Part 1, the day of the accident.
I’d ridden that road 386 times. I found that out afterwards when the solicitor had asked if I was familiar with it. I looked up my Strava stats, it’s at times like this, being a bit of a stats nerd is useful.
It was a sunny day, crisp and cold, a good cycling day. I met my friend Phil in Richmond Park and we cycled our usual route to work. We chatted, side by side when there were no cars, single file when there were. He remarked that I didn’t have a lot of layers on, he felt the cold more than I do. I said what I always said, “if I feel cold I’ll cycle harder”.
We came through Twickenham and turned left onto Richmond Road. There was quite a lot of traffic, not that unusual for the rush hour but it was queued up. We stopped at the red light near the school, and then when it changed started off again. We were to the left of the traffic, between the cars and the kerb, Phil was a bit behind. Right in front of me someone opened a car door.
There wasn’t time to react, I was on the ground, not entirely sure what had happened, other than I’d hit the car door and was now lying on my right side on the pavement, facing the school.
It wasn’t the first time I’d come off a bike, I’d stopped cycling earlier in the year, when it was cold enough for black ice after hitting the deck once too often. There was also that time in Wandsworth when a van turned left into me. There’s a period after you hit the ground, where you lie still and take stock, have I hurt myself, can I get up and carry on or do I need to stay prone. I realised I couldn’t breathe very easily, staying still it was.
Cycling through London with the thousands of other cyclists you do, unfortunately, see a lot of accidents; cars, motorbikes and cyclists. You see people lying on the ground and always think “I’m glad it’s not me”. The Oval and Elephant and Castle, I find the worst, it seemed like every other day there’d be an ambulance there, thankfully they sorted out the road system. This time though it was me.
I said I needed an ambulance, Phil put his hand on my shoulder to reassure me, it hurt, a lot, I shouted at him not to do that again.
I was covered in a silver blanket and a pillow was put under my head. I didn’t seem to be bleeding anywhere. An ambulance was called but it must have been a busy morning, they said it would be 2 hours, I was cold and the pavement wasn’t exactly comfortable. The police were here and talking to the car driver, there was a man wearing a badge from the school. Headmaster maybe? Lots of people looking.
An off duty nurse arrived and called the ambulance again, she must have talked up my injuries as they turned up soon after and I was thankful that I didn’t have to wait two hours.
The ambulance staff were two young girls, they seemed so young but I was a little confused at that point or maybe just feeling old. They got me onto a stretcher and into the ambulance. I was alert enough to ask Phil to grab a photo.
We had a history of taking photos at the scene of our accidents, during our work Sportive I’d got a great one of him, screaming and trousers down while a medic used an incredibly painful instant plaster spray to seal the leg wound he’d got sliding off on a greasy corner, blokes eh?
The paramedics asked if I’d had gas and air before, I said I had and they asked if it was for a previous accident. I had to confess that my wife had given me a few blasts of it while she was in labour to show me how great it was. I breathed it in as best I could and it did the trick but it all went a bit strange with the ceiling moving and the pitch of voices changing. They were putting a line into my arm but I moved it and blood squirted out. Apart from my finger being a bit scratched it was the only blood on me.
They had to cut off my cycling clothes, including the shirt I’d bought in Bormio with the Stelvio, Mortirolo and Gavia on it. I’ll have to go back and get another one, any excuse!
In the background Phil sorted out the bikes, I think he came with me and the bikes in the ambulance but it was all a bit of a blur. He also rang my wife, Emer and she met us at the hospital, the West Middlesex in Hounslow.
I had X rays and a CT scan, I’d broken a rib and punctured my left lung, I’d broken 2 ribs and punctured my right lung, I’d broken 4 ribs and my left shoulder and my lung had collapsed, I wished they’d make their minds up. There was some disagreement about whether I needed to go to the major trauma unit at St Marys in Paddington, I was pretty sure I needed to go there. They put me in some kind of weird hot pyjama things to warm me up, a bit like the cyclists were using in the Olympics to warm their muscles up before the sprints. Someone spotted a training opportunity to get a student to put a drain in my lung, I was in no position to object. A doctor was talking the student through it while she rammed some enormous tube through a small hole in my ribs, apparently they had to give up on the larger tube, maybe I was yelling too much.
I was on oxygen, still sprayed with the blood from my arm and not looking like I’d just stepped out of a salon when the rest of the family arrived. My son took one look at me and looked like he was about to faint, he had to sit down. I must have looked a bit different to the person who’d brought him a cup of tea to help him wake up for school a few hours earlier.
The rest of the day I don’t recall much, at some point in the evening, the West Middlesex and Paddington agreed that I needed to go to the trauma unit after all. I was put into an ambulance and we went across London at high speed with the blue lights on, it didn’t seem entirely necessary, I didn’t think I was that bad but of course I’m not a medical man.
At Paddington I got the full 24 hours in A&E treatment with the staff waiting out the front, whizzing me through the hospital on a stretcher while they shouted out technical details, and did that thing where they said lift on 3 from the stretcher onto a bed. I wondered if they ever dropped anyone.
An anaesthetist put an epidural in my back to stop the pain, man, that thing was good! For days after that, I couldn’t remember what it was called. That thing in my back. Epidural. Yes that’s it.
You can’t sleep much at night in a trauma ward, as well as the noise from other patients, the nurses wake you up every few hours to check your stats. I thought this was a bit rude at first but I got used to it.
I slept a bit though.