Day 10 of the Ride for Jase. Brisbane to Noosa. Perfect weather. Fantastic conditions, slight tail wind. I was on a roll. Feeling strong and confident. The first 9 days on the bike were good, despite the rain. Everything was going to plan, like clockwork.
And then, out of nowhere, bang! I was hit by a car.
I lay there on the road looking up in to the sky, a thousand thoughts going through my head. Am I injured? Have I broken anything? Can I get up? Will I continue riding today? Something inside me was telling me not to move.
My mate James who was riding with me that day was standing over me. "Are you ok?" James asked in a concerned tone. I was, but I really couldn’t speak much. I let out a gasping “yeah, I’m alright”. I find out later that after performing synchronised front flips over the bonnet of the car which had cut us off, James had actually landed on me as we hit the asphalt. The ambulance arrives and I can only assume that I will not be back on the road again that day. But what about the Guinness World Record attempt for The longest journey by bicycle in a single country? I am not allowed to have more than 14 days in a row off the bike....this is the only thing I could think of in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.
A few X-Rays and examinations later and I realise I wont be back on the bike within 14 days. I would need shoulder surgery. It was not what I wanted to hear, but I knew I was lucky. It could have been a lot worse. The staff at Caboolture Hospital had heard all about the Ride for Jase and knew I wanted to get back on the bike asap. They managed to line me up to see orthopaedic surgeon, Dr Brosnan, at Peninsula Private Hospital for the very next day.
This was nothing short of amazing really. Not only was I lucky that Dr Brosnan was able to see me the day after my accident, he is also one of the best orthopaedic surgeons in Brisbane, an expert with this type of surgery. He explained that I had a Grade 5 Acromioclavicular separation - the most severe type of AC joint injury. He was very clear about what needed to be done and explained that surgery was my only option, but reassured me that I should make a full recovery. Dr Brosnan had a sense of certainty about him. I knew I was in good hands and I trusted him immediately. I explained that I wanted to get back on the road asap, so Dr Brosnan arranged to fit in my surgery that afternoon. And on top of that, he believed in what we were doing and wanted to help out. When he said that he would donate the surgery as his contribution to the cause, both Kat and I cried. We just couldn’t believe the generosity shown by a complete stranger. A gesture of absolute kindness that we will remember forever.
A few hours later I was in surgery. All my tendons had been completely torn so my collarbone needed to be cut back and artificial tendons used to hold it back down in position. My new shoulder would be able to take 400kg of weight post-surgery recovery so it would be stronger than ever, but it would be 6 – 12 weeks before I could get back on the bike. Considering how well I had recovered from previous injuries, I mentally took hold of the 6-week mark and decided that I would do everything possible to get back on the bike by then. I had something to work towards.
Dr Brosnan worked his magic and the surgery was an absolute success, but the first week post op was really hard. I was completely out of it. Taking heavy painkillers, sleeping most of the time but waking every 3 hours feeling like I needed to go to the toilet. Kat had to help me get out of bed every time I woke up as I couldn’t move on my own. Even though all this was happening I knew it wouldn’t last long - my body was telling me to rest and let it do its thing. Gradually, I started to improve and progressed to being able to get out of bed on my own, take short walks and even use a knife and fork again after a couple of weeks. Baby steps really.
It’s definitely been challenging both physically and mentally. All the work we put into the ride, all my training, and planning, this has changed things. But there are positives. The accident happened in a place where I had access to fantastic medical services. I have been given time to rest in a place where the sun is shining, the weather is warm and the people are kind and friendly. If anything, the accident has taught us that you can’t control everything in life. Really, there is very little that you can control. It’s about accepting what can’t be changed and doing your best to get back on the right path and move forward. It doesn’t matter how slowly, all that matters is that you are going in the right direction.
I am determined to finish this ride for my brother and for everyone else that has ever struggled with depression. I am taking things slowly and listening to my body, all the while staying focussed on a 6 - 8 week recovery and hopefully, getting back on the bike then. I will be seeing Dr Brosnan again for my second follow up on 2nd August, so this will really be when I find out when I am going to be able to get back on the road.
I have received a lot of messages of support since my accident, thank you to all of you who have reached out. Reading these messages gave me that little bit of strength that I needed, and reminded me that whatever happened, it was going to be ok.
I received a message from one of our supporters saying ‘this setback is such symbolism to how people get a few steps ahead in their mental health and then experience a 'big crash'. Self-care, patience and compassion are the remedies until we can get back on the bike’.
I couldn’t agree more.