It’s been a busy, painful and tiring few days.
And I think, after making sweeping (and potentially erroneous) statements like ‘the trip’s over’, and ‘only a smashed collarbone’ in my Thai hospital post, you probably deserve a little more of a considered appraisal of what’s occurred.
I was in pain and in shock, after all. Not a good time to be making decent assessments. So let’s roll it back a little, and start at the start.
The roads in Thailand had seemed pretty benign. I was heading north on the coast last Sunday, with a gentle tailwind, in the sunshine, without a care in the world. I passed a temple or two. It was the middle of the afternoon. The road was quiet.
And then the truck hit me. And then I woke up in hospital.
My initial understanding of what happened was pieced together from shards of half-remembered conversations with doctors and policemen (quite possibly with a little morphine involved, too).
Apparently, the truck had grazed the right-rear pannier on the bike, flipping the Beast and me sideways to smash my collarbone on the, erm, hard shoulder. The doctors had scanned me while I was semi-conscious, and my head and spine were OK. I was a very lucky boy.
But the more I thought about it, the less some of this made sense. Why were all the scratches and scrapes down my left side, when it was my right collarbone which was damaged? How did I end up with a bump on the back of my head? And how was I knocked unconscious if I’d fallen off sideways?
Time, crash scene photos, and endless scans and x-rays have clarified things a little since.
The collarbone didn’t break on the road. That was a false assumption, based on how most cyclists pick up the injury. In fact, the truck really did hit me, as well as the bike. And it hit me hard. The bike went down on the left (that’s the scrapes and scratches accounted for). But all the damage to my shoulder was caused directly by the truck.
Tons of metal on flesh and bone at a closing speed of about 60kph. Not what you’d call a fair fight.
After finally getting back to the UK on Saturday evening (a long and tedious journey, of which little needs to be said), I spent most of the rest of Easter weekend in and out of another hospital. More scans, more x-rays. Every one identifying more damage.
The truck pretty much took out the whole upper-right quarter of my torso. As well as the collarbone, my shoulder-blade is now in three big pieces (and several smaller ones). I’ve got at least four broken ribs. And at least four fractured vertebrae in my back to match. So that’s technically a broken back, then. Oh, and a bunch of neck vertebrae which now have bits missing.
And so I won’t be riding a bike for a while.
So far, so unlucky.
So far, so very, very lucky to be alive, sitting slightly uncomfortably on a sofa and writing a post. So very, very lucky not to be paralysed or brain-damaged. I’m actually a relatively happy bunny at the moment.
If I’d arrived at hospital in the UK with those back injuries, I’d have been straight into emergency spinal surgery. If I hadn’t been wearing a helmet (smashed into a thousand tiny pieces), the truck’s indicator housing would have stoved in the back of my skull like an eggshell. And if one of the broken ribs had punctured a lung (apparently pretty common), I’d have been in real trouble too.
None of those things happened. So it all depends how you look at it. Yes, I got hit by a truck. Yes, I need an operation on my shoulder (that’s next week’s fun-packed agenda). Yes, I’m finding it difficult to sit or stand or lie in comfort. But if you’re going to get hit hard by a truck, this is probably the best outcome you can hope for. I can walk. I can think. I can breathe.
Is the trip over? Well, clearly yes, in its original form. Even if I had a break and then went back to finish my planned route, that would be two ‘half-way round the world’ trips, rather than one whole one. I’m a bit gutted about that.
But again, a sense of perspective is required. Assuming the op goes OK, there’s nothing to stop me from cycling in the reasonably near future. Am I finished with long distance touring? I don’t think so; I’m already climbing the walls with boredom here (that’s obviously metaphorical, given my condition). And I nodded off earlier, and had a dream about riding a bike through the Alps. Or maybe the Andes. Or the Scottish Highlands. Some hills, anyway.
Will it be a series of shorter rides, or another intercontinental journey? Will I finish what I started, or start something new? I don’t know.
But I don’t think the riding’s over just yet…
Tough old boot that The Beast was, the truck was one step too far. It just wasn’t worth trying to bring it back to the UK for repairs, especially as the truck’s insurance were willing to pay me out for it.
So sadly, after over 15000 trouble-free kilometres (including a few before the trip), and at just over a year old (far too young), it’s time for me to look forward to whatever the next adventure is without the solid, heavy, reassuring presence of The Beast alongside.
I’ll keep you posted on what that adventure might be, how my recovery goes, and what Beast II looks like over the next little while. Guess there are still a few unknowns out there to chase down…