Nancy, Debbie, and I spent months planning our two-hundred-mile bicycle trip on the Erie to Ohio Trail. We looked forward to biking through Cuyahoga National Forest, along the river, and into Amish Country to the center of the state while staying at B&Bs, inns, and a farmhouse. I wasn’t looking forward biking up the hills, but knew we’d visit great little towns and have adventures along the way.
In late September, we drove to Cleveland’s downtown area and stayed in a hostel (my first time) and explored Edgewater Park on the lake front by bicycle. The next morning we got an early start, trying to beat the traffic and find the bike path. Smooth sailing for about ten miles. Then a detour directed us off the path, where workmen were digging, and put us on a road under repair. While trying to get to a sidewalk on the other side, my tire got caught in a rut and threw me to the pavement.
I lay there to catch my breath. People gathered around, wanting to call an ambulance. I waved to let them know I was okay. I figured I’d dust myself off and we’d be on our way. When I stood up, I assured everyone I only needed a minute to regroup. When I bent down to pick up my helmet, my arm fell out of its socket.
Nancy used her scarf to make a sling and we discussed what to do. I didn’t know how long it would take to patch up a broken arm. My friends wouldn’t ride ahead without me and we didn’t want to leave the bicycles while I rode in an ambulance. One of several Good Samaritans asked how he could help. We’ll call him Joe. He had a truck, so I asked if he could give us a lift back to Cleveland, bicycles and all.
Joe and his helper rehabbed houses and had a good-sized panel truck. They cleared out enough of the back to fit all three bicycles and our saddlebags and make seats for Nancy and Debbie. All of this took forever and Joe was a talker while I swayed back and forth and thought maybe the ambulance would have been a better idea.
Nancy told me later, she and Debbie began to have second thoughts when Joe started to tie them in with packing straps in lieu of seat belts. She began to question the wisdom of letting a stranger tie them up in the back of a truck and drive away with us and all our belongings. I was beyond such common sense.
Joe and his sidekick cleared junk off the seat and sandwiched me between them. He talked non-stop, saying he fixed houses in the armpit area of Cleveland where he grew up. He was anti-government, mostly unemployed, a wounded Viet Nam veteran, a recovering alcoholic and ex-drug addict, and spent many hours helping those less fortunate than himself. He got worked up a bit talking about special treatment given to churches, and he has plans to start his own church called Church of the Cosmic Orgasm. (He had another line which I won’t repeat here.)
I tried to perk up and worried as much as I could in my dazed state. I watched which streets we took, making sure he was taking us in the right direction. I had no idea. Finally, true to his word Joe delivered us back to the hostel where we’d left our vehicle. He would accept no money for transporting us. While the girls unloaded the bicycles, a homeless man came bebopping along the street. Joe clapped the man on the back, introduced himself, chatted with him for a long while, and then handed him a few dollars.
I wobbled back and forth and was afraid I might go into shock. While the girls loaded our bikes onto Nancy’s vehicle, I crossed the street to the hostel to ask directions to the nearest hospital. I think my condition shocked two older ladies having tea, but fortune smiled on us. Five minutes away was Metro Hospital. It turned out to be a very clean, efficient, teaching hospital which served the poorer people of the city. They treated me very well, though I was thinking bad words when the Xray technician insisted on moving my arm. The nurse asked me to rate my pain on a scale of one to ten. Zero, I said. But if you touch me it screams to a nine.
The X-ray technician behind the window looked at my images and said, “Eeew.” She called another technician over to look. She too said “Eeew.” I got discouraged.
Turns out I broke my left elbow, sprained my fingers, hand, and wrist, and broke my shoulder in four places. Plus my back got twisted, my right knee swelled up, and I had deep bruises along my right side. They couldn’t do surgery for three days, so they put a splint on my elbow and packed my shoulder with Novocaine and sent me home. We had been at the hospital for most of the day.
We decided to stay the night at our reserved hotel in Akron. I walked through the lobby like a zombie in a flapping hospital gown and nobody batted an eye. Nancy and Debbie put me to bed, bought me presents, and let me sleep. Bless them. The next morning, while I was still under the influence of heavy duty pain killers, we drove around a bit through the rain to see where we would have been bicycling. Maybe next year.
I called Bob on the drive back to Illinois to tell him I’d had an accident. He’s been a good caretaker ever since. I couldn’t tie my shoes, dress myself, cut my meat, or even touch my nose. Now, five months later, I can usually do all that, but I still can’t put a pony tail in my hair. The surgeon says I’ll probably never have full use of my shoulder or be able to straighten my elbow because of the hardware in there. Physical therapy has helped a great deal to make my arm more functional, though I may have reached the limit to my range of motion. Todd, the physical therapist, says the plates and screws are in the way, and he’s afraid he’ll break my bones if he pushed the joint any further. Oh joy. Even so, the pulled muscles in my back are the worst. I can work around the other stuff.
I’m bound and determined to lose the ten pounds I’ve gained while on this hiatus. I’ve been such a slug! Recently, I started playing pickleball again and have practiced tennis with my team. I may look like a one-armed bandit, but it feels great to be out there. Afterward, my ice pack is my best friend.
You know what? I feel blessed to have had this experience. I have learned so much, especially empathy. I thought I’d always had empathy, but I don’t believe I did. Now I feel for and can better understand others who are in pain, are older, or have other issues of their own. I get it.
I’ve also learned patience, the value of quiet time, and to appreciate my husband and the many friends I have. Now I celebrate small things, like tying my shoes and being able to lick frosting off my fingers. Life is good, very good.
Now if I could only figure out the perfect ending for my next novel.