Updated: Mar 9, 2021
So...My first blog. In a bid to give you some forewarning and a taste of future blogs, there will be as many spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors as there will upcoming adventures. You've been warned, please try to be forgiving ;)
For a change, I will start from the beginning. Those that know me will testify to my bad storytelling and terrible jokes, I usually start somewhere in the middle and mess up the punchline. Something else for you to look forward to. Buckle up.
Last September I decided to cycle the 102 mile round trip to the Falls of Falloch (Stirling) for a dip. It's a lush little hot spot along the A82 and well worth a visit if you like a good waterfall. The sun was shining and I was buzzing to soak up some rays, have a swim and add that all important 100k Strava Trophy to my underwhelming collection.
I was heading towards Dumbarton along the National Cycle Route 7 when this really smooth, flat, dry section came out of nowhere and made me crash. Yup, no tree roots, leaves, water, potholes, bumps, snails, people, dogs....nothing, nada, zilch. Not a single thing was in my way, but before I knew it I was on the ground listening to some cool crunching sounds coming from my collarbone.
Of course, the first thing I did was check my brand new jersey didn't have a hole in it, you know that lime green leopard print one everyone is sick of seeing on my Insta page, that one. Next up was my beloved touring bike 'Valhalla', surprisingly not my first priority. Thankfully, both were fine. Phew.
Then me, I knew straight away that something wasn't right, so I moved my arms up, down, backwards, forwards (probably really helping the situation) and heard lots of crunching...sweet. So I moved it some more to take off my jersey and inspect it with the camera on my phone (it looked like a tee-pee), then I put it back on again to cycle myself to the hospital. Yup, back on my bike until I felt a bit nauseous and realised I was in shock and should probably stop and ask for some help (which I was dreading). I don't find it easy to ask someone to go out of there way to help me. It was needed, I couldn't cycle or push my heavy bike.
I sat down at the side of the path and had some water and a yummy Dextrose tablet or two. It was only a few minutes before I saw a cyclist coming along, so I got up clutching at my wee shoulder and he cycled past. Cheers mate. Then lovely Tom approached me on his E-bike and asked if I was okay, I said I've broken my collarbone and showed him, kudos to him for not dry boaking. He helped me with my bike and we headed to the Starbucks at Milton which was only metres away. I phoned my wee (4ft 11") auntie Elaine who was at work and told her the great news, and that she won a trip to Milton. Whilst we waited for my second savior of the day I bought us something hot and we talked bikes...Elaine was there in no time. Bless her for dropping everything and coming to get me in her work van (breaking rules, way to go Lainey!) and taking me to the nearest hospital like I asked.
The Vale of Leven hospital...well, after almost two hours of waiting I finally got some Paracetamol, the confirmation that it was broke and a sling that was thinner than toilet roll. We were told to head to Queen Elizabeth. We were thrilled as you can imagine. Anyway, off we went to the QEUH and the Doctors suggested I have surgery due to the nature of the break. They warned me it would protrude because of my small frame but I was just happy to have the opportunity to get it fixed and begin the healing process. I asked how long it would take to heal and when could I get back to work and on my bike again. He said a few months at least. This was when I shed my first tear. I mean I cry at adverts with cute dogs in them so I was actually very impressed that I managed to hold it together for so long, but gutted I would have to cancel work, not be able to do my expedition in Cambodia and especially sad it would be a few months before I got back on my bike again.
The Surgery & Recovery (The First Chapter)
I won't go into detail and drag this out, mostly because I was under anesthesia, lucky you. The NHS staff throughout this journey have been incredible, absolutely incredible. We are very lucky to have such talented health care professionals. I have seen first hand the difference they have made for not just myself but my little sister Lauren too. Legends.
Right, back to the surgery and the aptly nicknamed Doctor (by mum and me), Dr Dreamy. He said a plate was necessary and it would protrude. Whilst he was telling me this I was thinking of which upper limb part I could fracture next so I could see him again. He done an outstanding job in terms of technicality and neatness so I was pleased. After an overnight I was keen to get out of hospital and head back to my mum and step dads house in Dumfries and Galloway for some special healing hugs from my sister. Huge thanks to my mum for driving 100 miles to pick me up (not quite the 100 mile journey I envisioned but grateful) and another 100 miles home. Once the swelling had gone down and the dressing was off, we got a clearer picture of it...like we could see the screws on the plate sort of clearer picture haha. Dr Dreamy did not lie. It certainly protruded. The aesthetics of it didn't really bother me, I thought it made me look more gnarly...but that wasn't where the saga ended.
My physiotherapist and routine was superb and I was always 'Star Patient of the Week', Yassssss! (there's a little insight to what I was like at school). I couldn't believe how much mobility I had in just a couple of weeks, windmills and everything. I was super happy to be progressing more and more each week and after six weeks I was discharged. I was free to go play again but not to put too much impact or weight on my clavicle for another month. So, I was well behaved and patient, thinking of my future in the long term. My lifestyle and career depended on me healing fully, and my mobility and flexibility being just like before.
I waited and waited for the pain and that weird feeling to disappear every time I wore a sports bra or put a rucksack on (empty or full) but it didn't budge. The layer of skin over the metal work was so thin I could feel every little bit of pressure on that plate and bone combo...yuk! It also got sore when the weather was cold, living in Scotland, this is a problem.The Doctors said it was because I "didn't have much padding up there", well, we all knew that anyway haha.
My sadness and concerns were all focused around the outdoors, if I can't wear a rucksack I basically can't do my job or many of my hobbies. These hobbies are my stress and anxiety busting coping strategies. So it needed to come out. Now for the emotional battle whilst I waited for the second surgery. Every time I went mountain biking or climbing I imagined me crashing and the metal work coming through my skin, which to be fair isn't that far fetched. It really played on my mind so I was excited to get it out and crash confidently again.
Boom, Covid 19...my appointment was canceled and because it was elective surgery it was pushed to the back of the list. Understandably, emergency surgeries were priority. Fast forward seven months and I got a phone-call saying they can offer me an appointment in October but I need to self isolate for two weeks prior. Work cancelled, one rather large Netflix list and my front door locked, I was good to go...(well not go, but you know what I mean).
Surgery & Recovery ( The Final Chapter)
So, that's me had the plate removed, I'm gutted I forgot to ask if I could keep it, I guess I'm weird that way. Anyway, after 13 days I have a bit more energy, I can do my incredibly fetching windmill dance again and I am sooooooo excited to get back on my bikes in a few weeks. The plate coming through my skin really did mess with my head somewhat, so I will be taking it slowly and building my confidence back up to where it was with my mountain biking and climbing. I know it won't take long before I'm slipping & sliding down the red/black steep and naturals again.
I officially have six more weeks until I can crash again (yes I actually asked the surgeon when I could crash). I still can't wear a rucksack just yet but I'm hopeful over the next couple of weeks that will change so I can get some overnight camping in. My energy levels are increasing, I've been off pain medication since third/fourth day of surgery and now I have a badass battle scar.
I have been lucky to get a few decent rides in between surgeries and even went to my crash site to give it the 'f&f (the finger and forgiveness). I'm really looking forward to 2021, this year has been weird (for us all) but I am grateful to have adventured as much as I have all things considering. The future is packed with plans and I won't waste a minute. Roll on December.
I have learned loads during this journey though, and it has been a journey. Lessons learned; Be brave, continue making the most of each day, trust my instincts regarding my body, it's capable of much, much more but most of all don't trust flat and smooth paths.