Sunday, August 21, 2011

Glad you called. I was just about to pack up the rest of the house…

 “Oh, yeah.  See that?  That’s not supposed to be sticking up that way (pointing to the jagged edge of clavicle that was darn near poking its way out of the skin).  And this (mashing on the scapula), this feels real crunchy.  That’s definitely broke, too.  We’ll have to get an MRI, just as soon as we get that leg closed up.” 

These are not words that you want to hear being strung into sentences and coming out of the mouth of the attending ER doctor who is examining your busted up mate.  But there they were, being said while the nurses took vitals and started an IV. 

Eric’s jaw was set in such a way that indicated he was in an extreme amount of pain (it would take weeks of healing and lots of pain meds for that jaw to come unclenched), but he managed to crack a few jokes, ask about his bike (without batting an eyelash, I lied and told him that his bike was fine) and explain that no, he had not been riding a motorcycle, he had been riding a bicycle (we had to explain this over and over again to the various nurses and orderlies who bustled in an out).  Evidently these types of injuries are normally reserved for folks who lay down their choppers or hogs.

What occurred then was a flurry of hospital staff shift changes, a parking lot passing-off of Eric’s injured bike to Kris Catoe (who left the well-oiled morning routine that he and Laura have of getting three precocious children ready for daycare …thank the Lord for the Catoes), x-rays showing multiple broken bones (clavicle, rib and scapula…they missed the cracked humerus, which would be discovered the next day at the orthopedist’s office), visits from well-wishers, whispers of being sent to Huntsville to see a specialist (should the scapula be as badly broken as they thought it might be) and orders for an MRI…but only after the gaping and seeping wound of Eric’s shin was stitched up.

How do you mend a piece of fabric that has torn into a V-shape?  You put an anchor stitch in the middle to hold the two pieces back together, and work from each outside edge into the middle, towards the anchor stitch.  That is basically what the doctor did to Eric’s wound, starting with an anchor stitch in the middle, then working his way from the outside edges in.  He used a couple of different stitches in his suturing, one which I recognized as a stitch that I have used in the past to close up the misshapen stuffed animals I’ve been known to make…the blanket stitch.  The other stitch was one that I couldn’t recall, even after looking up on the Internet stitches used to close wounds. Surprisingly, during this Internet search of stitches, I did discover one called the Smead-Jones/Far and Near, which sounded to me more like a long lost Tolkien novel than a type of suture. 

Once stitched, Eric was bundled off to get an MRI…and then…waiting…and waiting for the doctor to come and discuss the results of the MRI. 

With the uncertainty of the situation, and the possibility of Eric being transported to Huntsville (pending MRI results), I asked the nurse if she thought I would have time to run home to put some real clothes on and pack a bag for Eric.  She said that yes, I would have plenty of time before the doctor came back.  I gave the nurse my cell number (just in case), grabbed Eric’s bag of belongings, said an anxious goodbye to my broken cyclist and headed home in lunch-hour traffic on Meighan Boulevard.  While I drove, I planned every move that I would make in the I would make a sweeping circle while grabbing everything we could possibly need in the next couple of days.  Cell phone chargers, underwear, toothbrushes, deodorant, granola, insurance card, wallet…

I hit the front door running, and within five minutes had exactly half of the house packed up and ready to go.  About that time, my cell phone rang.  It wasn’t a number I recognized and my experience of answering a call from an unknown number earlier just that morning made me brace myself as I answered.  It was the ER nurse. 

ER Nurse:  The doctor just came in.  They’re getting ready to release him.
Me:  Really?  No transfer to Huntsville?
ER Nurse:  No.  He’ll have to make an appointment to see an orthopedist, but he’s about to be released from here.  You’ll want to bring him some clothes to wear.
Me:  I will.  No problem.  I’m glad you called.  I was just about to pack up the rest of the house.
ER Nurse:  Yes, that’s what I was afraid you’d be doing. I was trying to catch you before you did.
Me:  Well, I appreciate that.  I’ll be back up there in about twenty minutes…

Eric was dismissed with a signing of papers, a putting on of his clothes (I paid very close attention to how to get a shirt on him), and a fresh dose of pain killers (these I had to ask specifically for…I told them that he was already in pain, and that they needed to buy me some time so that I could get him home and then go out for his prescriptions…thankfully they agreed before I had to pitch a full-blown conniption fit).  Yet again, he was almost impossible to get into the car.  And yet again, he was almost impossible to get back out of the car once we arrived home.  And little did we know that it would be almost three weeks before he would be able to sit comfortably, or even get a decent night’s sleep.  Glad we didn’t know all that up front.

So, with lots of help from friends bringing home cooked meals, groceries, baked goods, Thai food…friends picking Eric up and dropping him off…lots of prayers and lots of well wishes, we’ve made it through the hardest part.  Recovery has been comical while it has been hard.  We laugh when we can, and just do our best to get through one day at a time.  But short of the injuries themselves, I think the part that has hurt Eric the most is the loss of a cyclocross season, a cyclocross season that he was putting a lot of training time into.  Thankfully, the season lasts into the winter months of 2012, plenty of time for Eric to be back on the bike and ready to hit the mud.  We’ll just keep moving towards that goal.  And we’ll try to remember the words of Hemingway, “The world breaks us all. Afterward, some are stronger at the broken places.”

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Chewiest Gluten-free Granola Bars

Back in 2008, a glutened-up version of this recipe acted as an urban family matchmaker of sorts for me.  At the time, I was asked by my friend Cyndi to send out a recipe as part of an email recipe-exchange.  I chose to send out my Chewiest Granola Bars recipe because it had served me so well over the years, and I thought that everyone would love it.  I believe that only two people on that list ever acknowledged the recipe, the original person who started the recipe-exchange (the pun-tastic Gadsden Times editor and writer, Cyndi Nelson), and Laura Catoe.  I knew who Laura was (we had mutual friends, and I was familiar with her graphic design work, as well as her writing, for the Gadsden Times); didn't know her personally.  But, once the recipe ended up in her inbox, planets began to align in the perfect order for us to meet and become friends.  There have been many shared recipes and many shared meals that have transpired since our first meeting (and Laura even dedicated a post to them once, which she updated when I discovered my gluten-free status), so I feel like I owe a debt of gratitude to the magic of the granola bars...

Here is the recipe, as I make them now, with a bit more gluten-free detail.  They are super easy to make:

Chewiest Granola Bars
(I recommend organic ingredients, when possible)

1c Brown Sugar
½ c Light corn syrup  or honey (I usually use honey)
½ c Butter, room temp.
2/3 c Peanut butter
2 ts Vanilla extract
½ c Sunflower seeds
1 1/2 c Bob's Red Mill Oats (or store brand oats, if you are not gluten-intolerant)
1 1/2 c Puffed Rice Cereal (I use .59 cent Walmart brand)
½ c Coconut, grated
1/3 c Ground Flax Seed (or Wheat germ, if you are not gluten-intolerant)
½ c Dried Fruit (raisins, cherries, etc.)
1c Nestle Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips (they are gluten-free)
1c Toasted Nuts (I use half pecans, half walnuts)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Coat inside of 9X12 glass baking dish with veg. oil.  In large bowl, combine br. sugar, corn syrup, butter, peanut butter, and vanilla-stir well to the consistency of a paste.  Stir in remaining ingredients and work the mixture so that several large clumps adhere together.  Using fingers, press the mixture into baking dish (be sure to mash pretty hard, or you will end up with bars that fall apart, which is not so bad, either, because they are still edible).  Bake at 350 for 18-20 min.  until golden brown.  Allow to cool completely before cutting into bars.  I wrap each individually, and haven't missed store bought granola since I first discovered and tweaked this recipe.  They freeze well, too.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Because I’m About to Break the Law

I got a phone call on the morning of July 28th at 5:52AM from a phone number I didn’t recognize.

“Hey, it’s me, Eric Wright.”
“Hey, babe, what’s up?”
“I’ve crashed the bike and I need you to come pick me up.  I’m up in Country Club.”
“Is this your phone?”  I asked, knowing that he had accidentally left his phone at the office the night before, but I never think properly before coffee.
“No, I flagged someone down and they let me use their phone.”  Nothing in his voice sounded unusual.

Eric then told me approximately where he was in Country Club, and I told him I’d be right there.  I left the house in my bedtime clothes and flip flops, left lights on in the kitchen and living room, because I figured I’d be back quick.   At least I had the forethought to take Eric’s car with the bike rack on it.  I figured the bike was banged up, and that was the reason why he couldn’t ride it back to the house.

When I came up the first major hill in Country Club (a hill that is also a tight curve), I saw Eric sitting on the shoulder of the road, right in the bend of the curve.  His bike was about twenty or thirty feet from him, lying among the pine trees and poison ivy of someone’s back yard.  He smiled weakly at me as I pulled into the nearest driveway, which was across the street, behind him.  He was holding his right leg at the shin, bloody handkerchief covering a cut that was bleeding enough to have soaked his sock.  He remained sitting stiffly in place, no pivoting of the body or head, as I got out of the car and approached him.  I don’t remember who spoke first or which questions were asked in what order, but I seem to recall an exchange that went something like this:

Me:  “Where’re you hurt?”
Eric:  “My left side hurts.  I think I broke my collarbone.”
Me:  “Well, we need to get you to the emergency room.”
Eric:  “Yeah, that would be good.  I think I gashed my leg pretty bad…”
Me:  “Let me take a look.” (One glimpse revealed a cut that my kinfolk would’ve remarked upon with “Well, he done laid that leg open to the bone.”).   “Yep, that’s gonna need some stitches.”

At this point, Eric asked me to move the car closer because…well, he just couldn’t really move too well.  So I pulled the car into the road, turned on the hazard lights and prayed that no one would be coming down through there too fast…then I went about the task of getting Eric off the side of the road and into the car.  The road shoulder upon which he sat was pretty steep, with loose gravel and patches of poison ivy here and there.  I could’ve tried to help him up by his right arm, but that would’ve meant balancing myself with one foot up on the pavement and one foot down in the gravel.  I might slip and take Eric with me.  So, I did what I thought was best at that moment.  I faced Eric, planted my feet on either side of him, squatted in a most un-lady-like pliĆ©, hugged my arms around his waist and lifted him to a standing position with my legs.  Still holding as tight as I dared, I talked Eric through taking two steps backwards so that his rear was within sitting distance of the passenger seat.  Two cars arrived from opposite directions just as I began performing what may have been the most difficult procedure of the day:  folding my very-much-in-pain-and-very-much-in-shock-six-foot-one mate into a sedan that all of a sudden seemed about the size of a Volkswagon Beetle.  One driver called out to me that I could use her phone if I needed it.  I said thanks, but I had it under control…that I was taking him to the emergency room…if I could just get all of him in the car…

If it had not been such a distressing situation, it would’ve been comical. Eric seemed to be made of elbows and knees that didn’t want to bend, and limbs that I was corrugating to fit under the glove compartment.  Quickly (although at the time it seemed impossibly slow), I coached and coaxed and tucked limbs until a complete Eric sat uncomfortably inside the car.  How he remained composed and cooperative as we went through these motions, I’ll never know.  All I can say is that there are times when shock is a blessing.  This was one of those times.
Now, even though I was in unknown injury territory, I was running on adrenaline and instinct.  I knew that Eric was hurt, but I felt like he was going to be fine.  My attitude was very calm until something happened that almost made my wheels come off.   When I asked Eric if he wanted me to retrieve his bike, his response was something akin to “I don’t care.”  Fear gripped me.  The hair on the back of my neck may have even stood up. Eric’s bike meant the world to him.  If he didn’t care about the bike, then something must be terribly wrong with Eric.  I had to act, and I had to act quickly.  I sprinted through the poison ivy, grabbed the disabled bike (wheels would not turn), and secured it best as I could to the bike rack.  Performing a three-point turn at record speed (thankfully, Eric’s car executes this maneuver far smoother than my car does, otherwise he would’ve been in much greater pain than he was), I exited Country Club and made my way down Rainbow Drive.  Every bump elicited either a sharp withdrawing of breath or a hiss from Eric.  All I could do was apologize in advance for the bumps I knew were coming, or apologize for the ones I had just hit.  As we came up to the red light by Applebee’s, Eric mentioned that I still had the hazard lights on, and that I could probably turn them off now.  My response was to look for any potential vehicular hindrances and say, “Well, no, I’m gonna leave them on, because I’m about to break the law.”  We went on through the red light and got on the bypass that spits traffic out on the East side of town, the side of town where the hospital is located.

What with all of the multiple surgeries my sister, dad and mom have had at that hospital, I know every bump between here and there.  And there are a lot of bumps.  I couldn’t even look at Eric the entire stretch of Meighan Blvd. between Hood Ave. and the hospital cutoff.  It must’ve been a nightmare.  The only blessing about it was the fact that it was so early in the day, there was hardly any traffic to slow us down.  So, we arrived at the emergency room relatively quickly, even if one of us was worse for wear.  The only issue that I now had to face was how to get Eric out of the car that I had just ten minutes ago pleated him into.  Could he walk?  No.  I ran in for a wheelchair.  Again, how to get him out of the car?  By this point, Eric’s entire body seemed to be giving into the trauma, so great was his pain.  I knew I would not be able to wrangle him out of the car and into a wheelchair on my own, so I ran back in and asked the nurse to find an orderly to help me with “a cycling accident victim with possible broken bones” (I wanted to sound as if I knew what I was talking about, and that they better get someone to help me, stat.  Stat, I say!).   An orderly who was blessed with both a calming demeanor and the stature of a hay-bale-throwing farmhand came to save Eric from my final attempt at turning him into an origami version of himself.  I’ve never felt relief so sweet as that I felt when Eric was rolled into the ER…

It is here that I will suspend my storytelling.  Eric has begun his account of the accident on his website, so it seems appropriate to stop at the same spot where he did.  But, I do have one more thing to add before I go:  Eric’s Garmin was still tracking speed while I was driving to the hospital that day.  According to the stats, I never went over 55 miles per hour the entire time I was driving, including the time when I ran the red light.  So, I may have been breaking the law, but I was doing it in a cautious and reserved way.  

Update:  Part Deux of this story may be found here.