First Road Crash in Over 20 Years

Posted: August 10, 2011 in Bicycling

Why have I been able to catch up on completing unpublished, draft posts today? I was home from work recovering from a cycling accident this past Saturday, August 6th.

I planned on a fairly normal Saturday morning ride with my cycling club. In fact it was very normal as I was running late to get to meeting point. I checked the ride schedule and it indicated that the ride was going one way, but when I headed that way I saw the group going in the opposite direction. After turning around, I started chasing to catch the group. As I approached the intersection of Loynes and PCH (where I needed to turn left to head south on PCH), I saw water on the road. Water is not unusual in this intersection. There is a large perforated pipe that sticks up on the median of Loynes and I frequently see water coming out of it. As I approached the intersection (with a green light) I slowed down. Apparently I didn’t slow down enough because after riding though the water I started my left turn and immediately my wheels slid out from under me.

It was one of those slow motion videos that your brain starts processing. I felt the wheels slide out, saw the horizon tilt, felt my body hit the ground, saw (a flash of light), and then felt and heard my cheekbone slam into the pavement as my neck whiplashed sideways. I never blacked out. I got up quickly and started to assess the damage to me and my bike. I felt my cheek and it hurt but not dramatically and thankfully, there was no blood. I started to gather up my bike and the remnants of my sunglasses (the flash of light was my sunglasses breaking and flying off my face) and seat pack (which broke away from my saddle), all of which were in the middle of a busy Southern California intersection.

I had a couple of clubmates waiting for another group. They were on the sidewalk near the intersection and as I gathered myself up they kind of gave me the once-over to make sure I was mostly OK. I said I was going to ride home on my somewhat deranged bike because it was less than 1 mile away. I didn’t feel too bad on the way home though I knew the pain would come later. Little did I know how much pain would come.

I got back into the house and my wife, Nina, was kind of shocked to see that I had crashed. We talked about cleaning up what appeared to be a relatively minor case of road rash. We started to clean up the scrapes and Nina decided to head out to buy a few first aid supplies peculiar to this kind of injury. While she was gone, my nose started bleeding.

Soon after the nosebleed started, my teeth on my left side (the side that hit the road) started hurting. I was taking care of myself when Nina got home and all of my symptoms just accelerated from there. Nina got me some Tylenol for my teeth while I continued to try to ebb the flow of blood from my nose. Even after taking the Tylenol, the tooth pain soon reached 10 on a scale of 10 and I was almost incapacitated by it. Finally I asked Nina to get me some Vicodin that I had left over from an auto accident years ago. Eventually the pain subsided to a barely tolerable level but the nosebleed was not subsiding. I could tell that the blood was coming from my sinuses so with a box of tissues, Nina drove me to the Emergency Room at Long Beach Memorial Hospital.

Checking in and getting into a triage room was fairly quick. A nurse assessed me and ordered a chest x-ray and a CT scan of my head. Both of those procedures happened in good order and I was back in the triage area in less than an hour. From there someone escorted us to a waiting area where a doctor would evaluate me and the images. It turned out to be quite a wait. We were in the waiting room for over an hour and after getting into the treatment area we continued to wait. In the end the prognosis was a several (three?) “minimally displaced” fractures in my orbital and no fractures in my ribs — bad and good news. The nurse bandaged my road rash and we headed home, five hours after getting there, with prescriptions for Vicodin and antibiotics.

Sunday wasn’t a good day but I got by and on Monday I went to my Primary Care Physician and dentist. They did not detect any further problems than what the Emergency Room doctor found on Saturday, but my doctor’s “orders” were no strenuous exercise for two weeks and no racing for six weeks until the fractures fully healed.

The problem is that I spent the last two months preparing for the USA Cycling Masters National Road Championships at the end of August, roughly four weeks after my accident. I am supposed to have another CT scan on August 19th. That scan will hopefully provide enough information for me to make a good decision on whether or not I should cancel my trip to Bend. Until then I will do some light exercise and hope the bone heals quickly.

  1. Tiffanie says:

    Hi Cleave. Sorry to hear about your crash. I, too, am recovering from a crash on the bike. Fractured my right cheekbone. It’s been a very uncomfortable and slow recovery and it’s difficult to lay low but I keep reminding myself to allow healing (it’s the face for goodness sake, don’t mess with it!).

    I wish you speedy healing. Take care.

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