I wake around 4:30am, it’s pitch dark and the youngest is starting to stir down the hall. Normally I’d be cursing him for rising so early but this morning I could care less. This isn’t the first time I’ve been awake during the night; every time I turn in my sleep my road-rash gets a scraping sting off the sheets and wakes me up instantly. When I try to get back to sleep my efforts to find ‘that comfort spot’ are hampered by an inability to use my left arm. On one occasion in a half-sleep state I attempt to move up in the bed but there is a crack in the back of my shoulder which floods back all the agony of the roadside without the adrenaline to mask the pain. I’m not moving again which results in additional spasms in my lower back but it’s the better of two evils. I’m resigned to a long rest in the dark, sleep is a bonus if it comes.
As hard as it is to sleep, getting moving in the morning is just as difficult. I need help to dress myself, I’m unable to lift anything (kids included) or move anywhere quickly. It’s not all bad though, there’s a steady stream of cycling highlights on Eurosport. I assemble a mountain of cushions on the sofa each day and make myself comfortable. The painkillers have a sedative effect and I doze off and catch up on the sleep I lost the night before.
After a few days of day time tv, boxsets, books and pretty much scrolling through every inch of Facebook and Twitter I start to get restless. I’ve been avoiding Strava. I don’t want to know that others are out there enjoying their bikes. I like to think that the world of cycling has stopped in solidarity with my plight…. but it hasn’t. The weekend arrives, and the calendar reminders pop up on my phone. A reminder that the races I had planned to enter will go ahead despite my absence. I secretly hope nobody I know raced. If they raced I hope nobody placed and if they placed I hope nobody placed high enough for an upgrade. It’s not that I wouldn’t be happy for them, it’s that I’m gutted for what might have been. Am I destined to be left behind whilst everyone else moves on? Destined to a life forever in A4.
The inactivity is driving me mad, I must do something to get myself moving, get myself back to normal. I “Google” shoulder rehab and get started on a routine of 5 or 6 easy looking exercises. I’m feebly able for about half of them but convince myself it’s early days.
“Dr. Google” says the standard recovery time is 6 weeks. 6 weeks from 22nd July is 2nd September, add in 3 weeks to get a few sessions in on the bike and we’re up to 23rd September. The Armagh Road Race is on that day, one of the last races in the calendar. I could possibly make it, couldn’t I? I could still salvage something. I don’t need to win it, I just need to get one point.
My wife catches me counting weeks on my fingers and I’m forced to explain what I’m doing. She’s not so optimistic “You have no skin on your back, you can’t even lift your arm past your elbow and that new bump poking out behind your shoulder is not normal. I can’t believe you are considering going back for more”
Two weeks on from the crash I’m back in hospital for a check-up. This kind of thing is routine right? I’ve booked a physio appointment for the following day, so I can get started properly with my recovery once I get the go ahead from the orthopaedic consultant. On arrival I’m sent for an x-ray, standard practice I’m sure. Quick pic of the shoulder and I’m back waiting to be called in. I expect they’ll be impressed by my few daily exercises and be amazed at how well I’m progressing.
I’m called in and the conversation is delivered with medical bluntness:
“That lump behind your shoulder is your clavicle. It shouldn’t be there. We’ll bring you back in a week for surgery”.
“And what’s the standard recovery for this ‘surgery’? It’s just I’ve a race at the end of September”
“Return to sport 3 months, Full Recovery 6 months”
“Should I cancel my physio tomorrow then?”
“Considering we are going to cut open your shoulder and put in two titanium pins, I think physio would be pointless”
The surgery is done in one day, in at 7:30am – out at 7:30pm. When I get there, I’m brought through an endless number of disclaimers and questionnaires.
“Any allergies, High Blood Pressure, Heart Problems, Asthma, Dizziness, Medications?”
“No, no, no, no…”
“Any metal in your body?”
I’m informed to my delight I’m first on the list for theatre. (I’ll take that as a win!) Before I know it I’m in a waiting area making small talk with the anaesthetist. Once the call is given to go ahead, she approaches with a huge white needle.
“How the f*ck did I end up here”…..A few seconds later I’m back in the dark.