May 18,Foothills Hospital, Calgary
Each trip has its own ending. Hopefully not many will end quite like my Pacific Coast bike trip.
My last post was from Shelby, arriving by Amtrak from Pasco Washington. The weather was dreadful (cold, north wind) when I arrived, but I wanted to try to get home from there. I left Shelby on a bright- 8C morning, cold but fairly windless and I had the right clothing on when I left.
The 35 miles to the border went well, almost anyway. A pedal fell off. I remove the pedals for packing and had not put one on well. For years I have just been finger tightening my pedals so they are easier to remove. Luckily I had my little vice-grips, with which I could force the thread. This will require a future replacement.
At the border I was told the only hotel before Lethbridge was at Milk River, too close but the wind was now up, and so I stopped early. I had been talking to Doug Mirtle about possibly needing a ride and so I was in communication with him and Lilly since Shelby, but felt things were not so bad.
The next morning I was off early but the wind was strong again and I was struggling. By 10:00, about half was to Lethbridge, I crawled into a ditch, out of the wind and called Lil and Doug. We met a couple of hours later in Lethbridge where my cycle trip came to and end; but there is an epilog.
Over the next 10 days I struggled with fatigue and lethargy, attributing it to exhaustion. I began shuffling around like an old man, and finally I went for a walk in Nosehill Park determined to begin building up my strength. This is a hill walk that I have done countless times and surprisingly for the way I felt the up hill went very well; my leg strength was very good. But as soon as I started coming down I could not control myself well enough to keep from running. To stop I had to fall into a bush, stumbled around a bit more and then headed up one more hill. Coming down from that my falling was even worse. I caught up to a female dog-walker and fell into another bush beside her, and the proceeded to stumble from bush to bush. By the time I got off the hill she was long-gone. You don’t fool with drunken old men no matter where you encounter them.
I got in to a doctor but it was two days later as I was waiting again for my sister to take me to my eye doctor, that I gave up. I had decided that driving probably wasn’t smart. I had taken an hour that morning to get some clothes on, I was falling all over the place, my house was a disaster with unwashed dishes and clothes strewn everywhere. I called an ambulance. Thankfully, Tara, my niece had been after me to do this.
Five minutes later I was in the ambulance and the paramedics were gathering information. In the Foohills Hosptal it took another two hours to get into a Cat scan It was going to take a couple weeks in the non-emergency world to get in. I had a large pool of blood on each side of my brain, a subdural hemotoma, and they were going to drain them. Lilly helped get me through admissions. By now I had no control of my feet and I think only a little control of my thinking, although I still seemed able to answer questions satisfactorily.
The next afternoon they drilled two one-cm holes in my head and began the draining process, which went on for about 30 hours, but mostly happened immediately which returned much of what I had lost.
I hope to be released tomorrow, three days, four nights after arriving, most of that observation and recovery. I have encountered probably 40 people here, and have nothing but the highest marks to give everyone. I know some people criticize our health system, but to me when you really need help it is second to none.
There are a few lessons for me here. Firstly, I need to trust my recuperative powers. I was feeling pretty punk on my whole bike trip and after the trip when I still wasn’t recovering. When that happensI need to look for help, which is the second lesson. Our system is so good and the earlier they catch some of our aliments the better they can be treated. My family and friends are also now coming forward indicating they also saw some deterioration and rationalized it away as well.
I don’t know definitively what caused the hemotomas. Likely a fall cross-country skiing in March. I guess I will start wearing a helmet there, at least when conditions are poor. But 20% of this sort of problem may not be caused by a trauma.
The go-forward advice is mixed. Be careful, but don’t lie down and die. I could end back up in here for a repeat performance regardless of what I do. 25% who have had this operation will need another at some time. While this was a scary experience for me, and I had many thoughts of what I will be able to do in the future, as I suffered through it and have begun to get better. But even now, before leaving the hospital, I know that I will find an adventure soon.
At the moment. I have no plans, but am thinking of Africa, Eastern Europe or maybe it is time to take a long sojourn in Australia, which I have been saving for some time.
So, until next time…