Tuesday, April 29, 2014

That pesky Scaphoid

The story so far...

It all started on a sunny Easter Sunday afternoon. I had just got my bicycle, The Red Devil, tuned up and fitted with a new chain, and I decided there was no better time to give it a shakedown ride.

I headed out shortly before lunch time and made my way up Stevens Canyon road. It was a nice gentle uphill ride with the option to turn up Redwood Gulch road if things were looking good and I wanted a bit of pain. As luck would have it the bike was riding great and I was feeling good so I took the opportunity to hang a left and grind up Redwood Gulch.

As luck would have it, I arrived at the base of the climb just behind another rider who seemed to be climbing at roughly the same pace as me, so I used that as encouragement to keep my own climb going on pace rather than slowing right down as I might be tempted to do.

The climb was pretty tough going and about half way up I gave up on the idea of being a manly man of manliness and stopped at the side of the road to catch my breath. This was a mistake, as my blood pressure and pulse rate immediately crashed. I tried to control it with some careful breathing, but the world was starting to feel a bit fuzzy so I decided it might not be a bad idea to lay down for a moment.

When I regained consciousness I felt very relaxed and rejuvenated, the feelings only slightly tempered by my disappointment of discovering that I was, indeed, still laying in the dirt half way up a mountain and not taking a nice peaceful nap on my couch at home. It was also at this point that I first remember noticing a pain in my ribs, but after reluctantly dusting myself off and waving off a few concerned motorists I decided to continue the climb. This was also the point where I noticed that I was pedaling two gears higher than I thought I was, which explains why I had such a hard time of it and had to pull off.

I geared down properly this time and then set off up the hill again, adjusting my pedaling so as to not irritate my mysteriously sore rib. The rest of the climb up to highway 9 went uneventfully, and I chose to head back down rather than pushing my luck by continuing up the hill to Skyline.

Riding down highway 9 is always a spectacular rush, and this ride was no different, easily hitting 40+mph. I had the option at the bottom of the hill of either dealing with the reasonably flat route full of traffic by heading up Sunnyvale-Saratoga, or taking a left onto Pierce road for a mildly hilly back-road route.

I decided on the latter, and as the left turn onto Pierce approached I slowed to about 25 or so and geared down for the steep uphill at the start. Then shit went down.

I heard a loud grinding and my bicycle lurched backwards, and I could immediately tell that my rear wheel had somehow locked up. I did everything I could to keep myself upright as the rear wheel unpredictably alternated between sliding uncontrollably while locked up and grabbing the road as it managed to rotate for a fraction of a rotation at a time.

My valiant effort to save the situation was in vain as a particularly bad lurch dropped the bike out from under me, and I flew off and hit the pavement, landing heavily on my hands and left knee.

I immediately suspected I might be properly injured as I noticed a characteristic weakness in my left hand, but I didn't concern myself with it immediately. The visible damage to myself included a bit of a scuff on both palms, a bruise on my left elbow, and a nice scrape on my left knee.

A quick inspection of my bike revealed the cause of the disaster: the chain had fallen off the larger gear on the cassette and got itself wrapped up in the spokes of the rear wheel, ripping off both derailleurs and making as right mess of the chain itself. The frame was also dented on the seat stay where the rear derailleur struck it after it had been turned into a metal pretzel, which had bent the frame enough that the rear wheel was just noticably not sitting straight, and was in fact resting against the left brake pad.

A friendly couple with a station wagon had stopped to help, and I bummed a ride home with them. During the ride I inspected my wrist and couldn't find anything too wrong with it save for the weakness, so I didn't think an immediate trip to the ER was needed. I iced it once I got home, and decided to hit up the hospital the next morning, and then take the remains of my bike back to the shop to file an official complaint.

So Monday rolled around and I drove myself to the hospital. The visit was quite uneventful and I got a half dozen X-rays of my wrist done, followed by a diagnosis of a fractured scaphoid. They applied a splint and gave me some post care instructions and directed me to follow up with an orthopedist. I didn't examine the X-rays myself, and the post care instructions indicated that scaphoid fractures are often difficult enough to diagnose that they're sometimes treated as if they were broken even without a positive diagnosis, so it left me questioning whether I had actually successfully broken the bone or not.

The visit to the orthopedist on Wednesday cleared up any doubt, however, as I was able to examine the X-rays myself and see the fracture clear as day. I got a CT scan done to evaluate whether the fracture was displaced (it wasn't) and the orthopedist told me that, with the location of the fracture approximately half way through the bone I had the option to either treat it with casting alone for 8-12 weeks, or with surgery to install a screw followed by 4 weeks in a cast.

I opted for the surgery and had the screw installed on Friday morning. On Wednesday I go back in to have the post-surgery dressing and splint replaced by a proper cast, and then sometime around the end of May I'll get out of the cast and into a brace for a little while longer, and then I'll basically be done save for the usual physiotherapy for post-immobilization joint recovery.

The bike shop will be rebuilding my bike for free, so with any luck I should be back out on two wheels by August maybe? Hard to tell, we'll see how it goes.