Monday 19 November 2018

After the accident

As I write this, it's a week after the accident. So here's what happened.

On Monday 8th October, I fell. I was on my bicycle, 12am, full daylight. I had my headlight on, for visibility. I approached a roundabout to go across it. I checked on my right, nothing coming, so I cycled on.

Halfway round the roundabout, a woman drove her car at me from my left.

In England, roundabouts are very common, and everyone knows the rules - you give way to traffic already on the roundabout. She didn't see me. There's word for this, because it's so common, smidsy, "Sorry mate I didn't see you".

And then she did see me, because she stopped, but she stopped right in front of my path. I braked as hard as I could. I have good brakes, I do my own maintenance. I stopped before I collided with her car. But when you brake that hard, you can lose control, and I lost control. I stopped, then the bike toppled to the right, and I crashed to the ground, to the hard, unforgiving tarmac. Wham.

I lay there for a moment, wondering if I'd broken anything, and what should I do? I watched that car drive off, and noted the registration number, in case I needed it.

Then there were people around me, offering help. One woman in particular, had first aid training, and she checked me for broken bones, and they helped me to the middle of the roundabout, out of the road.

Someone called an ambulance.

The ambulance arrived a few minutes later, and they took charge. The woman who had caused all this came back; she'd parked out of the way of the traffic (in England, if you're in an accident, it's illegal to just drive away). She was very apologetic. Smidsy.

I didn't feel very forgiving. The ambulance men helped me get into their vehicle, and checked me over. No, I didn't hit my head. Yes, I was wearing a helmet, and they checked that, no damage. No, my neck didn't hurt. No, I didn't remember my 

phone number. Yes I did remember my post code They poked and prodded my spine, and nothing seemed badly damaged. Not a big surprise; I hadn't been hit by a car, I'd fallen from a stationary bicycle.

They asked me if I wanted to go to a hospital, or home. I didn't feel too bad, just a bit shaken, and I thought a lift home (about a mile away) would be best. When we got there. I made them tea, they checked me some more, they wrote up their paperwork, and then they went on to their next case.

That evening, I had a long hot shower.

The next morning, it hurt. Quite a lot. If I sat up, or stood up, or sat down, or coughed, or breathed in deeply, some guy stuck a knife into my ribs on the right side. Even typing hurt, because of the arm movements. So I tried not to do any of those things, and self-medicated with paracetamol, a painkiller you can get from any pharmacy.

I went to bed that Tuesday evening. It hurt a lot to get into bed, and I knew that getting up again would be just as bad. But I also knew I'd probably have to get up in the night a couple of times, because I always do. And when I did, it hurt. A lot.

Wednesday, I was slightly better, but not much. The guy with the knife now had a sledgehammer instead, and he used it with enthusiasm. Stand up, sit down, reach out, reach down, cough, sneeze, breath deep ... all of these were punished with the sledgehammer. And again, at night, very painful to lie down, very painful to stand up, but when you've got to go, you've got to go. And you can't go too slowly, or you won't get there in time! Oh, and the action of pulling the lever to flush, even that hurt.

Thursday I decided I'd had enough. So I went to hospital, and told them my story. They were very efficient; they triaged me (I obviously wasn't an urgent case), but I still got seen very quickly by a doctor. She did the usual poking and prodding and stethoscoping, and decided that I needed an x-ray.

At the x-ray, I was in a queue, but there was only one person in front of me, a baby had hurt her foot, and they were doctoring that. So the baby went in to the x-ray, and there was a lot of crying and screaming, and then she was done. I persuaded them to shoot me standing, because the process of lying down is painful, with the added feature of looking forward to even more pain when I got up again. But they were very nice about it, and I was x-rayed standing. I was so brave about the whole thing, I didn't scream once, so they gave me a sticker!

So then I went back to the doctor so she could look at the x-ray. And there were two problems, a couple of broken ribs, and what looked like a puddle about half way up the chest on the left. She was worried about the puddle (which turned out to be nothing) and sent me off for a CT (computer tomography) scan. That's like a 3-D x-ray. So I hobbled off to the CT scan.

I forgot to mention, but you probably guessed - walking was painful, so I wasn't walking, I was shuffling along like a very elderly person.

At the CT scan, they saw me immediately. I had to lie down, no option. So I did, and it wasn't as bad as it might have been because they helped me a lot. They injected me with iodine because that's a heavy element and shows up well to the x-rays. The room was freezing cold, because the CT scanner needed that, and by the time they got my scan, I was shaking and shivering with the cold.

Then back to the doctor, and now we knew the extent of the damage. Ribs 7, 8 and 9 on the right side were broken.

And I already knew the treatment for broken ribs, because I've had one before. The treatment is ... nothing. You do nothing, and a couple of months goes by while the pain gradually diminishes. Which is why I hadn't gone to hospital on the day I had the fall.

Oh, and I forgot to mention the Bruise. The Bruise is huge, and black and red, and covers the right half of my arse and then down my thigh. I don't think the Bruise is actually a problem though, it's just a spectacular sight, and would qualify for a Guinness World Record.

But they decided to keep me in overnight, for observation. And they explained that I'd be getting medication. Most of the medication is painkillers, consisting of codeine and paracetamol. But there's more. Because of the pain doing a poo had become impossible, so by then I was somewhat constipated. So they gave me lactulose to help me with that (and, without going into details, that particular problem is no longer a problem). Because coughing was painful, I was accumulating phlegm, so they gave me carbocisteine for that. And Omeprazol for my breathing.

I hadn't known this - if you don't use your full lung capacity but only take shallow breaths, that puts you at risk to a lung infection. That's why I need to take the painkillers - so I can breathe fully.

They checked my blood pressure (fine) took my temperature (fine) and my blood oxygenation (low, probably because I hadn't been breathing well enough).

Overnight turned into a somewhat longer stay. The window next to my bed gave me a spectacular view of a rubbish dump. I shared a ward with three other people. The bed next to me was an 89 year old, he'd fallen, and hurt himself against some furniture. He sang at night, but it was OK, he wasn't loud. By the time I left, he was looking good, they had him out of bed and walking a bit, and if you can walk, that a very good sign.

Next to him there was a couple of brothers, and one of them had suddenly lost the use of his legs, the other one kept him company. But when I went to the toilet in the middle of the night, he was sleeping in a different position, and obviously had moved his legs without realising it. His brother was a pious Muslim, and we had a long chat about Islam (he was surprised that I knew so much). They self-discharged while the hospital was still trying to help them, and that's really stupid. What's he going to do, eat cumin seeds?

And the fourth guy in the ward had tried to kill himself with a bottle of vodka and 96 paracetamols. He told me how bad his life had gotten in the last few years, and I sat with him for quite long periods, just talking about this and that. This was his fourth attempt at suicide.

The nurses were great, and worked very hard. Before I left, I bought the biggest box of chocolates I could get, and left it to be shared by all the nurses and doctors and other staff.

So eventually, they decided that I was well enough to be discharged. But first - a final blood test.

To do a blood test, you have to take a sample of blood. They tried nine times, making nine little holes in me, and failed each time. Then they thought, maybe I'm dehydrated. So I drank three litres of water (that's about six pints) over the next hour, and they tried again. This time, they got the sample on the third attempt.

So they gave me a carrier bag full of pills and potions.

And this was all on the NHS, so the cost to me as zero, the service was excellent, and I love our NHS.

Looking at the other three guys in the ward made me realise how lucky I am with my physical and mental health. The woman who could have killed me has made me realise that I'm not going to cycle on roads any more (most of my cycling has been on cycleways where there are no cars).

So. Here I am with three broken ribs that will heal up over the next couple of months. It means I can't lift anything heavy (and at this point, "heavy" means a full kettle of water), but with the painkillers, breathing is a lot easier. Typing is sort of OK, but not in large amounts.

So now you know.

1 comment:

  1. Phew. Had worried that no blogs for over a month.