Wow… where do I start? February 28th was 2 1/2 months ago and I'm just now able to write about my accident. Here goes:
Kev and I were glad to wake to a clear blue sky. We were still considering our choices…would we take the bitumen road straight to Adelaide or head out on the dirt and explore the Flinders Range and take the long route to Adelaide? We packed, saddled up, shot a few videos around town and then headed out towards the Oonandatta Track. All looked good…the William Creek Road was open, the dirt was nicely packed, the day was young and new, and we were up for the adventure. Kev and I spent some time videoing, shooting pictures and enjoying the freshness of the morning scape around us. The Dog Fence was just in front of us, so Kev decided to set up "hollywood style" and shoot a couple of shots of us crossing the grated fence line. Only moments after this everything changed!
I was comfortably at ease with the dirt conditions. The road presented the odd corrugation, and "loose stuff", but really nothing too dramatic or challenging…all in all a pretty comfortable track! I was riding along, comfortable in my stance…hips forward, weight evenly distributed, standing securely on my pegs knees slightly bent, arms relaxed, focused on the road ahead, relaxed and enjoying my tunes…Really just another awesomely blissful day of riding. Then without sign or warning my handlebars pitched, slapped my tank, and seized my upper body into a heightened frenzy. I had hit an undetectable patch of dirt that was a fine loose dust… Accelerate, slight pressure on the rear brakes…pull to the right, and recover. "Dammn I made it!", was my initial thought, although wiped from my mind as quickly as it came. Now accelerating, out of the first encounter met another patch of deadly bull dust. It was not pretty! I fought hard as the fine, loose, patch grabbed my bike and threw me to the ground. As I was going down, I thought, "How could this be happening?" I had ridden the first patch out! I was not going to give up, not going to jump off…but I was wrong. Milliseconds later I was tossed off my bike like a rag doll. My eyes were face to face with the red dirt…"What just happened?" I can't believe it! Shaken my eyes refocus, I taste blood…I have bitten my bottom lip and feel the immediate swelling.
I hear Kev call out to me "Are you all right, Cat?" I reply, "I think so!…Just give me a minute to catch my breath" "Alright… I'm going to take a picture" Kev responded. I lay there for a minute or so, definitely shaken…I just wanted to zone in on what had happened. I tried to push myself up from the ground, but couldn't. I felt the rush of blood, an unusual prickly numbness mixed with moderate pain entering both wrists. I rolled over onto my back only to see Kevin with the camera and video capturing the moment. "I think that I have done something to my arms, I can't seem to push up off the ground", I said nervously! "Just lay there and take it easy, does your head hurt?" Kev asked with concern. "No, not really", I replied. As I lay there in the red sandy dirt looking up to into the bight blue sky, my mind was becoming more concerned with what had happened, what I had done and what to do…I was scared. Sit up and figure it out I told myself. I crunched my back off the dirt, at least that did not hurt I thought, to a seated position and took a few deep breaths once again. I wanted to get off the road so I instinctively put my arms down to help myself stand…yowch….that didn't work! I bent my knees under my body and was able to stand without the use of my hands. I'm up, and I am not disorientated or dizzy, that is a great thing!
Kev had pulled his bike off the road and was on his way over to me with the first aid kit. Damn, this was not meant to happen! I pulled my glove off my right hand and took a look at my wrist, it is a little swollen. Maybe I just sprained it? No grazes or open wounds, just a small nick on my knuckle…lucky! Kev carefully wrapped a fresh Ace Bandage around my wrist to give it a little support. "Do you think that you will be able to ride?", Kev asked. "I don't know…..hmmm, I don't think so, I can't even lift my hand", I squirmed. "Alright, lets just chill for a bit and see if you feel a little better", Kev suggests…Deal! So while we are chill'n Kev decides to get the video camera out, be creative or annoying, capture this event, and keep my spirits up and mind off the situation. We are in the middle of nowhere, although I did take note of the last marker, so I do have an idea approximately where in the middle of nowhere we are. "Kev I'm not feeling so good, maybe we should see if we can get a cell signal to ask for help?", I suggest. While on the track this morning we had only seen one car, and I am not confident that we would see many more. Kev checks his phone, and he happens to have an on again off again baby bar. Kev makes an emergency call and is immediately cut off. After playing emergency phone tag, the alert had been placed and help was on its way. We do carry a satellite tracker, called SPOT, so if we had no service at all we could have hit a button that would have placed an emergency tracker.
The pain was definitely kicking in now, my wrist was swelling up, throbbing, and my mind was starting to play worrisome anxious games. Kev kept chatting with me and cracking jokes, trying to keep my mind off of things. By this time I was not in a very humorous mood! It was not long until the 4WD ambulance had reached our location, not far from the dingo fence and about 36 kilometers out from Coober Pedy. The ambulance medic approaches me and asks me about my condition. "Do you have any pain, numbness or tingling in your neck, head, back or legs?" he asks. "No I don't think so. My wrists feel pretty weird though ", I reply. After getting me on a stretcher, the ambulance drivers asked me if they could cut my jacket off…"OH NO, not my riding jacket ", I blurted. So I sat up and tried to take my left glove of my hand, wow, I think that I may have done something to my thumb. I then managed to uncomfortably squirm and maneuver my arm out of my jacket, my face grew hot and I starting breaking into a cold sweat. Ok, we have saved the jacket. "Where is your helmet, I would like to see it?", the medic asks. "Over by my bike", I reply. "Nice helmet, I actually have the same and there doesn't seem to be any damage", he says.
Leaning over me on the stretcher the girl medic asks me if I have used "the green pen" before? "No", I reply. "What is your pain level from 1 - 10, 10 being the worst pain you have ever experienced!", the gal medic asks. "It is about a 6, moving to 7", I reply. "Ok darling, put this in your mouth, and take 3 long deep breaths in for me.", she kindly requests. "Are you able to hold it?", she kindly requests. "Not really", I respond. My left thumb has swollen up and has become pretty frozen and uncomfortable. So she wedges the pen between my thumb and pointer, and the swelling conveniently holds it in place. "How do you feel love?", she asks. "A little funny", I reply…."Good, deep breaths love, long deep breaths", she requests calmly. While I am getting sorted with this green pen, the male medic is trying to stabilize my right arm with a cardboard split. He removes the bandage that Kevin had placed, and works on getting me comfy. There is quite a bit of swelling and a definite distortion in my arm structure around the wrist area…I am feeling a little woozy. Soon, I am sorted and comfy in the ambulance, this green pen, also known as the magic flute seems to be doing the trick. The police have arrived by this time and pop their head into the ambulance to see how I am doing. "Ahh, she's right!", I hear with a chuckle. Yeah I feel pretty good right now! "Ok love, we are going to make our way to the hospital. I will try to drive as to keep you as comfortable as possible on this dirt road, Just keep sucking on the pen", says the girl medic. And we are off. Along the way the guy medic monitors my vitals, keeps me company, and chats with me about riding. You know the ambulance drivers did tell me their names when they arrived, although for some reason I could not seem to remember them!
While I was being transported to Coober Pedy Hospital Kev was talking to the police. The police kindly offered to have one officer stay with Kev's bike, the other officer follow Kev back to town on my bike, luckily there was no damage to my bike, just a couple of scratches, and then drive him back out to pick up his bike. On the way back out for Kev's bike the officer volunteers her home if we need some place to stay. Once again, Kev's overwhelmed by kindness of strangers. After Kev picks up his bike he stops by the police station for them to make some copies of our paperwork and then rides out to the Hospital. When he comes in, I'm laying in the emergency room nervous, but, feeling very lucky as I'm in a hospital and not camped out waiting for help in the outback. The hospital in Coober Pedy is the only hospital between Alice Springs and Adelaide and the doctor is wearing a pair of shorts, a t-shirt and Blundstones. Classic! They had an x-ray machine, a little on the blink, but, working. Everyone was very nice, but, I quickly got the feeling they didn't know what to do with me. The doctor had reviewed the X-rays and said that I had broken my right wrist and the base of my left thumb, he was concerned, I was over whelmed. After a few hours, they put a temporary splint on each arm, let me know they were waiting for the orthopedic doc's in Adelaide to review the x-rays and put me in a room for the night for observation. The hospital staff offered for Kev to pull a recliner in from another room and stay the night with me. He unloaded our clothes and toiletries, parked the bikes behind the hotel a few blocks away and started to care for me. I was helpless, frustrated, scared, uncomfortable and very tired. The next day was the worst pain wise, I felt as though I had been run over by a road train! Everything hurt! My pain was at times around the 8 zone, my mind was worrisome constantly fixed on the possibility of neck or spinal injuries, generally it was a completely miserable day. We spent two nights camped out in the hospital with Kev feeding, washing, helping me in and out of bed, adjusting my covers, pillow, scratching my itches, brushing my hair, all toiletry needs, watching over me while I slept and generally acting as my personal nurse while we waited for the doctor to tell us what the next step was. Kev made some calls from the hospital and arranged for the bikes to be shipped to Adelaide while we researched whether we'd bus or fly out of Coober Pedy once were on the move again.
Saturday morning they let us know they'd be casting me up in the afternoon and we were free to head out if we wished. It wasn't busy and they were clear that we could stay as long as we needed, or until they needed the room. We decided bussing out would be best and agreed to catch the 8:30 pm bus out of Coober Pedy to Adelaide. The bus would arrive in Adelaide at 7:30 am the next morning, Sunday, and we'd then train to Melbourne on Monday if all was still ok. Around 4pm on Saturday they cast my arms up, I had been in splints until then. My right wrist was cocked over towards the left, crooked and unnatural looking. My left thumb was swollen and there was now a huge pyramid distortion on the top of my hand. Both palms were beginning to turn black and yellow, and all 10 fingers were swollen twice their original size. Now, the head nurse began to prepare a cart with all that was needed to cast both arms in fiberglass. She insisted that the aide that was on duty be available to watch the procedure and help her set my arms. Half way during the casting procedure the head nurse was called away. She encouraged the aide, who had never cast a break before, to proceed with the wet, warm fiberglass bandages and complete the job. The head nurse did not return until both casts were complete. Now I am not a doctor, and I have never broken a bone let alone had a cast on before, but these casts did not feel right. They certainly looked good, neat and tidy, one arm cast red and the other blue. An hour had passed and I was being to experience some problems with the casts. I called for the doctor and he agreed that both arms were cast too tight, and that they should have separated my thumb from my fingers when casting up my right wrist. Learning that we were traveling on the bus to Adelaide tonight he tried to remedy the problem. He left the room and returned with pruning sheers and the new nurse on duty. The doctor then proceeded to try and snip away at the cast, but found it very difficult. The nurse took over, being a former concrete laborer and boasting of her hand strength, successfully remedied the problem…for now!
It was a hot out as we boarded the bus in the center of Coober Pedy. Seeing that I was completely helpless the conductor personally arranged my seating, making sure that the seat was left open beside me. Now this bus ride is like no other! It is quite hard to imagine, and definitely a once in a lifetime experience, one that I will never take again. It is an overnight trek, and the outback is swarming with nocturnal life during these hours. Just as I was starting to drift off arms raised in front of me, I was thrown forward by the bus abruptly braking to dodge large kangaroos and emus tin the middle of the road. This did not happen once or twice, but around 40 times throughout the trip. On a rest stop I said to the bus driver "You are doing a great job missing the roo's"…his response was "Tonight I am!"…I felt ill! The bus also collected the mail from the huge cattle stations mail boxes on the edge of the highway in the area. It was an awkward rocky trip, that left us both exhausted. Although I'm tired, I am super thankful that I did not have to experience any thuds!
We arrived in Adelaide around 7am. I was tired and sore and needed to lie down. We walked to our hotel and asked if it was possible to get a super early check in. I sported my sad cat eyes and lifted up my arms, I was beat. I think that we checked into our room by noon and I was flopped on the bed by 12:01pm! After some horizontal rest, an assisted bath, dressing and hair styling, it was happy hour. Kev and I followed the music, walked into the city district of Adelaide, up some rickety steps of an old pub, parked it on a couple of cushions and enjoyed some wine, me with a straw and enjoyed listening to the improv musicians of the night.
We boarded the Overlander train the next morning and were comfortably seated and bound for Melbourne by 8am. I am in good spirits, comfortable and enjoying the beautiful scenery.
Ten hours later we have arrived in Melbourne. What a journey! My Dad picked us up from the Southern Cross train station, it is great to see him although I would have rather been arriving on my bike.
The next morning I am scheduled to see the doctor. He agrees that I have been cast incorrectly and that my casts are too tight. He refers me onto the hospital where they are able to handle any situation that may arise. I checked in at the hospital at 1pm, Tuesday afternoon, and did not leave until 1pm Friday afternoon! My breaks both required surgery in order for them to heal correctly. I was also experiencing pain and distorted sensations down my right arm so the doctors ordered a CT scan and MRI of my head, neck and back. Thank goodness they all came back clear. The surgery required that they place 2 pins into the base of my left thumb to hold the break together, and a plate secured by screws into my right wrist area to secure the radius and crushed bones around it. It had been a week since I actually had the accident, and my body had already started the healing process. The surgery was lengthy, traumatic and thankfully successful. All I remember of the surgery was waking up in recovery 4 hours later in the most excruciating pain that I had ever experienced in my life!…A 15 on a scale of 10! It was a long night! Funny …I remember waking in the morning just in time to see the food service staff placing my breakfast in front of me. I looked at my tray, I looked at my arms. The right arm was securely back slabbed and bound from knuckles to elbows, my left thumb has been isolated cast in plaster, knuckles to elbow. How am I going to eat this? I was sore and very nauseous, anyway. It can wait. After delivering the breakfasts, they noticed my dilemma! The lady kindly made my tea and placed a straw in it, buttered and vegemited my toast, and helped me into a position I could somewhat handle. By the time Kev had showed up I had managed to eat a couple of bites of toast and drink my tea. "Looks like you enjoyed your toast Cat because it is all over your face!", We laughed! I was very thankful for the expert concern and care that I was given during this ordeal.
The next 8 weeks I spent learning how to handle, not being able to handle or lift anything! There were good and bad days, painful and pain free days, challenging and successful days… we worked it out. I learned to have more patience, only ask for one thing at a time, appreciate all attempted and given help, take long deep breaths, say thank you often and above all keep a positive outlook and just keep smiling.
Thank you Anne for strawing my wine, Lisa for keeping my glass full, Kossana for washing and styling my hair, Mel for painting my nails and giving me facials, Draga for making me toffees, Shelly for your hospitality, Mina for your awesome hugs and friendship, Leanne for your kindness and great dinners, Debbie and Melissa for catching up in between your busy schedules, Paul for all your help with the bikes, Georgia for playing Easter Bunny, All my nieces and nephews loving hugs, everyones concern and best wishes, Mum and Dad for rearranging your schedule, the use of the Muddie, car and home cooked meals, and most of all Kevin, I would have been helpless and lost without you baby!
Today, my arms are healing well. I have surprisingly great movement and rotation in my right wrist, and my left thumb is feeling more and more like mine every day. I can't wait to be riding again and will be back on the bike by the middle of July heading to Alaska.