Sunday, May 27, 2007

Oh no, not again

"Wiggle your big toe."

I recalled Uma Thurman's words in Kill Bill Vol. 1 as I lay in a bed in Salisbury hospital on Saturday. It wasn't a particularly hard thing to do, because unlike Uma, I wasn't coming out of a five year coma. It was just a way of passing the time while I waited to get out of there.

It's meant to be bad karma to kill a bird on the way to a cyclosportif. And also to see only one magpie without uttering something that I can't quite remember now. We (Kirsty, Craig and I) managed to do both on the way to the first stage of the Tour of Wessex. I think I ended up bearing the brunt of the bad karma with Kirsty getting off with a cold. Even on the way back from hospital, we nearly killed another magpie (the karma behind us got it) and a dog. So I can now put in that quote about "your karma ran over my dogma."

Things were shaping up pretty well before I crashed on a speed hump coming out of Stourhead House, 25km into the event. It was a beautful day, with over 1000 starters in this 100 miler. We'd all left Sutton Montis at around 7:30, so were only 10 minutes behind the first riders. I was moving along at a decent pace, and had an average of over 30km/h for the first 25 clicks, which included 500m of climbing.

After climbing up to Alfred's Tower, we were directed into the grounds of Stourhead House. Very pretty, although it included 200m of gravel/dirt road. I remember when I recce'd this ride with the organiser earlier this year, he asked me whether he should keep this bit in, because there were complaints last year about the off-road section.

"Yeah, leave it in. The grounds are really nice," was my well-considered response. The section isn't actually that bad. It's more or less a driveway up to the house with no potholes. Road tyres can handle it.

I also recall (now) that the organiser pointed out a hard-to-spot speedbump on the exit road out of the grounds. It was shaded by trees and wasn't marked in any way, so it was rather surprising to a casual cyclist. Of course, being quite casual myself I'd forgotten about this tiny detail as I gathered speed and changed hand positions from my brake hoods to my drops. Hitting a speedbump when your weight is forward, you're going downhill and you don't have your hands on the bars is generally a bad thing.

My face hit the ground first, followed by the rest of me and then the bike (which was relatively unscathed. Phew). I wasn't sure whether I'd broken any teeth but I did know that my lip was bleeding a lot, my knee had a large hole in it, I had grazes everywhere and I couldn't walk. I shuffled off the road as people stopped to help and I knew that I wouldn't be riding any more that day. One guy called the emergency number, and we were promised help in "10-15 minutes" but it took a while longer before two emergency service bikes turned up. They couldn't really do much for me anyway. But by this stage, Craig, another friend George and Kirsty had all arrived and had phoned an ambulance.

Kirsty wasn't feeling too crash hot and decided to call it quits, and thankfully hung around until the ambo arrived. After I was taken away at about 9am, she tried the emergency number again, but eventually had to catch a taxi back to the start. She wasn't impressed. My bike was retrieved later on.

I was taken to the hospital just outside Salisbury at Odstock - coincidentally where Lucy was born - because the accident happened in Wiltshire county. There was a hospital a lot closer than that, but due to the stupidly archaic system they have here, you have to go to the one in whatever county you're in. Chris, one of the ambulance crew, also thought this was silly. But, while inhaling large amounts of nitrous oxide, I had a good chat to him as he was a keen cycling fan up until about 10 years ago. As a point of note, N2O is what they give to pregnant women in labour. It makes your head spin and has a slight relaxing effect, but it wears off in a few minutes so you can inhale as much as you like.

I have to give a big double thumbs up to the hospital staff, who were numerous and quite competent. There was one doctor who examined me and stitched me up, and four very nice nurses who cleaned all of my wounds. It definitely wasn't all bad!

I didn't break anything, but my lip required about six stitches as there was a flap of skin that had come loose. There wasn't too much tissue loss so I shouldn't have a big scar. It's still very swollen and blood-caked.

My knee needed three stitches, although they were going to just bandage it. It was quite a deep hole and they were debating whether to stitch over "empty space", deciding eventually that it was a good idea. I also got some clear dressing on the puncture wounds in my left hamstring, where I'd somehow dug into the chainwheel. The rest of the grazes (elbows, knuckles, left shin, buttocks) could sort themselves out.

One moment of levity came when they were trying to take my pulse. The nurse had a machine that attached to my finger, but it wasn't registering anything.

"Does this mean that I'm dead?" I asked.
"Yes," she said. "But you can still talk."

We were in stitches.

I got moved to 'short stay' while I waited for The Others to come and reclaim me. I was the only one there for a while, until they brought in a 96 year-old woman who'd broken her arm and really didn't want to be in hospital. "I don't want to be here," she would say. "But you have to!" her son and daughter-in-law would chorus in response. It wasn't until the doc came in and told her that she'd broken her arm that she realised.

There were also a couple of kids and their parents. One of the kids had chipped his elbow and was yelling a lot, prompting his sister to do the same. In true English fashion, the parents weren't particularly sympathetic. "Shut up, or I'll take you home." (continued screaming) "Stop crying, or you'll go home." (continued crying) "Do you want to go home? I mean it!" (etc.) The kid only quietened down when the parent asked "What's wrong?" Funny that.

The only other down side to my stay in hospital was when I ate a cheddar cheese and spring onion sandwich. I was on a drip, but the nurses were really insistent that I eat something "soft". Now, bread can be soft when it's fresh, but in my experience lengthy periods of refrigeration do not preserve freshness. Anyway, I had a few sustaining cups of tea.

I did make it home late afternoon thanks to Kirsty and Craig, to whom I owe several beverages. Neither of them were planning on riding stage 2 on Sunday, as the weather was going to be - and is now - crap. 10 degrees and rain. Welcome to almost-summer.

I have to go to the doctor on Tuesday to get the stitches looked at, and there's a fair chance that I'll be riding again before the end of the week. Annoyingly, I can't really walk beause of a bruise on my calf.

Now, what's on telly on Sunday at midday? Nothing.


Anonymous said...

So is this Return of the Native? No one (apart from that all-around good guy Alec D'Urberville) should bleed in Salisbury beds...

For goodness sake Jones, stop bloody well running into things! This isn't Laurel and Hardy!

And get well soon.


Jeff Jones said...

That's more appropriate than my personal favourite, Jude the Obscure. In this case I definitely wasn't "Done because we are too menny."

Perhaps "Fear is the mother of foresight" would have been better, or "I am the family face; flesh perishes, I live on."

Three crashes plus one mild case of death in the first five months of this year. That'd fit in nicely with a Hardy novel. I'm still in decent condition, but I just have to figure out a way to stay on these two-wheeled contraptions.

Shane S. said...

Feck, dude...take care...!! I know it's nice to chat to nurses, but you could just wait till they finish work and meet them in a pub, rather than going that more direct way! Hope you heal up soon...

Btw, will be in London for the Tour, hopefully chatya then..

Jeff Jones said...

I thought I'd try a different tack. It didn't quite work out as planned, but that's easy to say with 20-20 hindsight.

I'll be in Londres for Le Tour in one form or another, so we should catch up then.

langles said...


Sorry to hear about the stack. Funnily enough, I had a similar incident just after we caught up recently, only it involved a park bench - stereo stacks! I was crusing along next to the mangroves at homebush one moonless evening without the aid of my trusty spotlight, whose globe had busted the week before. You can guess the rest. Not too much damage to me, although the bike needed a new set of forks!


Hugh Jones said...

You were warned by the soothayer,so it's clearly a case of " Look Mum no hands."
The word verification I've just put in "wbyrkke "is clearly a warning.

Jeff Jones said...

Dave, riding along a dark path without lights is risky. Glad you didn't break a shin or something.

Pa, I was definitely warned by the soothsayer. Hell, I was even warned by the organiser. I should have taken more wbyrkke.