Scroll down for pictures throughout the healing process…
So here is an entry in the blog which covers the gamut from terrifying to relief and rejoicing and gratitude. It’s been a long journey over a few weeks. So here we go:
Flash back to July 26. I was going to go for a jog, but it was nice and figured that I’d see if Ryan wanted to go biking with me instead. He’s much more into bicycles than I am… I’d rather just jog, and they make my bum hurt even with the nice squidgy seats if I’m on them for a long time. He said yeah, and so we started to get ready. This for me involves getting my helmet and nagging him as usual to wear his. And he just doesn’t like them, we’re not going anywhere long distance, yada yada, he wears it for the trips but this is just blah blah. And because we go through this ritual for just about every bike ride, I nagged for about a minute and gave up.
And after about a mile, I had to stop to get some ants off my handlebars. They were coming out of the hole in the handgrip on the tip of the handlebar. There weren’t many but I was a little freaked because of the 6 or 7 that I found, at least half had eggs in their mouths—I was wondering how many had set up shop in my bike… and Ryan was watching an inchworm measure the roadside.
And when I ran out of ants, we continued on along the road, and Ryan was definitely still in much better biking muscle than I, so I was tootling along a little behind him. And I’m safety sally chicken girl so seeing we were coming up on a hill and a rather hard curve down that hill, I was braking a bit on and off, and then coasting a bit. I’m a chicken, and was thinking, man I’m not wearing any knee or elbow pads, or gloves, and my skin hurts a lot if you shred it on the road. Ryan had just gone around enough of the curve seconds ahead of me, and I couldn’t see him anymore. I heard a sort of odd shuffle rubbing noise coming from off to my side in the woods, or that’s what it seemed like.
And then I came around the corner enough to see Ryan again only there’s a Subaru stopped in the oncoming lane, Ryan is on the wrong side of the road, and he and the bike are flat on the ditch and there’s blood, so much blood. There was a microsecond where the severity didn’t hit me, the blood didn’t register and I thought, rats, now we’re going to have to deal with a scuff on his leg and fix his bike or whatever before we get back going… and then I realized how much there was to deal with.
I tried to stop my bike, it took three tries with controlled braking, as the road was suddenly covered in small pebbles and I could feel myself lose control and skid as I applied the brakes.
The Subaru hadn’t hit him, it stopped because it saw him skidding and trying to control. We were able talk with the driver a few times later, and she said that it looked like he would be able to regain control for a while, he was trying to stop while riding down in the ditch of the road with his legs out for sort of support/control/preparation to going sideways. Suddenly, the front of his bike went up, they both ended up head high before they fell back down.
So I stopped my bike, and laid it on the side of the road I was on, and ran over to Ryan, while ripping at the sling style bag I had my cell phone in. The driver was getting out to come help and Ryan was moaning and shuddering and bleeding and…
Anyway, I tried to keep him from moving and call 911 simultaneously, which worked for about 1 sentence, and then the driver lady was there and I essentially shoved the phone into her hand and said “talk” while telling Ryan to stay still and telling him what happened and stay still and yes your head hurts you had a bike accident and yes our lip is bleeding you had an accident and yes your head hurts you had a bike accident, even if you don’t remember it…
When someone you love has blood and a shredded scalp and a split lip and blood and who knows what under the shirt and is asking the same question and saying the same things about once a minute you definitely aren’t feeling complacent. You might be feeling a bit angry with yourself for nagging about the helmet, if you had just shut your mouth nothing would have happened… but then again, that isn’t helpful, nor is freaking out so shove all that in a box for later and deal with the now.
Another driver coming the other way stopped, and he had a towel… I had nothing, I felt so stupid because despite all the first aid training and stuff I’ve had, literally I had on my person the house key, a pepper spray little thingy, a nalgene of water, and my cell phone. And with any luck at least a little bit of brain still working in my head. The gentleman gave me the towel, and I used it to sort of wrap around Ryan’s forehead to keep the blood from running down into his face so much… I didn’t want to put pressure on the head wound, I had no clue what was under the blood and cuts and blood… and more blood.
The gentleman kept an eye out for traffic, which luckily was minimal. At Ryan’s insistence, quite early, he shifted himself from his back to a sort of sitting position because his back hurt—whether or not that was a great decision, it’s what happened. He said he was in great pain and his back was getting worse from his position, and this was before he asked us all so many times what happened. I wanted to be sure he was at least tracking, so I had made him give me his social security number, and he gave it no problem, so I figured he was able to do a bit of self diagnosis. Luckily, I don’t think letting him move made anything worse, so I was lucky there, because he definitely wasn’t completely tracking, but I think he was in some way reverting to training-the medical training is I think so deeply ingrained that whatever he was feeling and seeing with blood all down his face and in his eyes and from his lip and feeling all that, and trying to touch his face and head and all that, beneath that some of it was a bit of logic, because he was telling us all the stuff he was noticing and that he didn’t remember what happened.
He wasn’t screaming or wailing, or freaking out, he was just in shock and had a head injury and things weren’t completely sticking for new input. And I felt a little weird because I hadn’t passed out or screamed or wasn’t crying… I just tried to keep him calm, keep me calm, get the cell phone out of the stupid pouch with the stupid zipper which didn’t want to open and I needed it to get the phone… I needed to keep him from moving, or keep the blood controlled.
When EMS got there, I tried to give them some information, and our friend who’s in the EMS field in the area must have been on duty somewhere, because he heard about the accident and had actually managed to brief the EMS people coming about Ryan’s back and other medical stuff. They went from let’s get him on a backboard in one sentence and starting that process and while someone worked on getting the board and neck brace and other equipment, the main EMS guy looks at me, and in about the third sentence says something like “Do you have any objections to us helicoptering him to Pittsburg.”
So that takes the mental defcon terror level from like 4/5 to like off the charts.
So they backboard and neck brace Ryan, and I give a bunch of information to an EMS lady who stayed behind with me and the other kind people who had stopped from their daily life to help a bloody armed lady in a bike helmet and a guy covered in blood and tangled with his bike in the ditch. A lady from down the street had come up to see if she could help, thinking that maybe the bike had actually been hit by the car, and I think he father in law (they live in two houses sort of next to one another) came too. While I’d been dealing with the EMS and Ryan’s information, they’d been trying to put the bikes into the back of the Subaru—although I said we could just leave them or whatever, and I’d deal with Ryan’s bike, as it’s covered in blood, but they didn’t want me to have to worry about those details, so they wanted to help how they could. There are still a lot of amazing wonderful people out there!
The bikes wouldn’t fit, so after the EMS all left, saying they’d take Ryan in the ambulance to the nearby fire department hall with a big parking lot and meet the helicopter there, we all then figured out the next move. The ladies had gotten a bit of blood on their hands, and I didn’t want them to get more on their hands, so I said, let’s just leave the bikes here, can I put them in your yard and just lock them to a tree and deal with them later, and they said absolutely.
So I wheeled Ryan’s bike to the tree, and one of them took mine, and I locked them (ok I had a bike lock in my bike pouch but that’s no help in a first aid situation!) to the tree. The ladies had gone to get their arms washed in the neighbor’s house, and they came back, and the Subaru driver took me over to where the helicopter had just touched down. I got out, headed over to where Ryan was just coming out of the helicopter, unconscious, shoeless, and strapped to one of those wheely stretchers with 4 people pushing the stretcher. I asked so what’s next, do I go in the helicopter with him (I don’t even have my driver’s license!!) or do I chase him in a car. They said there’s not enough room in the copter, so you’ll have to drive. They gave me his shoes, ‘cause he wasn’t going to need them and they’d taken them off so they could check his feet. Hey, but they’d used the laces and knots, so the shoes are still doing fine. They said he’s going to Presby, and I said Ok. The first second I’d seen him on the stretcher was the only time I had about a ¼ second where I almost lost it, and then remembered to stuff it in a box and cry when I got to the hospital and didn’t have to drive or be logical.
So the Subaru lady drove me home, and I carefully tried to not put any bloody parts of me on anything. She dropped me off back home and reassured me that he’ll get better, he looks like a strong tough person and I said he’s amazing, he’s a tough cookie, and I feel bad I nagged about the helmet and he just did the AT last year and this year he biked a long way across the country and I should have just jogged… and she said you can never tell what’s going to happen and it could have been worse or better, but you can’t blame yourself! Wise lady!
I called my job and my parents to say Ryan’s just had a bicycle accident, I think he’ll be ok, he’s in a helicopter to Pittsburgh, and I have no clue what’s going to happen. Parents said, ok, keep us informed, stay safe, and hugs. Work said don’t worry, just do what you have to do. And then I did a lot of quick thinking and debating how much time to waste getting his tablet and sweat pants and a shirt and his crocs and some snacks for me and his phone and his wallet and my wallet and what else will I wish I brought but what if I get there two minutes after he dies but what if he’s fine and I forget something but what if he’s dead when I get there…so at the point where I’d grabbed quickly what I could think of quickly would be essential, I fed the dogs and fed the cats and put them out to pee and in to stay and grabbed my purse and headed up to the car. And right as I’d stuffed everything in, I got a call from the social worker type person at the hospital. Ryan had just arrived, they were starting to do the tests, here’s the address to get to, and drive safely, get there safely (code for I can’t promise he’s going to be ok, but it’s not like you have to rush because we know for a fact he’s got only an hour—because that’s not what we think, so hey, do come but you have time to take it slow and safely). So, I felt a bit better because I knew which hospital for sure they did take him, and the address I was going to use from the GPS was the same as she gave me.
When I got there (skipping over the crazy one way streets in Pittsburgh and finding the right entrance to the parking garage…), I went through security and they showed me into his room.
He was awake and asking for me and when he heard me coming he was so happy. And I freaked when I saw him ‘cause he was sort of laid back but sitting on the hospital bed trolley machine thingy, and he was sitting with his legs crossed. But with a blanket over them… so all I saw was nubs for legs and I had a second of “what the… his legs were fine!?! why did they what did they…oh I’m an idiot he’s just got them tucked up.”
And he was still in the collar, and was a tad cleaned up, in hospital gowns and I still had his glasses (I’d taken them when the EMS put him in the ambulance… amazingly they had landed about 5 feet from him tidily in the ditch, folded and only minimally scratched, slightly bent but still basically ok). He wanted a drink, and wanted the neck brace off, and wanted to pee.
Over time, we were able to get things taken care of, and 5 hours after the accident (911 call around 16:10), the plastic surgeon was able to come and take a few hours to numb up, clean up, and stitch up his head lacerations, finger laceration, and split lip.
Eventually we went upstairs and he was put in a room on the Neurology and something else ward, with someone else in the other bed. I felt a little bad ‘cause it was like 2 in the morning and we had half the room lights on and were talking quietly, and he ate some jello and drank ginger ale. I left him his tablet and headphones, and his phone. I headed home, let the dogs out, locked up the chickens, took about a 4 hour nap, got the call from him at the hospital saying they were going to do the final checks on him to clear him to leave in a bit so I could head in to pick him up, so I headed back, and I gave him a rather tentative washcloth bath to clean some of the blood off but not disturb the stitches.
We got the check out spiel, and I took some of the sponge on a sticks home (they’d given me a couple to use cleaning off the blood if needed but we’d not used them… they were also what I was able to give him for water for a LONG time the previous evening before they were sure they didn’t need to do surgery—I have plans for his birthday cake *evil grin*). We picked up some of the meds at the VA on the way home, and a few others from Walmart, I grabbed some foods that would probably be palatable (like canned mandarin oranges), and we headed home.
He rested a lot, and I did a lot of putting on dressings and ointments, and we did a lot of rest, repeat, reapply, etc.
And after about ten days, the stitches came out. Painfully, as Ryan’s body decided it wanted to sort of absorb them… but they weren’t that kind of stitch. The nurse who took them out was a champ, and did her best not to hurt him.
And some of the scabs slowly came off, and well, as you can see in some of the last pictures, he could have been a lot more scarred up I think.
And before anyone goes crazy about OMG YOU SHOULD HAVE WORN A HELMET, he has said yes a helmet would have helped. He’s promised he’s going to wear a helmet in the future.
Yes, a helmet would have relieved me a tiny tiny bit (and I would have had to try not to celebrate that I’m so glad he finally wore one, and he would probably have tried to not say “if I’d not have worn a helmet I’d have been fine” ‘cause all of that is useless and pointless), but I’d still have seen a lot of blood from the lip and hand and a bike on its side and him on the ditch. It would not have prevented the accident, it would have reduced some of the injuries, but not prevented the accident. So, kids, remember your helmet, and be careful ‘cause sometimes the world may not be out to get you, but stuff sometimes comes as a surprise.
I’m so glad it turned out so well. We met a lot of nice people when we went back to thank the people who helped out. The driver lady stopped by with a friend and dropped off a rotisserie chicken and some potato salad the day after Ryan came home. I forgot to mention the drive to Kittanning and back to get some shirts with button down top areas so we wouldn’t catch them on his face when putting them on and off. Talk about car sickness, and me getting him carsick in the wheel chair, and driving so carefully!
The bike is working pretty well, the handle bars are a bit tweaked out of alignment, but amazingly nothing was really broken…just scraped or covered in blood. As in it rained a LOT after I first left the hospital and before I went back, and there were a few more storms between locking the bikes up and about 2 weeks later when we got back to get them. There was still a blood stain on the gravel/pebble side of the road from where he was sitting. There was still blood bits on the bike, and a lot of blood still on the underside of the seat of his bike… it got UNDER the bike seat.
I’m pretty sure the bike handle bars took the brunt of the initial impact on returning to the ground, which is why Ryan was so lucky. I think he had about 35 stitches, maybe more. The surgeon didn’t give us a count, and we had so much trouble getting them out we didn’t get a precise count. I couldn’t get a great count between those events because some of the scabs ate some of them, they got lost in the hair, and I just didn’t want to probe into his lip.
He’s doing a lot better, back to normal basically. I’m so glad, and thanks to everyone who helped. Ryan’s EMS friend texted me right after the accident to say “if they helicopter him to Pittsburgh and take you I will get you home” and even though we didn’t have to take that route, I’m so grateful he offered. The driver lady offered to drive me too, but I figured I’d rater have a vehicle there, and I felt capable, so I said thanks so much but I think I’ll take my car just in case of whatever.
So, thanks. Thanks so much to everyone.
Here are the pictures, I think I have them in order. There are a few in the front showing the latest dye job on his head we did… it was a hand print…and weirdly enough it was kind of near where the injury was, enough so that the peroxide they used to help fizzle the roadside out from under his scalp and clean the wounds kind of did a number on the color and sort of makes it a bit more shocking!