December 9th was a perfect day. I had visited downtown Cleveland, gotten my ID badge, had really settled into my tiny apartment, and felt happy, competent, and successful. The next day was to be very fine, so I made plans to ride my bike. I found a park called Edgewater Park which was on the shore of Lake Erie, and had mixed-use paths. The next day, I drove there with Jezebel.
Jezebel is a very cheap bike. I mean, she does all the things, but she is an absolute budget choice. One of the places this shows is that the rail that one slides the battery down to fit into the socket to power the bike is not well attached. What with one thing and another, it took me almost 30 minutes to get the battery proper seated. This included me using my car keys to unscrew the one screw that holds the rail in place, and then rescrew it. Not sure if that helped, but eventually, I got the battery properly seated. This was somewhat further impeded by a long conversation with someone who turned out to be a drug rep who 1) was not wearing a mask, 2) insisted that he was unsure that the vaccine was safe because REASONS, and 3) informed me from his lofty heights of knowledge that the vaccine might or might not work but the manufacture was sure to be fucked, so there was no way to trust it. It was a frustrating conversation, full of mansplaining and condescension.
Eventually, I got Jezebel ridable (with no help from my interlocutor), and headed out. It was a glorious day. I was on a loop, and chose the less steep hill for the return. There was sand towards the bottom of the hill, and I knew that bikes lose traction on the sand and that I should be careful about braking on sand. I was not careful enough.
I lay on the ground and a number of people gathered around. My two front top teeth were pushed inwards. I was on my back. Given that I had obviously landed on my face and shoulder, I'm not sure how I came to be on my back. I have obviously lost a minute or two. People kept on asking me if I was ok. I told them I did not know. I used my tongue to push my two front teeth back in place, and wondered if I'd lose them. They popped back in place, and were not loose. They would hurt, later, but at that moment in time, I was in shock and pretty much nothing hurt. A very kind man, in his twenties, I think, helped me off the ground. He wanted to walk me to a nearby park bench. I told him I could not walk that far, and we settled on having me sit on an embankment along the path. When I stood up, the entire world went various colors of yellow, and I could not see. Once settled on the berm, I fretted about my bike quite a bit, and someone brought Jezebel over near me. Someone else also handed me my phone. My right arm hurt a lot, and I wondered if I'd dislocated the shoulder. In addition to the kind man who walked me to the berm, there was a young woman who was very concerned, another person who asked sensible questions I had no answer for, and a gentleman in his late forties, named David, who called EMS.
As I showed no signs of doing anything else particularly interesting, and when I told them that really, I didn't need more assistance, everyone but David drifted off. I do not know who you were, kind strangers, but your concern is hugely appreciated. Thank you for stopping and caring. David stayed with me until the ambulance arrived, went to the parking lot to get the nice ambulance people, and then said good bye and left. Thank you, thank you, David. He was calm and steady and kind and competent and all the good outcomes from then on are partly because he did the right thing. At various points during the wait, I told my bike and the various onlookers that Jezebel was a good bike, and had done nothing wrong, and it was entirely my fault. They all looked at me with alarm. I suspect that they were worried that the old lady with a huge bump on her head and blood coming out her nose was not entirely coherent. I was worried that my bike would feel guilty about having hurt me.
The ambulance had a two person team, I do not remember their names. They were competent and kind. They got me into the ambulance. I explained that I had no insurance, and did not want to go to the hospital. The guy explained to me that I was an adult and could do what I wanted, but he was concerned about a number of things, including the fact that I might very well have a brain bleed and drop dead if it were not attended to, and the only way to find out if that was going on was if I had my head scanned. I hemmed and hawed and fretted about Jezebel. I asked if maybe we could take Jezebel to my car and lock her in my car. The EMT offered to make me a deal, they'd secure my bike if I agreed to go to the hospital. I laughed and agreed to the bargain. I strongly suspect that they'd have secured my bike without that agreement, but I was also starting to feel like maybe going to the hospital was the right choice.
The other EMT, who was a woman, was unable to figure out how to fold Jezebel, and of course I couldn't help, so we ended up just stuffing her in the back seat unfolded. And then we went off to the hospital. By this time, my arm was in a sling, and the guy had daubed away a lot of sand and blood from my forehead and upper lip. The ride was long and bumpy and I was slightly nauseous. They took me to Metrohealth. The EMT said that it would be a better place for someone uninsured.
At the ER, the EMT gave them my name and vitals, and said that I was "very nauseous." I was not, in fact, very nauseous. I was slightly nauseous. I decided he was trying very hard to tell them that they needed to check me for concussion and brain bleed, and did not correct him. I was vaguely amused. This is the second time in my life I have been in an ER, and the first time I've been conscious for the experience. I'm not sure how large the team was, but it might have been as many as 8 people. They worked in a very coordinated fashion, and it was fascinating to watch. They did a quick and very thorough systems check, touching things and bending things and calling out results. I think they asked me three separate times if my neck hurt, which I believe was an attempt to compensate for the fact that people don't always know if something hurts when lots of other things hurt, and they wanted to be super careful about my neck. I was cheerful and cooperative. In the process, I mentioned that I was there for work, that I was all alone, and that I had three boyfriends. Turns out, ER people love nothing so much as a story, so everywhere I went after that, people were cheerfully referring to those details. Not at all in a derogatory fashion, I hasten to add. They seemed entertained and pleased, and seemed to like me. Yet again, everyone was just hugely kind and competent.
They did a CT of my head, and X-rays of my arms. At one point, the X-ray tech said, "Oh, boy."
I said, "Is that a good 'oh, boy' or a bad "oh, boy'?"
"Well, let's just say I'm going to be a little more careful with how I position you."
"Fuck. "I broke my arm, didn't I?"
"I didn't say that. Please don't tell the doctor I said that."
"Don't worry. I'm a tech, too. I know you can't say anything."
She turned to her assistant and said, "We'd better get a picture of the elbow, too." She looked at me and said, "They like to see the joint above and below any break, if there's a break." I grinned.
And, once again, I want to say how incredibly nice everyone one. I am utterly baffled by people who think that the natural state of human beings is cruelty and predation.
After the pictures, they put me in a room. By this point, I think I'd acquired something like six or eight blankets, because I kept on telling everyone I was cold. I was still cold. I called a nurse to tell them I needed to use the rest room. After a brief conversation in which it was established that I was perfectly capable of walking on my own, I was given directions to the nearest facility. I managed the walking just fine, but everything was so much more difficult with just one hand.
I got really bored, and got dressed and put my shoes on. Based on a conversation with the EMT, I decided that I was unlikely to be kept overnight. The hospitals, as you may have heard, are pretty damn full. I did not attempt to put my arm through my shirt sleeve (to this day, I have not done that yet, though I might try that later today). The ER doc that did my intake came by to tell me that my arm was broken, and that the orthopedic surgeons would be in to see me. More waiting. The television was extremely boring. Eventually the orthopedic surgeons came to say that they had good news and bad news. The good news was that I did not need emergency surgery. The bad news was that I probably needed surgery. They set me up with a follow-up visit and said I could be discharged. I asked about my head, and they said that it was fine.
I got to the discharge desk, and explained that my car was at Edgewater Park, and that I needed a ride there. They arranged a Lyft car for me, joshed me about having three boyfriends, worried about me being on my own in a strange city, and were very kind. No one questioned my ability to drive one-handed in a strange city after dark. I was doubtful, but also didn't see any real options. I spent about six hours, all told, in the hospital. The Lyft car took twice as long as it should have, and went through three different drivers before one finally arrived. I was so very tired, and felt vaguely ill and very very worried.
Back at my car, I managed to put on my seatbelt, which was a feat worthy of fucking Hercules, or maybe a circus contortionist. I convinced der Google to take me home via city streets, not the freeway. I am still not sure that was the right choice, but I was very trepidatious. Freeway driving is easier, in some ways, but accidents are so much worse if they happen. At one point, der Google directed me to a street which was apparently being used to park semis on. After nothing moved for ten minutes, I managed to make a U-turn, and it redirected me. It took me 45 minutes to get back to the apartment, I think. It was a long, difficult drive.
The next bunch of days, before David got here, were possible but quite difficult. I swabbed sand and dried blood out of my nose with a Q-tip. I kept on finding sand in my teeth, which I think means that I got sand all the way up in my sinuses. My upper lip had dried gunk on it every morning for several days. I developed a raccoon mask bruise, but not in purple but rather in yellow, so it looked like I had had a bad accident with poorly color-matched foundation. I managed to wash dishes and scramble eggs one-handed. I could not cut my bread, so my fresh loaf of sourdough sat on the counter and slowly went stale. (David was able to rescue it and make it into French toast when he arrived, so it didn't go to waste.) I had some serious gastric distress, probably stress-related, which resolved after a couple of days. Everything hurt a lot.
A month on, I am in lots and lots less pain, I can knit, I actually used my right hand to feed myself last night. David has been charming and marvelous about doing all the housework, even bits he doesn't think need doing. I have another follow-up this Thursday, and then unless the news is unexpectedly good or dire, I think we will head home to Minneapolis. Oh, and we finally got a good look at Jezebel, yesterday, and she seems to be in good shape, although I think there may be some sand in the shift mechanism. I should have her professionally petted and vetted before I ride her, again, but I was kind of planning on doing that, anyway. She remains a very good bike.
This was not the adventure I was looking for, but is the adventure I have had.