Why I will bike no more

Bike Helmet

I used to bike a lot. Not professional cyclist or racer, just recreational cyclist. Best Husband and I, once freed of the penury of child rearing, developed our own hobbies and interests and eventually invested in good road bikes. We’d spend hours out of every summer biking together, enjoying the scenery and companionship. I will miss biking, but I will bike no more. And here is why.

Flash backwards about four weeks ago. I’m sitting on the side of the road, a good vacation gone bad, with blood pouring out of my nose. One friend is holding my head steady while another is staunching the blood with tissues. Meanwhile horrified onlookers stand by while I’m sobbing and trying not to sob at the same time, shaking hot and cold and wishing I had never ridden my bike that day.

A fun bike ride with friends had turned into every cyclist’s nightmare:  a face first over handlebars freak accident. Soon  the ambulance arrives, and my husband and I ride to the barely adequate  urgent care clinic. Once there, a third-year resident who acts more like a third-year med student takes over my care. Everyone asks me the same questions incessantly, writes them down, but no one looks at the answers. My jaws are sloshing painfully back and forth and I finally motion for a clipboard. Then, holding my swollen eye open so I can see, I write a pretty coherent med list, allergies, and answers to all their questions, while the medical indifference swells around me. As I sit in the clinic bay, no blanket offered, I realize I’m getting woozy and faint, chilled and hot at the same time, and suggest they might want to think about getting me a blanket and starting an IV.

Later, I endure an ambulance ride across the Mackinac Bridge and farther south to get to the closest real hospital, about 45 minutes away. With my face and body throbbing, I convince myself that moaning softly and keeping my eyes closed will relieve the pain, since no one has offered to give me anything to soothe the awful  throbbing during what is normally a very pleasant drive.

After x-rays and CTs, it is confirmed. My face is broken. All of it. The orbits, the delicate maxillae, and my already somewhat crooked nose – smashed into shards of bone. A week or so later I have grueling surgery to put it all back together. The plastic surgeon using screws and plates, delicately reassembles the puzzle that had become my face. The shards of bone, now held in place with metal, have put my face somewhat back together, though it no longer feels like my face. Places that once were soft are now hard, metallic, crooked, numb. It is not a perfect face, though,it was a pretty ordinary face before. Time will tell if it becomes the face that I had before, or something close enough to it, or if it will remain a hideously skewed semblance of a face that makes polite people look away and rude people stare.

No one told me that I must give up biking. I had biked nearly 5,000 miles, with no hint of a serious accident, and chances are, could bike another 5,000 in my lifetime without incident. But, it somehow feels wrong, to take my patchwork of bones back out onto the road, where anything might happen in the blink of an eye. It seems like an insult to my surgeon, and to myself and my family for all we’ve gone through, to tempt that fate again. I feel grateful to have a face, to still have life, and to not have suffered more serious injury than what I already had. And so, I will bike no more.

© Huffygirl 2013

Confessions of a bad patient

I confess I’m a bad patient. Well, not bad in the sense of non-compliant. I’m not one of those people who doesn’t take all of her antibiotic, and then saves the left-over antibiotic in order to incompletely treat the next illness. (Yes, I know who you are.) No, I’m not THAT kind of bad patient. But, I’m not a patient patient. I think of myself as  a hardy, resilient person, ready to bounce back from every setback. Those rules for recovery apply to other people, not to me. Being ill, or in my case, recovering from surgery, seems like such  a waste of time that I’ll push myself to recover faster and better, even if, well even if it just plain wears me out. I just  want to be done with it.

I had surgery on my shoulder just over two weeks ago. Originally the doctor said I “…could probably go back to work after two weeks,” so two weeks to  the day I scheduled myself back at work. It didn’t take me very long to find out that was a bad idea. About nine o’clock I was ready to put my head down on the desk and take a little nap, then again at ten, and eleven, and so on until my husband finally came to pick me up from my extra-long half day. The next day when I dutifully went for my two-week follow-up, the doc said, “so when do you think you’ll be ready to go back to work?” No problem doc, already done. Turns out a little too soon, but that’s what happens when you think you’re hardy. I’ll know better next time. Well, maybe.

Two days after surgery I was making muffins in the kitchen, adapting everything to doing it one-handed and coercing my son to help me with stirring and scooping. It made a terrible mess, but better than sitting around doing nothing all day, and we had healthy bran muffins to boot.

My instructions said “no strenuous activity until the follow-up appointment,” but what’s strenuous about a gentle bike ride on the trainer? I worked pretty well until I got done and found out I couldn’t manage to get out of my sweaty clothes in my one-armed state. Hey, I’m sure my husband didn’t mind leaving work to come help me get undressed.

Being a bad patient is probably not all bad. Studies of resiliency have shown that the qualities that resilient people show, such as adaptability, humor, optimism and flexibility help them cope and adjust to stressful situations. If you are not already a resilient person, don’t worry. Resiliency can be learned and cultivated. You can practice adopting the ten qualities of a resilient person, until it become part of you. It’s never too late. (After all, optimism is one of the qualities.) Although, I do admit, that should I ever have surgery again, I’ll definitely take a few things a little slower. Now excuse me – it’s time for my nap.

© Huffygirl 2012

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Satire Friday: Do Not Operate the Internet

Courtesy of Google

I had some minor, minor surgery today, and came home with four  pages of the usual disclaimers and instructions. Now I work in healthcare myself, and understand how our litigious society and fine legislators (remember HIPAA?) make it necessary to offer such disclaimers. But just as the disclaimers on appliances, machinery and medications have gone from the bland to ridiculous, so to have medical disclaimers gotten, well, you’ll see.

Page one is generic instructions that they give to everyone, with some blanks to fill in for your specific condition. It has a place to fill in your specific medications, and when to call your health care provider, so that one’s pretty good.

The next page is pretty short and clear-cut with emergency instructions, blanks to fill in specifics for me and a place for your responsible accompanying adult to sign to show that you received the instructions. I’ve been other places where I’ve taken someone else for surgery and then watched in surprise as they had the patient sign the discharge instructions, even though they just gave them three pages telling them that they’d be loopy and basically incompetent for the next 24 hours. Sigh. Page two also has a specific instruction that says “No physical activity for 10 days” which contradicts page one which says one may  resume sex whenever he/she wants. But we won’t go there.

Page three is specific instructions about my kind of surgery, pretty clear-cut. Page four is the ubiquitous pain scale that almost everyone uses, with the faces that go from happy to sad.  I’m glad they include this because I remember when I first began working in health care, that pain was not taken seriously. It only took 30+ years, but we’ve now gone from telling patients to “Man up.” to asking them to point to sad and happy faces to rate their pain. Progress.

So what’s wrong? These instructions sound pretty reasonable. Until I go back and reread page one (even though I’m not expected to understand what I’m reading, because I’m loopy, remember?) In the paragraph that warns against the usual – driving, operating machinery, signing prenups, using power tools, they’ve added a phrase “…do not use the internet.” Medical instructions have joined the 21st century. They recognize that the internet can be a dangerous place where people can update their resume,  post comments for all the world to see, purchase large quantities of everything from Amazon books to assault rifles,  and play online gambling. But don’t operate the internet? Really? Other people might need that instruction, but not ciououommm me. I feel fine, really, just zzzzz like my old jllll;jkjlj  exiilike iiilllllll;;l; 900  jzjzzjz8