“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 house...how 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.”