Life has its way of being…unpredictable. Four weeks ago, I was doing back-to-back 350 mile weeks in prep for DKXL.
Then, while on a fairly mellow ride about three weeks ago, my front wheel slid out on a descent I’ve done a few dozen times. The descent itself is somewhat technical, with some sharp cornering involved before it chills out. I did the hardest parts no problem and, in a dry section leading up to the last corner–for no logical reason I can come up with–I hit the pavement at about 27mph.
Blake scooped me up off the side of the road and some nice college kids drove me to a friend’s house nearby. While it hurt like hell right after the crash, it really wasn’t too bad once the initial shock and pain wore off. Speaking of shock: I couldn’t stop shivering for hours! So strange.
I decided to stay home and see how things developed before rushing to a doc; the arm was nice and bruised and swollen, but in the past I’ve had so many situations where I’ve gotten x-rays only to hear that it wasn’t broken. I figured this was no different so I got started on the standard regimen: ibuprofen, ice, and elevation.
5 days later, the pain was minimal but the swelling hadn’t subsided, so Blake’s parents who were in town finally convinced me to get an x-ray.
Joan, Blake’s mom, drove me to urgent care. I was still pretty convinced it wasn’t broken when I signed myself in and was brought back to be seen by the doctor. The doc took one look and immediately called for an x-ray. About 5 min later, he returned, looking a little drained in the face. “You have a fracture in your olecranon,” the doctor said. Handing me a disc containing my x-rays, he added, “I need you to go down to talk to the orthopedic surgeon right now. They’re right downstairs.”‘
“You have a fracture in your olecranon,” the doctor said. “I need you to go down to talk to the orthopedic surgeon right now.”
Still not quite processing it all (I didn’t see the x-ray), I just smiled and said sure. The nurses got a splint on me, and off I went to the surgeon.
Walking into the orthopedic surgeon, I briefly explained the situation and handed the disc over to the woman at the front desk. I was pretty merry at that point, and she didn’t seem too concerned and asked me to take a seat.
I waited maybe 10, 15 minutes while the surgeon eventually was able to review my x-ray. Soon enough, the receptionist returned and called my name. The look on her face was definitely a lot more…concerned than it was when I walked in. “The surgeon reviewed your x-ray,” the woman at the front desk told me. “You need surgery asap. We can’t do it. Call these places, they should be able to help.” And with that, she handed me a paper listing out a handful of other surgeons in the area.
“The surgeon reviewed your x-ray,” the woman at the front desk told me. “You need surgery asap.“
When I got back to the car, Joan, who had told me many times in the last week to get an x-ray, looked pretty smug, which I totally deserved.
After calling around, Blake took me to a second surgeon that was able to take my insurance. I gave them the disc (I still have yet to see my x-rays at this point), and they said they’d call to set up an appointment. An hour later, around 4:30pm on Friday, I get the call to come in first thing Monday morning.
Monday rolls around and my surgeon orders a new x-ray. Finally, I get to see what the heck everyone was freaking out about:
So, that looks a little broken. For those who are unfamiliar with the anatomy of a healthy (aka intact) elbow, here is what it should look like:
So, basically, a good chunk of one end of my bones (the olecranon process otherwise known as the “funny bone”*) was broken off. Turns out, more than 85% of my entire elbow joint was completely shattered. In terms of breaks, this is a pretty solid one. Go big or go home, I guess?
(*True story: During my consultation, I turned to my surgeon with a straight face and asked her whether my sense of humor was going to make after I broke my funny bone so badly.)
The next step was surgery, which was scheduled for 3 days later.
Surgery went smoothly. Blake was awesome and afterwards, while I was lying in my post-op recovery bed, even whipped up a chocolate pudding and peanut butter combo to make hospital food a little more exciting (and because I’m a sucker for peanut butter cups).
A few hours later though, shit hit the fan when the nerve block on my right arm wore off and no amount of pain meds seemed to do the trick. That sucked and seriously hurt like hell. I actually called the on-call doctor in the middle of the night (twice) because the pain was so off the charts I was sure something had to be horribly wrong (it wasn’t).
Thankfully, that was the worst of it. A few days after, I stopped taking the prescribed pain meds (they made me feel awful). Four days after surgery, I was even on the spin bike doing *very* chill rides (but my heart rate was crazy for whatever reason. Like, I could get it to 190 is less than a minute if I put in some effort).
The Monday after surgery, I went in for a post-op and got to get a new x-ray to see what my new hardware looked like:
Here’s the summary of the situation: look at the above picture. Above the plate, there is a substantial chunk of bone missing (it had to be removed because it was too shattered to salvage). Then, look at the little chunks that are propped up with the screw. Those were pieced together by the surgeon with the hope that they will form a single bone to allow me to actually bend my elbow again after plenty of PT.
That was two weeks ago, and fast forward to now and I’ve got the whole Zwift setup up and running and am able to do 10-miles hikes and I don’t pass out at 5pm for a two hour nap (that was a thing for a little bit, I was sooo tired).
It’s definitely been a journey. Little things, like typing this blog post, or putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, or opening a jar are a lot more difficult (btw, if you have tips for tying shoes one-handed, hmu). Blake had to learn how to braid hair and does my hair every night before bed. And none of my clothes fit around my splint. I’m pretty limited to XL sized shirts with a front zipper or buttons (#style) these days, so my parents were awesome and took me to a secondhand store to load up on some oversized flannels.
Tomorrow, I get my real cast, which stays on for about a month. Everything is moving along 🙂 TBD yet how this alters my initial race plans, but let’s just say I’ve got some awesome alternative plans in the works that I’m pretttttty stoked on 🤙 Also my beautiful Juliana Joplin, my first-ever MTB, arrived two days ago and that is definitely keeping me motivated to heal up asap! More on that later, for now I’m off to eat some cheese with extra calcium ✌️