Ten miles into the Coast-2-Coast 2017 ride I crashed my recumbent in a pot hole. Crushed my left femur into little pieces and was rushed to the emergency room. Now, just eight days later, I am sitting in a bed in rehab writing this.
About a year ago I started planning for this ride. Been in good shape most of the last year, but starting in January I really started riding extensively.
I knew that I would be riding the Lightening R-84 for the ride so I have ridden that exclusively for the last few months. Since January 1st I have put about 700 miles of rode riding on the R-84 in all kinds of weather. Dry, wet, cold or hot. It did not matter I was out riding the bike as many days as I could.
I felt pretty good about both my conditioning and my bike handling skills in any kind of riding conditions.
My wife Robyn and I arrived in San Diego several days early. We wanted to see some of the local sights and I wanted to get a couple of local rides in. I got a couple of small rides in and one day three of us coasters went to the lighthouse and back. About 12 miles riding and 1,700 feet of climbing.
The last few days before Robyn and I arrived they had very heavy rain storms and the roads were terrible with huge potholes.
The day was gorgeous out. We dipped our rear wheels into the Pacific Ocean, took some great pictures, and then we where off.
There was a lot of road construction from all the recent heavy rains. I started out behind what I guess was the lead off group but they turned out to be going to fast for me so I slowed down and ended up on my own with a group just out of sight in front of me and group out of sight behind me.
I was overall averaging about 12 mph and on this section of the road was probably only going about 8 mph.
I was 6.1 miles into the ride heading east on Friars Rd. Friars is a busy road with good marked bike lane. Cars go pretty fast and I was approaching the the Mission Center Rd exit. As I tried to move across the exit ramp to stay on the bike lane continuing on down the road I had to watch the traffic more closely than the potholes in the road.
I had just crossed the exit ramp and was just back in the bike lane when the crashed happened.
The following is my best recollection based on piecing together various memories. The time is a little before 10am PST.
My front wheel dropped into a very big pot hole. The front wheel entered the pot hole very off-center to the left causing my front wheel to slide 4-5 inches to the rights. In the past I have hit bigger holes, at faster speeds, and my reflexes, or bike skills, have always been good enough to recover.
This time for what ever reason I could tell the bike was going over to the left and there was nothing I could do about it. I immediately did the Lightening SWB recumbent thing. Get relaxed, stay in the seat, let the bike take the abuse.
I only fall about 2 feet. The frame hits first. As my butt slides off the seat I’m thinking I’m going to end up with some road rash on the very first day. I don’t slide much at all. I can feel my shorts start slide and the pavement start to dig into my skin.
Then bam, I’m totally stopped. I’m sitting in a pothole with about a 5 inch lip with my left leg pressed right up against the lip of the pothole. I can’t move my left leg. My left foot is flopped over to the outside and just laying on the ground. There is no road rash and no blood anywhere. I can tell immediately I’m going to need an ambulance.
A car driver has already stopped, an off duty fire department guy. I tell him I need an ambulance. I get him to hand me my spot tracker. A couple of other people stop. Someone has already called 911 and a police man is talking to me. They are asking me some questions, name, age, etc..
Note: Not as many as questions as I would have thought. Writing this now, 14 days later, I realize that I was wearing my Road-ID at the time. The Road-ID had very detailed information about me and emergency contacts. The EMS workers must have cut off the Road-ID because I don’t remember seeing it since the accident.
Some of the other riders stop and are very worried. Some of the Coast to Coast staff are now at my side (maybe Beth and Fred). I remember the EMS guys debating where to take me. One of the them rattles of a name of the closest place. The other EMS guy says worriedly “We can’t take him THERE”. I remember Beth practically grabbing one of the EMS guys by the collar, getting her face two inches from his face, and saying with absolute authority “Take him to the very best trauma emergency care in the city!” I’m loaded into an ambulance. I know I scream every time they move me. I can’t help it.
I think I talk to Robyn and tell her where I am. A police man and the Coast 2 Coast staff wait with the bike for Robyn to arrive. They will help her to where ever the ambulance is taking me. I worry about Robyn being ok.
I never pass out or lose consciousness. Someone is always asking me a question of some type. Moving me from the ambulance stretcher to the hospital bed is more screaming. Trying has hard as I can I can’t control the screaming.
I’m crying now writing this.
Shortly after arriving in the ER they take me to X-Ray. I can’t have any drugs. They have to move me from the hospital gurney to the X-Ray table. The screaming starts again.
(This had got to be the hardest blog I’ve every written. I’ve had a great attitude up to now. I can stop crying now thinking about the pain I was in then.)
Between screams I open my eyes and the lady X-Ray tech has her face inches from mine and is also screaming “Mr Hansen - Stop screaming - You need to breath - Calm down”. I try to stop screaming, I try to breath, I try to calm down. It is hard to get thoughts under control the pain is terrible. She tells me she has to roll me over to take different angle pictures. I know the pain is coming again. I try to hang on. The screaming starts again. Finally, somehow I’m laying on my back again. I manage to get the vocals down to just whimpering. I’m surprised I never passed out, I wished I had.
I apologize so many times to the X-Ray tech. I just could not help myself. I feel bad for her. I could never have her job.
They wheel me back to ER and immediately put morphine in my I_V, things get much better.
It is only at my first follow up visit with the orthopedic trauma doctor 10 days later that I understand the extent of my injuries. My left femur was totally crushed for a length of 10 to 12 inches centered almost exactly between my knee and my hip.
I’m laying in the ER room, the morphine has kicked in and I’m very worried about Robyn. I can’t tell the passage of time. I don’t know how long it has been since the accident. Could have been two to three hours. I just don’t know. I’m very worried about her. The morphine has helped me not think about my leg. Now, instead, I’m worried about Robyn.
Robyn arrives. Life is much better. I find out the time. It has been less than an hour since the accident. Doctor sees the X-Rays and surgery is immediately scheduled for 3pm that afternoon.
Since the surgery my life has been a blur and my life is just now starting to get some semblance of a normal routine.
I’ll write more about my condition and recovery in later posts.
Why did I write this?
I’m a pretty happy person. I don’t like writing about pain and suffering.
I’m going to ride recumbents again.
My life cycling with Robyn and our friends is incredible. I would not give it up for anything. Every activity has risks and I’ve already had some major road rash along the way.
This is my first broken bone in my life (go big or go home).
I like to go into things with my eyes wide open.
Some day in the future I’ll read this again and remember that life has lots if adversities. How you handle them, and how you go forward, is defining.
How did they fix it?
They put a stainless steel rod in the middle of my femur bone.
The rod extends beyond the crushed part by a some number inches on either side of the crush. Screws at the top and bottom of the rod attach the rod to the good parts of the femur. The crushed femur bone laid along side the rod so that the bone can mend back together. The long rod has been sized and positioned such that the leg length is correct and the leg alignment is exact.
Doctor’s words: “We, hammered a rod down the middle of the bone of the leg….”.
There are only four small incisions on the outside of my left leg. Much bruising, no road rash.