All of us encounter various types of adversity in our lives. Hopefully,
we become more strengthened by them than weakened.
I have been trying to approach recovery from my bike crash five
days ago with positive thoughts and healthy practices in order
to heal as quickly as possible. I'm more of a fighter than a
victim. I don't know how much a positive mental attitude has to
do with physical healing -- how can you quantify something like
that? -- but there's plenty of anecdotal (even empirical)
evidence to show how important the mind-body connection is. I
believe it's helping, so it probably is. I'm more certain
that my level of physical conditioning before the accident has
helped me recover faster.
I'm not totally healed yet by a long shot but I'm pleased with
the results so far, especially for someone of my age.
I haven't had any major symptoms from the concussion. I do still
have the same amount of amnesia from the wreck and I've come to
peace with not knowing the cause of it. I'm grateful for no bad
memories of pain from the hard landing and the half hour after
it. My ribs and some of the abrasions are taking a little longer
to heal but I see major improvements, which is encouraging. I've
got more bruises showing up every day but they don't hurt.
I'll get through this. Hopefully, I'll be all that much stronger
for it. No additional bravado, however. I think I'll be very
careful not to konk my noggin on anything again.
PAIN IS INEVITABLE; SUFFERING IS OPTIONAL.
This is a quote I've heard about as long as I've been running
(30 years), especially ultra running (more than half
that). I always thought it was from a Nike ad or something, but
on one website it's attributed to M. Kathleen Casey, so if it's
hers originally, I'll give her credit.
Fortunately, I have had less pain after the bike crash than I
expected. I sure don't have any endorphins dulling the pain now
(since I haven't done any aerobic exercise in five days), so I
have to give credit to the Ibuprofen I'm taking, the rate of
healing that has occurred so far, and perhaps my ultra runner's
stoicism. I'm used to pain. I don't like it any more than
anyone else, but I have a pretty high tolerance for it.
My aches and pains have shifted somewhat over the course of the
I can assure you that the most painful thing I've done is to
accidentally bump the major abrasions on my left arm or
leg on something like a door or edge of a counter. Balance
issues are sometimes a problem after a
concussion but my clumsiness is nothing new. I've always been a bit of a "bull in a china shop,"
as much because of trying to move from one place to another too
hurriedly as an issue with balance. It just hurts more now if I
hit one of the deeper wounds, even the ones that have scabbed
I already miss views like this one from the
Ice Lake Trail near Silverton 7-24-09)
On the third or fourth day I started getting a dull headache, possibly from the concussion but just as likely from using
the computer so much this week with my old glasses. The main
reason I got the new glasses, which were destroyed in the crash,
was because of trouble with reading, close-up work, and using
the computer. The old glasses are only good for distance vision. I'm not used to having headaches so when I get
even a minor one I'm real aware of it.
One day I also had that 15-minute sensation of zigzagging
lights that affects my vision but I had that a couple of other
times this summer, not just since the crash. Some say it's a
precursor to migraines. It usually affects me when I'm under
some sort of unusual stress (I got the light pattern frequently
the last few years I worked, but no headaches). Various vision
disturbances may occur after a concussion.
I haven't had any other of the other possible post-concussion
symptoms I listed in an earlier entry, thank goodness. The side
of my head above my left ear that hurt when I touched it? It
still hurts about the same, but only if I touch it. (So don't
touch it, silly!)
Sometimes my rib cage hurts from the fracture(s) on my left
side. Deep breaths to prevent pneumonia don't hurt any more, but
my first -- and only! -- sneeze was epic. Oh, my. I'll
stifle any more of those! Coughing and laughing aren't painful.
Lying on my back in bed IS painful. It feels like someone's
sitting on my chest. Sitting up from the prone position and
getting out of bed at night once or twice to go to the bathroom
is almost unbearable, so I've been sleeping half sitting up on
the couch since the second night post-wreck. I can get into more
comfortable positions there than I can in bed, and it's not
difficult to stand up from a sitting position on the couch. I'll
sleep there until there's no more elephant on my chest.
Mostly because of the rib fractures, I haven't done any exercise
outdoors yet. I don't think the impact of even walking would be
good for it or my sore head. I've been staying inside the camper
most of the time to rest, stay out of dusty conditions, avoid
infection from other people, and avoid strange looks at my face.
My hair and glasses hide most of the remaining facial abrasions,
though, and long sleeves and pants cover the abrasions and
bruises when I go out.
I am so relieved that my face is not only healing better than I
ever expected (sans bad scars, I think), but it's also healing
faster than most of my other wounds. I'm so happy about that!!
Here is one of the Pathetic Sue photos that Jim took
when I first got to the ER (if you think that's bad, the
close-up frontal views of my face are more
disturbing and I haven't shown them in the journal) . . .
Two or three hours after the crash
. . .
and one from five days later,
just to show you the astonishing progress:
Five days later -- stitches are out
and my face looks a lot better
I'll try to show a true "after" shot of this side of my face
when it's fully healed. There was no damage on the other side.
Yesterday we drove back down to the hospital in Durango for a
follow-up visit with an ER nurse to remove the ten stitches in
my forehead gash (the one in my eyelid will dissolve in its own
good time). I didn't get her name, but the nurse was great about
answering our questions, checking out my other wounds, and
giving suggestions that seemed more sensible than the ones we
heard in the ER.
Maybe we heard the ER folks incorrectly, but I was sure they
said to continue to use triple antibiotic cream on my abrasions
and keep them covered with bandages until I came back to get the
stitches removed in five days. We didn't get any written wound
I'm glad we went back in four
days, because Jim was right: after a couple of days,
the abrasions should have been left open as much as possible to dry out
and heal sooner. The nurse yesterday verified Jim's instinct.
The lacerations and abrasions on my face were never covered,
even when sleeping, and they have healed the fastest. Some of
the others are still bleeding and oozing, especially when I take
the bandages off in the morning or after our trip to Durango
yesterday. The main reason I bandage them is because they
are still oozing, but bandaging them seems to be
The nurse we saw yesterday said that it's important to wash the
wounds twice a day with soap and warm water, then either cover
them with a thin breathable membrane like Tegaderm or leave them
open. I did clean the wounds at least twice a day all week and
I've had no trouble with infection. The first two days I bathed
with a cloth in the bathroom sink and washed my hair under the
tall faucet in the kitchen sink, then apprehensively stepped
into the shower on the third day and . . . it didn't
hurt! I made sure the stitches and open wounds were well-covered
with the Vaseline-like antibiotic ointment first.
Left forearm abrasion with Tegaderm
I've tried using the pieces of Tegaderm that the nurse gave me
but I don't like them. The concept is good; I read some great
reports about how the clear membrane, which can be left on 4-7
days, keeps water and dirt out, helps speed healing, and reduces
scarring. One of the most useful sets of directions for
application of the material, and drainage of fluids, was on a
bicycling website! What I found was that the blood and other
fluids accumulated faster than I could drain them properly, and
the tape was a mess even when I made little "tents" for
continuous drainage. I ended up using all the pieces but wasn't
pleased with the results. It's probably more operator failure
than failure of the Tegaderm.
On the nurse's recommendation, we purchased Mederma ointment at
WalMart before leaving town. We had already stocked up on more
bandages, pads, and tape and I noticed various products that
promised a reduction in scarring. When I asked her about the
products, she said many people have been pleased with Mederma.
I've been using it on the abrasions that are no longer open,
including my face, and the healing skin around the outsides of
the ones that still occasionally "weep." It's not for use on
She also reminded me of the importance of using sunscreen on the
new skin that forms because it will sunburn so easily. The
trauma staff emphasized that on Monday, too. The rest of my
face, arms, and legs are pretty deeply tanned, so I may look
like a patchwork quilt for a while!
Although Dr. Mapes was on duty while we were at the ER
yesterday, we felt confident enough in the answers we got from
the nurse about concussions that we didn't ask to speak to the
doctor. The nurse advised us what signs to look for that are
beyond "normal" and reminded us of the exponential danger of
We already knew about that danger from the internet. That fact
alone will probably be more likely to cause me modify my
future athletic endeavors than even knee replacements will.
SEEKING MEDICAL CARE WHEN TRAVELING
The challenges of finding good medical care on the road are
increased even more when folks like us don't return to our home
base very often. People who RV full-time and have NO home base
can have even more problems when they need either routine or
Jim and I have been pretty lucky with the excellent care we've
received in the five years we've been traipsing around the
country for months at a time. It kind of began during the AT
Adventure Run. Although I was able to schedule an appointment in
Roanoke with my orthopedist one time while we were in the area,
I received prompt treatment by doctors, chiropractors, and
massage therapists in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New York,
and Vermont that summer.
The same thing on our trips since then -- e.g., I had x-rays
done in Leadville, CO after straining one of my knees two years
ago, then followed up with an MRI and orthopedic visit at home.
I've found good massage therapists all over the country, and
both my old and my new insurance companies have covered my
out-of-network emergency services as in-network. (For
non-emergency care, however,m I had to first find in-network
providers for that reduced rate.)
The front of Mercy Regional Medical Center
in Durango (8-7-09)
This time I received good quality care at the hospital in
Durango but a challenge was the long distance (about 65 miles)
we had to go for 1) the initial ER visit, 2) the follow-up, and
3) a drugstore. There are no medical facilities, doctor's
offices, or pharmacies in Silverton. That's the risk we take any
time we go off to a fairly remote location to camp.
Now with any kind of annual or semi-annual care that really
needs to be more consistent (such as dental cleanings, eye
exams, mammograms/GYN visits, chiropractic treatment,
dermatology check-ups for skin cancer, and yearly visits to the
general physician) we much prefer to see the same doctors each
time. That means scheduling as many of those visits as we can
during the weeks we return to Roanoke each year. Strangely
enough, the dental cleanings are the toughest to schedule
because of insurance rules and our own schizophrenic race and
ODDS 'N ENDS
In order to make the long drive to Durango more cost-effective
yesterday, we ran lots of errands. The most important after
getting my stitches out was getting Jim's run-over cell phone
replaced at one of the Verizon stores. He'd already talked to
them on my phone. He knew the cost, terms, and that this store
had what he waned in stock.
So that errand should have been handled quite quickly, right?
Not. Have you ever been to a Verizon store? We are pleased with
their coverage and most of their customer service, but going
into the store has generally been a pain for us over the years
because of the length of time it takes. Jim had to wait well
over an hour to get his stored phone numbers transferred to his
new phone because the guy in front of him had so many photos on
his old camera that he wanted transferred to a new one. It took
less than a minute to do Jim's numbers but he had to wait behind
Just get a camera, for Pete's sake!
The store has a display of several destroyed cell phones.
Another woman came in with a run-over phone while Jim was
waiting. I think that made him feel better about his. Hers was
in two pieces, hanging together by a wire. She was able to talk
to her husband on it (Jim was amused by that) but got a new one
while she was there. Jim's was totally inoperable. He's very
happy that his numbers could all be transferred. He had a copy
of the numbers on the phone that he downloaded onto his computer
but the file hadn't been updated in about a year.
It took all day yesterday to get everything done in Durango that
we needed to do so Jim didn't get to run. Today he and Cody went
back to my favorite trail in this area, the part of CT Seg. 25
that goes from Molas Pass to Rolling Pass. The weather was
perfect, with no oncoming storms, but Jim decided to turn around
after six miles (it's over eleven miles to Rolling Pass).
Photo of the two small lakes below the
Colorado Trail in Seg. 25 (7-4-06)
There are two pretty lakes down below the trail that we always
admire when we run that section. Today Jim decided to take Cody
down there to swim. That turned into a bit of an adventure for
the two of them! Not only was it farther to get back to the
trail than Jim thought it would be (and all UP), the
cross-country route he thought would be easier and shorter
wasn't either easier or shorter. The landscape can fool
you. Cody had more fun orienteering
through the willows and sage and wildflowers than Jim did! He
ended up lower than Molas Pass and still had to climb to get
back to the truck. But he had a good last workout in the San
Juan Mountains. I'm sorry I couldn't go with them.
And many congratulations to my brother Bill for walking his
first official 5K race today!! Not only that, he was first of
four men in the M60+ age group, in the top 25% overall, AND
walked a speedy 14:16 per mile pace. I have to add some
running to walk that fast! Good job, Bill!!!
I spent most of the day today working on web entries, catching
up on correspondence, and writing thank you notes to some of the
people who took care of me when I was literally "down" on Monday
afternoon -- the Swansons, the ambulance crew, and the trauma
team at the hospital..
I kept the wreck a secret from all of my family and most of our
friends until I got the first four entries written. I wanted to
do some healing first so I could assure them I'm OK, and the
journal was the most efficient way to explain the crash and
answer questions. After you've read this series of entries I'd
be glad to answer any further questions. I appreciate the
responses and concern I've gotten thus far. Thank you!
RACE & TRAVEL PLANS
My crash doesn't affect the rest of our plans for the summer.
Our next stop is Leadville, Colorado to work the 100-mile mountain
bike race on August 15 and the 100-mile foot race on August 22.
Jim is not running the race this time. Instead, we'll be working
with the radio/communications team during both races and helping
pre-race with packet-stuffing and rider/runner check-in. Lots of
runners come out to altitude train for two weeks so it will be
fun to see who's hanging out in town and running the course. I
wonder what changes we'll see in town and in the races since we
haven't been there in two years?
After that, we're heading farther west so Jim can run the Grand
Teton 50-miler in Wyoming and the Bear 100 in Utah and Idaho (it
spans the state line). It's been six years since we've been
to the Bear. The course has changed to a point-to-point format
and covers some new territory that Jim has never seen before,
so it will probably seem like a new race to him.
Colorful leaves along The Bear course in 2003
Even before the bike crash I had no concrete plans for any other
races this year. I'd do Sunmart and ATY in December if they were
being held, but neither one is. There are some other fixed-time
races I'm considering in the same time frame. I don't know how
long it will take me to fully recover from this accident. I'm
glad I don't have any races scheduled because I might start
training too hard, too soon.
I won't be down for long, though. I was in great shape altitude-
and hill-wise before the accident. That should facilitate
recovery and maybe I won't lose too much conditioning. My main
job is healing.
We're off to Leadville tomorrow. It's about a five-hour drive
plus stops we'll make along the way in Montrose and Buena Vista
to stock up on things that will be either unavailable or more
expensive in Leadville. As much as we love the Silverton area, I
think we've about OD'd on it after a total of 36 nights here
(some before the Hardrock race, some after the Tahoe Rim Trail
race in Nevada). This past week was a downer, too. A change of
venue will do us both some good.
Since I'm back in the present time with the journal now, I think
I'll continue updating it in real time and go back to fill in
the gap between June 8 and August 3 as time allows. I'll include
the upload date in red after those so you can tell which are
new. We had a lot
of fun in WY, CO, and NV during that time and I do want to
include those stories and photos.
Next entry: news from Leadville and preparing to work the
LT100 mountain bike race (a whopping 1,500 cyclists, including
Sue AKA "Crash"
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2009 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil