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Broke my neck

Old 10-15-19, 06:31 PM
  #1  
downtube42
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Broke my neck

Usually when something bad happens I can look back and find at least two bad choices that led me there. This one has many...
  • Deciding to ride up then back down a steep twisty narrow road after dark.
  • Solo
  • Riding said route without my GPS in follow-line mode.
  • Failing to update my glasses when the prescription was obviously no longer correct.
  • Descending at speeds appropriate (at best) for daylight conditions.
I went over a guardrail; I'm guessing the deep L-shaped laceration in my left thigh is from the guardrail upright. Down a ravine maybe 15', where my head contacted the ground breaking my C3. Blackberry vines may have helped slow me down before impact.

Post-crash, another poor and potentially fatal decision was to crawl up out of the ravine, get back on the bike, and coast to the bottom of the hill. Lucky is such an understatement. I have to go back to my 20's on a motorcycle to find such a stackup of stupid and potentially fatal decisions.

I'll take 3 months in a neck brace with no complaints.
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Old 10-15-19, 07:07 PM
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Do you mind my asking what street this was, by chance? Just curious.

I am so very grateful that you apparently do not have any permanent neurological damage (I hope that is correct) and that you did not injure your brain any more than you did. I agree, you were extremely lucky. And you know what they say about that--it is better to be lucky than good. Every single time.

That said, I think you are being a bit hard on yourself. We make the kinds of decisions you made on that ride on every ride. Usually, virtually always, they work out. You just happened to get burned this time. Thank goodness it wasn't worse.

I like to read about airplanes and in particular, commercial airplane crashes. Flew a lot for work. Anyway, there was this big meta-analysis of a bunch of crashes and the one overarching theme that came through was this: it's never one thing. It is virtually always multiple failures occurring in multiple systems that lead to a commercial airliner crashing these days. That's sorta what happened with you. It's good that you realize that.

I wish you well on your recovery. And I hope you have some new glasses.
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Old 10-15-19, 07:14 PM
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Let's not forget how tough cyclists are when it comes to crashes. That incident probably would have killed most average non-cycling people. Congrats OP, on surviving. You won't forget the lessons learned from this one.

There was a video in another thread of some guy that was doing a bike review, riding over a bridge and having the front wheel go off the edge, sending him headfirst into a small creek. He also broke his neck, but it happened so fast. A helmet is not gonna protect your neck, unfortunately.
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Old 10-15-19, 07:51 PM
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I'm guessing no cycling allowed while wearing neck brace......hang in there.
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Old 10-15-19, 08:04 PM
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Gosh...best wishes for your full recovery.
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Old 10-15-19, 08:17 PM
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You aren't a transplanted New Mexico coyote I hope...


Next time, avoid all ACME products and take it easy...
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Old 10-15-19, 08:40 PM
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Originally Posted by bpcyclist View Post
Do you mind my asking what street this was, by chance? Just curious.

I am so very grateful that you apparently do not have any permanent neurological damage (I hope that is correct) and that you did not injure your brain any more than you did. I agree, you were extremely lucky. And you know what they say about that--it is better to be lucky than good. Every single time.

That said, I think you are being a bit hard on yourself. We make the kinds of decisions you made on that ride on every ride. Usually, virtually always, they work out. You just happened to get burned this time. Thank goodness it wasn't worse.

I like to read about airplanes and in particular, commercial airplane crashes. Flew a lot for work. Anyway, there was this big meta-analysis of a bunch of crashes and the one overarching theme that came through was this: it's never one thing. It is virtually always multiple failures occurring in multiple systems that lead to a commercial airliner crashing these days. That's sorta what happened with you. It's good that you realize that.

I wish you well on your recovery. And I hope you have some new glasses.
I've worked in software development my whole career, and at times had roles that focused on quality. The reality is all people make mistakes. The biggest mistake is not recognizing and planning for that reality.

The road up Gresham Butte - SW Walters Dr.

Oh, about those glasses. They're still in the ravine somewhere. Since I can't drive or bike for a while, I have plenty of time to select a new pair.
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Old 10-15-19, 09:59 PM
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Yikes. Best wishes for recovery.

My C1 and C2 were damaged in 2001, with the C2 splintered into 3 pieces. Then it was re-injured last year when I was hit by a car. Literally a pain in the neck, every dang day.

I still do daily physical therapy. I didn't have much luck with chiropractors but have with a double headed percussion massager. After resuming riding in 2015 it took a couple more years to manage a road bike and another two years to actually get comfortable on a road bike with rides longer than 20 miles.
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Old 10-15-19, 10:50 PM
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Originally Posted by canklecat View Post
Yikes. Best wishes for recovery.

My C1 and C2 were damaged in 2001, with the C2 splintered into 3 pieces. Then it was re-injured last year when I was hit by a car. Literally a pain in the neck, every dang day.

I still do daily physical therapy. I didn't have much luck with chiropractors but have with a double headed percussion massager. After resuming riding in 2015 it took a couple more years to manage a road bike and another two years to actually get comfortable on a road bike with rides longer than 20 miles.
Jeepers. From what I read, that's typically fatal.
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Old 10-15-19, 11:26 PM
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Let's just say I was extremely lucky.

Besides the injury (my compact car was t-boned at 50+ mph by a full size SUV that ran a red light), everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong -- other than being paralyzed.

The cops and paramedics took care of the driver of the car that hit us and completely ignored my grandkids and me. Apparently the driver who struck us was from the nearby wealthy enclave and the cops were only concerned with her.

It was July 4 and I was babysitting my grandkids. Their parents couldn't be bothered to come check on their own kids. I had to ask my ex-wife to pick us up and she was in such a hurry to get back to her party that she dropped us off at my place rather than an ER to get checked out.

I had such a severe headache with dizziness and vomiting that I couldn't take the kids to the doctor until the next day. Fortunately they were okay -- good car seats.

It was another day or so before their parents picked them up so I was delayed a couple of days getting myself checked out by a doctor. They missed the broken neck and concussion.

Apparently sometime during that week I spoke on the phone with the insurance company for the driver who struck me. I have no memory of that but it was recorded. Because of the delay in getting medical evaluation they concluded my injuries weren't serious.

Being in a rural area notorious for corrupt government and sheriff's department, it took another couple of weeks to find an attorney to take my case. Most of them wouldn't touch it after learning where it happened and who'd struck me. I finally had to settle for one of those borderline scam lawyers who claims to get six figure settlements -- but those apply only to collisions involving commercial vehicles, deep pockets.

Texas doesn't require the insurance driver at fault to disclose how much they're insured for. All the attorney can do is pressure for a higher settlement, or settle quickly for the minimum amount required by law -- $10,000. My portion of that didn't come close to covering my actual medical expenses, let alone being unable to work for years. And the settlement assigned me to one of those accident and injury chiropractors that runs victims through the mill by the hundreds. They technically had a medical doctor on staff but it was months before I saw one.

It was another six months before a neurologist was checking my X-rays and told me I'd been going around for months with a broken neck and four more cracked vertebrae in the lumbar and thoracic regions.

Back that time it was too late to do anything about the settlement.

I needed a cane to walk for the next decade, and finally managed to discontinue using it for longer walks in 2014. In 2015 I decided to try riding a bike again. In my teens and 20s I did some racing, crits and time trials -- I wasn't very good but it was fun. My main sport was boxing, and I'd quit amateur boxing by the time I was 22. Mostly bicycling and racquetball after that.

From 2015 it was a long, slow process getting back into good condition. My first bike was a heavy comfort hybrid with spring suspension fork, padded saddle with springs, long wheelbase, fat tires. I still have it, mostly for grocery errands. For the first week or so I couldn't ride 400 yards without needing to stop and huff my asthma inhaler. Took a couple of months to ride 10 miles, and that took many hours with lots of rest breaks.

By 2016 I'd switched to a rigid hybrid and could ride up to 20 miles, fairly slowly.

In 2017 I got my first drop bar road bike since the 1970s. It was a miserable experience, getting accustomed to drop bars again. It took a lot of self-help physical therapy. And it's an ongoing process, often two or three times a day.

In 2018 I was hit by a car again, this time riding my bike. Broke and dislocated my shoulder, re-injured the neck. During X-rays for the neck they discovered I had thyroid cancer, probably due to a 20-year long bout with Hashimoto's thyroiditis, a pesky but non-fatal auto-immune disorder. So all of 2018 was a long recovery process. And this time I got a good attorney to handle everything for me. It'll take time to reach a settlement but he's going for the maximum amount.

Meanwhile I was eligible for VA health care. I'm a veteran but without any combat disability. When I first applied 20 years ago they were underfunded, overcrowded and I was too low on the priority list -- which I completely agreed with. But now they're well funded, well staffed and really attentive and thorough. All my health care needs are taken care of now. I wish it had been there earlier, but I'm grateful to have it now. At age 61 I don't bounce back as quickly so any help is appreciated.

Earlier this year I got my first carbon fiber road bike, a 1993 Trek 5900 from a friend. It's a lot of fun and motivated me to increase the intensity of my workouts and physical therapy. I finally got to where I could hang on with the A-group rides, although I usually get dropped. Some days are better than others.

A couple of weeks ago I rode my first full century in decades. It was impromptu. I started with a club ride, did 40 miles pretty fast, went home for lunch and decided I still had plenty of energy so I got back on the bike for another 61 miles. I hope to tackle one century ride a month.

Anyway, the most important thing is to get a thorough and accurate diagnosis immediately and a treatment plan including physical therapy. It won't be easy but with the right treatment plan you should make better progress than I did, much more quickly.

Last edited by canklecat; 10-15-19 at 11:31 PM.
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Old 10-16-19, 12:12 AM
  #11  
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Speedy recovery downtube42... Glad you and canklecat are still with us.... I was hit by a car couple of years ago, breaking my C1 in two places and suffering compression and nerve damage in 3 other vertebrae. Ended up paralyzed in one arm and working on recovery with the help of multiple surgeries.

I bought a cheap smart trainer and started "Zwift"ing about a month after the accident. I hated riding indoors before the injury, but I ride every day now (group rides, races, workouts)... For me, this was the single most helpful thing that helped me deal with the months of deterioration (atrophy and brain interpreting the short circuit from severed nerves as intense pain)- before the nerves feeding the shoulder and arms started to so show signs of recovery... Still not fully back, but finally able to ride road outdoors, mtb, and ski a bit again.

Please keep your spirits high. Several of my neuro and ortho surgeons told me that they've seen endurance athletes recover up to 50% faster given their base fitness, mental resolve (ability to withstand pain and achieve goals), and positive/go forward outlook.

Last edited by trad; 10-16-19 at 12:19 AM.
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Old 10-16-19, 12:35 AM
  #12  
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Hmmm...
Hard to say if crawling back out was good or bad. Was anybody else around to find you? The same might be true with the final descent. Nonetheless, you survived that without being carried out on a stretcher.

On some of my rural solo rides, it wasn't 15 feet to the bottom. 300+ feet?

I just told myself not to go off the road, I might never be found, even if someone knew where to look.
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Old 10-16-19, 04:11 AM
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best wishes to get well soon

& +1 for not doing fast road descents at night. had a regular daytime route that I rode at least once at night. had a close call hitting something in the road. a stick or rock or pothole, I don't remember. didn't crash, but it was a wake up call
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Old 10-16-19, 04:55 AM
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Best wishes for a speedy recovery and a return to full capacity.
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Old 10-16-19, 05:24 AM
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You have much to be thankful for. It could have been a lot worse.



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Old 10-16-19, 05:44 AM
  #16  
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Originally Posted by downtube42 View Post
I've worked in software development my whole career, and at times had roles that focused on quality. The reality is all people make mistakes. The biggest mistake is not recognizing and planning for that reality.

The road up Gresham Butte - SW Walters Dr.

Oh, about those glasses. They're still in the ravine somewhere. Since I can't drive or bike for a while, I have plenty of time to select a new pair.
Best wishes for recovery.
Working QA / SQE you should follow process and verify your checklist before starting a ride. Action to create and follow going forward.
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Old 10-16-19, 05:49 AM
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My one and only crash, it took nine things going wrong at once for it to happen. Unfortunately I was doing eight of them, and the other party supplied the ninth. I've changed my ways since then.

Glad you're still with us to tell the story @downtube42. Stay strong and heal well.
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Old 10-16-19, 05:55 AM
  #18  
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OP is this the road?



I miss riding in this area, the roads really are outstanding in every way. Truly bicycle heaven.

Last edited by Lemond1985; 10-16-19 at 06:00 AM.
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Old 10-16-19, 07:50 AM
  #19  
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Congrats on surviving, from one survivor to another!!! When I broke my back, I cracked C1, 2 and 3. And spent a month in a hardshell with my head supported, and 3 months in a hard C collar after losing the turtle shell... I still don't know exactly how I crashed, but I can point to at least one judgement error to get to that point...
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Old 10-16-19, 08:02 AM
  #20  
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wow. hope to never replicate that but admire your hardiness and attitude. ride on brother!
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Old 10-16-19, 09:25 AM
  #21  
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You'll have plenty of time to regret your decisions while recovering but don't beat yourself up too bad. If you know what you did that contributed to the accident, you can learn from that and be wiser when you're back on the bike.

I had a pretty serious motorcycle accident about 6 years ago and the worst part of it was that I could not remember anything immediately before, during, or after the crash. What I was able to learn afterwards didn't make sense and it drove me nuts not knowing what I did wrong or what I could have done to avoid it.

Wish you well on a speedy recovery.
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Old 10-16-19, 11:10 AM
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The only way you can find your traction limit in a curve is to exceed it once. Hope you heal OK!
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Old 10-16-19, 12:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Lemond1985 View Post
OP is this the road?



I miss riding in this area, the roads really are outstanding in every way. Truly bicycle heaven.
That's the place. It's a great training climb if I have just an hour or so. Low traffic with some (to me) steep bits. The descent has always been a bit treacherous, with the twisty bit getting steeper and sharper as you go.
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Old 10-16-19, 01:47 PM
  #24  
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I've uttered the words:

"Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time."

More than once. Don't kick yourself too hard for exercising bad judgment. It's part and parcel of being human. The point is to learn from your mistakes, and you've certainly done that.
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Old 10-16-19, 02:03 PM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by BlazingPedals View Post
The only way you can find your traction limit in a curve is to exceed it once. Hope you heal OK!
Choose the location well. Grassy field?

Oh... and perhaps do those experiments in the Under 50 forum, rather than in the Over 50 forum.

I know of a road with an extended > 10% slope, switchbacks, and a drop-off to nowhere that I took with loaded touring, and it scared me. Hit the last descent at dusk, and told myself to hurry to the bottom before dark, but to also keep it SAFE.

Cycle Oregon took that route this year, and I talked to the mechanics, and I think they had several blown carbon rims that night.
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