family

Got a free helicopter ride!!!!!

It’s taken me a good few months to get to the point where I am able, physically but more-so, mentally, to sit down and put in words what has gone with my body and through my mind since that horrible, horrible morning on April 7th, 2016.

There are hundreds and thousands of cyclists having accidents every year, some survive them, some don’t but not many carry on to tell their story. I feel that sharing my story may, or can help raising awareness, for cyclists but hopefully also for drivers and may help saving lives.

Cycling for me is much more than a way of keeping fit. It’s a life style…in fact if I look at my statistics over the past 10 years it shows that I had spent more time on my bike than I did driving, walking, running and travelling by air and by rail altogether!!!

The accident changed it…as things are, we do not yet know if, how and when I’ll be able to cycle “normally” again. I have all the will and intention to do so, though!

The last 8 months have been a tough and scary journey for me and for my family and friends. The accident, the operations, the treatments, physiotherapy, depression, psychotherapy, medications and the pain that takes over everything else, for days and weeks. Three admissions of 4 weeks at a time, going home 3 times…The journey is not over yet and there are things I may not be able to do again. It has affected all of us but we are a strong bunch and we’re not giving up easily.

As the story is long and as it is still ongoing, I’ve decided to publish it in parts.

Part One – the crash

It started like any other normal day…it was a chilly, clear, early-spring day and I was on my regular training ride exploring the country roads of Hertfordshire. The kids were on school half term break so I was in no real rush to get home and approaching THAT junction I decided to turn right and extend my ride by another 10 miles or so.

I saw the Blue Skoda standing at the junction and there were a couple of oncoming cars, so I signaled, slowed down and stopped in the middle of the road, standing 4 metres in front of the Skoda and waiting for the oncoming cars to clear the turning. Once it was cleared, I turned my head to look right and placed my right foot on the pedal, preparing to set off, when the driver of the Skoda started moving…I screamed and pushed forward thinking that I might get out of his way…BOOM!!!! He hit me side on, dropped me on my Left side and believe it or not, continued to move and did not stop until his front wheel was nicely positionned ON TOP of me…I heard that horrible crunching noise…thinking SHIT that’s my BIKE being smashed…

Silence…just my heart beating loudly. OK let’s see if I’m OK…I can move my head, hands, toes, great! So let’s get up and check the bike shall we?

OUCH! I could not sit up…in fact I could not move at all and only then I realised what that crunching noise was…it was MY BONES being smashed…and then the pain kicked in…nothing like anything I have felt before…and then “Sorry my friend…so sorry my friend”

I’m not your friend! That was the driver…the guy later claimed he did not see me. For the record, to date he has not made any kind of effort to approach us or to check how am I doing or if I’m even alive…but he did say sorry, right????

Women’s voices…quick, get that Medical ID bracelet off and tell them what’s going on..tell them to call your wife on the number in the note. Tell them that you are on blood thinners too…Since the open heart surgery I had 18 months earlier I’ve been carrying a bracelet that has all my medical history on it, as well as emergency contact details.

A Siren, two sirens maybe three even, and more voices. Good, the ambulance is here so they can get me off the road, fix me up and maybe give me a lift home?

Make sure they know about the blood thinners and the heart surgery. If I’m bleeding they should know that it may take longer to control. Now I’m starting to feel cold…guys please don’t cut my kit! These bib shorts are only a few months old and they’re the best I’ve got!!! Too late…they’re cutting everything and now everybody can see what’s going on…

Neck brace – check, Gas & air – check, Morphine – check

“We’re getting you into the ambulance mate, that can be a bit painful”…really? YIKES that hurts!!!!

Onto the ambulance we pop…a few clicks and clacks…are we heading to the hospital already? Err…apparently no we’re not…my situation is pretty bad it seems…worse than we would have hoped…they are concerned that there’s a serious internal bleeding and realise that the pelvis is broken in more than one place…

I can hear the sound of the helicopter…they’re getting me out of the ambulance as they need more space around me. Simon, the flying doctor is telling me that they are giving me Konakion (vitamin K) which reverses the effect of Warfarin (a blood thinning medication that I need for my mechanical heart valve) and need to put a special device into one of my main arteries, with a balloon they can inflate and that will stop blood flow to my lower body if needed.

OK we’re going to take you to hospital now, in the helicopter…YAY I’m getting a ride in a helicopter!!! Getting you on board and flying over is going to hurt and we don’t want you to move (as If I can move…seriously) so we’re giving you Ketamine…that’s a strong drug that will stop you from moving and will help with the pain. Fine at this point I’m happy to take ANYTHING that can take this pain away.

it did stop me from moving but the pain remained…a few more clicks and clacks and we’re airborne. It’s only a short 8 minute flight. That was when I thought I was having a near-death experience, and still think maybe I did…I was looking through a hole, seeing what looked like the inside of a working engine or a machine, in black&white…the sort of visuals we know from The Matrix…I DID NOT like it and I just wanted it to end!

Shortly after landing on the helipad at the Royal London Hospital, one of Europ’s largest trauma centres, I was wheeled down to resuscitation.

During all that time I kept asking about my wife, Yael, and if somebody had spoken to her…they kept telling me “somebody’s taking care of it”…they’ve eeventually let her see me about 4 hours after the accident. I cannot even begin to imagine what went through her mind all that time! She drove to two different hospitals, chased ambulances and eventually got a lift in a police car.

The rest of that day, when I think about it, was actually quite pleasant…surgery was scheduled for the next day, I had tons of morphine on demand so pain was more or less under control and they sort of left us alone to digest it all and to prepare for the next step.

Friday, April 8th, day of surgery

As someone who’s been through major surgery only 18 months earlier…it was pretty much “things as usual”…fasting overnight, early start…roll into theatre, general anaesthetic and wake up several hours later with horrible hangover, cold sweats, nausea etc. etc. In addition to the two cannulas they’ve fitted in my hands yesterday, I now have 2 catheters (one stuck in my belly) and the doc who came to see me says they’ve fitted two big screws across my backside, that also go through the two lower vertebra and a large plate with 4 screws holding the front of my pelvis. They say that I’ll be “non weight bearing” for a few weeks, meaning that I can only lie flat on my back…lovely…

The next chapter will be ready in a couple of weeks and will cover the first 4 weeks in hospital…the good days, the bad days, the pain and the outcome.

These two images are x-rays taken before surgery and a few months later. These screws will stay there as a souvenir for life…

broken_800p

fixed_800p

 

 

Advertisements

#TBT…One year on…

So how did YOUR year go?

Mine? Well let me see…

On October 29th 2014 I went through the 2nd most complicated heart surgery…AKA The Benthal Procedure:

General anaesthetic, body temp lowered to 18 degrees C, Blood & Lung machine plugged in, breastbone split into two, chest open, heart opened, Aorta disconnected, Aortic valve removed and replaced with a mechanical one, Aortic root replaced with a Dacron sleeve, Coronary arteries reconnected, heart restarted, chest cavity stitched, breastbone glued and clamped and after 7 hours on the table, chest was closed…

Was it fun? I have no idea because I was asleep…I only remember waking up in the High Dependency Unit a few hours later.

Was hospital fun? Err…NO!!!! It was horrible, by far the worst experience I have ever had!!!

4 days in hospital with a bunch of tubes stuck in my hands and neck and a few more coming out of my chest, and a catheter…oh and lots and lots of drugs. I could not eat anything, It was hot, sweaty, the continuous chatter of the men around me was annoying.

Then they pulled the wires and tubes out. Wires were there in case they needed to fit a pacemaker, so where they decided it was not needed, they pulled them out…and that 1/4″ tube that was collecting fluids was a tough one to get out…

While I was still heavily drugged, the surgeon came in and said something about me being lucky…I was too dosed to enter a conversation so when he came in a gain the day after, I asked him what was it all about. He then explained that when the took the old aortic root out, it already had a small tear in it! In simple word this is called aneurism…except that in my case, by some miracle, it did not burst!

i also lost my voice…completely! It took nearly 2 months (!) to get it back. If you know me, I like to talk, a lot…so not being able to was not fun at all.

And then recovery…walking, walking, some more walking, then turbo-trainer in the freezing garage, initially just staring at the walls and then adding an iPad for entertainment. Then some jogging and 11 weeks after surgery, on the day, I went out on my road bike for the first time.

We knew that this operation was unavoidable and once this was established, we decided to do it ASAP. I did have some time to prepare physically so that I am in the best shape possible, which, as we learned, was key to a fast recovery.

However I did not have too much time to prepare mentally…I was busy with work, travel, family stuff and obviously training. On the day before the operation I did, what I then considered to possibly be my last ride ever…I stopped at one of my favourite spots and prepared a set of short videos for my family; one for each child, one for my wife Yael and one for them together…essentially saying goodbye and giving them some practical advice…sounds corny I know but that was the best I could think of at that point.

One we’ll sit down and watch those videos, with a smile I hope:-)

And today when I look back at last 12 months I can almost say “What was all the fuss about?”

Yes those 4 days at the hospital were terrible

Yes the first 5 weeks of recovery were a nightmare

Yes I still do a blood test every 3-4 weeks and I take Warfarin every evening between 6pm-6:30pm, with a whole glass of water and I use an app to track and monitor it. I also read and learn about new and future medical developments that at some point will make my life easier.

Yes I have to watch my diet carefully, avoiding high levels of vitamin K (didn’t even know it existed before the op), I cannot drink alcohol (well I can but then I’ll have to adjust the medication dose which takes months)

Yes I still cannot sleep properly and I have a frozen shoulder which is painful & that requires regular physiotherapy and may require surgery if that doesn’t cure it.

But

  

Paris, Sept’ 7th 2015; Giles House (Left) and myself arriving at the #BHFL2P 2015 finishing line

I can now cycle and run longer and faster than before (like riding 477km from London to Paris, in 3.5 days, with my friend Giles and in support for the BHF). I can work, I travel, I play with my kids and I can hug my wife Yael, and I know that what nearly happened before the operation, will never happen. It is now 6am, still dark and I am celebrating by getting out on the bike before another busy day starts 🙂

2nd Beach, Olympic National Park, WA

2nd Beach, Olympic National Park, WA

Recovery….

It is now 10 1/2 weeks since my surgery and recovery in general has been going well…there were a lot of ups and downs during the first few weeks (mostly downs) but as time passes I feel stronger with less pain (no more pain killers), Sleep (pr the lack of it) is something I will have to work on, long-term, as is getting used to the loud ticking noise coming from the mechanical aortic valve…

I am a lot more mobile (I can drive long distances!), taking daily exercise and all (or most) of the signs say that I am going to be OK…

And since I am still not allowed to fly and as I have to do regular blood tests etc., we had to settle for short local outings during the holiday season…so you are not going to see any wonderful, warm, sun-spelled photos but here is a small collection from a few trips to the RAF Museum in Hendon, to Trent Park and to the South coast; Milford On Sea and the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu. I was in a “One camera, One lens” mood so all these images were taken with the Mamiya 645DF+, Leaf Credo 50 Digital Back and a Mamiya 35mm/f3.5 D lens, a very versatile and capable combo that lets me shoot handheld at high iso and get some wonderful colours (yes also in B&W) and details. Images processed in Capture One Pro 8. Click on an image to view a larger version…Enjoy!

C50_xmas2014_004

C50_xmas2014_006

C50_xmas2014_028

C50_xmas2014_035

C50_xmas2014_036

C50_xmas2014_038

C50_xmas2014_042

C50_xmas2014_047

C50_xmas2014_050

C50_xmas2014_051

C50_xmas2014_062

C50_xmas2014_068

C50_xmas2014_073

CF001658

CF001660

CF001666

CF001674

CF001680

CF001682

CF001683

CF001685

CF001693

CF001696

CF001697

CF001704

CF001708

CF001710

CF001712

CF001719

CF001729

CF001654

                                 All images ©yair shahar and cannot be copied, printed or displayed without the author’s permission

Reset

It’s been MONTHS since my last post…for lots of different reasons like work and other things I was busy with, but those were all just side-stories…

I continued to work a lot, traveled a lot (mostly for work, naturally…), cycled plenty (how about >6000 km in 10 months?) but I was also busy with preparations for the main event!!!

The main event was an open heart surgery (OHS) which I underwent on October 29th 2014, Just 7 days ago. I am writing this post sitting at the dinner table at home!

They replaced the defective-from-birth aortic valve, with a new one made of metal and carbon fibre. They also had to replace about 5cm of the ascending aorta, called the Aortic Root, which was showing severe dilation creating a huge risk of aneurism…

The situation was compounded by a rare blood disorder which they’ve found a few months ago, causing my blood to clot a little slower than usual and leading to a long series of blood tests. Eventually the green light was given, under the assumption that this disorder could actually be caused by the defective valve.

So we went into St. Bartholomew’s hospital on the 28th after lunch. In the morning I felt like getting out one last time, you know…just in case…and did a 39km on one of my favourite local routes, which was lovely 🙂

After checking in, the nurse at the Vicary ward showed us around, talked us through the pre-op stuff and showed me to my bed. I was chosen to get on the table at 8am the next morning so after dinner I had to take a shower with a special antibacterial soap and was handed a shaver, which I had to use for removing any trace of chest hair…they do not want any hair to be dropped into the chest cavity during the operation!

They gave me something for a better sleep, I said goodbye to my wife Yael and that was it!

05:45 wake-up, into another thorough shower and at 07:30 Yael escorted me to the lift, gave me a big goodbye hug & kiss and up I went to the 5th floor where the operation theatres are located.

I remember rolling over onto a narrow bed and going into a small room with a small team who were all joking with me while fitting various needles into my hands and into my neck and after that I do not remember ANYTHING!

I woke up about 11-12 hours later, in the Intensive Care Unit. My first memory is from High Dependency Unit a couple of hours later, that was already after they removed the airway and the camera that were stuck in my throat, my lungs and heart were already running on their own and Yael says that I was even able to talk…nothing sensible obviously, but still…

The next 3 days were not easy…I moved out of the HDU very quickly, only 2 nights there but the help and care of the staff there were unbelievable! I was still hooked to various drips and wires, mostly for monitoring but also with a tonne of painkillers, and those come with all sorts of side effects such as sickness, dizziness, drowsiness and various other “nesses”…

Back at the Vacary Ward, I was put in a large room with a funny bunch of male patients, all in their late 60’s…”veterans” of various heart deceases, strokes, bypass surgeries, lung cancer and whatnot! I was the youngest and the only one who could not say a word…due to the camera that was stuck in my throat I lost my voice and we are still waiting for it to come back (personally I am not in a rush and am quite happy to stay silent for a little while).

I was determined to leave the hospital as quickly as possible. I mean the staff, care and service were all fantastic, but I kinda didn’t like being a patient, wearing a pyjama, having a constant bad taste in my mouth and listening to old people’s conversations…

So on Monday, November the 3rd, when the doctors did their morning round, I shared with them everything I was still struggling with but I also told them that I feel like I’m taking valuable space in the ward and that they will be much better off without me. 10 hours bureaucracy-littered hours later and we were in a minicab heading home!!!! Yael and my daughter, Arielle, came to fetch me.

Today, just 7 days after the operation, I walked my children to & from school, Yael and I took the tube down to the hospital for a blood test (I will have to do lots of those in the coming weeks/ months) and to change the dressing on the wound. We continued to meeting my parent for lunch at the nearby Hummus Brothers restaurant.

I expect to remove the dressing in a couple of days and to have a nice looking, 20cm-long scar on my chest. The wound is healing quickly, although the chest bone underneath it (the sternum) is going to take a couple of months to become one piece again. I have to be very careful with movement, lifting etc. and it will be a while before I can cycle outdoors. I was happy to find out however that the turbo trainer is great for getting back in shape, along with walking, walking and more walking.

I am utterly amazed at how today’s medical developments and the ability of the surgeons to mend you in such a way that you can go through this trauma one day, and a week later you can sit on the sofa with your loved one and watch Downton Abbey….I only missed One episode!!!!

I chose to call this post “Reset”. My odometer was reset on October 29th 2014.

 

Reset

 

 

Resolutions

Many of us have spent time during the last week thinking about their new year’s resolution.

Here is my short, prioritised, personal wish list for 2014:

1. Be a better husband
2. Be a better father
3. Loose 5 kilos and stay healthy in general
4. Make a bit more money and make better use of it

Notes:
1. Some of these items are “in progress” and others are “TBA”
2. I only had 90 minutes to draw this list, during a wet and a very windy bike ride on New Year’s morning

Happy 2014 everyone! May all the items on your list be marked as “completed” by the end of the year!!!

Goals etc.

I love setting targets and goals and then not having to make up excuses for not reaching them

Most times we tend to set them too high, or just a little too high. This keeps us motivated and encourage us to try harder next time, or at least that’s how it works for me…

When it comes to cycling, I usually plan one month ahead, look at work and travel commitments, family stuff and try to predict the weather, not very easy when you live in the UK!

For July everything looked good, summer arrived and decided to stay for a while, which means not only good weather but also long hours of daylight and as I’m not a good sleeper I could get up early and be back just when everyone wake up. Also as Europe was entering the holiday season, I did not have too much travelling to do, giving some extra flexibility.

After a busy June, where I was able to squeeze in 645km, 55km off the 700km that I’ve set as a target, I thought that 900km for July would be challenging but maybe achievable

And today, the last day of the month, I was on the road at 06:30 and 1:15 hours and 28km later (and very wet they were!!!), I got back, stopped and looked at the odometer and was very pleased to see 1,004 km!!!

Yes, that is 104 kilometres more than what I was going to do!!!!

This is the most I’ve ever done in one month and especially after last year’s back injury, which took me off the road for 5 months, I am very, very happy with this progress!!!

And if you want to know why I do this, you can turn to my BHF Fundraising page

I do this because it is good for the body, the mind and the soul and one day it is going to help me, just like it helps thousands of others every day!

So I have to thank the great british weather and most of all to my loving and supporting family who are not only willing to put up with my hobby but who also encourage me to continue pushing!

Now the bike needs a good clean and lube and I need to continue training for the next event: Haywards Heath Howler Sportive Aug 11th

Ride safely!