[The University of Virginia Medical Center at Charlottesville. A teaching hospital with schools of Medicine and Nursing and Level One Trauma Center. Stock photo.]
This series is for Mishima666, who has waited longer than I promised he would.
The tease: June 24, 2005 Day Planner entry, after the fact: "Hit deer - totaled bike - ended at Trauma Unit, UVA Hosp, Charlottesville, 2 1/2 days - bad scene all around.
What you may have missed:
Part One: http://open.salon.com/blog/monte_canfield/2010/02/19/motorcycling_memories_oh_deer_part_one
Part Two: http://open.salon.com/blog/monte_canfield/2010/02/20/motorcycle_memories_oh_deer_part_two
Part Three: http://open.salon.com/blog/monte_canfield/2010/02/21/motorcycle_memories_oh_deer_part_three
Part Four: http://open.salon.com/blog/monte_canfield/2010/02/22/motorcycling_memories_oh_deer_part_four
Part Five: http://open.salon.com/blog/monte_canfield/2010/02/23/motorcycling_memories_oh_deer_part_five_the_accident
Part Six: http://open.salon.com/blog/monte_canfield/2010/02/25/motorcycling_memories_oh_deer_six_the_accident_ii
Part Seven: http://open.salon.com/blog/monte_canfield/2010/03/01/motorcycling_memories_oh_deer_seven_the_accident_iii
This is the final post in this series.
While I was not aware of it, the doctors must have been weaning the pain meds because I was beginning to feel a lot more pain once I was moved to the step down monitoring room, and I never again got to be watch the docs work on me while I was on the ceiling and they were on the floor. I kind of missed that.
I fell into a troubled sleep after they laid me on the bed, still on the board. I had the beginning of what would be with me for several weeks: weird, troubling dreams that caused me to wake in a sweat but which I could not remember other than they were dark and frightening.
A few hours later I woke and desperately had to pee. The nurse came in and said the catheter was working. But she took a look at the setup and said that the catheter was too small for the amount of fluids they were pumping through me. So I had a choice: pull this one and put in a larger one for some relief or live with the feeling of a constantly full bladder.
What a choice. Like most choices in the hospital it was no real choice at all. But she was pretty gentle when she pulled the smaller one and put in a much larger one. That hurt like hell for an instant but in minutes I felt relief.
I then insisted that they take me off of the spine board and the neck brace but the night doctor refused, saying that 'your spines are not cleared," meaning that radiology had not signed off.
I gave up arguing for then, had them elevate the head of the bed and fell back into a troubled sleep. Sue slept on the floor, exhausted. The next day we got them to bring in a roll away bed for her to sleep in.
In the morning, Saturday, I raised hell again about the board and brace and they went into the same song and dance. Finally, after they left I had Sue loosen the neck brace and the board straps without telling them and that helped some.
The Chief Resident of the step down unit came in around noon and I started my complaint all over again. The same answer came back: they were waiting for the Chief Radiologist to "clear my spines."
I blew up: "Don't tell me that in a 600 bed hospital with a Level One Trauma Center only one person in the entire staff has the authority to make that decision, and he isn't even in the building and may not be back until Monday! That is insane and can't be right! I want to speak to the Trauma Chief now!"
About an hour later, after I had told Sue to take off the neck brace, the Chief Resident came back in and said that 'your spines are cleared." If he noticed I was not wearing the neck brace he didn't say so. He and a nurse undid the straps, laid me on the side and removed the board. What a relief.
However, it was at that point that I realized that the outsides of both thighs, but mostly on the right side, were totally numb. I told Sue but did not tell the docs or I would have been right back on the board and sent back for more scans. I was and am convinced that it was laying immobilized on the board for 24 hours that caused the numbness. It took almost a year to get complete feeling in those areas, but they did recover.
By now the hematoma was really starting to hurt all the time and was beginning to harden on the edges. Within three days it would be hard as a rock. I was told that the rock hard feeling was "normal" and that it would soften in two or three weeks and be absorbed back into my body.
They gave me a dispenser button to push on my pain meds that afternoon and I quickly learned that it only dispensed what it wanted to dispense regardless of how many times you pushed it. So the pain in my shoulder, right big toe (which had a compression fracture of the joint and would forever be frozen immobile), and the hematoma just continued to mount.
Meanwhile I started the game of picking out the road rash gravel in my chest as it worked its way to the surface. This would go on for months.
Late Saturday afternoon they told me that I could go home the next afternoon if all continued to go well, and they saw no reason it would not. But how would we get home? We decided to ask my best friend back home, Jeff Stocker, to come and get us with my car and motorcycle trailer so we could get Sue's bike home and do it all in one long trip.
We called and as only a friend would do, he said "Glad to do it." Another angel, but this time not in disguise. We knew that about Jeff all along. I told him where to find the key to get into the house and garage, where to find the extra car key in the house, and how to hook up the trailer and its lights.
We expected him to arrive late Sunday afternoon, but he surprised us, left later that Saturday and stayed overnight in WVA, arriving just a bit after noon on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Saturday night I had to "go number two" and they gave me a bed pan. It was impossible and I gave up. I told them I wanted to be able to walk to the bathroom. They said "no" so when they left I had Sue lift my IV pole out of the socket on the bed and walk with me to the bathroom in the room. That worked. I was very unsteady on my feet, my broken toe hurt like hell, but it was worth it.
After Jeff arrived on Sunday and went with Sue to get Sue's bike loaded on the trailer I started putting pressure on the docs to release me immediately so we could get home that evening. Well, the same drill happened. The Chief Resident of the step down was off duty and they needed his approval to let me go. I went ballistic again. And the result was the same. Within an hour I was asked to sign the release.
I was getting the feeling that they were just as happy to see me go as I was to get out of there. I have always wondered how long someone would have to stay in a place like that if they were the quiet, mousy type.
When we started to get me dressed Sue noticed that I had blotchy rash areas pretty much all over and blushing areas that came and went. That would go on for weeks and we blamed it on the morphine getting out of my system.
But we learned when we got the bill from the hospital that when I arrived at the Trauma Center they had switched me from morphine to fentanyl, an opioid that is 75-100 times more powerful than morphine. And they gave me another opioid to take for the pain when I got home.
So for about a month I was still reacting to the opioids. Interestingly, I have taken opioids since and have had no adverse reactions to them. It must have been the strength of the dose that passed a threshold for me.
We got home Sunday night, Sue and Jeff taking turns driving, and nothing felt so good as sleeping in my own bed.
The next few weeks were painful. I continued to run a low grade fever for about a month; continued to have the blushing of my face, chest, buttocks, and legs; and, about ten days out started having my feet swell up and turn red in the evenings. Because they quit doing that after a couple of weeks I associated it with the opioids and perhaps it was. But it also could have been unrelated.
In any case we will never know but it could also have been the beginning of my erythromelalgia because I continued, off and on, to have the same phenomena happen after a few of the long, all day, rides we took when touring. The erythromelalgia began in earnest almost three years later in the Spring of 2008 resulting in my forced retirement for medical reasons. It continues today, with at least daily flares every night.
After about three weeks the hematoma was still the same size, still hard as a rock, and had turned to a fluorescent rainbow of colors. We decided to go to a local surgeon I like and have him take a look at it. He too had never seen a hematoma that large, agreed that it would soften at some point, and told me to come in when it started to do that.
At about the five week mark it started softening rapidly and I went in. He said it would take years to get that much blood absorbed so he drew off two huge 6" by 1 1/2" vials of the blood and told me to come back in a week. I told him we were going out of town for a week, so make it two.
When I went back in two weeks he drew off another vial of blood. At the next visit he said that the rest would eventually absorb, but that there would always be clusters of necrotized tissue in the area that would never soften. After almost five years you can still feel those lumps and there is still a tattoo of darker skin where the hematoma was.
Meanwhile, I was told that I should not ride a motorcycle for at least three months. After three weeks I saw an ad in the paper for a 1984 Honda Nighthawk 550 and insisted that we go look at is as a possible interim bike until I decided what kind of more permanent replacement bike to get.
Sue drove me to see it and it was a well kept bike at a good price, but my foot was still in a walking strap on cast and I could not shift. So I talked her into taking it for a test ride.
She could barely get her feet down because of the seat height, but, good trooper that she is, she rode it and said it was fine. We bought it, came back the next day with the trailer, and hauled it to a repair shop for new tires and brake pads, and a complete checkup, carb clean and synchronization, etc.
We got the bike back in a week. So, one month from the accident I was riding locally again, taking my foot out of the walking boot and gingerly putting on my boots. I stuck to the wide four lane roads.
Six weeks from the date of the accident I put a new wind screen on it, and added some old saddlebags. We packed up our seat bags and tank bags, filled the saddlebags with rain gear, tools and sweatshirts and took off for a 1500 mile tour of the western Lake Michigan towns in Michigan, above Holland.
We had a great time. Both bikes ran great. The little 550 cc Honda ran like a top, cruised easily at 70-75 on the interstates, and was an all around good bike. I was in considerable pain the whole trip but covered that as much as possible with Ibuprophen and decided that the joy of riding was far greater than the pain.
But I had nagging fears about deer for a long time. Going to Michigan was not bad because there were many fewer deer than around here. But our hilly, timbered, home county, Tuscarawas, is the deer capital of this part of the country. Every year more deer are harvested here than in any other county in Ohio.
Our deer are known to be some of the largest white tail deer in the country. Mountain deer like the one that ran into my bike are much smaller than our deer and crashes here, even with cars and pickups, can be deadly, and are.
So I was a bit paranoid that entire remaining season, even though I rode almost every day. The paranoia was particularly bad when I rode the narrow back roads in these hills that I love. But every time I rode I insisted that I challenge myself to ride those kinds of roads at least for part of the ride.
Little by little I got over my fears and started enjoying the freedom and sense of oneness that I have had all of my life with my bike, God's beautiful world, and the joy that is riding.
It took a season but by the next Spring I had arrived at a "new normal." Nothing would ever be the same, physically or emotionally. I had been through a lot and come out with far less damage than I could have.
I had endured a lot of pain that I thought would be the worst I would experience. I did not know then that the pain I felt would be small compared to the pain I feel every day now from my erythromelalgia and the related neuropathies and vasculitis associated with it.
My shoulder still aches now and then and gets easily strained when I am lifting something, the toe is still frozen and is larger than the other toe, and the hematoma has left its necrotic lumps, scars and discolorations. And I still am especially alert for deer when I ride.
But at age 71 I have learned a lot too. I have learned that as you age "new normals" are part of the way things work. I have learned that we have a choice: we can whine about it or we can get on with life and do the best we can with what we have to work with.
I have learned that there are angels in disguise everywhere in all situations of our lives and that if we don't see them it is because we are not looking. I have learned that there are competent people who care and who dedicate their lives to professions that allow that caring to be expressed.
I have learned that the reason God gave me my wife was so that I would learn that we are never whole until we can wholly give ourselves to another. And, I have learned that God sends guardian angels to take care of fools and Englishmen, just like the saying says. And I am glad that I qualify for that service.
Most of all, I have learned that life is precious, not to be taken as something owed to us or as a random act of chance, but as a sacred gift to be cherished and to be lived to the fullest.
Thank all of you for reading this series.