medical

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

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#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

This is it!!!

So a couple of days ago I had an echo scan and a meeting with my surgeon to review my “condition”.

7 months post-op and he said he does not want to see me again, ever!

Going through my bucket list, one of the first things I always wanted to do was to cycle from London to Paris, and this year I will finally be doing it with my Friend Giles House, as part of a group ride organised by the British Heart Foundation

BHF has been part of my life for the last few years and I wish to continue to support them. I have set up a fundraising page which allows you to donate as little or as much as you can. The BHF helps thousands of people with research and support. They’ve helped me and now I am helping them, with YOUR support!

Note that all the expenses for the ride are covered by myself, so everything you donate goes directly to the BHF !

I survived the operation, got the T-shirt and won a second life. I am now asking YOU to help others who have to do the same! Please click on the image below to go to my fundraising page.

Thank you!

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