How the Leg was Skewered (tm)

So, I haven't blogged in fifteen months, because like I said last time, after 12 years in the game I'm pretty much out of novel experiences in cycling.  But good news!  We had a NOVEL EXPERIENCE this past weekend!

The B2C2 squad was dialed at the Lime Rock GP, we had our best rider up the road in a 3-man break, and I was moving up on the last lap with our best sprinter in tow, so we were totally winning the field sprint.  Then I was on the ground with a thru axle skewer in my leg.  Wait, what?

Here are the actual riding actions that led to the crash.

So as this guy in front of me goes down, I have nowhere to go but to bail off my bike and land on his, with my knee folded against his front fork.  Imagine if you were trail running and suddenly tripped on a tall rock, and you just fell onto the ground knee-first.  That's what happened.  Except that my knee hit his fork, and his fork had a very pointy thru axle lever at the end of it, and I put all my weight into the tip of said thru-axle lever.

It took like 0.01 seconds to realize something very bad had happened.  I ended up kneeling on his front wheel, and my knee hurt, and the second I went to move I knew that this was going to be a very, very bad day in my life.

The guy whose bike I had fallen on, of course, had no idea that some Serious Shit (tm) had gone down, so he started swearing about the crash.  I just started repeating:  "there's a quick release in my leg.  I need an ambulance" in my Very Serious Business Voice because things were Extremely Serious.

My first reaction was to try to take the lever out, which was pretty tough since I was kneeling with all my weight on it.  I shifted a little to see if it would just pop out (lol) and it didn't move, but a bunch of blood poured out and I realized that there was a non-zero chance that I could be close to Bleeding Out and Dying (tm) if I moved, and suddenly my desire to try to remove it was drastically reduced.

So then I pinned my hopes on the ambulance, because it had been 60 seconds since I told someone that I needed an ambulance, and jesus why isn't the ambulance here yet??? It's been SIXTY.  SECONDS!!!

The ambulance rolls up, nice, I am saved, the magic EMT man is gonna make it all better!  He walks up to this guy kneeling awkwardly on someone's front wheel, and I'm like "there's a quick release in my leg!" and much to my surprise he says.... "we can't take that out." 

I'm like "of course you can, you're a magic EMT man" and he says "we never remove impalements in the field.  If you think you can take it out easily, I can look away or something, but I definitely can't help you."

That's when I knew for sure that it was going to be a Bad Day.

So now I'm kneeling on this guys front wheel and no one knows what to do, but it's been 4 or 5 minutes from the crash and I'm trying to keep my body weight off my knee because THERE'S A FUCKING THRU AXLE LEVER IN IT and yeah this is a pretty taxing position with two hands on a the ground and 2 feet basically off the ground, because I don't do yoga.

Luckily my fellow racers are AWESOME, there's a dude holding me up by my shoulders, and another dude figures out to wedge a bottle between my ass and the downtube and now I can put some weight on that, but now that EMT man hasn't magically solved things I realize that I have gotta move soon since my arms are shaking uncontrollably and we've got literally zero idea what to do right now.

So I start directing traffic, I'm like, I have to roll over and get the bike on top of me, there's like 2 people holding the bike, 3 people holding me, me holding the fork as tight against my knee as possible and very slowly and with a non-trivial amount of screaming we manage to get my rotated onto my side.

Now I'm in a sustainable position, and the clock doesn't feel like it's counting down toward my death.  Nice.

However there's still an entire effing bike attached to me.

The EMT, who has lots of Car Track Experience (tm) knows that when shit gets real, the real get the Jaws Of Life.  He pulls out what looks like the giant, ugliest pair of scissors you've ever seen and wants to cut the fork legs off the bike.

The owner of the bike finds this development extremely distressing.

He and I have a very tense discussion that involves me promising to pay him "literally any amount of money to make this pain stop" (wow Colin great negotiation skills) and then the EMT goes to town on the fork with the Jaws of Life.

The battle between the Jaws of Life and a carbon fork was must closer than I thought.  The fork vibrates like crazy (holy shit ow) and it kind of just crushes the fork leg rather than cutting through it.  And oh yeah... the inner fork leg is pressed against my skin, and it's clear that this is not a precision cutting tool.  So we can't cut that, anyway.  The Jaws are retired, and there is still a bike in me.

Gary, the USAC official who was working the backside pit, and called the ambulance (Gary:  already my favorite) realizes that we can take the stem to free the fork from the frame, and since Gary is also a pro mechanic he actually knows how to take this wild proprietary stem off a new Cannondale.

A team of people hold the bike and remove the stem.  Now I only have the front end of a bicycle stuck in me!
Additional teamwork (did I mention the team of people helping, many of whom had also been in the crash themselves?) gets me onto a backboard, and then gets a backboard onto a gurney, and then the gurney just barely fits inside the ambulance with a wheel sticking out of my knee.  We're gonna live!

My teammate Dmitro, whom I've basically never met, gets in the ambulance with me.  I'm still at a 7/10 panic level and trying to figure out exactly how bad the situation is.  The second the ambulance moves, I slide a bit on the backboard and hit the wheel against the wall of the ambulance.   HOLYSHITOW.   Panic level:  still high.

The paramedic in the ambulance tells me it's a 45 minute ride on back roads to the hospital.  Panic level:  not subsiding.

It turns out that ambulances are not, in fact, a sweet, rapid trip to the hospital, there are a godawful rollercoaster of noise.  A vehicle driving above the speed limit on rough, twisty, roads, and traveling anywhere from 70 to 10 mph is a lot less comfortable than lying on a race track, in fact.  Dmitro, god bless him, gets a pretty epic core workout trying to hold me in place as we race through Connecticut.  The paramedic gives up trying to put an IV in me while moving, and has us PULL OVER so he can do it.

After the IV he gives me morphine, which is not the awesome wonderdrug I was hoping it would be.  When it hits my bloodstream, it feels like I'm being squeezed really tight, while also getting totally light headed.  The feeling passes after 15 seconds.. but the pain doesn't really change.  

After a very long 45 minutes of travel, and significant bonding with my new best friends Dmitro and The Paramedic, we get to the hospital.  They wheel me into Trauma 1 (!!!) and it's like a goddamn TV show!  There's gotta be 14 people in scrubs, standing there, ready to SAVE. MY.  LIFE!  Yes!

They immediately cut my skinsuit off my shoulder (fuuuuuuuuu) to do medical things but I guess it's worth it for the Not Dying (sigh).

It turns out that non-cyclists have no idea what the phrase "there's a quick release skewer in my leg" means (I wasn't about to split hairs and say "thru axle") so they fire up the Google and get some pictures of what these things look like.  

Since they smart professionals, they also take X-rays of it, instead of just believing my adrenaline-and-morphine-filled ass when I say "it's lined up just like this, against the fork leg!"

(But I was right)

Once they confirm that they know the shape of it, and it's location, they give me fentanyl (yikes) and lidocaine (woooo) and now I feel the best I've felt in a while and I also can't feel my leg at all.

A scalpel comes out and I am not inquisitive about how it's going to be used.

There is some futzing and I feel some tugging but no pain because drugs.

Then a guy says "it's out!" and I take my first deep breath in 2 hours!

Thanks to all the racers who helped me deal with some very serious shit. 

Thanks to Dmitro for helping through an extremely un-awesome ambulance ride.

Thanks to my entire team for coming to the hospital.

Thanks to my teammate Noel (who I was leading out) for dislocating his shoulder in the crash and basically sitting there in silence while they deal with my injury.  Noel also ended up at Waterbury Hospital.  Ha.

Thanks to Waterbury Hospital for being a well-oiled team of medical professionals that probably deals with way more serious shit that this every day, and extra thanks to the Residents in the ER who were very obliging when I said "please take some photos of this ridiculous shit for me."

After the removal, I was sitting there in a cut up skinsuit and road bike shoes, but not to worry -- Pat gave me a pair of his flourescent-orange MTB shorts, and an only slightly dirty jersey, and Dmitro gave me a pair of sandals, and I was READY TO GO!  So I went and had hooray-I'm-not-dead Chipotle, met up with Christin, and recorded some definitely-still-jacked-up-on-fentanyl content in the parking lot.

I was home in time to post some viral tweets, drink an IPA, and then NEVER SLEEP.  The damage was all to skin/fat/muscle, so I should make a full recovery aside from having what will be a wicked gnarly scar.  No one's really sure how long that will take, though.

All's well that ends well.  Hope to see you at a bike race in.... July?

PS:  If you looked at your bike this morning and realized it has pointy murder levers on the ends of it, you can buy some non-murderous bolt-ons from Rob Axle Project.


Rustybicycle84 said…
Heal quickly. Oh, and I assume your bike was ok since it wasn't mentioned.
Alex Shore said…
Glad to hear that you'll have a full recovery. Crazy crazy story and very well written!
Anonymous said…
At the University of Utah ED we would have known exactly what a TA is

Hope you’re doing well.

this is a crazy story and thank you for sharing it.
Adventuretwin said…
Colin, you’re such a great writer, I feel guilty for enjoying your story.
Anonymous said…
How to tell when a cyclist is truely injured...he stops asking about his bike.
Great story on leaving impaled objects impaled. But you left us hanging on the bike's recovery?
Anonymous said…
How to tell when a cyclist is truely injured...he stops asking about his bike.
Great story on leaving impaled objects impaled. But you left us hanging on the bike's recovery?
Colin R said…
My bike is fine. It just sat there in the grass, unscathed. Didn't even try to help.
Steve C said…
Man that is the Gnarliest story I’ve read in a long time. Heal up right.
Bnystrom said…
Wow, talk about a freak accident! I'll bet the manufacturer never thought of something like that happening when they designed the thru-axle handle.

If the UCI gets wind of this, they'll completely lose it and there'll be a ban for sure! ;-)

Here's wishing you a speedy recovery and a quick return to riding!
20PoundSkull said…
not even sure my blogger account can leave a post in this era. But definitely an epic write up. yikes. heal up.
Eric Follen said…
Glad you are alright. Smart move with the trademarked phrases .
Anonymous said…
well the bright side of the episode is everyone I know is going to run their skewers so they can't get impaled.

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