2020 week thirty two

Photo by Mike Martin

Today is Thursday, August 6. The Canucks just won game three of the prelim against the Wild. I’m typing this from home.

ICYMI – On Monday morning I set out to complete my first “century” on my bike, pedalling 54 KM from my West End apartment to Britannia Beach and back. It all went sideways on the way back when I was hit by a negligent pickup truck driver a bit south of Furry Creek.

Monday – The ride out was uneventful. I’d never been farther north than the ferry terminal at Horseshoe Bay before, but I’m connected with many people on Strava who have. I see why it’s a popular ride; the route is beautiful. I reached Britannia in a little under two hours and stopped at the north end for a snack and took a couple photos. Gave a wave to a peloton heading farther north, and waited on a cyclist coming down the hill into Britannia heading south, then pulled behind him. I followed for a few kilometres and then took the lead after the descent through Furry Creek. We exchanged some small talk, he happy to get pulled along for a bit and me happy to take my turn. A few kilometres down I hear him shout out and in the same instant I was hit from behind on my head and back. The impact threw me and my bike from the shoulder into the lane and I couldn’t recover. Fortunately my shoes unclipped from my pedals. I took the brunt of the impact on the asphalt on my right side and shoulder and came to rest on my back. Quickly there were a few people at me who identified as off-duty responders and at least one doctor. They isolated my head and spine and rolled me into recovery position. I asked someone to find and turn off my watch. (Of course I did….) I was sure that my clavicle was broken (I’d broken it before). I could move my arms and legs and feel everything and sure didn’t want to. I was having a lot of difficulty breathing, which was really frightening. Fire arrived first and paramedics next. Stretchered and braced my neck and gave me oxygen, they cut off my shorts and put on a pelvic sling. RCMP said he would take my bike to Squamish. I replied that wasn’t very helpful. Someone remarked it was in pretty good shape considering. I haven’t seen it yet; it’s still in Squamish. I was transported lights-and-sirens (a first) to Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver.

They cut off what was left of my kit, bandaged my knees and elbows, hands, side, shoulders, gave me a CT Scan and X-rays. Right hand sure looks broken and they thought it was, but it’s not. Clavicle, scapula and ribs one through eight on my right side all are broken. The rib fracture punctured my lung but not badly; they opted to monitor rather than intubate or chest tube. I have a bit of a lump on my head, but it’s otherwise fine. My helmet mashed my sunglasses into my nose. They’re destroyed, but although my nose looks ghastly it’s fine. Got a nice asphalt tattoo on my face by my eye. At this time I still don’t know what really happened. Stephanie arrives and she’s brought me some things because I’m not going anywhere and I look at Strava and it’s updated my activity (so whoever actually found and turned off my watch, thanks!). I check the Flybys to see if I can find the cyclist who was with me and he’s posted his near death along with this (now infamous) photo:

Photo by Mike Martin

I’m fucking mad and I’m still mad and I know that’s not healthy especially right now but I’m mad. It seems clear that the load wasn’t secured properly and fell off the headache rack but instead of stopping, the driver decided to scythe his way through the joke of a bike lane at 80 km/h (the posted limit, which literally nobody drives on this route, so I’m being generous). I found out later that Mike Martin, the cyclist behind me, was hit as well but managed to stay on his bike. The driver was issued two tickets at the scene: (1) driving without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway (2) driving with an insecure load. If convicted, he faces a fine of less than the cost of the cycling kit that was smashed and / or cut off of me. Media have provided conflicting math but it’s less than $500. The driver claims he didn’t notice the load had shifted. What hasn’t been reported is the RCMP officer noted that the truck’s back cab window was open, as well as the camper in front of the truck had to “encourage” the driver to stop.

Worst kit photo ever.

Tuesday – I was kept overnight to monitor my punctured lung and to get checked by the orthopaedic surgeon. My scapula breaks into my shoulder socket (or really near it, I’m still not sure) and there was concern I would need surgery. After some more X-rays of my chest I met with the surgeon who determined that surgery wasn’t the best approach, but getting me home was. Before that could happen I needed my lung puncture to stabilize and the epidural in my spine needed to come out, which meant transition off the drip and onto oral meds. That meant another night at Lions Gate at least. I was determined to make it just one. By now I had been inundated relentlessly by media, thanks in part I’m sure for my social media posts exploding. I recorded an interview with CBC Vancouver and spoke live on Radio One “On the Coast.”

Link to CBC Vancouver news story, including video: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/vancouver-cyclist-hit-by-overhanging-load-1.5673995

Wednesday – More chest X-rays and they were satisfied with how my right lung is recovering. The transition to oral pain management went okay, except that the medication makes me very nauseous and the last thing I want to be doing with eight broken ribs is throwing up. They also make me extremely drowsy so I try to just sweat through the nausea until I pass out for a bit and it’s usually passed by the time I wake up. I was discharged late afternoon, my ongoing care transferred to the trauma unit at Vancouver General, and to Stephanie. A stop at the pharmacy on the way and I was home in my own bed.

Today – Today has been rough; the pain is excruciating and the nausea is nearly as bad. I anticipated the worst DOMS of my life and they’ve exceeded expectations. But I’m grateful to be at home. I am extremely grateful to the people who stopped to help me on Monday, to the responders and all the medical professionals at Lions Gate Hospital for your care. Thank you, all of you. I am also extremely grateful for the outpouring of support through messages and social media. If I don’t reply please understand I’m exhausted, from the events of the past few days and also having to retell it over and over. I’ve read all your messages, and tried to read all the comments – normally the worst thing you can do – but they have been overwhelmingly positive. Not all, of course, there’s still the handful who are mad I ruined their holiday commute, blame me for being there in the first place, insist that the whole thing is a hoax (that one’s pretty fun), or conclude that it wasn’t so bad because I was so chipper in the CBC interview, apparently. Many of you want to visit or have offered help and we will welcome both. Please coordinate with Stephanie so that I can focus on my recovery. I am not interested in speaking with the media, and no amount of dogged determination is going to change that, though I’m sure that by tomorrow everyone will have moved on. I do hope that the calls for better cycling safety stay loud and clear, and let’s be clear: it is car culture that needs to change.

UPDATE 08/08:
– Many of you have offered to help get my bike from Squamish. Thank you, it is being taken care of.
– Some of you have offered legal referrals, and again, thank you. I have signed with excellent representation.
– Some of you have asked about a GoFundMe page; a friend has created one. It feels weird because I think there are much more worthy causes, but if you are so inclined: https://www.gofundme.com/f/todd-nickel-recovery-fund