It was Tuesday, July 24th. Only 34 days until Ironman Canada. My mother-in-law was in town visiting and the sun finally decided to make an appearance in Seattle. My training schedule called for a 2-1/2 hour bike ride. So I pulled on my favorite cycling kit (The Cycling House – of course), grabbed a water bottle, pumped up my tires and headed out for a ride. Since I was riding by myself I decided to hit the Burke Gilman trail just to be safe.
About 6 miles into my ride, I crossed a slatted wood bridge in the University District. I took a sip of water and debated whether or not I should head home to hop on the trainer. There were so many people out on the trail and I was spending a lot of time dodging dogs, kids and other cyclists and I figured I would get a much better workout on the trainer in my garage.
Those are the last few things that I remember.
I woke up, laid out flat on the ground with five people staring at me. When I became conscious I could barely think straight as my head was throbbing and my right side was screaming with pain. Not to mention I saw amoeba type objects floating around in my line of site. What had happened? Is this heaven? One of the faces staring at me was my brother. How did he get here? Where am I?
My brother, a trained EMT, sat me up slowly, collected my things and started walking me towards his car. I asked my brother “Is my collarbone broken?” As I pondered that thought, I stopped and shook the hands of all of the people who were helping me out and said thank you. Then turned around and continued to stumble my way towards my brother’s car.
Brother: “Where should we go?”
Me: “I don’t know, is my collarbone broken?”
Brother: “I don’t know but I am debating taking you to UW or to Harborview where I work.”
Me: “UW is fine, my insurance covers UW, I think.”
On our way to the hospital, I kept trying to call my husband who was at work. After a few tries, I decided to wait until he called me back. As we approached the hospital my phone rang, it was my husband.
Me: Hi babe… sniffle, sniffle.
Husband: Hey, I was in a meeting, it just got out. I saw that you called a few times. What is going on?
Me: I got in a bike crash. I think my collarbone is broken.
Husband: Where are you?
Me: In an ambulance
Husband: Where are you going?
Me: UW Hospital
My brother snatched the phone from my hand.
Brother: Hey, it’s Pete
Husband: What? Are you in the ambulance with her?
Brother: No, I am driving her to the hospital
Husband: So she is not in an ambulance?
Husband: Are you going to UW Hospital?
Husband: Ok, I will meet you there!
As we arrived at the UW Hospital ER, I was thrown onto a bed and whisked into the examination room. Blood was taken, CT scan and X-Rays were ordered. This crash was for real! I explained to my nurse that I didn’t need a CT scan because my head was fine and my collarbone was broken. She nodded and smiled and said she would wait to see the results of my tests. Before I knew it, I was picked up and taken off to radiology. The nurse driving my bed was not too concerned about the bumps in the hallway and hit everything full steam ahead, which makes my head throb just thinking about it. Nearly 45 minutes later, I was back in my room and ready for some pain medication! The nurse explained that I could not have pain medication until the results were back. Seriously? How much longer was this going to take?
The doctor came in to explain the results of the tests. The CT scan showed that I had a mild traumatic brain bleed (Level 1 concussion) and the twelve various x-rays showed that I did not have one broken bone. The opposite of my own personal assessment (which was obviously going to be correct because I was thinking very clearly for a person with a concussion (insert heavy sarcasm here)). They also explained that since I had a mild traumatic brain bleed that I would need to be transferred to Harborview for overnight observation. Seriously? At this point all I wanted was some pain medication and to go home to see my little girl. On the bright side, the only way I was going to be transferred to Harborview was via ambulance, so I can now check that off my bucket list.
As we sat waiting for the doctors and nurses to discharge me from UW, my brother and I tried to piece the crash together.
Me: Do you know what happened?
Brother: You crashed your bike.
Me: Yeah… I get that, but did anyone see what happened?
Brother: No, there were no witnesses.
Me: What does my bike look like?
Brother: It is pretty banged up. You had a hard crash. Did you see you cracked your helmet?
Me: What? Let me see!
Brother: (Pulled my helmet out and showed me the crack)
Me: No s#%&. So, how did you find me?
Brother: You called me.
Brother: Yeah, you called me.
Me: I thought I was passed out on the side of the road.
Brother: The lady who was helping you before I got there said that she saw you wandering around the trail, talking on the phone and then you went to the side of the trail and laid down.
Brother: That is what she said. She also explained to me where you were on the trail so I could come and get you.
Me: I don’t remember that at all.
Something about not remembering what happened is a bit disturbing. What really happened? Before I got too stuck on that thought, my “friends” from AMR came to escort me via ambulance to my slumber party at Harborview Neuro ICU. Right before I left, the UW staff approved me for pain medication and gave me a double dose of Dilaudid. Let me tell you, I went from a “tense, in-pain, want-to-hurt-someone” to a “relaxed, need-to-take-a-nap” patient. Just what you need after surviving a bicycle crash.
I sat up in the ambulance, took a quick look around and then passed out and took a much needed nap. I had to see what the inside of an ambulance was all about! Upon arriving at Harborview, I was checked in and taken to the ER Green waiting area. There I sat for 6 hours. I saw people come in with gun shot wounds, alcohol problems, heart issues… I saw it all. My best friend Steven came to my side and we giggled over my neighbor who was asking the nurses to give him a drink. I am not talking about a glass of water, he wanted an alcoholic beverage. At some time during my stay he went into withdrawal and the nurses had to hurry to his side. Harborview was absolutely insane! All I wanted to do was to be at home, in my own bed.
Around 2am, a nurse came into my “room” and told me that my suite in the Neuro ICU was ready and they would be transferring me. He told me that it was “Taco Tuesday” and since I was approved to eat that I could partake. I was STARVING at this point and gave my husband a look that said “get me food now or I might strangle someone”. I had not eaten since breakfast and it was roughly 2:30am at this point. My husband and brother headed to the cafeteria and found a delicious roast beef sandwich that I ate in 30 seconds flat. I was starving and didn’t care what they brought me to eat! My nurse did not actually bring me a taco, but that is ok, I ended up falling asleep anyway.
Throughout the night, the nurse came into my room, woke me up and asked me a series of questions.
Nurse: “What is your name?”
Nurse: “Why are you here?”
Me: “I got into a sweet bike crash on the Burke Gilman… so embarassing”
Nurse: “What is today’s date?”
Me: (I stare at the calendar on the wall) “That’s a trick question, I crashed on the 24th but it is the 25th… you trickster”
Nurse: (Straight faced and not amused by what I call humor) “Where are you?”
Me: (Talking as if I am the smartest kid on the block) “At Harborview Medical Center, 2nd Floor, Neuro ICU”
He checked some vitals and left. Wow, I guess I am not as funny as I think. Tough crowd.
At 6:30am (only 4 hours after checking into my room), the Neurologist and 5 residents are at the foot of my bed.
The Neurologist asks “So team, what is your recommendation for this patient?”
Resident 1: (whom I was most familiar with) raises his hand. (Suddenly multiple episodes of Grey’s Anatomy pop into my head). Resident 1: “All of her vitals show that she is stable. I recommend that she meet with a speech therapist.”
Neurologist: “Anyone else?”
(In comes Resident 2 with about 12 sheets of paper trailing behind her as if she was flying a kite)
Resident 2: “Her vitals are stable.”
(Neurologist rolls his eyes)
Resident 2: “I think she should talk to a speech therapist.”
I thought to myself, “I hope I am not paying for this.”
The Neurologist recommended that I spend some time with the speech therapist and she would come and visit prior to my discharge. As I looked at the clock that read 6:43am, I thought that I would be out of the hospital by 10am. I could not wait to see my baby girl.
10am came and went. Where was the speech therapist? She finally came into my room and explained what she would be doing. The first thing she would be doing is giving me a story to read and then asking me questions that related to the story. I passed with flying colors. Then she explained that the next activity we would be working on is that she would give me a letter of the alphabet and I wold need to say as many words that I could think of that started with that letter within 1 minute.
Speech therapist “why don’t we start with the letter ‘l'”
Me: “Like…. …. …. love…. … ….. l… …. …. Louras…. …. … lost… …. … ugh… ”
Speech therapist “Ok,” (looking at the clock)
My recollection of words that started with certain letters was embarrassingly awful. It was recommended that after my discharge that I visit with a speech therapist for a follow up. Argh! I was also recommended to see an orthopedic surgeon about my shoulder.
Sometime around noon, I was told that I could leave. All of my IVs and heart monitors were removed and I was on my way out the door. My shoulder was killing me and my head was throbbing. That did not really matter. All I could think of was seeing my baby girl. Joel retrieved our car and picked me up. We rolled down the sunroof and enjoyed the wonderful weather. I said many thanks to those above for watching over me.
I want to say thanks to my brother for picking me up and taking good care of me. Thanks to my husband for being by my side the entire time, including sleeping on a pull out bed in the hospital. Thanks to my mother-in-law for watching our little girl and keeping her happy. Thanks to all of my friends for the flowers, cards, calls, texts and love. Thanks to my coach Rusty Pruden for the encouragement, recommendations and pep talks. Thanks to Advantage PT for treating me like a queen and squeezing me in to your already full schedule. Thanks to Mr. Crampy’s Multisport for triaging my bike and hooking me up with a new ride. The biggest thanks goes to Specialized Bikes for designing the Propero II helmet that saved my goods!
Ironman Canada, I am still coming to get you! These next few weeks are going to be some of the toughest. I am not stopping until I hear stop or no.
Be well, wear your helmet and take good care mamas!