Thursday, June 28, 2012

This is what being hit by a car is like

Warning: the following account of my recent incident with a car is long and may be upsetting for some people. I've written it in the hopes of getting people to think about the consequences of their actions. Please pass this onto your friends and family, please be safe on the roads.

I was riding home from work mid-afternoon on Friday the 15th of June.  It was rainy and cold so I had my fluro orange and wonderfully water-proof Ground Effect She Shell on. I was riding my lovely Linus duchess so I wasn’t zooming along. Just gracefully cruising home as I usually do. I got to the intersection of Collins and Brougham St where the intersection is currently blocked to cars going through to Simeon. However the workmen had left a space for pedestrians and cyclists to cross. I waited on the road on the right side of the car that was turning left (not wanting to get run over you understand) and when the lights went  green I checked to make sure that no one was running the red before heading off.

I do this check every time I’m stopped at a red since the February earthquakes; there seems to be an epidemic of red light running in Christchurch. I safely made it to the gap where the crossing is in the middle of the road and observed a red car that was pretty much stationary at the lights. Of course I thought it was safe to continue, I was on a green, the red car seemed to be stopping, the car beside it in the further lane was stopped and had been for a while so I pedalled on. And the woman in the red car put her foot down.

She hit me when I was right in the middle of her bumper and everything becomes a blur of images for me here. I remember seeing the sky and feeling the bonnet give as I landed on it. I remember feeling shocked that this was happening, disbelieving that someone could be so stupid. I remember the back of my head striking the road and feeling my helmet do its job (I'm pretty sure if I hadn't been wearing my helmet I'd be dead or a vegetable), and then the rest of me hit the road on my right side. Then I’m pretty sure I blacked out for a couple of seconds as everything was blurry and fuzzy, but as my senses came back the first thing I did was wiggle my toes. Thank God they were moving.

Then I realised I couldn’t breathe and there was a woman standing over me saying “Sorry” and “Are you ok” over and over. As I gasped for air the pain hit and I began to make the most horrible wounded animal sound. I didn’t want to make this noise, it wasn’t me making it, it was the pain. I managed to roll into the recovery position on my left side and when I stayed still the noise stopped.
I gasped to the woman, still not believing what had happened, “Did you run a red light?” and she started explaining that she did, but she thought that it was blocked off so no one could cross. She even said she didn’t check because she didn’t think it was necessary. This made me so angry that I started sobbing and I pointed out to her that children cross here all the time and if it had been a child she would have probably killed it. She is lucky she only hit me.
Owie from hitting the road.

Lots of people appeared and told me not to move, which wasn’t a problem because my world became pain if I so much as flinched. A really lovely lady brought me a pillow and covered me in a blanket. I lay there on the road, curled in the recovery position, feeling the cold rain falling on me, being so grateful for the my Ground Effect jacket that was stopping the water from soaking me, and my new thick long Chalkydigits jersey that was keeping me warm. I told everyone I was ok, that I was warm enough and listened as they called the ambulance. I stared at the bumper of the red car and noticed a dent in the middle of it. I thought of how upset my husband was going to be. Once the ambulance and police had been called I got one of the lovely women looking after me to call my husband. I could tell he was so shocked and I yelled out to him that I was ok, hoping to calm him down. Then I had to wait.

I lay on the road in the cold rain with trucks and cars whizzing past me, looking at the grey sky. That grey sky is what I see when I try and sleep at night. That and the shape of the red car suddenly moving forward and there’s nothing I can do to stop from being hit.

The ambulance arrived really quickly and stabilised my neck before putting me on the backboard. Oh the pain. I was now lying on all my really sore bits and trying not to blubber. They lifted me up and got me in the ambulance and just then my poor husband arrived. He looked so scared. And seeing me in the ambulance didn’t seem to make it any better. I tried to tell him it wasn’t serious, I hadn’t broken my back, that I was ok, but it didn’t make a difference.

Then the ambo’s had to cut my clothes off me to get the collar on. I cried when they cut into my ChalkyDigits jersey, I’d just bought it the night before and I was so happy with the way it had protected me from the cold road. Then the horrible collar was on and it was time to cut the rest of the jersey and my She Shell off me.  The ambo’s laughed at this to cheer me up. They were really wonderful.

Finally I was covered in electrodes and being fed orange flavoured panadol liquid. It did nothing for the pain. Then they gave me NOS. I sucked the canister dry and it did nothing for the pain. The ride to the hospital seemed to go on forever and then when we got there it felt like another eternity till they gave me more pain meds. Even that wasn’t getting rid of it, just winding the volume down. When I finally went for my x-rays it was pretty rough going for me and for the young trainee techs. Every little movement I made would be agony and when it was over I was relieved.

After the xrays I got more meds and finally the pain was bearable. I just couldn’t stop crying though, I was so very angry. Eventually the doctors came and told me I hold some damage to my pelvis, but that it looked minor and that I could go home. They got me to stand up and I almost passed out from the pain. I had to give a urine sample to make sure my kidneys weren’t damaged, but I couldn’t walk so I had to have crutches. It was agony using them, but my kidneys were fine and my lovely mum in-law arrived to take us home.
Nightly meds - the liquid is particularly traumatic

Now the final indignity was upon me as I had no clothes so I had to wear disgusting lost and found clothes home.  I ate pizza and ice cream and codeine when I got home, but I couldn’t sleep at all and ended up awake till 5 in the morning. I managed to sleep till 7 when the cat woke me. Sigh

Saturday things weren’t so bad. I could move about with only a walking stick and managed to sleep better that night, although I had to listen to a podcast of Through the Looking Glass to stop my brain seeing the grey sky and the red car. The next day, Sunday, everything went wrong. I woke up sore and when I moved I screamed. My back ribs on the right popped out of place and the pain for shocking.
We managed to get me dressed and back to ER we went. I stood in line for 10 minutes holding my ribs in place and finally got triaged as a high priority. Another set of painful xrays and there were no punctured lungs so I was sent home with horrible strong pain killers and instructions to see my GP on Wednesday.  The next few days were pretty rough. The pain was really bad a lot of the time and I couldn’t sit up or stand up without my husband helping me. I was completely helpless. I could only lie on my back.

My awesome GP turned all that around with a great routine of drugs. Now I say great because it has completely got my pain under control, but I hate it. I don’t like taking drugs at the best of times and now it feels like I’m taking great handfuls.

So almost two weeks on I’ve got one or two broken ribs, a bruised lung and a damaged pelvis. I’m pretty much stoned out of my mind all the time and can’t really move round much. I can sit now and can get myself up and down if I’m very careful. I’ve missed a week of work that ACC doesn’t cover so I’m a grand down just on wages. I’m lonely at home by myself, and I have no idea when I’ll be able to ride again. The woman who hit me is being charged with Careless Driving Causing Injury and the policeman I’m dealing with is really good.

So there you have it. That is what it is like to be hit by a car. Please try and avoid it and most of all try and avoid doing it. Maybe send a link to this onto your friends and ask them to avoid doing it too. Cars hurt a lot. Way more than crashing into a trees or gateposts or the ground. I am very very lucky to be alive, and pretty much intact, but I’d be fine if the woman had obeyed the road rules. Please please please don’t run red lights, Ever.  On your bike or in your car, and if you are in a car and see a bike run a red light, remember that your car is deadly if it hits a pedestrian or cyclist, just because someone else breaks the law doesn’t mean you can.  Please obey the road rules. It could happen to you.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

I’m turning into Nancy Drew

I’ve begun work on the lovely Empire in earnest now. At the weekend I stripped her of all her parts, with the help of Bob. This meant a visit to his magic shed where I got to drool over his Facile’s divinely pin-striped rear wheel and see progress on the forks. It was very exciting. Bob helped me extract the extremely stubborn stem, but the drive-side cup on it was beyond both of us. My cheap cup removing tool was apparently made of cheese and bent like a wire coat-hanger when I applied all of my brute strength to it.
This is what 60 year old grease and bearings look like, yummy!
This meant a trip to see Keith at Cycle Traders and the purchase of a new tool, very similar to the cheese one, but made of actual metal. I also meant to buy some bearings for the headset and one of the pedals but I forgot them. Duh! The pedal needs a lot of love, so much so that I was able to remove it without a tool, it was so badly seized up. Luckily Bob and his vice and expertise came to the rescue and he was able to remove the cap that covers the axle. Phew, I wasn’t keen on having to track down more pedals.
A present was waiting for me when I got home on Tuesday
After my visit to the shed of wonders I made the big decision that I am going to get the frame cleaned down and powder coated. Although it has a lot of lovely pin striping on it, someone has touched up the damage to the paint with some sort of fence paint and it just looked rough.  My plan is to redo the pin striping by hand once I get it back from the powder coaters. I’ve very carefully photographed all the original lines and I’ve also drawn them up with measurements on distances from lugs and depth and so forth. 

Carefully draw pin striping plans

This weekend I shall start practicing on the frame I have left over from the path racer build. While drawing her up I made an interesting discovery of an old grease port in the bottom bracket. Unfortunately it is not threaded and will function as a very efficient water delivery system into the bottom bracket. Not so good. The lovely Bob has kindly offered to help my remedy this problem when he has a moment spare. These moments are rather elusive with his vast project tying him to his lathe and his expert pin striping skills meaning he is in high demand by many.  
I didn't notice this until I saw red paint inside the bottom bracket, handy oil port

I’ve also discovered that the cranks, stem and seat post are all nickel plated, rather than chromed. This is quite an exciting discovery and has had me scouring the internet for more information on my lovely lady in an effort to put an age on her.
Gold paint on the left, nickel ready for polishing on the right
Believe or not, the internet does not know everything and I’ve been unable find anything on her. Today however, I caught a lucky break. I decided that after yesterday’s snow fall I should get out and enjoy the gorgeous sun and also get my bearings in preparation for a weekend of fettling. Once more I ventured into Cycle Trading and this time Keith had a treat for me. He’d found an old Empire catalogue and in it was my girl. She is the Empire Lady’s Sport. Probably dating from the early 50’s. Unfortunately she is bereft of her chain guard so I’ll have to keep an eye out for one. (Or if any of you dear readers have a spare chain guard for a 1950s women’s bike, I would be willing to buy it off you).

I spent the rest of the afternoon cruising around on my Duchess, enjoying the sun and the stunning snowy scenery. My knee is still quite niggley since the operation and I'm not up to much more than pootling. Although I did finally manage to ride one of my mountain bikes yesterday, braving the snowy conditions to get to work, only to be sent home again. Unfortunately the snow had become more treacherous on my return journey and I managed to fall off. Ouch.
Mandatory snowy tree shot
Tomorrow I must remember to get myself some plastic wire wool to start polishing up my chain ring and cranks. I’ve stripped the gold paint (strange!) from the chain ring and now foresee many many hours of gentle polishing to bring the nickel up to a nice rust-free finish.

Meanwhile Bastian has not been enjoying the snow and has had a bit of cabin fever as he has been pretty unwilling to get his dainty paws cold and wet. I’ve included, for your amusement, this action shot from last year’s snow when he decided it was fun to attack the snow. Hover cat – deploy!!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Urban Gorilla Art and Innerspace Photography

It seems that since I tidied the garage and hung up my mountain bikes I’ve only been riding my Duchess, with a brief interlude with my path racer. The Duchess is really the perfect vehicle for exploring the quake ravaged heart of Christchurch as little by little we can get further into the city. This shrinking of the cordon has inspired me to create an installation of pieces which reflect my frustration at the loss of the city to demolition companies and the army, and also make me feel a little bit more like I am taking my city back. 

I spent a lovely 2 hours riding around the city setting up and photographing my tiny tableaus and have created a website – CBD Exiles – to celebrate their existence. It’s been a couple of weeks now and many of them are still in situ. I’m interested to see how long they last as more and more people return to the city.

I’ve also been Tweeding again. An epic 20km tweed ride along the Heathcote River, with plenty of pubbery and a little crazy BMX tracking. Unfortunately no racing took place as the evil Chumly Pogward injured his delicate back. Ahhh well, it’s probably for the best.

And in the biggest news of the last couple of weeks I headed in for arthroscopic knee surgery last Thursday, to tidy up some long existing meniscal tears and floaty bits of cartilage. The operation went well, but resulted in a very disappointing prognosis for my knee. I went back to the surgeon yesterday for my follow up appointment and was informed that my knee is “Munted”. This is NOT a work you want to have associated with anything you care about, your city, bike, house, sewer system, but especially not with a part of your body.

Then the lovely Mr Penny told me that it may not be a problem for a long time due to the fact I’m not fat (his words – he is truly a lovely man) and because I ride my bikes lots. Unfortunately he then went on to explain the baffling photo’s I’d received after my surgery (the squeamish should look away now). While they look like pictures of faraway planets (or to the more filthy minded something else) they are interior views of my knee showing the damage removed and the damage that means my knee is basically a ticking time bomb of falling apartness.
Bad streaming trendils
Bad lump of meniscus that was causing my knee to lock
Very old cartilage tear causing some locking
Random floating bits
What it boils down to is the cartilage inside my knee is so damaged that in places it is non-existent and that’s bad. To be honest, I’m kinda meh about the whole prognosis, I’ve had trouble with my knee since I was 14 now, it’s just a normal part of my life so I’m not too concerned. I’ll just ride my bikes lots and lots, stay strong and fit, and hopefully get 15 years out of it before I need a whole new knee. 
Scoring in the cartilage
The top right is just bare bone now - rather bad news
Nasty ulcer in the cartilage
Luckily with the help of the lovely Bastian I’ve healed up quickly from my surgery and am riding to work already.

I just need to get rid of this man-flu I currently have and I’ll be hitting the road and the trail again to build up for an epic ride on the Longest Day. In the meantime I’m going to start work on my lovely Empire for the Great Poms and Cassels Tweed Run in July. You should come along to it, it is going to be brilliant!