respecting the pain. I held on to the goal of my Disney Marathon and quickly built mileage with my long runs. My doctors all gave their okay, that the marathon would be painful but my hip was a-okay.
Just under four months post-op I rode my bike for the first time since the accident and completed the Disney Marathon. Crossing that big goal off my list was glorious, but it didn’t bring the big feelings of completion and pride that I had anticipated. Running the marathon was an accomplishment but it made me realize that all the growth and success lied in the little challenges that had gotten me to the finish line. The marathon didn’t give me anything new because I had spent four months doing the work to realize how strong I was.
Over the past year I’ve learned to accept love openly. I’ve learned that I can do anything I set my mind to, even if the world says I can’t. I’ve learned that it’s okay to cry, even if you’re not quite sure of the reason. I’ve learned that I am not a victim and that fear is a choice. I’ve learned to set big goals and to go after them with all my heart because big shit happens for those who work for it.
In the past year I’ve completed more than two marathons and one ultra marathon. From that accident I realized I wasn’t 100% in Asheville and we moved back to Orlando. I’m training for the same 140.6 and am excited to complete the Great Floridian this October. I was so inspired from my nurses that I am back in school for nursing. I’m so proud of all that’s happened in the last 365 days. I’m also especially grateful for the support of so many friends near and far.
What experience has shifted your life most?
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