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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Roadside Refelections

An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.
G. K. Chesterton

On the side of a farm road in rural Switzerland, I am down on my knees, bent over double, my forehead resting on the rocky shoulder that provides a separation between the rough asphalt and the cool, green grass of the fields behind me. I pound repeatedly on the ground with my right hand, my left bound tightly to my side with two pair of tights, my forearm resting on my leg, just above the knee. I'm in pain, and it is not just from the abrasions or my shoulder. I am angry. At myself for not seeing the hazard in the road. I am disappointed at the sudden end to the tour. Bill is already confirming that he will stay with me the rest of the day. I know that his tour is over, too, and this adds a big dose of regret to the fusion of feelings. On the periphery, thoughts of medical procedures begin to creep in. Dislocated? Broken? Diagnosis and treatment are sure to be painful. For this brief moment, it is very dark on this otherwise wonderful, sunshiny day.

But the upswell of these feelings is met by rising thoughts of another ilk. There is no way that I am going to end this tour by climbing up a steep slope of self-pity. It has been an exhilarating two weeks, spent in appreciation for new friendships, and in awe and wonder of the challenges, sights and other experiences of this truly amazing bicycle ride. These are now firmly in the memories category. While they might be just words on the pages of my journal, they are, and will remain, real and satisfying. The joy of the ride cannot be taken back, even by this most sudden ending. Still angry at myself; still disappointed that the tour has so abruptly ended; still regretting the effect this has on Bob, Ruppert and especially on Bill; still concerned for the issues of finding and receiving treatment for the injuries. With all of these weighing on me, I stand up, more or less declaring that it is time to get on with it.

Pretty macho, tough guy stuff, right? Well, not exactly. Sure, I'd decided to not let the disappointment of this moment overshadow the enjoyment and satisfaction of the tour. And I'd like to say I stood up defiantly, staring all of these feelings into meek submission. But what actually happened was I forced myself off of the ground and responded to continuing inquiries as to my state of being with a weak "I think I'm OK," at which point I got extremely lightheaded and needed to be assissted back into a sitting position. There were going to be some hills to climb, but with this shaky start, the inconveniences of the crash were transforming into an adventure, starting right now, right here on the side of a farm road in rural Switzerland.

Friday, January 2, 2009


Friday, September 5
Langenthal Regional Hospital

Once at the hospital I am quickly taken into an ER examination room, this made possible in part by the fact that Bill is available to provide the front desk with the information needed to check me in. I walk back to the room accompanied by a nurse who sits me on a gurney, takes my temperature and blood pressure, checks my pulse and starts an IV in my hand. "Medication for the pain," she tells me. She is speaking German and I am surprised that I can understand her and answer her questions as well as I do. Perhaps I just needed a good whack on the head? I have felt better than I am at this moment, so I lay back on the bed. People come and go for a few minutes before the doctor shows up and proceeds to check just about everything but my shoulder - head, neck, back, ribs, hips, knees. The collarbone injury is obvious and not life threatening. He wants to make sure there isn't something more serious. I tell him my hip is very sore, but manipulating it doesn't reveal any structural damage, just a deep, and soon to be very ugly, bruise.

Another nurse comes in and says I'll need to get my jersey off. He asks if it is OK to cut it. This is my Georgia Tech jersey we are talking about. Cut it off? No way. But it only takes a minute to realize that this jersey does not zip all the way open, so I'll have to get it up over my head. In this light, cutting it off seems like a much better idea. Bill, who has returned from getting the paperwork started, seals the deal by noting that the jersey is pretty messed up from it's trip along the road surface. OK. Cut it off. I'll just close my eyes so as to not have to watch.

Collateral Damage - The GT Jersey After the Crash
I get wheeled over to radiology and wait a bit before the picture taking starts. I'm OK with walking into the room and standing against the wall, assuming a variety of poses during the session.

Primary Damage - The Collarbone After the Crash
Laurenz is there when I get back to the examination room and we briefly discuss logistics for the rest of the day. He'll be there when I get done and will drive us to the hotel in Madiswil.

There is a little more waiting to do now that it is determined I'll likely survive. And they need some time to look at the x-rays which will confirm Bill's field diagnosis. I'm sitting on the side of the gurney, but soon get cold and very light-headed so I lie back down, a maneuver that is not without some serious discomfort. The nurse pulls out a heavyweight sheet and drapes it over me. It is warm and very, very comfortable. As it turns out, this was to be my last bout of chills and dizziness.

When the doctor comes back, he tells me that my collarbone is broken and adds, "You need metal." He recommends surgery. Before next Friday. I tell him that I'm scheduled to return home on Sunday and ask if I can travel. He replies, "That's no problem. But you go to your doctor on Monday and tell him that the doctor in Switzerland says that you need surgery. And, if he doesn't agree, then come back here and we will do it." He was ready. I think now he would have had me in the operating room right then and there. I can imagine him saying, "It's Friday. It seems we both have the afternoon free. Let's do it!" We agree, however, that my going back home is the best way to proceed.

There are signs that I'm about ready to be let loose and I wonder about all of the abrasions, which have so far received no attention. As if on cue, three nurses enter the room and start the process of cleaning and dressing the injuries. One works on my calf and knee, another on my elbow and the third on my shoulder,where the worst of the abrasions are. Bill, taking a few pictures, is impressed that I'd get the attention of THREE nurses at the same time. I can see him pondering the possibilities and trade-offs; perhaps if he'd broken his collarbone...

Celebrity Level Care; But I get it Anyway!
I'm given a CD with the x-rays and outfitted with a sling, some pain medications and a figure-8 brace. The nurse tells me that I'll probably find this latter piece of equipment a "little uncomfortable." This would turn out to be the understatement of the year. It takes about 20 minutes to get checked out and pay the bill, which would convert to $397. Maybe I SHOULD come back here if I need surgery. I could fly first class, stay in a five star hotel during the recovery period and save my insurance company money in the bargain. Sounds like a plan.

We leave the hospital and make the last leg of the journey to Madiswil in Laurenz's car. Looking at the ride from the farm to the hospital in the same vein as the various train rides during the trip, I figure this is my first sag ever. Oh, well...