n.b. This is probably written and jumbled as I didn't want to proof it.
The crash was the easy part. 75km/h to 0 does not take any skill or hard work whatsoever, it’s not difficult. In fact you can do it yourself if you wanted to. The next time you’re driving your car at 75km/h (45mph), just jump out of the window. I’m kidding, I’m kidding, put a helmet and a thin layer of clothing, Lycra if you have it, on first.
Joking aside, it all happened very quickly and the memory has been suppressed. I still can’t remember a thing. I recently went back to Bright and visited the descent and crash site where is all happened, thinking something might come back. But it didn't.
No, what was, and still is, the most difficult part of all this is the recovery process. The next few paragraphs get pretty deep. You've been warned.
After my surgery I woke up in an intensive care unit with three other patients in the room. The first two or three days are very much a blur of sleep, waking up, being fed pills, telling nurses my name, date of birth and where I was, sleep, pills, waking up, having a visitor, telling the nurses my name, date of birth and where I was and so on. Oh, and the constant feeling of being in a lot of pain. The kind of pain that is enduring, and it was the worst I've ever felt.
I remember having three drips attached to me at one point. One for fluids (because I couldn't eat), one for antibiotics and one for something else, I assume it was probably morphine or another type of painkiller? But I was taking pills for that, so maybe there were only two. Unless I just needed a hell of a lot of pain killers? I had an oxygen tube fed up my nose. I also had a neck brace on for the first day or so until they could be sure that there was no spinal injury, and finally, I had a tube coming out of my head draining out blood or something.
There was an event which my friend, James, reminded me of recently, whereby I had the draining thing removed, in his presence. I have absolutely no recollection of this, but he said I looked like I was in a severe amount of pain. My face was showing all kinds of agony and I was gripping onto the bed very tightly. I’m guessing my brain has suppressed because the pain was too high for me to handle. What a wimp?
Once I started to gain a bit of consciousness for longer periods, the pain really started to set in. It was mostly in my lower back; it felt like really bad kidney pain. Like someone had taken a baseball bat to each of them. My biggest issue with this was that I couldn’t move to try and alleviate the pain; I had to just lie there and take it. It was torture. I felt like I was being tortured for not staying upright on my bike. After a little while, initially hoping I’d be able to fall asleep, yet failing miserably—and miserably is a perfect word to use here—I had to call the nurses over and tell them this excruciating pain I was in. The problem they faced was that I was already on a lot of pain killers so they had to be careful not to over medicate me. They eventually came back with two more pills. I took them and I assume I fell asleep.
I also felt constantly dehydrated for the first few days. The nurses didn’t give me enough water in my opinion, so I had Ollie and Sachael sneak me water when they visited. To be honest, and fair to the nurses—who clearly know what they’re talking about—I shouldn’t have been dehydrated, not with a fluid drip pumping me full of the good stuff, but I felt it. My lips were chapped and dry, and in my injured brain I thought that drinking water might help ease the kidney pain. It didn’t but drinking water felt so good.
There were many embarrassing things that happened in the first few days, but I’ll not go into any detail, I’ll simply leave you with this image, I had very little control over my bodily functions.
I was also washed daily by four nurses. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Two of them would roll me onto one side and the other two wipe my back, bum and the back of my legs. Then they rolled me onto my other side and wiped the rest. Finally, one would wipe down my front. This is how immobile I was. And the pain in my pelvis was far too high for me to be on my side for any length of time, hence the four nurses to make it as speedy as possible. There was no sponge bath.
At one point I remembering my bladder being really full. And I had no idea how I was meant to go to the toilet. It was a little worrying. I couldn’t move a muscle. I was sure they’d made some sort of mistake. I called over a nurse, or my brother did, and told her about my predicament. She then mentioned that I had a catheter in and it must all be in my head, that is until she realised that the catheter tube was caught on something. She adjusted it and… instant relief. Although the knowledge that I had some tube shoved up my urethra wasn’t a nice thought. No one told me this was going to happen.
It continued that every couple of hours I was woken up, asked my name, date of birth, day of the week and where I was. I was then given some drugs. This continued until I was discharged.
After a few days I was moved to a room with only two patients, me and another person. It must’ve been over night because I don’t remember moving. Actually, I may have been awake and just forgotten, this was a fairly common occurrence over the next few days. My short term memory was about as useful as a pen filled with white ink.
Regardless of how I got there, I was much happier in this new less crowded room. The last room was a little distressing and depressing. Some of the patients there couldn’t give an answer as to their own name, let alone as to where on earth they were. I was pretty glad that I could, but upset that they couldn’t. When you’re in such an awful state yourself, and hear someone that seems to be in a worst state, you can only begin to imagine their distress. It’s a really horrible feeling.
In my new room, I had a much more structured lifestyle, and I was starting to eat real food. The food wasn’t great, in fact the only thing I enjoyed was the ice cream. It was a little carton of the type of ice cream that comes from a Mr Whippy, the machine type they put in cones. It wasn’t the worst food, but it was pretty tasteless. It was also served in very small portions, even though I requested the large portions. I lost a LOT of weight in hospital. I guess I’ll be a better climber when I get back on the bike. I could sit up and talk to visitors, and I could also read now I could sit up, however only for about 10 minutes at first before fatiguing.
The worst thing about my eight days in hospital, besides the pain of the first few days, was that I always had at least one drip in my arm at all times. And for some reason, whether I was moving too much or it’s just a normal thing, whenever a nurse replaced the drip bag, I would start to get sharp pains where the needle / connector thing was inserted. The first time it happened it really worried me because I thought some air was getting into my veins and I’d die. Of course I expressed this concern. Afterall, I didn’t want to survive a huge crash and then die because of a bit of air getting into my vein. So when I told the nurse she laughed a little and reassured me that that would definitely not happen. She simply removed the needle and plugged it into another vein. Not the same needle, but a fresh one. Because of this issue, I ended up with more track marks than a heroin addict. The nurses were pretty pleased with my veins though, they never struggled to find a new one to pop a needle into.
I didn’t actually know what had taken place in surgery, I mean I knew the injuries and that I now had a titanium plate in my head, but I wasn’t aware of how it had occurred. I kind of assumed that they’d have done it keyhole surgery style. I had a big bandage on my head, and just left it. One day, the surgeons came in, doing rounds like they do on the TV shows, to look me over and discuss the progress with each other. One of them simply walked over to me, peeled back the bandage and said to his colleagues that it was looking good. It was a bit surreal, like I wasn’t actually there. They talked about my injuries and my surgery like a mechanic might talk about an engine. When they moved onto the next patient, I peeled back the bandage myself and took this picture. It was quite a shock to see, and even more so that it didn’t end, so I pulled it back a bit more and still it wasn’t stopping so I peeled it off completely and revealed the huge scar. Woah! I was not expecting that. Not one bit. In a bit of a daze, and to be honest I was still grateful to be alive, I didn’t really care about the scar. The feeling was more of an, “okay, so I’ve got a big hideous scar, I’ll just accept that and move on.”
In hospital, you go through a lot of emotions. A lot of ups and downs. How will I ever recover? Being one of them. I felt very isolated from the world, and only really had small contact points. But I was so grateful to all those that made the trip in to give me some support. I didn’t really expect many visits but my brother, his girlfriend and a lot of friends all made many trips in to see me, which although can be taxing after you’ve had brain surgery, they were extremely welcomed and needed.
I am out of hospital now, and have been back at work for the better part of a month, and all seems to be back to normal mentally. I feel like I struggle with finding words sometimes, and I often play the “I had brain surgery” card when I do or say something stupid, but all in all, I feel much better mentally. The pelvis remains in progress and I am still on crutches, but I think I’ll be back on the bike shortly. At least indoors.
I went in for a neurosurgery appointment, and he said that he doesn’t often remember patients he’s operated on, but me he definitely did. Having skull particles fragmented into the brain was rare and he was surprised it hadn’t caused permanent brain damage. I think neurosurgeons lack some empathy as this was a pretty shocking thing to hear, to hear that I could easily have been brain damaged! I as I mentioned, I remember the neurosurgeons all standing around me talking as if I wasn’t there back when I was in hospital. It’s quite and was asked if I was driving yet. To which I said yes, I was, thinking I’d better be honest, and it was probably only the pelvis stopping me anyway. My neurosurgeon then said I shouldn’t be. VicRoads have a rule that you can’t drive for six months after brain surgery, in case of a seizure. Another bit of good news, I’m susceptible to seizures. But mostly because no matter what the cause of an accident, it can be labelled my fault, even if someone drive into the back of me. Also, my insurance company won’t cover it. So really, even though it’s not illegal, it is not worth driving. So I’ll be PTing and cycling (eventually) everywhere until May.