moments that change everything

Saturday morning Eric crashed his bicycle on a large group ride. He says the pack was going fairly fast downhill but then someone up front braked and then the riders just ahead of him braked hard. He couldn’t stop in time and went down on the pavement. On his face.

When the phone rang on Saturday I almost didn’t answer it. I’m not great with phones and there are many times when I just let the machine pick up. But Eric was due home for his ride around that time, and I thought: maybe I should answer that in case Eric’s had a problem and needs to be picked up somewhere.

Instead I got the phone call no spouse wants to hear: “I’ve crashed my bike and I’m in the emergency room.” Bad sick feeling. On the other hand: if it’s your spouse actually calling, you know that they’re at least alive and conscious enough to talk on the phone.

Eric reassured me that he wasn’t dead, but then told me that his face was a mess and his teeth were all smashed in. Oh. Well. That’s just peachy.

I had a 45 minute drive to Stanford Hospital emergency room to imagine the worst and get all worked up about it. I have a pretty vivid imagination. Unfortunately my imagination was pretty accurate. Poor Eric looked like he had been beaten with a stick. A really big stick. With nails in it. Good thing I married him for his money. (I kid.)

Despite the terrifying appearance, however, Eric didn’t seem to be doing that badly. He wasn’t in that much pain and once they got around to cleaning him up the damage seemed to be contained to a lot of really nasty road rash and the teeth. There were still a whole lot of tests to be done, however, and since things move slowly in an emergency room if you’re not sobbing, screaming, or vomiting all over the floor, Eric just cooled his heels and I got busy making phone calls. Calls for emergency dental; calls to arrange to get Eric’s car picked up; calls to find out what happened to his bicycle. I also went and dealt with the insurance. Eric had been riding without ID and had been admitted as “Eightyfour Echo,” which will be his official Spy Name from now on. I had brought his insurance card with me and got him properly registered. I am somewhat pleased to find out that I am not one of those people who goes completely to pieces in a crisis; although I have anxious moments mostly I get shit done. And I know from my own experiences in the emergency room that you so need someone there to get shit done for you.

Eric is home now and is in recovery mode. Since I know his family reads this blog I will be reassuring: every day he looks much better than the day before (he would not let me post pictures). The road rash is ugly but is scabbing (he is keeping bacitracin on it). He has three stitches in a cut over one eyebrow and a lot of bruises. There’s some other small road rash on his knees and hands. Everything hurts. But every day is better.

The teeth are a problem; he mashed in the two front ones and broke off another one. The emergency dentist sealed the broken one but couldn’t do much about the front two; they can be bent back into place but they want to return to their smashed-in position. This morning we made the round of many local dental professionals and it looks like he’ll lose those teeth; there are a number of root canals in Eric’s future and then braces to put them back into place. In the meantime the position of the teeth makes it difficult for him to eat so we are becoming well acquainted with packaged soup and creative uses for oatmeal and applesauce.

It could have been so much worse. I am so, so very thankful for that.

The bright spot of news is that Eric’s uber-fancy bicycle, a carbon fiber Cervelo R3 he just bought this year, is completely intact. One of the brake hoods is bent in and there’s a small scratch on it. One of the pedals has some scratches. That’s it. The bike is fine; all the damage is to Eric.

I have two lectures I want to give based on this incident.

One: If you ride, or run, or hike, or do anything out by yourself, take ID. It doesn’t have to be a driver’s license, just something with your name on it. Eric never rode with any ID.

This was Eric’s first time on this particular group ride and no one knew who he was. When he crashed he was unconscious for twenty minutes. I joke about Eightyfour Echo but if he hadn’t woken up and been able to identify himself, I would have had a hard time finding out where he had gone to.

We had talked about making up simple ID cards, getting a road ID, or even walking into a Petco and using the DIY machines to make a dog tag with name and emergency phone numbers on it. But we never got around to it. I’m feeling pretty dumb about that now.

Two. Put ICE in your damn phone. ICE is short for “In Case of Emergency.” This meme was spread around the net last year as the number you program into your cell phone for emergency personnel to call if they find you unconscious n the road. Eric thought this was an urban legend. Soon after Eric called me on Saturday I got a call from the group ride leader who had picked up Eric’s cell phone and started noting down numbers to try to find someone to notify. The random number method eventually works, sure, but ICE is much more direct. I’ve got ICE in my phone, and as of this morning Eric has it in his. My phone also lets me add longer notes to the address book entries so my ICE also has my name and blood type. Put it in.

OK, one more lecture: hug your family today.

12 thoughts on “moments that change everything

  1. Ouch. Hope he feels better.

    I was about 30 or 35 before I started carrying ID on bike rides. And my new Giro helmet came with a sticker inside for emergency information. One of the guys I used to ride with was an orthopedic surgeon and he recommended that as a good place to keep that information.

    Also, even if you’re not the one who crashes, it’s good to have the phone number of the local police department(s) programmed into your phone. Cell phones typically go to theHighway Patrol when you dial 911, which isn’t very useful. And if you’ve just watched someone crash, your brain is not going to be working its best. So it’s good to be able to pull out the phone and call for help without having to try and remember a number.

  2. I’m glad he’s okay, at least in the big picture. Unconscious for twenty minutes! That’s not good!

    Riding bikes is quite like riding horses, and you bring up several very good points, like have a name on you! There are a ton of cute little things you can get to attach to your person/saddle to carry important things, like a wallet and cell phone. Of course, weight isn’t an issue on a horse, but I imagine you can get stuff for a bike, too. (It just occurred to me that having an ID on your horse is great if your horse stays with you, which they usually don’t!)

    David has gotten “the phone call” about me. I’m sure it was horrible. I can’t remember if I called him or if someone else did. I remember talking to him, but I don’t remember who dialed the phone. Luckily, I was with a lot of people who knew me, and I was more or less coherent.

    I’m actually a little surprised that a group ride doesn’t require an ID sleeve-thing. It seems so simple, yet so many of us (myself included) don’t think about things like this. Organizers should require it!

    Was he wearing a helmet? Not that it would have helped landing on his face, but maybe with the head? After the last time I knocked myself silly I bought a helmet, a nice black-velvet hunt cap thing. And I actually wear it! I look dumb. It’s called “mushroom head.” Not so bad if you ride english, but you look dumb if you ride western. For some reason, western riding excludes a helmet.

    I second all of your points.

  3. OMG. Please give Eric a hug (gently, ouch!) from his sister, and one for you too.

    Thanks for publishing the emergency info. I never take ID with me either, never thought about it, nor do I take a phone. Until now.

    When Eric had his wisdom teeth out in college he got pretty friendly with the blender, from what I recall. The parents joked that he’d have his turkey and stuffing that way (it was at Thanksgiving or Christmas). He didn’t. Tough guy.

  4. Owie. So, you got the call.

    Some two years ago, I got off my bike and entered the car in front of me. Through the rear window. Took 25 stitches here and 3 stitches there to sew me back together. The police officer was so kind to ask me, “anyone we should call? Your parents, maybe?” “Hell no!”, I said, “they’ll go nuts!”

    A week later, I happened to talk to my mother on the phone. “How are you?” she inquired causally. “Oh, it’s getting better”, I said. Then, I explained.

    Let’s hope that this was the last time that You (or Eric, for that matter) needed this kind of an explanation.

  5. Poor Eric! And poor you! I hope everything heals up quickly. And thanks for the ICE lecture, that’s a really good idea.

    Also: teeth can be bent back into place? Is this true of all humans, or is it one of Eightyfour Echo’s special super-powers?

  6. I always ride with a helmet; its required for racing so when I started racing 20 years ago I start wearing one in training so I’d be used to it for races (back then there was a lot of theorizing that helmet-wearers would pass out on hot climbs). The helmet was unscathed.

    I chickened out on bending the teeth back into place myself and had the emergency dentist do it. I was’t sure how much force they could take before breaking or just pulling out. I had the suspicion that it was going to hurt a bit so I really wanted to get it done as soon as possible after they released me from the emergency room, before I was feeling everything. I’m glad I did, it hurt way more than I thought it was going to. The bone will grow back and surround the teeth roots, just like when the teeth are moved around with braces.

    The nerves are already dead from the initial shock. Root canals tomorrow!

    Sharon, they make Stetson-shaped hard hats, you’d think someone would make a Stetson-shaped helmet.

  7. Get well soon Eric! 🙂

    Your teeth will be fine – it just looks bad in the early stages. I know two people in my life who have done almost exactly what you did, and now after some dental work you would never be able to tell.

    All the best me ol’ mucker!


  8. The best form of ID for people, pets, or any property is a “GEO” tag from GEOPINS.COM. Bikers (motorcyclists) have been wearing the tags forever; little kids usually wear the helmet stickers for biking or skateboarding. Check ’em out. Aloha.

  9. Eric-
    Yeah, helmets just don’t help when you land on your face. I’m actually a little surprised you remember what happened. The time that I “wrecked” badly, I never did remember what happened.
    Strangely, helmets are frowned on in Western sports. Even the more dangerous classes, like barrel racing and pole bending, don’t require them. Even the young riders, like twelve and thirteen, don’t wear them. How scary is that? Not only are they not required, they’re not encouraged.
    In judged classes, like Western Pleasure, Pleasure Driving, or any Showmanship class, the rider’s appearance is part of the judging. Even though the rules state that a helmet is not to be penalized, they are. You wear a helmet, you won’t place. Period. Until they are required for every rider, no one will wear them.
    I wish they would make a good western helmet. Then maybe people would show an interest in wearing them.

  10. Hey Laura, Eric. Wandered in here while waiting for my “gave notice” beer with cow orkers. I did a significant face

    plant at 14. I apparently have gums from hell but teeth from heck because the teeth let go. I distinctly remember

    watching them fly out of my mouth and skitter down the path like pebbles on a frozen pond. So I have a bridge

    across my front 4 teeth, and a cap on a 5th tooth that cavitied from poor bridge design and inattentive flossing.

    It isn’t so bad but does require relatively inconvenient flossing to keep the gums healthy. I had it replaced due

    to a crack about 12 years later. Still holding up 15 years after that.

    I also sustained a significant laceration to my lower lip on the inside, requiring many stitches and several months of

    supermodel-envied pouty lip. Then I had to go back and have the scar tissue removed. More stiches, more pouty

    lip, and a small but permanent numb spot that occasionally refuses to report to my brain that I’m drooling.

    I carry my ID, ATM card & medical insurance card when I’m hiking out in the wild (i.e. streets of Boston). I’m paranoid

    that way. Hope you heal well Eric. FWIW the pain was about 3 orders of magnitude lower than when I had all 4

    wisdmon teeth removed and lived on milkshakes & Percoset or Vicadin for a week while I literally shook off the

    pain in bed.

  11. I just checked my ICE entry – and found I had an incomplete phone # in there. D’oh! Thanks for the reminder.

    Maybe this should be on the semi-annual time-change list: change batteries in smoke detectors, check ICE entries, …

  12. Ouch! I’m very sorry to here about the crash. I have been thru several of them, and it makes
    the difference to have someone to help, hats off to you Laural. Face wounds bleed a lot and
    really look bad. I know Eric will recovery well, and will be riding again soon. Maybe Eric should
    take a Judo class and learn how to fall and roll .

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