It’s just over a month now since I came off my Ducati 848 Evo up near Bolton Abbey in the Yorkshire Dales. The bike is a write off, I am (hopefully) ‘damaged repairable’.
After a trip to A&E and two rounds of surgery I have a titanium plate holding small bits of my clavicle (collar bone to the uninitiated) together and the 4 (from what I gleaned through the morphine) pieces of my scapula (shoulder blade) have begun bonding back into one piece thankfully, although sleeping was ‘challenging’ for the last month.
The turn that I came off on was unremarkable save for some sticky bitumen top surface.
Whilst travelling at 25-30 mph around a left hander, I lost the front and hit the tarmac hard, shoulder hitting first, then sliding headlong down the road into a car which was a sobering, if ‘over in the blink of an eye’, type experience.
I will I suspect never know if I could have avoided it, I’ve ridden the same turn (and hundreds like it) before.
I do have a slight tendency to trail brake into turns, perhaps I squeezed a little hard when I spotted the car.
Or maybe my front wheel reacted somehow to the loose bitumen, the policeman felt it may have contributed (having spoken with motorcycle colleagues when writing his incident report) although it wasn’t really definitive
No matter, the end result is the same, a partially paralysed arm and a check from my insurer for a no longer beautiful Ducati sportsbike.
So what did I learn?
1. The NHS is bloody marvellous when dealing with medical emergencies
My experience dealing with the NHS on chronic illnesses has been mixed. Sometimes great, often frustratingly bureaucratic. When you have a ‘trauma’ you really experience it at it’s best. Everything works and it is super quick. From the paramedics who literally scooped me out of the road, to the A&E staff who assessed and diagnosed my injuries, the surgeon who reassembled my shoulder over the weekend then phoned me to check I was ok, the specialist neurosurgeon treating my paralysed arm, and every single member of support staff at Airedale and Leeds General Infirmary who made a difficult experience slightly more tolerable. The speed and quality of care has been absolutely incredible.
2. There are lots of very decent people out there
I was lying in the road by Cavendish Pavillion for around an hour. The road was closed.
A number of bikers stopped to check on me including notably Earl who stayed with me, keeping me talking, providing first aid and then arrived at the hospital during the weekend with a can of Budweiser and an (empty) punnet of grapes. Superb bloke!
There were three lovely ladies (the two Sarah’s and Ali) who also stayed with me, at least one of whom was from the car my head bounced off. Literally their only concern was my health and both have stayed in touch since, asking after me, offering further assistance.
Good friends like Tony and Dave both offered to collect my bike for me when I was hospitalised which was greatly appreciated and lots of folk including Karen particularly have jumped in to take care of the kids whilst my better half has escorted me to numerous hospital follow ups. Many others have kept in touch for which I am grateful.
3. Our bodies are fragile, mobility is a precious gift
In the last month I have by necessity become an expert in the shoulder, the brachial plexus (nerve bundle controlling the arm) and the various muscle / nerve connections that allow a wonderful array of movements which we take for granted.
Think about it – how great is the human body, albeit incredibly fragile?
Right now I can’t move my bicep or lift the shoulder although my hand is pretty much working normally. Nerve surgery last Friday suggests my C5/6 nerves still connect to my brain at the neck. Apparently it is common in motorcycle accidents for the head and shoulder to be stretched, pulling the nerves out at the spine, which is irreversible.
My consultant straightened my brachial plexus and removed scar tissue in the area. She is optimistic that in time I will recover some function in my bicep and shoulder albeit I will never have normal mobility as before.
4. Good quality equipment is priceless
I was wearing Alpinestars leathers with knee, hip, elbow and shoulder protection as well as an additional Forcefield spine protector.
Aside from shoulder injuries I had only bruising and a small graze (perhaps from friction burn) on my elbow. The leathers took quite a hit and sadly my jacket, back protector and glove were cut off me at the scene. My Shark helmet took a huge hit at the left and rear (see photos).
I will never preach to others about what to wear, suffice it to say my equipment may have saved my life, and certainly most of my skin.
I personally (politely) advocate all the gear all the time so here are my kit reviews if you are interested.
My Alpinestars leathers
Shark Spartan helmet review
The answer is of course ‘yes’
I imagine that most of you are wondering if my near death experience has put me off bikes for good, or if I will go back to them if my shoulder function recovers.
The answer (right now) is of course no it hasn’t and yes I will.
Am I chastened by the experience? Yes obviously, it bloody hurt.
Could the same thing happen riding my push bike? Yes, it already has, when I hit black ice and tore my acromioclavicular ligament.
Crucially I’ve now had four weeks to research how to spend my insurance payout and have an impressive shortlist brewing. So watch this space 🙂
Hopefully see you out there!