All The Times I Have Been to the Emergency Room

Yesterday, I was at Marin General and it made me start reminiscing about all the times I’ve been to the hospital/emergency room. Here are all my personal trips to the ER (not counting when I accompanied someone else), as I can think of them:

  • Shattering my teeth in the mall parking lot (a classic, obviously)
  • Biting through my lip when I accidentally slammed a weight-lifting bar into my face — which was also a key part of my Best Week Ever
  • Knocking out my front tooth in college at a pick-up soccer game
  • Hitting a curb and my bike in my first-ever mini-practice triathlon, which caused a concussion and a not-a-seizure
  • Passing out in the training room in high school, after getting hit in the face with a medicine ball, and having a not-a-seizure
  • (I can’t remember if we actually went to the emergency room or just to the doctor either 1. the time I slept-walked in the middle of the night in high school and dove off my bed into my bookshelf and then went back to sleep, or 2. the time I passed out from some weird combination of cold winter running/hot tub/shower, and hit my head on the kitchen floor when I fell. I do know that all those times prompted a whole rash of tests and visits to the Children’s Hospital.)
  • Falling off the slide in 5th grade (I think) and having a not-a-seizure
  • When they thought I had appendicitis in 3rd grade and were all set to take out my appendix, but then I mysteriously got better; memorable because we took a cab to the emergency room, which was the first time I’d ever been in a cab and it was quite exciting
  • Getting my thumb slammed in a door as a kid, and we weren’t sure if it was broken or not
  • Jumping off a pool backwards and slamming my chin into the cement — also the only time I’ve had to get stitches (which got infected and then I had to get more stitches)

I feel like I’m missing one and, obviously, there were plenty of other accidents and injuries that didn’t warrant an emergency room visit. But, as you can see, when I say I don’t need to go to the ER and it would be pointless, I know of what I speak.

The Bad Thing Happened and It Is Fine, Probably

Because we’re so close to Ironman Wisconsin and because I’m so tired — tired past the point of being able to explain it or even care if people understand why I’m too tired to care about them — I’ve been waiting for something bad to happen. It seemed about time for some kind of accident or emergency room visit. And then during the Oakland Triathlon on Saturday, it was such a mess of a race — the roads were bad, the course had dozens and dozens of sharp turns, there were too many people of too varied ability on that not totally closed course, plus it was raining — that I just kept waiting for something bad to happen. So many people were crashing on the turns, and I was taking them so carefully and so slowly, so naturally I crashed on the straight downhill.

I hit a pothole and then I hit two more potholes. I knew I was about to hit the first hole too, but it was too late to really swerve in those conditions; I thought I’d just ride through it. And that worked fine, but then I hit the second one and the third and my hands came off the bars and the wheel turned and I was skidding across the ground.

I knew I was crashing too as I crashed. I’m pretty sure I yelled, “Fuck” multiple times as I rolled and my bike rolled over me. Actually, I’m pretty sure I said, “Fuck” more than 100 times in total on Saturday.

It was this odd thing, because fairly quickly I was sure that I was “fine” in that sense that I wasn’t going to die or have any permanent damage. I wasn’t sure, though, that I wasn’t going to pass out or that I didn’t have some pretty bad temporary damage. So I was trying to self-asses, and swearing like crazy, and bleeding all over, and then focusing really hard on not passing out (which is a super special skill of mine). But when I eventually stood up to get out of the road, so I wouldn’t get hit by people still racing, I couldn’t really use my right arm to get up, and that hurt a lot, so then I really was about to pass out. Which meant I had to lay back down on the sidewalk. And I was laying there curled up on my non-bleeding side on the sidewalk somewhere in a commercial part of West Oakland, muttering “Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck” over and over and trying to focus on one thing so I wouldn’t pass out. I was staring at my foot and part of me was looking at the rain and the dirt everywhere and thinking how much this was going to hurt later to clean out, and the other part of me thought ‘my ankle looks really skinny, that’s weird.’

An ambulance came and there really wasn’t much they could do, because if it’s not broken and it doesn’t need stitches or surgery (which it was decided it didn’t) then there’s honestly no real point in going to a hospital. As a professional ER-goer, let me tell you: most of the time, you don’t need to go to the ER. Are you going to spend $15,000 to drive in an ambulance so that some people, who may or may not have more experience than you cleaning out cuts, can clean out your cuts? And then you’ll still be wet and cold and stuck like that for more than a few hours, and they won’t have dry clothes for you and they won’t have food, and you won’t have a way to tell anyone where you are or how to come get you. No, that’s just dumb, and also a misallocation of resources.

Since the ambulance definitely wasn’t going to give me a ride back to the finish and I was starting to shake from cold or shock, and there apparently was no race support to pick up all the people crashing all over the place, and I debated trying to bike it but threw that idea out pretty quickly since I couldn’t use one of my hands or my other arm, eventually one of the totally freaked out volunteers went and got her car to give me a ride back. Which was really nice of her and I hope I didn’t bleed all over her car — but, also, how was that the official system?

Now I have cuts all down my right side, lots of skin gone across my shoulder/back, and a nasty cut/bump on my elbow. I also apparently landed on top of the bike with my knee, so that’s starting to swell too. And I managed to dislocate my left thumb earlier in the race, getting out of the swim. It’s all stuff that should heal. Hopefully, soon. Hopefully, before Wisconsin.

There was this weird part of me too that was relieved a tiny bit that the bad thing happened and it wasn’t that bad. I was like ‘this is fiiiiiine.’

But now I’m tired again, so tired. And cleaning out the cuts across my back was more painful than actually getting the cuts across my back. (I found myself wondering if you can pass out from pain. I think you can, right?) And now I’m in that part in between when you’re busy just dealing with a problem, and the time when that problem is actually better. It’s the part where everyone else is like ‘Wait, you’re still complaining about that?’ And you’re like why is my shoulder still dripping ooze on the floor?

My shoulder is covered in Tegaderm, which is why it's weirdly shiny and you can't really see all the oozing. Yay.
My shoulder is covered in Tegaderm, which is why it’s weirdly shiny and you can’t really see all the oozing. Yay.


This Really Has Not Been A Great Start To Things

So, yesterday, I crashed our car. It’s fine, I’m fine. And not just in that way people say they’re fine but have all these problems. Really, the car is a little banged up and driving it right now (until we take it to a shop tomorrow) is for emergencies only because it lost its power steering fluid. And, I have a sore neck right now from the whiplash. So, really, it’s fine.

But, man, this has not been a good start to things.

I drove out to Pt. Reyes to ride yesterday, because I told Steve and a friend I’d drop them off at a trailhead, so they could do this crazy mountain bike ride. And, added bonus, I’d get to do my two-hour ride out in the park – which isn’t really possibly from the house if you’re only riding two hours.

Out in the seashore, though, it was raining. It wasn’t raining at our house and it seemed like it was just misting/drizzling on our way there, but once I started riding I was drenched. 100% soaked. Riding up Limantour was great, but coming down was cold and miserable and impossible to see or brake. And, then, I rode another hour. By the time I was finished, I was freezing and miserable. Driving home I had the heat blasting and was cursing the whole endeavor. I had just decided that I wouldn’t stop to get burgers, would eat some smart leftovers, clean my bike, do my PT and stretching/rolling, then head out to finish some work projects.

Then, coming down one of the twisting hills by my house, I made a sharp turn and the car fishtailed on the wet, slippery road. It skidded into the other lane. And, I know you’re supposed to turn into a skid, but the only thing I could think was that the road is narrow and I didn’t want to go over the side of the hill. I fishtailed back and forth across the road, into the other lane and back, skidding and trying to correct. I thought it was coming under control — the fishtailing was getting smaller and the car straighter, but the whole thing also caused the car to lose its power steering fluid (which you could see in the road afterward) and I couldn’t quite control it enough. I hit the side of the hill and the car spun around.

Trying to decide what to do after that was a nightmare. I drove the car sort of the ten feet up into a pull-off, but it was still facing the wrong way on the road and I was still not 100% sure how I could drive it down the hill because the steering was so messed up. Our insurance pays for towing, but you’re supposed to call the Emergency Roadside number and not just a towing co. Only that starts a whole claim process and was taking forever. Calling the police was sort of weird because there were no injuries or anyone else there. Eventually, though, the CHP gave me an escort so I could turn the car around and get down the hill with the super shitty steering and then it was just a straight (slow) shot home.

Today I couldn’t really do much. I mean I could, but it’d be sort of stupid. My neck hurts. My head hurts. My right arm hurts. I suppose tomorrow I’ll see how I feel and then go from there.

This really has not been my best three weeks ever.