Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mostly Good News from the Docs

In the first follow up visit, the orthopedic doctors at Froedert gave me almost all good news.

1. The stitches and staples are all out!

2. The dressing for the laceration to the side of my leg is gone now. The bad thing is that laceration looks worse than ever, but is actually healing well. I'll keep it covered when I go out in public!

3. Jennifer, Dr. Schmeling's PA, said it was very likely I'd be able to teach again after spring break! WOO-WOO!!!

4. Jennifer also said I was able to drive. That only means I need to switch vehicles with someone for a few weeks because my car is a stick shift. I love the stick shift, but as long as I keep racing - and falling over - I'm not sure it was a smart purchase!

5. No weight bearing on the leg for a few more weeks, but Jennifer said I can exercise it a lot. (I didn't tell her I was already doing that!)

6. Prescribed therapy for my leg: CYCLING!! (Yes, Mr. Principal, I need Wednesday off so I can ride 80 miles in the warm sun. Doctor's orders!)

7. Stupid cast came off my thumb. Every once in a while, I bump it against something and it stings, but it doesn't hurt much at all. No cast, no nothing!

8. My ankle, which was hurt when the television fell on it (don't ask!), is okay, just tender.

9. The only "negative" news from the morning is the shoulder. Apparently the muscles over the ball end of my arm bone are moving off the bone slightly. Dr. Grindel, who is also a cyclist!, wasn't thrilled to see the muscle, but didn't think surgery would be required. He ordered a CT scan for Thursday to see if there is any other damage.

I was doing a happy dance in my wheelchair this morning. Honestly, I was very nervous this morning, worried that everything was wrong. It is a huge relief to know that the healing is moving along nicely.

It's going to be a long process, and I may never have the same strength in my left leg. But man, when I get back in my classroom and on my bike, it's going to be glorious!

Sunday, March 29, 2009


Usually, I hop out of bed in the morning, ready to take on the day.

Since the crash, though, particularly this week, I'm not a fan of mornings.

The pain meds I took at midnight are totally worn off by the time I wake up. And everything just aches. Soon, I want to wean myself off the meds, but right now, they're necessary.

So I wake up hurting, become crabby. The whole day has been one of those crabby days. I've worked really hard to stay positive, work hard at the rehab, and think positive thoughts about my recovery.

Today, though, I hated the guy who hit me, I hated the situation, felt sorry for myself. Blah, blah, blah. Now I'm done.

The only things that have brought me smiles today was finding the Beer Advocate website, where you can type out the kinds of beer you like, and it gives you a list of their favorite beers!

And the other thing that has been bringing me happiness is the thought of the new bikes on the way: A replacement road bike for the Waterford R33, and I'm using my tax return to buy a mountain bike, probably a Gunnar single speed.

Even though it snowed last night, it's sunny now and the snow is melting into the rain gutter. There is hope yet.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


At this moment, mom is washing up the lunch dishes. She threw some leftovers together, added BACON, and served it up. Dee-lish!

My mom is 73, but acts like she's much younger. She came down the day after the crash to help out in the hospital. She went back to Eau Claire to recuperate and get ready to help me post-hospital.

I literally would be lost right now without her. She cooks my meals, washes clothing, shops, even gets the paper in the morning, which I can't reach on the porch.

She survives by taking little trips for fun. The new Sendiks grocery store was a field trip! She's heading to Chicago Saturday to see a friend of hers.

I'm so grateful she's here. Despite all my very stubborn need for independence, I need her. I simply can't do things like carry my oatmeal to the table.

I'm going to have to learn to do all these things, I know. But by next week, when she leaves, I'll be that much stronger and that much more able to move around.

At night we've been watching goofy movies to laugh. We've watched Cars, Best in Show, the Incredibles. We're trying to laugh and keep the mood light.

To tell the truth, although I'm actively encouraging her to get back to her life in Eau Claire, I'm a bit nervous, no, a lot, nervous about her leaving. It's going to be very different here, and I'm going to have to learn to reach out to others for help.

Much of this recovery time has been humbling, like mom cleaning out my urinal bottle. Maybe that's what I'm learning?

Regardless, I'd be lost without my mother. Thanks, mom.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Normal Day at the Office

Some sense of routine has begun in home recovery. Mom made coffee this morning, while I actually made my oatmeal. Did the exercises, some school work, at lunch, tried to sleep a bit, more reading and school work, dinner later, then a movie while I do workout session #2.

Jay the PT came yesterday. I asked the health care company for an athlete. I got it. He works part time at a sports med clinic. He didn't think there was any reason I couldn't return to the kids after Easter. He likes to be active with treatment, pushing the patient.

I told him he came to the right place. I was thrilled with the no-nonsense approach. As he left, he said he looked forward to "kicking your, I mean I look forward to seeing you Thursday." Those are sweet words.

Whatever I do now just gets me back walking that much sooner. I can't wait to walk down to the village, get a raspberry scone from Great Harvest and a coffee from Broad Street and see my kids everywhere.

Jackie the neighbor brought Caden and Caleb over with some cool artwork and the magic helmet. (See separate post)

Thanks to friend Kristin for sending me the sacred brownies, to neighbors Sean and Heidi for the fruit, and to seriously cool neighbors Jackie and Katie for setting up the house and providing movies. Tonight, mom and I start with "Cars!"

What is Up with Froedert?

Interesting news: I also have a broken arm. The tubersosity (ball end) of my humerous (the bone that runs from my shoulder to my elbow) is also fractured.

According to my doctor friend who read the MRI, I shouldn't be putting any weight on it. In fact, he says, he's not sure why I was released from the hospital.

In addition, there is a tear in my rotator cuff muscles that is not serious.

With the humerous, I should have it in a sling, immobilized. But that obviously would prevent me from doing anything on my walker or crutches.

My friend says I can still get around on the walker, but it will hurt and take longer for the fracture to heal.

Not sure why Froedert treats patients like me as separate body parts. Next week I return for appointments with one orthopedic who will treat my leg, and another who will treat my shoulder and thumb.

At least they're getting treated, I guess.

Why wouldn't Froedert want to treat a person first, then work on individual issues? I realize it's a teaching hospital, but seriously.

On Friday, while I was still in the hospital, an orthopedic resident came in to look at my hand. I was still wearing the club they gave me in ER. This is a minor distal fracture of the tip of my thumb.

So he removed the club, fashioned a metal splint around it, taped it up and called it good.

That afternoon I was called down to the hand clinic. There they told me they were casting the thumb down to my elbow!

Uh, no?

I told them what happened earlier so they called a doctor. We compromised on the smaller cast, but I still thought it was ridiculous.

The next day, the doctor who put the splint on came in to check on me. He did a double take when he saw the cast.

"What's that?" he asked.

"Ah, so that answers that question. It wasn't you they called to confirm the orders."

"No, it wasn't." He promised to talk with whomever. But seriously?

My Magic Helmet

Enough broken bones! I now have what I need to stay safe on my bike: the Magic Helmet, created by Caden, Caleb, and Caden's mom, neighbor Jackie.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Home - Day 1

I actually slept without sweating! I didn't have to call the aides three times a night to change my sheets because they were soaked with sweat. I even dreamed about water pouring down my head!

I woke after 7 whole hours of uninterrupted sleep. Smelled the coffee mom made, I started making oatmeal with the usual eggs and honey. I couldn't quite finish before feeling faint and sitting down. But it's the first morning after all.

Made up a chart with my exercises, another with the medications, called the docs for appointments, and contacted the home health care provider. Mom found me some funny movies at the library so I'll watch those this afternoon.

After exercises, now, I'm writing this, and considering a nap. The therapy is going to wear me out, but it's just like my regular cycling program, just a little more painful!

Thanks for all of comments, visits, cards, and calls this past week. I feel loved and missed. Thank you.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Hospital Camp is Ending

I'm going home. There's many many things I will not miss about this place, particularly the horrible communication between the doctors.

But as camp ends, I am going to miss Super Nurses Pam and PB, Super Aides and Techs Becky, Charleen, and Emma a ton, I mean a lot a lot. They helped me keep my spirits up, my body properly medicated, cleaned, monitored.

Thank you ladies. Reunion Tour 2010???

It Will Be The Small Things

Today, PT Kelly, also an athlete, told me I was cleared to use the walked to amble around my room. This means I can get out of bed, walker over to the bathroom, use it, and return to bed, ALL WITHOUT A NURSE OR AIDE WATCHING OVER ME!!

In The Morning

I woke up pretty grumpy and depressed. I'm probably going home Monday where all the "new" routines will develop. It's there where I'll realize I can't go to school to be with the kids, where I can't go ride every day.

So I woke up like that. But a nice talk with nurse Pam, an amazing bath from aide Emma, and clean real-person clothing, it's a definite improvement!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Nurses of the Century

Truly, the only way I've survived this week with a sense of humor and purpose despite the discomfort, pain, and uncertainty is with the help of a pair of dedicated nurses, both named Pam. One is Pam H., the other goes by PB since she is also a Pam H!

I've been fortunate to have them as my primary nurses all week.

They do their job efficiently, compassionately, and laugh at my feeble attempts at jokes, all with patience and grace.

Yesterday one of the patients was a mentally challenged person who caused several issues on the floor. Pam and PB both dealt with her the same way they dealt with all of their patients: professionally, courteously, and efficiently. And they kept their sense of humor.

The aides, particularly Charleen and Becky, have been great too. Today Becky washed my hair - rinse, repeat - and PB figured out the phone well enough to shoot these pictures!

Saturday Night

I actually got to sit outside today! Bobbie and Jay wheeled me outside. We may have gotten greedy by sitting in sun because I grew dizzy after a few minutes, but man that warmth was pleasant.

So here's the question for today: Since I'm going to have some nasty scars on my left thigh, I'm thinking that I need to lose my tattoo virginity. Ideas?

No, Crusty, I won't do that, or that one either.

It'll be roughly a 4x7 rectangle. I'm thinking something bicycle related or something mysteriously symbolic. Kresge: Get to it!

First Detailed Pictures! Kind of Icky!

These are photos from this morning when the docs took off the leg dressing, including the drainage sponge. Good news is that the graft, the patch closer to my knee, is healing nicely. So I n0 longer need the sponge, and that means I can wear pants!
The hole in the middle is where the bone came through, and the patch closest to you is the source of the skin graft.

Physical Therapy and my hot hair and outfit!

So PT Extraordinaire Cheryl took me to the stairs to practice on the crutches. I can't put weight on the left leg so it ends up a lot of work.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Full Story As I Remember It

A few moments before the crash, I called my friend Mike and told him we needed to take personal days on Tuesday to ride in the 70-degree spring heat.

A few moments later, I considered stopping so I could call Coach Crusty to tell him that while he was making my legs very, very tired, I was feeling strong. I wanted to tell him that if the progress went like this for the season, I'd be a force by September.

And just a few moments later, I was lying on the ground in a fetal position, my left deformed. For some reason, tried to push the bone back into it's proper position. That didn't go too well, though, just more pain added to the more pain.

I had been riding northbound on Loomis Road in Wind Lake. I set out Saturday afternoon to ride until brain-dead enough to get lost, then find my way home. I managed to ride to Waterford, called Mike, then headed home on Loomis.

I had my thoughts about how ridiculously good I was starting to feel. Crusty was keeping me tired, but I could just feel strength in my legs that I had never felt before. And this was in March!

At the top of a small hill, a truck in the southbound lane stopped, or so it seemed, to wait to turn left. I remember a car behind it, maybe. Down the hill I flew. The truck pulled out a few inches, starting his turn.

But he stopped. The truck was now very much in my awareness pattern. Hands on my brakes, slowing, making decisions about what he might do.

Since he stopped, I assumed he had seen me. After all, I WAS THE ONLY PERSON/VEHICLE IN THE ROAD, and I WORE RED, ORANGE, AND YELLOW.

I continued on, and as I reached him, he accelerated. I tried to sprint away, but I think he panicked when he actually "saw" me, hitting the gas instead of the brake.

While on the ground, people started to gather. He hit me near the corner of Loomis and Fries Road, right at the gas station and just past the gymnastics place.

The poor man who reached me first had to crouch while I grabbed his arm or ankle in unbelievable pain. At that point, I wanted only to pass out or even die. I knew I was seriously hurt.

The driver, 21, walked around dazed, upset. Once the Wind Lake Fire Department arrived, their EMTs took over. Funny detail: at one point I told a woman I thought I was Edward Cullen, trying to protect my bike from the car.

It didn't work.

A kind woman Edie called some people for me. I tried calling Marzion at some point, but I don't remember.

In the haze of pain, the WLFD and Racine County deputies were very impressive, kind, compassionate. I can't ever thank you enough. I know it's your job, but there's a difference between going through the motions and excellence.

During the ambulance ride, one of the EMTs named Debbie had the unfortunate job of sitting next to me. She must have some serious bruising on her thighs from me grabbing them. I hope her husband understands! The WL crew in the ambulance was excellent trying to keep the mood light with a screaming/sobbing man in their midst.

At Froedert, there was none of the typical waiting for hours in an ER. They wheeled me directly into surgery. But some well-meaning, although too overanxious, doc started bending my knee straight WITHOUT KNOCKING ME OUT FIRST! No, I don't know what he was thinking either. Most of the Froedert neighborhood was calling police to report a screaming man! "YOU SERIOUSLY NEED TO STOP!" "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?". Not sure what else came out of my mouth, but my sister and a friend clearly heard me in the waiting area.

The next day I found myself in this hospital room, home for a week, a place with little rest, many interruptions, some funny nurses, one potentially nurse, doctors who don't talk to each other, residents who are way too tired, a temporary home that I am seriously ready to leave.

Update: Friday Morning

The main ortho doc came in this morning with quite a bit of information. He didn't think I'd be teaching until next fall. He didn't think I'd be able to sustain muscle ability to work in the classroom. So I may let the sub take the class. Then I could just come in "observe" when I feel good.

He also thought I'd definitely able to ride my bike again in the future, and, in fact, it will be great therapy. Racing cross this fall is a definite possibility. Of course, there's a "but." I will never be 100 percent of what I was. There is simply too much muscle and nerve damage. But as usual, I will simply do what I can. I will train with Crusty when I'm able to this summer.

Yesterday I had a series of conversations with a variety of people. It's interesting to note your blood pressure throughout the day. It increased with each conversation!.

So it appears I'll be heading to Greendale Sunday or Monday. My mom, Bobbie, and my landlords will "summit" on Satuday to rearrange the house for my arrival.

Apparently, I will get hooked with a home health care company that will come to my house daily for therapy. They will also assess my house for safety, etc.

I'll have to rely on friends for groceries, etc.

It's going to be a seriously long recovery. The dude who hit me has enough of his own pain. I don't think about him much. It is what it is.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Not a pretty sight

The docs changed the dressing on my left leg this morning. Usually, it's pretty cool to see what modern medicine can do, although I don't watch the medical documentaries on TV.

This morning, when they unwrapped my leg, it was not a pretty sight.

Definitely not ready for a photo.

There's one hole with a bunch of stitches on the side of my calf.

Another hole at my knee, where the surgeons inserted the femur-length rod.

A roughly 4 by 7 hole on the side of the quadriceps. About the size, actually, of a headlight. More on this in a moment.

There is a fourth hole - golf ball size - also on the left of the quad where the bone exited. It's now stitched up with a lot of stitches

Another 4 by 7 hole in my upper thigh on the left that was a source for the skin graft for the original 4 by 7 hole.

Finally - what is this, six? - there is hole on top of my thigh, origins of which I can't imagine.

When the bandage came off, I was humbled. Grateful. Nauseated.

Humbled and grateful because I could see how close I was to losing my leg, even not making it if one of those arteries was cut. Nauseated because it was my leg, and it looked disgusting.

That 4x7 hole may have come from the truck's headlight. Not sure. The gouge took all the skin and fat layers, and left muscle hanging. So the doctors took a skin graft from my thigh.

Here's the strange thing that made the image more disturbing. There is a sponge on top of the graft, keeping it moist. In an extremely thoughtless decision, the sponge makers colored it black.

S0 instead of color or happiness on my leg, it looks like Level 18 leprosy or gangrened skin. That's helpful. I think a letter is in order.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Weekend Rides

The forecasters predict something like the 40s by the end of the week.

On Saturday, I rode nearly two hours outside, bundled up like the Michelin Man (still looking good, though!). With the ipod - and I can't imagine surviving without it now - it was an easy ride, still cold with 25 degree temperatures.

Today, I struggled for two hours indoors on the trainer. Not even Lara Croft (Angelina Jolie) could entertain me enough to keep me really interested in the movie. I literally kept thinking about next fall and racing my bike in the grass and mud. That helped.

Spring can't come quickly enough.