Reasons not to ride your bicycle

The medication I was taking when I was ill was codeine based, with a warning not to operate heavy machinery.

no-bike-ridingWhether or not I ride my bicycle to work, or to church, or around the neighborhood, depends on a number of factors that you can imagine: too cold, too rainy, too slippery.

However, as spring arrived, I had some situations that I had not experienced before. I should note that my bike resides in the shed in the back of the property.

  • The walkway was a sheet of ice in the alleyway that separates our house and the next door neighbor’s. I managed NOT to fall down all winter, compared with the two spills I suffered the previous year, and I didn’t want to chance anything.
  • The ground was frozen around the gate between the backyard and the alleyway, and I just couldn’t open it. It had rained heavily, then got very cold.

  • The medication I was taking when I was ill was codeine based, with a warning not to operate heavy machinery. I was loopy enough that I decided not to operate light machinery either.

  • There was a skunk in the backyard, near the back porch, sniffing and burrowing. Nah…

Then there was the time I probably SHOULDN’T have ridden. I was feeding one of the cats at one of the dishes to the right of the refrigerator, as usual. I stood up and banged my head on the footing of the folded up ironing board. Those of you who think I do not curse would have been proven wrong that morning.

I was seeing stars, and had developed a huge lump; to boot, my head was bleeding. Somehow, I lost about 20 minutes, which made me late for work. So I hopped on my bike and rode about four blocks before I realized I was unfocused and needed to stop. Fortunately, a CDTA bus came by. I put the bike on the conveyance and continued to the office.

It wasn’t until I got home that night that I realized that I had cut my head on the jagged footing. My wife and daughter insisted that the ironing board has ALWAYS been there, to the right of the refrigerator. I wouldn’t know since I never use it. That’s why God invented permanent press. But the cat dish must have been further to the left.

There is a photo of me at work, with a used Rite-Aid bag full of ice, covered by a couple more plastic layers, on my head. The bags were held in place by my headphones. It is a stupid-looking picture.

Recovery of Leslie Green, post bike accident

One surgery that IS scheduled is to remove the metal hardware from Leslie’s left arm/wrist on October 1 as an outpatient.

lesliesbikeOne of the many things I’d been planning to write about has been the recovery of my sister Leslie. She wrote this on Facebook on September 30, and I have purloined some of it. OK, all of it.

“As many of you know, I was in a serious bicycle crash on June 4th and was in the hospital until July 4th. I was riding downhill, was only a block left to my destination, avoided traffic, lost control, hit the curb and flew over handlebars to face plant into a hillside. Certainly not one of the most gracious things I have ever done!”

Yes, I visited the crash site the week I was out in San Diego the week after she got out of the hospital. Her friends found some eyewitnesses who thought she wouldn’t survive.

“I broke my nose, left arm/wrist and the surgeons had quite a task of putting together the pieces. (ME). They did a great job and are amazed at how quickly and well I am healing!”

Yes, even in week two, she was almost unrecognizable, but a month later, she started looking like herself.

“I give thanks to God for healing and keeping me. I thank all of those who showed the outpouring of love, support and prayers. It has been amazing. Especially from my kid!”

Her daughter Rebecca Jade and her many friends, especially a tigress named Leilani (hope I spelled her name correctly!) were great, even by the time I got there. Also thanks again to my friend Carol from Texas, who was able to visit my sister a month before I was.

“When I am thankful for the medical team, and thankful for purchasing a bicycle accident two days before the ordeal. It truly was a ‘helmet of salvation’ and helped save my life.”

Without the helmet, she had about a zero percent chance of avoiding severe brain damage or, most probably, death. Not so incidentally, when I got back to Albany, I bought a new helmet, one that fit my large head better.

“I feel ok and am doing ok, thanks be to God.

“There are a couple of surgeries I may need, but MDs want to wait and see, as I may heal without surgery. Time will tell.

“One surgery that IS scheduled is to remove the metal hardware from my left arm/wrist. It’s on October 1 as an outpatient. It will be so nice to have an increased range of motion again!”

That’s today! She has, if memory is correct, three metal rods in her wrist area. Not incidentally, Leslie is left-handed so this will be extremely beneficial.

“Please keep me in prayer for a successful surgery and healing, which I trust it will be.

“Thanks for all your love, prayers and support. It means a lot.”

Spare a good thought for Leslie today, if you would.

H is for helmet: bicycle, motorcycle

Bicycle helmets cut the risk of severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) by half.

helmetFor the longest time, I’ve been wearing a helmet when I ride my bicycle. Years ago, I used to take a lot of grief for it. “Whadja think you’re doin’, riding a motorcycle?”

That’s because in New York State, only bicyclists under the age of 14 years old are required to wear safety certified bicycle helmets when they are operators or passengers on bicycles. BTW, children aged 1 to 4 must wear certified bicycle helmet and ride in specially designed child safety seats.

Whereas, motorcycle helmets ARE REQUIRED in New York State. “It shall be unlawful for any person to operate or ride upon a motorcycle unless he wears a protective helmet of a type which meets the requirements set forth in section 571.218 of the federal motor vehicle safety standards as may from time to time be amended.”

I’ve read that protective headgear is designed to absorb shock and redistribute impact on contact, thus reducing the risk of traumatic brain injury. Specifically, despite some criticism of bike helmets for not being protective enough, they do cut the risk of severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) by half when riders suffer a head injury, a U.S. study suggests.

I have this friend Donna who had a serious bicycle accident in July 2017. She recently showed me photos some days beyond her event, and she would agree about two things: 1) she looked pretty terrible in the after her event, though she looks quite like herself now; and 2) if she had not been wearing a helmet, at best, she would have had severe brain injury, and more likely, she would have died.

I sought her out because my sister Leslie had experienced a remarkably similar event in June 2018, with each flying over the handlebars. Having seen her helmet, which she bought only three days before the event, there’s little doubt she would have been dead or permanently injured without the “shell”.

Some people don’t like helmets because of vanity, or “freedom”, or wanting to feel the wind in their hair. My experience suggests those are meaningless trade-offs if you’re deceased.

For ABC Wednesday

Doored – bicycle, car door, pain

Ann from New Zealand wondered:

Do you use the word doored? It applies to a driver opening his door without checking for bikes. I once did that, I almost doored someone. The young woman let out a series of expletives. Since then, I almost always check before I open the door.

Note: this did NOT happen to my sister Leslie.

I was not familiar with the term, but the word is in the transportation literature. I well know the experience. Riding my bicycle, I’m always looking for unexpected activities from drivers. When I’m surprised by the action, I generally yell “YO” for some reason, and that has been known to work.

When I was in library school, which would have been 1990-1992, I was riding my bike when one of my fellow grad schools intentionally opened the driver’s side door as I was about to pass. He then closed it. He seemed to think it was terribly funny.

I did not. I swerved and hit the brakes. Somehow, probably from adrenaline, I managed to pull my bike out of alignment.

The guy claimed, “I thought you saw me” in the car. Well, no, I didn’t, and if I had, I would have still thought opening the door was a schmucky thing to do. Getting doored is the thing I most worry about as a recipient of pain.

Conversely, I’m most concerned about me hurting pedestrians who come out from between parked cars in the middle of the block. This is a greater concern than it used to be because vehicles tend to be larger, hiding the jaywalkers
until the last moment.

Unrelated, I get joy out of picking up change that lies on the road, probably falling out of the pockets of drivers. I figure that, in most bike seasons, I find enough nickels, dimes and quarters to pay for the necessary repairs on my vehicle.

I won’t ruin my riding momentum to stop for a penny or two. But if there’s a penny and a nickel, e.g., I’ll snatch up both.

Sister Leslie is home, having a birthday

Leslie’s tribe of friends had wanted the feeding tube gone much earlier.

Sister LeslieI had this post about my sister Leslie converting to Roman Catholicism this year pretty well constructed in my mind. It’d have been how it was surprising it was – she did it as a secret from virtually everyone – but how it was fine by me.

Then she had this serious bicycle accident on June 4. To recap, she had been on vacation the previous month in Europe seeing her daughter Rebecca Jade sing on a cruise, but also spending a few days in Copenhagen, Denmark on her own.

She went back to San Diego and decided to start riding her bicycle partway to work. Since she is a safety official, she thought she ought to wear a helmet, so she bought one on June 1; wearing it almost certainly saved her life.

While I was in San Diego July 9-14, her friend Cathy managed to recover Leslie’s stuff that had been in storage at the first hospital she went to, Scripps Mercy. The distinct smell of dried blood remained on the helmet even days after being aired out. She’s keeping it, certainly not to wear again but possibly as a prop, along with her mangled bike, about the importance of bicycle safety.

Sister Leslie was semi-liberated from the SECOND hospital, Kaiser Permanente, on July 4, but she had a hospital bed in her bedroom at home because she still had a feeding tube attached. She was getting 1500 calories via it every night, but we – Leslie, her wonderful friend Leilani, the nutritionist, and i – agreed to start cutting back incrementally.

My primary task while I was out there was to get her from the bed, where she was not comfortable enough to sleep through the night, to a reclining chair. I became moderately competent at detaching and reattaching the “food” line when she needed to walk around.

I went to a couple of her doctors’ visits, notably to a heck and neck guy who removed the eight screws that had aligned her teeth to her jaw but were no longer necessary. Remember the worst pain you ever had at the dentist? Double that and add another 30%. That’s what the removal of the metal appeared to feel like, despite six shots of Novocaine, and I was in the room when it happened.

The good news is that, absent the metallic taste and feel in her mouth, she was more inclined to eat on her own. Then the feeding tube was removed on June 20. Leslie’s tribe of friends had wanted it gone much earlier, and I understood their feelings. I said, and she agreed, that it made her LOOK sick.

A couple of her friends asked me if her cognitive ability had been hampered. She took a test, and not only did she ace it, she explained the flaws in the testing instrument: “If Jill is taking off from her stockbroker job to raise the kids, what money are they living on?”

One of the words she’s had trouble remembering was “morphine,” which she was on during her first two weeks in hospital. It was probably just as well, as she had four broken ribs, but it really disoriented her. Except for that period, she was unfailing polite to everyone.

Given how she appeared in photos a month and a half ago, I note that she looks pretty darn good, i.e., more like herself. She has this little Harry Potter scar, and another hidden by her glasses.

The primary concern now is her left, dominant hand, which is still wrapped. Her friends need to exercise her fingers, lest they atrophy. She also likes lotion, especially between the fingers.

I’ve known sister Leslie longer than any living person and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to help her a little, even though I never did figure out all that long-term disability paperwork.