June 10, 2001 (Sunday)

Accident & Surgery #1

It was Sunday afternoon we were then going to backtrack and ride "the dragon" as it's called one more time. This time I made a decision to go fast on the first straight. [note 05-Apr-2002 - I don't know why I decided to go fast - but one thing is certain (upon at length review) - I turned my brain off and twisted the throttle.  It was a completely brainless move (not characteristic).  I knew there was a corner ahead but once the brain shut down I just twisted my right hand and off I went.  I recall shifting into second and thinking "this ain't right" - and then looking up to see the trees and left hand turn approacing.  One recollection (aside from the paragraph below) was that it's amazing how "slick as glass-ice" rough, dry asphalt can be when you want to stop NOW!)

I wish I could turn back the clock of time - 4pm Sunday afternoon.

The left hand at the end of the straight ( zoomed satellite picture ) came up faster than I expected and I realized my predicament (my body approached the turn before my brain did). I started braking - I know I had the rear on - a long skid mark shows a tale [note 07-Jan-2002 - I do recall releasing the rear brake at one point because it was locked/skidding and then trying to slightly reapply pressure - but it locked again].  I am unsure how much the front brake was used. At the outside of the turn are several reasonable trees and the ground drops down 5 to 12' and is scattered with foliage and a few rocks / debris. Ken remembers the bike highsiding* and my hands still holding the handlebars when my feet were well into the air. I remained conscious through it all and recall four snapshots of foliage, light through the trees, no sound, a tinge in my right ankle / foot.

* Highsiding:  Picture riding a bicycle and skidding with the rear wheel.  Now picture making a slight left hand turn and the rear wheel starts to slide out from under you.  You lean into the skid and are now leaning over to your left side.  Now while you are leaning over to the left the rear wheel catches and grips the ground instead of sliding over it.  The bike instantly stands upright and leans / falls over to the right side.  The quick motion of standing up from the left hand lean throws the rider into the air.

I hit the ground on my front side, facing uphill about 15' away from the bike. The bike and I were both about 10 to 15 feet down the hill from the road edge (no guard rail of any sort - a simple slope drop off). I started to crawl and made it a few feet before I noticed my right ankle not moving and a slight sharpness when I put pressure on it. It was broken. The rest of me seemed OK though.

I lay there and removed my gloves, glasses (which were bent and somewhat bloodied), and helmet. Within seconds there was a crowd of other bikers at the road edge. Four (at least) of them came down to assist. The first four were friends - a surgical room nurse, with an off duty police officer among them. Karen was the nurse. Others went for a truck and a rope (which was nearby). The officer collected stuff in the area that he thought was mine (several accidents in the immediate area with face shields and broken tree limbs around). Karen held my ankle and they wiped my facial wounds and they took stock of my condition.

The right ankle was bad - rather smashed. The right shoulder was moving but hurting. Abrasion / cut from the lower left chin area / both lips up to my nose. A small cut across my nose probably from the bridge of my glasses. A small - but bleeding enough to be a nuisance - cut in my right eyebrow. It stopped bleeding shortly. My eyes were stable and I was feeling rather well all considering. Several bruises / sore spots. This was an impact accident – unlike a sliding / abrasion accident.

Their next questions were if I wanted to remove my riding gear and if I had removed my helmet - yes and yes. The jacket was easy. The pants were easy. The left boot was easy. The right boot was OK and Karen held my foot stable through the process. There was little blood on my sock and the bones did poke out and then back in (later review showed my boot and riding pants being punctured from the bones). This way the riding clothes would be spared the emergency room cut off. The helmet was the one piece of riding gear that was sacrificed. The chin bar on the right side cracked clean through. There are scuff marks on many parts and plastic vent pieces missing (even back on the top back portion). The face shield was not to be found - it popped out and off right away.

They recommended that I not take an ambulance to a local hospital due to my ankle wound but rather helicopter to the Knoxville trauma center. I took the advice and it was so. An ambulance took me about 2 miles down the hill to a bridge at the base of a dam where the helicopter was sitting. Oh the smell of jet fuel!  It's a wonderful thing in so many respects. The rotors never stopped spinning and I was transferred from ambulance to helicopter. About 34 miles away - straight line - was the destination.

Into the emergency room I went. They had my remaining clothes stripped off me so fast - unreal. Questions and more questions were bombarded to me over the next five minutes as the folks swarmed over me. Once they were satisfied into X-Ray I went. Several were taken - back / spine, right ankle of course, right shoulder as well. From there I was carted off to wait in the hallway for a while - 30 to 60 minutes perhaps. From there I went into pre-op. This was the last time I saw Ken's face - they let him in and we got situated on what was to be done. He headed for home the next day. I spoke with the doctor who was going to work on the ankle (the only work done so far) and recall awaking about 1am in post-op.

From post-op I went into room 526. My Dad and Brother Tom packed up the Honda wagon and hitched the trailer to it. They were down on Wednesday eve. Thursday AM they picked up the bike at the accident scene / storage place (The Dragon Works motorcycle shop) and headed over to Robbinsville for my clothing that Ken had set out with the hotel owners. Back to Knoxville with my stuff. I was allowed to leave Friday AM.

It was a sight: Dad and Tom up front, me sitting sideways in the back seat with an external fixation frame on my right ankle (no cast), a slightly battered bike on the trailer - with a wheelchair strapped to the side of the bike.

We made it back to my parents place (in Rockford) about 1:30AM Saturday. I was glad to be home - even though I'm not out of the woods. That Monday AM we met with the bone doc in Illinois - a bone graft is still needed to fill in about 1/2 inch of missing bone above my ankle. He took some X-Rays and sent me home for a week of flat on my back foot elevation - with ice to reduce swelling.

It's Sunday evening at the end of that week and the swelling is down - I hope it's down enough for him to do his work - we'll find out in 9 hours (8:30AM Monday appt). He also scheduled a CT / CAT scan of my right shoulder which I've not been putting any weight on or using (such as I was told). Last Wednesday that was performed. We will find this result out tomorrow AM as well. Tomorrow is a big day - what will happen next. Any way about it - this summer is not something where I'll be putting much if any weight on my right foot - but I'm alive (God still has some plans for me I guess).

July 24, 2001 (Tuesday)

Surgery #2

It has been about six weeks from the initial surgery / accident.  Things are not looking too good on the X-Rays.  While my skin is healing up just fine - inside not much good is happening.  Some of the bone / bone fragments are actually dying and some of the breaks are not showing signs of good healing.

Into surgery I went - 7:30am.  The table and room was rather cold but the warm blankets they had were wonderful.  I awoke in the hospital room - this time a double room with a roommate - in the early afternoon after the 4-1/2 hour surgery.  The right foot was bandaged and I could slightly see that the external fixator was different (where it poked out of the wrappings).  My right hip was also sore with a large bandage over it.  Both the right foot and the hip had vacuum boxes attached slowly sucking out fluids.  The right hip also had a pain pump - a canister that 1/2 was a clear fluid and the other half was a spring pushing the fluid slowly into my hip through a thin tube.  There was also a general IV pain pump - I could hit the button every 8 minutes if I needed to.

Friday evening the Dr. came in and discharged me - a wonderful thing for a Friday evening - to go home.

Ten days later was an appointment with the nurse to remove the staples and stitches.  It was, as the first time, a rather painless process.  Staples were new this time though.  She had a staple remover that unbent the staples so they could be pulled straight out.  A simple tool that worked well.  We also had some X-Rays taken.  I imagine these will be baseline pictures of the foot post surgery.  The hardware inside is impressive.  At some point I'll see about scanning some of the X-Rays so you can see what it's like.

At this time I also put on the electronic bone induction device.  This device stimulates bone growth.  It seems the Dr. said that the quality of the bone in the trauma site is poor.  This device will help to get things moving in the right direction.  There are some pictures of it in the pictures link.  I wear this when I'm sleeping and it needs to be in operation for 10 hours per day (Yep - I am sleeping about 10 hours each day - though sleep is a loosly used term as the foot keeps me awake or wakes me up a fair bit).  It's battery operated and is rather small in size so I could wear it whereever I go if I wanted to.

So far it's a waiting process - waiting for the bones to heal.  At some point I'll have another appointment with the Dr. - with another set of X-Rays taken - to see the progress.  If the progress is good I'll have a reasonable foot.  If the progress is not so good my foot might be fused (no movement / flexation at the ankle).  If the progress is bad I'll have a prosthetic.  Many folks are praying for good progress - as am I.

September 12, 2001 (Wednesday)

Checkup after surgery #2

X-Rays were taken of the shoulder and foot.  The shoulder is fine.  The foot is a mixed bag.

The tibia's bone graft is healing well.  The fibula re-break is not healing but this does not seem to be of too much concern.  The talus (at the base of the tibia) is starting to die - and is a concern.  We're going to wait three more weeks and then see about removing the external fixator and getting into a special boot / removable cast that will allow me to put weight on the leg.  Hopefully between the bone growth stimulator (which I've been using for 39 days now) and putting weight on the leg the bones will better heal.

October 11, 2001 (Thursday)

Fixator #2 removal
(Splinted Foot)

Off to the hospital early in the morning for out-patient surgery.  Time to remove the fixator (unscrew the pins from my bones).  I was knocked out for a short time - less than 45 minutes - and awoke with my leg in a splint & bandages.  Still no walking yet - that perhaps comes next Monday afternoon.

I always guessed that the fixator weighed about 2 pounds - max - wrong - just under 5 pounds.

October 15, 2001 (Monday)

Removable Cast

Off to the Dr. this afternoon to get the splint removed and have a removable cast put on.  Click the pictures link to see what it looks like.  First a cotton tube 'sock' was rolled on from toe to knee.  Then cotton padding was put on (it came in rolls about 5" wide).  Finally a fiberglass mesh was applied - water / oxygen activated - no mixing of resin and hardener / no mess.  Likewise the fiberglass mesh was a roll about 5" wide.  Once the fiberglass was hard the cast was cut off.  Additional self-stick cotton padding was used over the cut edges to both smooth the hard fiberglass edge and hold together the inner layers of cotton fabrics.  The two halves were then placed back onto my leg and held together with hook-and-loop (Velcro type) bands (those are the black bands seen in the pictures).

I was expecting to do some walking this afternoon at the Dr.'s office - wrong - dang!  Rehab appointments were scheduled instead.  I'll slowly - every 10 days for perhaps a month - be adding weight to my right foot was I walk (with crutches I assume).  Wednesday is the first rehab appointment - I'll know more after it's over.

November 26, 2001 (Monday)

Final X-Rays

I'm Done!

The visit today was to take some x-rays and review the progress.  The fibula is healing well.  The bone graft area is healing well.  The talus is still a bit of a concern - but nothing is to be done about it.  I've received the go ahead to walk and carry extra weight (boxes, etc).  The thought is that I won't be able to get much more range of motion (ROM) in my foot though - and there's a concern to not push it with ROM therapy for fear of talus damage / breaking the bones.  That's fine - I'm out walking with my foot - I can deal with the limited ROM (going down stairs is the only big item so far that is different).  Physical therapy can help with strengthening the muscles in my foot though.  Today is a good day.

A heartfelt Thank You to all involved.  Those at the accident site.  The doctors, nurses and medical staff for their care.  Family, friends and customers for prayers, kind thoughts and gifts.

December 2003

Just adding some notes.  The ankle is typically not of issue.  No running or jogging though.  That is the good part.  But...   Heavy use followed by a period of low activity will lead to it getting very stiff.  A 1/2 day hike or lifting / carrying large items will do it.  Often the next morning it will be so stiff and sore that I am unable to walk or stand on it - I'll probably be crawling to the shower.  A warm shower will help and then I'll limp / hobble about for a bit.  Often I'll turn the foot outward and pivot / rock on the heel more than being able to walk normally with weight on the front of the foot.  It's like I have no muscle to stand on my toes.  So far it is predictable.  A day or two later it'll be back to as best it is.