Posted by: Miriam | 28/09/2010

Trials of the Tibia and Fibula, part 1

So 2 weeks ago, I was teaching little kids how to mountain bike. I loved this job, 8 year olds on bikes are fearless and hilarious. They bounce off of things (like trees and curbs and each other) with nary a scrape or a complaint. It is the 3rd week of bike camp and we finally get to hit up some trails. This is exciting. My co-coaches Bean, Ivan, Rob and I split up again and Rob and I get the same kids as we had last week. The Pterodactyls. We rock. The slightly more ‘mature’ kids think that I’m a goober when I ask them to make pterodactyl noises and then I proceed to make some resounding caw-caw noises as we head up the trail. At least they think I’m funny (I like to think I am, so its good to have that confirmation from children).

I’m the back, where I usually am. Rob takes the ballsy kids up front and I get to work on the mental fortitude, self-esteem, and self-confidence of the slower kids. These are the kids I like to hang out with. I like to see them grow and blossom. I like high fives and fist bumps and I love it when they accomplish something they didn’t think they could. It’s this look of surprise, and then a smile, and then a bit of pride, and sometimes they want to do it again (and I get to tell them, yes, you can do that 10 more times if you want!). They get affirmation from an adult who isn’t a parent or a teacher, someone who is more of a mentor, a grown up with whom they get to hang out and do fun stuff. These are my kids. Why? because I was them once upon a time.

God, I love my job.

A few things to remember, when you are three and a half feet tall: little obstacles look big, your legs are short, and bikes have 24″ wheels. So we go slow. I have never considered myself particularity fast when I ride. But, oh wow, its slow going sometimes especially uphill (which is the only part of mountain biking I occasionally consider myself skilled at – granted I’m a  Cat 2 who would have been forced upgraded to a Cat 1 status if I had raced anymore in 2009, state champion, and I ride with my pro friends – I just don’t think of myself as fast, in reality I’m not slow either).

So here we are. Going slow around a couple of innocuous corners. Like walking speed – walking speed when you’re 8. I remember thinking as I fell, I should have walked. But by mid fall, it’s a little too late for those realizations. I tried to unclip my left foot, my upslope foot. Nada. I started leaning into the corner, down slope. I unclip with my right foot to catch myself. That is about where I stop really remembering – it all happened so damn fast. I must have taken a big step, landed off kilter on a rock and folded my ankle under me. I have a tire bruise on the back of my left calf and a major top tube or saddle bruise on the inside of my right thigh. The bike ended up drive train side down, but I was standing on my left foot facing the bike, slightly dangly right foot in the air, all Kung Fu crane pose like. Then I sat down.

I cussed a blue streak. A drunken sailor would have blushed. Luckily the kids had kept going and either didn’t hear or care. Sorry Moms and Dads if your son/daughter came home with an expanded vocabulary. I moved my toes, wiggled my foot, and the extra ankle lump on the inside of my ankle went away. But it kind of crunched a wee bit. If I could have seen myself, I’m sure my eyes went wide and I probably lost a little color too. Now comes the sitting down part. I can’t put my foot a certain angles, it feels loose. I sit with the outside of my foot flush against the ground, slightly up slope from me. Let me step back a bit, I do not like my joints feeling loose. This is an unnatural feeling and should be avoided. When it does feel loose this seems to be a bad sign.

I try to collect myself. I’m alone in the woods (the kids and other coach were ahead of me remember) – and have seen 219 too many bad horror movies that start off this way. I pull out the first aid kit I have. Great, camo or Dora band-aids, antiseptic, and horse wrap. Ok, I tell myself. I could be here for a little bit, someone will notice that I am missing and back track for me. I just need to wait. I eat a bar and drink a bunch of water, I’ve had trauma and want to try to avoid shock. Also I am annoyed/pissed/kicking myself for having to leave my phone at home due to the lack of juice. Le sigh.

As I’m sitting there wiggling my foot and toes (to make sure they still work) I hear someone coming up the trail! Yippee, a person! Major let down, some dude who I’ve never seen before (he’s not even from here!). He asks me if I am ok, I reply yes but I can’t put any weight on my ankle. Mr OutdoorsyPants asserts that we need to make a splint, and starts pawing through his bag for supplies. He also has no telecommunication device, not that it would matter, he doesn’t know anybody here or know where he’s at. So from his bag of wonders, he pulls out 2 tubes, still in boxes (now those of you who ride a lot will instantly wonder why the hell the tubes are still in boxes, I too had the same thought). He proclaims we could make a splint with those and the horse wrap. Seriously. My first thought is ‘get the hell away from me, you are going to make things worse’. I don’t say this, but pretty much flat-out tell him that this idea will not work. Just then my good friend Bean rolls up with the other kids and other co-coach Ivan. Then Coach Rob flies down the hill. Bean gives me her cell, Rob and Bean take the rest of the kids up the hill, Ivan stays with me and Tube-Box-Dude takes off shortly.

By now my toes are getting tingly. I gingerly loosen my Sidi cycling shoes. Ah, sweet sweet relief. Ivan and I assess the situation, and there is nothing we can really do, besides call 911. Oh schisse. I. Am. Screwed. For the cost of this, these better be the hottest EMTs ever. With the help of a parent (the mother of my favorite girl too :/ ) the EMTs make their way to me. All 8 of them. Yes, 8. Apparently it was a slow day, and the call of a young female mountain biker in distress must have been more interesting than Parcheesi.

These guys are hilarious. Goofy, cracking jokes, teasing me, and generally having fun. Dont get me wrong, they were professional, but I was amused (of course you should know by now I’m 1) easily amused and 2)have some adrenaline pumping through my veins). They took my vitals, my medical history, grandmothers’ middle names, favorite 80s hair band, allergies, favorite color, and any other piece of info that could be useful. During this, one EMT is putting in an IV and port (all the better to dose me up with drugs). They give me a small amount of some amazing barbiturate, I am instantly drunk. They then proceed to try to take my shoe off. But my Sidis have a tri function buckle. For the unschooled, it is confusing; not a one of these 8 guys knows how to work them. So they say something  to the effect of ‘we might have to cut your shoe off’. My pseudo drunk self instantly snaps to. NOOOO (think slow motion movie scene yelling). Unless someone is going to buy me $180 pair of shoes, step off. I get the buckle undone for them, and the shoe comes off. Now its starting to throb and swell. We cannot save the sock, well that much suffering just isn’t worth $6.50. Now I’m splinted and drugged but still on the trail. They could have carried me on a back board (come one now, I don’t weight THAT much, quit rolling your eyes). But we have better technology than that – a mono wheeled gurney, with disc brakes and knobby tire to boot. So they strap me to this pad that stabilizes you when the air is removed (much like a camping pad). Then they strap me to the mountain gurney. Right now, there are like 8 straps holding me down. I’m really hoping  they don’t drop me, I am entirely incapable of catching myself. Of course I tell them this. I get some sort of snarky smart ass response that they already did that this week, so I should be good. (Please note, my memory is a bit fuzzy from about here on out as I’ve got a decent amount of drugs pumping through me, and it only goes up from here).

Ok down to the trail head, where Ivan takes glamor shots with his phone. I have Bean’s phone and am trying to get someone to meet me at the hospital with my phone (Bean said shed meet me there post-bike camp), but I want my phone and a friend there before that if possible. I get transferred into a normal ambulance style gurney put into one of the 2 (mind you there was a fire truck too!) ambulances on scene. We shove off to the hospital. One of the lights in town was out so it took maybe 2x as long as it should have to get there. I lay in the back shooting the shit with paramedic Justin. He’s funny, we’re making jokes. I’m still high so I don’t remember too much and my sense of time is destroyed. There was a severe lack of sirens and or lights when we arrived, so I said they weren’t getting a tip. That got a good belly laugh from the driver and Justin.

So now I’m in the ER, they do all the vitals, I get a remote to run the TV, some stronger drugs which make me all emotional. Now we wait. It doesn’t take long for the x-ray tech to show up, we take some pretty pretty pics  of my ankle. He shows me the fractures. Not one, but 2. That is right, dear readers, when I do something, there is no halfassing it. Go big or go home. I went big. I have a bimalleolar fracture. In normal people terms: I broke the tibia and the fibula. So I’m not allowed to eat or drink, they don’t think I’ll need surgery right away, but you never know. By the time Bean rolls in, I’m bonking. Low blood sugar, trauma, and a nice cocktail of drugs have me a little whacked out. I get a script for Percocet, a few pills to get me through the night, a shiny set of crutches, and an appointment with Dr. Lawton the next morning and I finally get to go home, almost 3 hours after getting to the ER. I am in bad shape, I’m hot (though still in spandex), I’m clammy. I’m pretty sure my speech is slurred. I just want to pass out – but I havent really eaten in close to 9 hours now (except for the bar on the trail – but I think I burned those 190 calories already). Bean has to help me in the house, flailing crutches and all. She waits until the next shift arrives to make me dinner. Cody comes over, makes me food (and makes me eat 2nds). Shortly my brain starts to work again. It’s finally sinking in, I really broke my ankle, this hurt, sucks and I’m not sure what to do, since teaching mtn bike camp was my source of income. And now I have to call my parents.

So when shit happens, I call Dad. He usually is better at breaking the news to Mom. But no, Mom over hears the conversation shes asking concerned-mother type questions in the background, Dad is firing off questions; this is not how it is supposed to work. Eventually it is communicated that I am ok, I am broken, I am home, and I am going the hell to bed.

First I have to break down in tears, you know because I am a girl, and I have yet to cry. Queue waterworks. Cody hugs me, lets me cry it out. I don’t have to tell him why, its pretty obvious. Finally with a hearty dose of Percocet I fall into the first of many nights of drugged slumber.

I want to publicly thank everyone for their help and generosity that day and the ensuing weeks. Without my friends here in Durango, my life would have been a trillion times harder.

Ivan – Thanks for staying with me and keeping me talking at the trail. I’ll only drink Steaming Bean coffee from now on.

Justin the Paramedic – you are hilarious, kind, and exceptional at what you do.  Thanks for hanging out in the back of the ambulance with me.

All the other paramedics – I hope you are that silly and fun with other patients, humor is disarming and helps take the mind off the pain.

Sarah Tescher of DEVO – Thank you for calling to make sure I was ok, and thank you SO much for not contesting any of the workers comp claims. Any volunteer work you need, put me at the top of your list.

Bean – You rock. You brought me clean underwear, shoes, and even jammies to the hospital because I might have needed to spend the night. You kept me from eating shit getting home, you gave me coco crispies to get my blood sugar back to normal. And you took pictures of me pre-op, didnt puke when they shoved an 8″ needle in me. Plus you brought Agnes back home. You are awesome.

Cody – You have made me so many meals. You check on me constantly. You hold my hand when I need it and you let me cry. Thank you.

Slim Shady – You picked me up post surgery, got me food, drugs, ginger ale, and basically were the best replacement mom I could ask for that day. Plus you brought me chocolate and wine while I was on pain killers – party at my house.

Paul – for letting me call you and bother you at work when I was having a bad moment (or 15) and for sending me a lifetime supply of arnica.

Chris – Thanks for the many days of Tom Yum soup and amusing stories over a picnic lunch on my bed. And thanks for the quick action in getting me stronger drugs when the pain was intolerable.

All my other friends who called, brought me food, picked me up, shuttled me around, and just made sure I was hanging in there. Thank you.



  1. […] been creating a mental list of  things that I am excited to do when the bionicness of the Bionic Ankle 3000 comes to a realization. Walking on my own is probably #1 on the list. A close 2nd is taking a […]

  2. […] weight on my ankle for the first time since September 14th. Today is the 6 week anniversary of me breaking myself. Last week I finally got my cast off and stitches out. First thing I did was shower and scrub the […]

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