Coming back to life

Shortly before I was hit, we marched in the Cherry Blossom Parade with our son's school.

Shortly before I was hit, we marched in the Cherry Blossom Parade with our son’s school.

This week, for the first time in two months, I headed back to the office. There’s a lot that I still can’t do, and among those things is going out two days in a row. Nonetheless, it is great to be out of the house and moving around.

The good news is that I am now more than halfway through the non-weight bearing weeks (assuming my x-rays continue to show bone regrowth). As soon I as can walk again in late July, my surgeon says I can ride a bike again as well.

I’ve now met a few people who’ve had similar injuries. I am really happy that all of them are walking again, and none with visible limps. There are evidently long term consequences: I will never be able to wear high heels again (whatever), I’m unlikely to get my full strength back (still hoping that this one is wrong), and I’ll get early-onset arthritis (which I’ll deal with when the time comes). It could have been worse.

Interestingly enough, I am the only person anyone knows of who’s been hurt this way on a bicycle. A couple of people got similar injuries on motorcycles, but the vast majority had their legs shattered while riding in cars. They have asked me whether I’m afraid to ride a bicycle again, because they themselves were afraid to get in their cars. This is a hard question to answer.

The photos of my leg are too gruesome to post, but my son had scrapes like these all over his right side.

The photos of my leg are too gruesome to post, but my son had scrapes like these all over the right side of his body.

I was rear ended by a driver who claims he did not see me or the stop sign a few feet in front of us–I was coming to a stop, while he’d evidently planned to whiz right through the intersection at 15 mph. This is pretty bad, and although it probably would have been less bad if we were in a car, part of the reason he was going only 15mph is because it was on a street with lots of pedestrians (one of whom was a sheriff’s deputy in the crosswalk) and a protected bike lane. I had only gotten out of that protected lane to make a left turn at the stop sign. If we were hurt in a car, statistically speaking, it would likely have been on a different kind of street at a much higher speed. The NHTSA estimates that the average American driver has a 30% chance of being in a serious car accident in their lifetimes. Those are terrible odds.

That said I suspect that I’ll be making Copenhagen left turns exclusively for a long time to come. The way that I was hurt was the least likely car-on-bike collision on the books, but the thought of stopping at an intersection in front of cars now makes me edgy.

A commuter bike with two Bobike seats, just like Family Ride! I'm still jealous.

A commuter bike with two Bobike seats, just like Family Ride! I’m still jealous.

I still would like to be back on a bike though. Most of my rare trips out now involve riding in a car or a bus (my right leg is the hurt one, so I can’t drive myself) and they’re fine, but it’s seeing other people riding bicycles that makes me wistful. Heck, I’d like to walk again. It has been so long that I wonder whether I will have forgotten how.


Filed under car-free, injury, San Francisco

8 responses to “Coming back to life

  1. Augsburg

    Glad to see you back! I’ve been sideswiped by a truck once and car-doored once. Neither as serious as your incident, but enough to make me very aware of what you have gone through.

  2. My husband was hit by a car on his bike back in the 70s. The crash broke his tibia and fibula and gave him a head injury that had his hospitalized for a month. Since his head injury was more critical, his leg was set poorly and now has a distinctive bend in it.

    Still, he later ran a 1/2 marathon on that leg. Apart from it being a little shorter and having a less flexible ankle, it’s fully functional without a limp. Time will only tell how yours will heel and it could easily be much better than they’re telling you now.

    • This is the best news I’ve heard all month, I think. Thank you.

      • When he was toward the end of his hospital stay he asked the doctor if he’d run again. Doc said “You’ll be lucky if you walk again.”

        Fortunately Dick was young, stubborn and rebellious. And he was one of the generation that didn’t believe anything anyone over 30 said.

  3. Ken

    I had my left ankle shattered into 6 pieces in 1992 at age 39, had bits of steel in for a year and 20 years later the scars are there but a lot less apparent. I had excellent rehab where through group therapy they taught me how to be unafraid of challenging the ankle – jumps down from 5 feet were the norm onto a hard floor! I later took up Karate, only giving up years later when my knees complained, and I have cycled ever since, longest distance 78 miles in one day – again the knees gave out. So don’t dwell too much on the downsides, just be patient and treat it as a challenge just like any of the other ones you have set yourself on this blog :-).

    Warm wishes for you and your family from England.


  4. Hi I am very sorry to hear your injuries. I am sorry. I haven’tt clearly notice that you had an incident in the street. Hope you will be OK. Shuichi

  5. Oh my, dear. How did I miss this horrible news that you were injured by a motorist. I am so sorry to hear this. I can’t imagine how difficult this has been for you and your family. I know your leg injury was bad, but thankful to hear it wasn’t worse. I hope that motorist pays dearly. I know it’s depressing (I was disabled from 2 ruptured discs a few yrs back). Try and fill your time with a new hobby as best you can. Healing comes slowly and in due time. Do EXACTLY what the PT says, and don’t do what they say NOT to do! That is so important. I, too, have arthritis and it will be painful at times, but once you can do so…keep moving! With young children, that shouldn’t be a problem. Thanks for the info on the non-motorist insurance. I will check into that. I have short/long term disability ins., too…it’s sad so many do not. Thinking of you and wishing you strength and healing more and more each day. Keep your eyes on the day you will ride again and take daily baby ‘steps’ to get there. It will happen. JO

  6. Wow. This is the first post of yours I have read, and makes me consider ALWYAS doing a “Copenhagen left.” Well, I can think of one place I simply cannot do that, but must take the center turning lane. Anwyay, I look forward to reading more of your blog. Best wishes for a speedy recovery. Oh, and my mom called Copenhagen lefts “the lady’s way,” because a woman would have the common sense to “go around” rather than make a risky left turn (the way the menfolk would). ;^D

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