Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Touch down!

Literally came crashing down almost two months ago now on May 22nd. I still don't know exactly how the crash happened or what caused it but it certainly doesn't interest me in finding out as what's done is  done and yes, sh*t happens, especially in the sometimes vicious sport of cycling. As they say, it's part of the sport.

To those of you who aren't aware, I had a nasty fall in the stage four criterium of the Women's Tour of California in Sacramento. According to my computer I hit the ground hard at 47kmph! I was knocked out and don't recall or remember anything until the ambulance ride on route to UC Davis hospital but even that's a bit of a hectic blur.

After xrays and scans I was diagnosed with a fractured T6 vertebrae in my spine, a displaced olecranon fracture in my elbow which required surgery and a mild concussion.

I was very grateful to have team director, Ed Beamon there keeping me calm and reassured. Looking back now, I can laugh at how unaware I was on that first night asking to please leave the hospital and return when necessary for surgery and nagging the doctors about when I could get back on my bike, all while on some decent pain meds! What I didn't know then was that I would be making a home of UC Davis hospital for the next ten days.

Following my first evening in hospital (ever) I was moved into the ICU (intensive care) where I spent the next days having almost every scan and test possible to ensure my head was right and there was nothing they'd missed. Although stressful and tiring I'm so glad I was in good hands being given the best treatment possible. Always better to be safe than sorry when you hit your head.

I was set up in a back brace to help support and keep me as still as possible and was then eventually moved into the regular wards where I awaited surgery.

                          Post surgery metal wear in!
Surgery was also another first for me, guess I've been pretty lucky to date! At this point Ed had set off to the US nationals and my lovely host mom Pam Lerner had stepped in to be by my side, plus supportive and friendly surgeon Dr Jonathan Eastman.  I was so lucky to have her holding my hand as following that surgery the pain was real! Don't think I've ever been in so much pain, without sounding like a whimp...I guess It just came as a bit of a surprise. A) I'd never had surgery so had no idea B) I'd began to feel ok and a bit more like myself prior to.

Safe to say me and my pain button became pretty tight for the next 4 days and during that time managed to catch up on a month's sleep!

Lived in gowns and these beauties during my stay, thanks to Pam!

When I wasn't sleeping I was on my phone in touch with family back home, Michael and friends and must say I was pretty overwhelmed by the stream of well wishes and support messages coming through from friends, family, cycling community and supporters. Although it may not seem like much, each one put a smile on my face and helped me hang tough throughout my time in the hospital. Big thanks to all and a special thanks to Pam, Sabrina, Tim, Emily, Callum and Terry for visiting!

Eventually, my lovely nurses managed to ween me off the pain meds and get me prepared for leaving the hospital. After ten days there, I'd become quite comfortable with my surroundings and was almost reluctant to leave the security of the hospital bed but when my team mate Lindsay Myers came to collect me to drive me back to her family home in Paradise it was certainly a good feeling stepping outside.

My next week was spent with Lindsay and her very welcoming parents recovering. Lindsay is a physiotherapist and was so good to me helping me with rehab and being my personal nurse. Such a gem she is and was very lucky to have her through that time!

Funny (or not) story several days after arriving at Lindsays I was sitting on the couch chilling. When Lindsay arrived home I got up to help her and managed to trip myself up and gash my knee more stitches for the wounded soldier! This was a good time for 'note to self', be careful. Guess I was lucky to avoid hurting my current injuries.

Daily exercise in Paradise, a slow walk around the block!

After a bit of time recovering there, I was back to the hospital for my first follow up with Dr Eastman re my elbow. Much to my surprise I had the cast and stitches removed and it had only been two weeks since surgery. I now know why that cast was removed so early as I am still having serious elbow joint stiffness two months later. Basically, if they keep you in a cast for too long in that bent position, the harder it is to regain elbow mobility.

Pretty gross, yes!

Next on the cards, was a trip back to the Bay area to continue the healing process in Menlo Park at our team base. Thankful to the team and Linda Jackson for supporting me during my time there. As a big added bonus my boyfriend Michael joined me several days later which gave us ten days together before he set off on his pre Olympic training camp in Arizona. It was just what I needed, having him there to help with recovery and keep me company and by that point I was feeling a lot more like myself and pretty independent, able to do most things on my own. We had a neat time enjoying some Cali sunshine, good restaurants and also a few days in the city. While he did his training, I'd be off power walking and eventually set up the trainer so I could start pedalling sitting up right. It was a good feeling that first ride back!

Definite favourite, Terun! Thank you for looking after us!

After a good few weeks there making some gains in my recovery (thanks to Revolutions in Fitness) and enjoying my last bit of vitamin D for a while I was off back to New Zealand. I made the decision and was supported by my team to head home so I could continue recovery with family. My mum, Lou was probably the biggest influence on this decision, assuring me that some TLC from home was what I needed, and mum's are usually right! I've now been home a few weeks and so happy I did decide to head back here. I've been working hard at the physio trying to loosen up my very stiff elbow and last week was given the clear to remove my charming back brace after xray's showed it's healing up well. Certainly a relief to be done with that thing, although it definitely gave me that extra security necessary for protecting my back.

My old man, Danny and I enjoying a sunny winter's day downtown in Auckland

Recovery is full of highs and lows. Each day I wake up with a different frame of mind. Some days I miss cycling so much. I always miss my team mates, as we're pretty tight and consider them more my mates but it's definitely been hard following them and their progress, as much as I'm proud! So some days, I really want to be out there fighting with them, but other days I couldn't think of anything worse than being in the peloton bumping elbows and taking's frightening to think about. Those days are the hardest ones and makes me happy to be at home around the people I love who support me as an athlete and also just as me.

Finally got my teeth repaired and feels amazing to smile!
The ultimate goal is getting back to 100% health and right now, realistically it's going to take time and commitment to rehab. My elbow is the biggest issue but with a great team of support here and some hard work I'm sure I can do it. My wrist is also proving to be a pain for me, just to add to the list! I injured it initially in the Tour of Gila several weeks prior to my crash in Cali. It is still giving me grief and looks like I have some ligament damage, just not sure yet the extent. Hopefully nothing a few weeks in a splint can't fix! Fingers crossed on that one.

For now, I'm enjoying long walks and recently got the ok to start jogging so I'm dabbling in some slow jogs around the park and some riding on the erg. With the women's Giro on last week and the TDF now, entertainment is on point for my trainer time. Ensures that my passion for cycling definitely hasn't gone! I've even managed to put in some 5 minute efforts to get the heart rate up and have never been so happy to have tired legs :)

Who knows what the future will bring but right now just happy to be healthy and on the mend with a very supportive team (staff, team mates & sponsors) plus family and friends encouraging me along the way.

This year there's been some heart breaking accidents in cycling and many a lot worse off than I am which has been difficult for the sport and wider cycling community to see. I'm definitely one of the lucky ones - love to them and their families.

Thanks again to all who have helped keep my chin up throughout the process. Lots of toothless smiling went down along the way! Onwards and upwards from here, I'm sure.