Originally posted on Muddbunnies.com There is nothing worse than being injured, especially when you love riding your bike as much as I do! The recovery time can be brutal and the psychological damage that goes along with a severe injury can stay with you long after the bones have healed!
This past April I had the misfortune of injuring myself seriously enough to end up in hospital for 5 days, and off the bike for nearly 3 months. After 5 months I thought it might be insightful for others if I was to reflect on just what goes on when you sustain a major injury.
The Injury To put it politely I Fucked up on a rock drop on Cypress Mountain. This in itself doesn’t always spell disaster just a wounded pride. I managed to pogo myself off my bike at a velocity speed, slam myself into the ground and come up short when I impacted a rock protruding from said ground. The force of the impact tore my lung open (medical term Hemo-Pneumothorax) and broke 4 of my ribs into multiple pieces, I remember jumping to my feet to tell everyone I was alright then collapsing back to the ground
The rest of that day is pretty much a blur as I’m pretty sure I went into shock, but I can say this, I feel truly blessed to have the friends I have. Their quick response to my injury, (First Aid, organization and giving clear concise information to the emergency services crew) helped get me off the mountain and into the hospital in short order.
A quick X-ray began to determine the extent of my injury and they put me straight into the CT machine, (nothing like a big dose of radiation). This followed swiftly with a trip to the operating room as a large amount of air and blood had been building up in my chest cavity and was putting pressure on my good lung and my heart. They knocked me out with a shot of Ketamine, (yeah horse tranquilizer!) cut me open, and inserted a tube into my chest which began draining the blood and air and relieving the pressure.
I was put under close observation for the next 5 days wichh I was on an epidural and a mix of other drugs that kept me sleeping and in as little pain as possible. They drained about 2.5 liters of blood out of my chest cavity as my lung was re-inflated and began knitting itself back . After three days I began working with a physio to start moving so I could escape the hospital. I have heard people mention that there is nothing more painful than a cracked/broken rib, and after having 4 of them in multiple pieces I’d have to agree. Every breath and movement was agony, and that was with all the drugs! On the 5th day they deemed me well enough to go home. I am lucky enough to have a friend here who’s mum has pretty much adopted me as an extra kid, or I don’t know what I would have done. I spent the next week and a half living on her sofa, (with my injury it was actually impossible to lay down, so I had to sleep sitting up).
The Recovery After about 4 weeks I was finally okayed to do light exercise, which meant walking on flat ground with company. My doctors biggest concern was that my lung would tear back open and we’d have to start all over again. I have never had a half hour walk be so painful nor feel so impossible; I probably would have cried if it wouldn’t have hurt my ribs more. After about 6 weeks I was given the okay to go on gentle hikes, and at 8 weeks I was aloud to go on slightly more vigorous hikes. However I suspect my doctor didn’t have in mind hiking up from Horseshoe bay to the top of Cypress as a more ‘vigorous’ hike! But for me it felt good to finally start feeling like I could get out and move again! Admittedly, after that hike I was humbled a little and realized this healing thing was going to take longer than I had initially anticipated! After 10 weeks my x-rays showed that my ribs had ‘knitted’ together enough that my doctor gave me the okay to start riding non-technical XC. I know a lot of people feel she let me back on my bike sooner than was a good idea, but I should note that I have the doctor I have because she can best deal with my personality.
The whole recovery process for me was a lesson in patience and compromise. I identify with the fact that I push myself till it hurts, and I know that that is not always a good thing. Non-Technical XC rides soon turned to technical XC rides and I slowly began to build back up my cardio and my strength. At 12 weeks I also began back at the gym with a strength training/rehab program that I designed for myself. At this point, I should probably note that as a personal trainer it’s not always a good thing to train yourself. At about week 16 post-injury I ended up back at the doctor with sharp pains in my side, where I got quiet the talking to about just how much weight I should be lifting and that I should know better! After an X-Ray proved that my bones were all still solidly knitted I was finally given the OK to ride DH, (but that is another story).
Fast forward to today, 5 months after my crash. My lung capacity still doesn’t feel like it has completely returned. My ribs are healed but all the surrounding tissue and cartilage is still recovering. Some of the damage will take a good 12 months to heal properly and some of the pain I have after exertion I will now have for the rest of my life… I believe they refer to it as ‘scar tissue’ As for my riding, I am a stronger all-mountain rider than I ever was before, My endurance has improved, my ability to climb has improved, and even my ability to navigate technical DH trails. I have regained a lot of my speed and my confidence, but bring me up to a big drop, which would have once caused me to laugh in glee and launch myself off it and to hell with the consequence… well yeah, now I know all about consequence. All injuries and recoveries can be hard and sometimes they can take a long time to be right, some injuries you’ll never be the same from. This isn’t meant to be a negative story, this is a positive look at a bad situation. I am thankful for all the wonderful people in my life, who have been there for me during my recover, which at times has been emotional, painful and just downright hard. I am thankful for my love of riding; injury has definitely changed my approach, but not my love of biking. Always ride at level you are comfortable with. We all deal with injury/recovery differently, and remember, just make sure whatever you are riding that you’re having enough fun that you want to yell “WOOO HOOO” as you go!