too many words by laura lemay

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.