The Road to Recovery

Road to Recovery

Paul Stevens

Carpe Diem (but in a relaxed sort of way)


It’s been about six weeks since my very unfavourable encounter with a ½ ton pick-up truck and I am pleased to report that I’m well on the way to a complete recovery.  Adding up the damage that was done (multiple broken ribs, cracked vertebrae, facial compression fracture, hyperextended knee, partially separated shoulder, deep bruises and a few nasty gashes thrown in for good measure), I have to be satisfied that although I’m not healing as quickly as a 22 year old, I am knitting myself back together reasonably well and to the satisfaction of the medical people keeping an eye on me.

When the accident occurred, I was knocked out stone cold but I don’t seem to be bothered by anything that would resemble post-concussion problems.  No headaches, no memory issues (none that I can recall anyway), no light or sound sensitivity or any of the other symptoms you hear about when there has been head trauma. I have had a couple of sessions with a therapist who put me through a number of exercises to check out my mental acuity (memory, cognitive performance and the like) and it appears that the two remaining brain cells that I had before the accident were left unscathed and they may even be putting in a bit of overtime to keep me on track.  With no apparent damage to the grey matter, I can only be thankful that it was not as bad as it might have been.

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My ribs are actually feeling pretty good as I can laugh, cough, and sneeze without bringing myself to tears.  This would not have been possible just a couple of weeks ago.  To protect the cracked vertebrae, I have to wear a neck brace 24/7 which is driving me nuts.  I can’t rotate my head in any meaningful way and eating without making a mess is a bit of a challenge.  Moreover, I have to wear the damn thing when I sleep which means I can only sleep on my back and I have always been a side-sleeper.  It’s kind of weird going to sleep in one position and waking up exactly the same.  This will be a requirement  for another couple of weeks and should you hear a distinct “Yippee” in the distance in the near future, that will be me punting the neck brace to the sidelines.

I have started some mild physiotherapy but truth be known, I had started this on my own as soon as I could move without excessive discomfort.  This consisted of some easy stretching, walking, and hopping on our stationary bike for increasingly longer periods.  I reviewed this with my physiotherapist who gave it the thumbs up with the caveat that I avoid putting any undue stress on my upper body where most of the damage was done.  Rides on the stationary bike are great as it gets the blood moving, increases your metabolism to help heal tissue, yet puts no strain on my neck or my partially separated left shoulder.

Each turn on the bike leaves me feeling noticeably better and I am up to about 20 minutes every other day with some fairly aggressive intervals thrown in along the way.  I plan to increase the sessions to daily and work up to 30-45 minutes within the next week or so. If all goes well, it will be that much easier to get back on my outdoor bike when I get this neck brace off and I can then start easing into my normal activities. 

Unable to do much in the way of regular physical labour, the ‘honey-do’ list around the house is growing by the day.  If all goes well, I’ll be back on my bike around the end of October and hopefully back to playing hockey with the old guys a few weeks later.   To keep up appearances, I guess I’ll have to address a few of the pressing items on the ‘honey-do’ list as well.

For the first few weeks after the accident,  I couldn’t believe how much sleep I needed.  My normal shut-eye time is about 7-8 hours per night, depending somewhat on the day’s activities.  Initially after the accident, I was sleeping for about nine hours a night and that was after a one or two hour nap during the day.  Feeling like a geriatric ahead of my time,  I asked my doctor about this.  The reply was that the additional sleep is very normal and is actually recommended as your body is doing a lot of overtime while it is on the mend.  A lot of stuff is going on internally that you can’t see but takes its toll on the energy level.  As I’m moving along the curve, the need for longer term sleep and naps is steadily diminishing.

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Speaking a getting back on the bike,  it won’t be the same one that has been my trusted steed for the past several years as it unfortunately is a write-off.  I took it to the local bike shop for a review and the red flag was a serious dent in the tube that runs from the saddle to the junction with the pedals.  The other damage to the bike could easily be repaired. However, the dent in the frame would become a disaster waiting to happen as it could give way without notice.  The bike is an older model, about 10 years old, but a star in its day with a lightweight alloy frame and carbon fibre front forks.  This was leading technology at the time but even mid-grade bikes are all carbon fibre these days. 

The frame is (or at least was) very rigid so the impact with the truck must have been more than just a little love tap.  Consigning the old bike to the scrap heap is a bit sad and I feel odd even saying that as it is just a bunch of metal parts but as I see it hanging there in my garage awaiting its ultimate fate, I can’t help but think of all the miles it gave me without fault. Maybe this is my post-concussion moment – getting sentimental about what is no more than a bucket of bolts.

As upsetting as the accident was, I am comforted by the fact that these collisions will become less and less frequent.  In the not-to-distant future, virtually all vehicles will have autonomous braking systems meaning that even of the driver doesn’t see you, the vehicle will, causing it to stop before any damage is done.  Many newer vehicles already have this type of feature available but it will become standard equipment down the road, saving countless injuries and even lives.  Any hey, fewer bikes will go to the scrap heap as well.

For now, it’s back to some physio and working on repairing what remains to be fixed.

Your friend, Paul.

And remember – Carpe Diem (but in relaxed sort of way)!

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