These aren’t the rocks I landed on but they look the same. I come to you in pain. Pain when I breathe, walk, talk, eat, sleep and even when I contemplate being in pain. And, it’s entirely my fault. I put the bike together in anticipation of a ride this coming weekend. Its’ still the work week, so I have a good, solid to-do list staring back at me. Seat installed, front tire bolted on, lights aimed in the right direction. Ready. Set. Go.
Maybe I’ll just take it for a quick spin to make sure all is well. No more than a mile. I coast down the driveway, slowly crawl my way up and out into the neighborhood. Less than a tenth of a mile from the house I notice the bike is making a strange noise, so I look down for one second. What an important second it turns out to be. Looking up I notice a random curb at a random place, in a neighborhood entirely void of curbs. Except for this one, ten-foot section. I look down to see that my front wheel is parallel to the curb, and more importantly, touching the curb itself.
Because I’m turning to the right slightly my body momentum is going left, the exact worst direction. I know immediately I’m going down. It’s just a matter of when and how hard. The impact with the curb flicks the front wheel out to the right. “Just unclip and put your foot down,” my brain says. But my heart knows it’s too late. As I look down wondering what patch of Earth will be my final destination, I see nothing but rock. Not pebbles, mind you, rocks. Perfect, four six, and eight inch rocks. The entire rest of the neighborhood is grass. Nice, soft, spongy grass. But my destination is rock.
When you know you are going down on a bicycle the rule of thumb is “never put your hand down.” This is the quickest way to a broken collar bone. So, what do I do? I put my hand down. The next to hit is my shoulder. I hit HARD. I try to roll as I hit which next connects my left ribcage to the rocky pattern below. As my body flips over backwards after the impact I see that I am still attached to the bike. But I am distracted by the noise emitting from my body. The noise is foreign to me, a strange, primal howl of sorts. I wonder where the noise is coming from. And then I realize, it’s me. It’s all me.
My entire ribcage feels like it tears loose from whatever superstructure is supposed to hold it together. I stand and feel for my collarbone. Collarbone intact. I next move my entire arm and shoulder while waiting for the crunching sound I fear. Nothing. Smooth and solid with no pain whatsoever. I notice my left hand is perfect, no marks at all. “Did I come out unscathed,” I wonder. And then I turn to reach for the bike and a searing pain engulfs my entire torso. The ribs. The damn ribs are not okay.
I slowly glide back to the house to see if I have damaged my beloved cycling bib and jersey. My brother calls and I explain the situation. “Did you record the crash?” he asks.”I would love to see it.” When I disappoint him with my answer he asks, “I wonder if the neighbors have a camera on their driveway?” No such luck. The younger brother a letdown during disaster, but I do love his pluck. I would want to see it too.
Breathing, moving, walking, bending, sleeping and eating are the only times I find myself in pain. My persistent but mild cough from my existing illness now comes with intense and jabbing pain each time I attempt to clear my pipes. And I have no one to blame but me. All these years of pushing pedals and yet I find a way to damage myself at slow speed less than a quarter mile from home. Yes, yes, that’s me. I’m the idiot.
But here is the thing. With pain comes appreciation. Appreciation of how nice pain free life really is. And a reminder that we simply do not have time to waste. Pain free life means focused, driven, and fruitful life, but let’s be honest my digital friends, we are all headed to the pain cave at one time or another. This pain will go but more will eagerly come to take its place. A kidney stone, a fall from a ladder or a fateful step toward your favorite flavor of jellyfish. We all know it’s comiing. When it does, embrace it as best as possible. Feel those searing nerve endings. Talk to them if need be. They are, after all, an essential part of who you are.
I feel for you, Milnor. I used to get paid to do stunts like this. I’m glad those days are over. Broke a few ribs on Iron Man 2. It’s a pain that is truly hard to describe. Sounds as if you went down hard. Sending light your way, Daniel. I love that you find the meaning, no matter what comes your way.
Ah yes, Hannah. It comforts me to know you too shared a similar pain. And yet, here you are. Still alive. There is hope. Entilrey my fault. Stupid, dumb, silly and probably much deserved. On the mend.
Yikes. Hoping for a speedy recovery.
Hope you get well soon. I crashed into a concrete wall a few years ago, putting my hands out to save my head, and fractured both wrists and an elbow.
Once I’d recovered I cycled nearly everyday for 5 years as a result doing 1000kms per month no excuses.
Sometimes good comes from pain.
Good God, that sounds horrible. I feel better now, oddly enough. Glad you are still here and able to type. Fake arms would be cool, however.
Very sorry to hear of your accident. wishing you a speedy recovery.
I’m sure your post brings back memories of every commenter’s own mishaps involving rib cage. Mine involved going head over heels onto a 2 inch pipe sticking up out of the ground. If I hadn’t instinctively “slapped the ground” I wouldn’t be writing this comment.
Hope you recover and get out there pedaling soon…
Oh man, that sounds really bad.