Injury Update

The trip to Colorado Springs started out with it’s ups and downs (perhaps omens). Waking up at 3:30 to catch a 6am flight, I checked my phone, and saw an email from United, telling me that my flight had been delayed 3 hours. Great, I could go back to bed… or not. Of course they add in that one extra line that the flight may still leave at the normal scheduled time, so we should be at the airport 90 minutes prior to the regular scheduled time anyways. I’m sure this never happens, but none the less, I rolled out of bed, and got myself to the airport. Now, because of this delay, I would miss my connection in Chicago, and I was very worried what this would mean for my arrival time, seeing as how few flights there are into a small airport like Colorado Springs. The United staff at check-in had their plates full, with the flight delay causing lots of trouble, but they were very helpful. My agent found a flight that would get me to my destination, 9 hours later than expected… but rather than stop there, he kept searching, made some more calls, and found another flight (that may or may not have already been overbooked), and got me into COS only a few hours later than expected! Plus, an upgraded seat in executive for one segment of the journey always goes a long way in keeping customers happy! So far, not all was lost.

I got into COS, had my bags, and bike waiting for me on the carousel, and quickly made my way over to the US Olympic Commitee staff who were there to drive me to my accomodations at the US Olympic Training Center. This amazing facility not only has dorms for athletes, but a cafeteria (with dangers like a McDonalds soft-serve ice cream dispenser for athletes to help themselves!), sports facilities, weight rooms, and any athlete services you could ever need like massage, chiro, etc.

I checked into my room, and quickly threw my bike together to try to get in a good ride in between storms. Of course, being in Colorado, even a short ride becomes a scenic adventure. In only a short time, I stumbled upon the Garden of the Gods. An amazing park with the most unbelievable natural red rock formations, protruding out of the ground. I stood in awe for a few minutes, before I realized I better head back, to avoid the dark grey clouds that were coming my way.

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I was really looking forward to the racing in Colorado. My form had started to come around in the two weeks leading into this race, with higher power numbers, and speeds than I had previously seen. Unfortunately, I didn’t get much of a chance to test that form…

Qualifying and the first round of sprints in the morning went off without a hitch. The evening session began with the quarter finals, and I was up against Baranoski. I have a faint recollection of the race, with me making a move with 3/4 lap to go. I remember racing to the finish with Matt trying to come around on the home straight. I remember getting ready to throw my bike at the line. And then a big blank.

I don’t know what happened. All I know is I hit the deck, hard. Pictures later on showed me sliding, unconscious, across the concrete track. I woke up, about 25 seconds later looking up into a circle of paramedics. I’d later find out that I was ‘combative’ (a term the paramedics used) before I truly regained consciousness (aka, I wasn’t the happiest camper letting the paramedics move me around). As they rolled me to the ambulance, I took an inventory of how I was feeling. I was sore everywhere, and certainly had a decent amount of road rash, but one thing I could tell for sure was that my right collarbone was fractured. Arriving into the ER, I was immediately subjected to a plethora of x-rays and CTs. I heard whispers from the technicians, suggesting that things might be worse than I suspected, but they refused to tell me one way or another until a doctor saw me.

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Finally, I was given the news. Aside from all the road rash down the right side of my body, and on the left side of my face, I was told in addition to my collarbone being fractured, I had a broken scapula, and bruised lungs. After receiving 6 stitches to my left cheek, I was admitted and told that an orthopaedic surgeon would talk to me the next day. Thankfully, Travis had taken the ride to the hospital with me in the ambulance, and had kept my worrying mother up to date on the progress at the hospital.

The following day I waited a painstakingly long time for the surgeon to review my case and discuss next steps. Because surgery was an immediate option, I was not allowed any food, and could only suck on a few ice cubes for fluid. Finally, the surgeon informed me that he would definitely recommend surgery to repair the clavicle, but that the scapula would be a much more difficult (and perhaps unnecessary surgery). However, he thought that it would be best for me to get home before undertaking surgery, for recovery and check-up purposes. The hospital was not ready to release me yet though, as I had started to develop a minor fever, and my lung bruising was still an issue.

The following morning, I was told I was in a good enough state to fly, and so arrangements were made for me to fly out of Denver that afternoon. There were still other issues to deal with however, like how the heck I was going to pack two bikes, with a single arm. Lucky for me, Joakim, and Audrey, two teammates from Quebec, had also flown in for the race, and so with their help, (or rather I should say, with my minor assistance, and them doing all of the labour) we were able to get the bikes packed, and I was ready to go.

Once home, the adventure had not yet concluded. Now, I had to find a surgeon who could operate, as soon as possible, to fix my clavicle. Most wouldn’t even see me for a consult for weeks, but luckily due to numerous sources searching, I was able to find a doctor quickly, who scheduled the operation for later that week.

Due to the quick nature of events, I went to pre-op, without having had a chance to really discuss with the doctor what he was planning on doing. The pre-op nurse was nice enough to page the doctor, who called and went through his plans, and then added in a “Oh, by the way, another doctor, Dr. Nauth, will be doing the surgery”, as he said bye. Needless to say, it was quite a shock, and in hindsight it is a very good thing I had that discussion. If I had gone into surgery the following day, and without knowing, a completely different doctor than I was expecting showed up, I’m not sure what I would have done.

Surgery the following day, only had one memorable experience. In previous surgeries, I had always remembered being on a bed, being rolled in the OR, looking up at the ceiling. This time however, I was given instructions to walk into the OR. Needless to say, it was an interesting experience, looking around at the tools that were going to be used, the doctors scrubbing in, the nurses bustling around getting everything ready, and then hopping up on the operating table, lying down, and passing out into an unconscious bliss.

Here I am now, almost a week post-op. The first couple nights were very tough, with pain levels way above what they were like following the original accident. Coming out of surgery they must have forgot to tell me that they had used a local block on my shoulder, which would fade drastically by that evening. Sleep has been touch and go, but things are slowly getting better. I am able to get through a somewhat regular day (if regular means relaxing on the mattress we brought into the living room, and watching Netflix most of the day). As time goes on I am moving more, and the pain is dissipating. The road rash is healing nicely, but will undoubtedly take a while before it completely disappears.

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One lesson I am re-learning is how quickly atrophy occurs. In less than two weeks since the crash, I have lost 10 pounds. I am already getting antsy to resume some kind of exercise and training soon. While the next few months will likely not involve much racing, I am looking forward to the chance to really get back to the basics, and rebuild leading into what are undoubtedly going to be some busy years coming up!

As for short term goals, right now I just hope to recover enough to be able to hold my future nephew any day now!!

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1 Comment

  1. Hey Joe, knowing your Mom, I am sure her special care will have you up and riding in know time. Good luck for a speedy recovery!


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