Thursday, February 26, 2009
Here is my wife looking at my truck while she waited for me to come out of surgery. Kodak moment for sure.
I was very optimistic driving to Boyne for the State Championship in October of 1998. All I needed was a top 10 finish and I would have enough points in the Cup Point Series to be forced to move up to Expert. I had improved a lot during the three years I raced and was confident I was going to win what was supposed to be my last Sport race. I knew I wouldn’t continue to improve this much every year, still I was encouraged. Nothing but blue skies ahead. But I was running behind. I was looking back and forth between the clock and my map and I knew timing was very tight. I figured I should get as ready as I could while driving. I unbuckled my seat belt and reached back for my water bottles and drink mix and accidentally clipped a guard rail on the side of the road. When I came to, the first thing I thought was “oh crap, my truck is probably going to be towed, but I might have enough time to ride my bike to Boyne and make the race…Kevin can drive me back to Brighton”. I looked down and saw my femur staring back at me. This isn’t good.
The orthopedic surgeon who met me at the hospital was a mountain bike racer; in fact, he raced in my class and was planning on doing the race in Boyne. He said they could transport me back down state if I wanted my surgery to happen there. I was surprised he gave me an option. I was surprised he was that young; it was the first time I met a surgeon that was my age. And we were in Grayling, a hick town; I figured he probably just finished helping a cow deliver a calf before I showed up but he was a mountain biker so that was all I needed to convince me he was the right person to put a titanium rod where my femur use to be.
Of course I did a lot of damage to myself other than my femur but that was the biggie. After surgery the surgeon and I talked about mountain biking. I asked him how this accident would affect my riding. He explained that the femur would be okay; somehow the bone fragments in my leg would conglomerate around the rod and would calcify over. The problem was the femur tore through my mussels in so many places that he didn’t have to make a cut to insert the rod, and mussels apparently don’t grow back once they are severed. He said, very mater of factly, that racing would be out of the question. I don’t think I said anything but he could tell by my expression that I wasn’t very satisfied with that response. He said “well, you know you are lucky to be alive”. I heard that line so many times that it lost its impact, and I was bummed.
That was October of ’98. I couldn’t walk without crutches that winter but spinning on the stationary bike felt fine. In April of ’99 I signed myself up for the Yankee Springs Time Trial. I still had problems walking but riding seemed okay. I finished right in the middle of the Sport racers. Not bad at all.
In the accident I also smashed my little pinkie. I still don’t have feeling in it but that isn’t much of an issue really. I constantly tap it with my thumb, as if the feeling will come back any time now. It serves as a constant reminder to be grateful and puts racing in perspective.