2013 Trek Travel Crater Lake - Anne's Adventure

August 5, 2013 Monday
Anne French

Trek Travel had a plan for us to ride to the boat access point about 11 miles from the Crater Lake Lodge where we were staying. From there, we were to hike down about a mile to the lake, then boat out on Crater Lake. Stewart and I opted to bike to the trail head despite the intensity of the 20 mile mountain climb on Day 1 and being aware of the extreme profile of the Day 2 route. Some wisely took the van.

It was grueling, a continuous 6-8% grade, sometimes more. We took our Camelbaks, still acclimating to the 6000+ foot altitude, and stopped at every overlook available. Kyle, one of the guides, rode back and forth among those of us who took bikes rather than the van, and provided his unique hipster-style encouragement. I had switched to my smaller sunglasses since the big Gyro's we got free on our last Backroads trip wouldn't hold a rear-view mirror.

Finally about 8 miles in, we crested the highest point and started the downhill. I saw in my mirror as Kyle slid up next to me and I asked him whether the brake hoods were safe or should I use the brakes in the drops. He recommended the drops as being safer and I took that advice, carefully squeezing both brakes simultaneously off and on as we picked up speed on the downhill. Stewart was soon out of sight rounding the bends more bravely and Kyle went up ahead too.

I crashed.

?? I hear my voice but have no control over that noise. ?? Why is my face on the asphalt? What are my teeth rubbing on? Gotta grab something! but I'm spinning, pinwheeling downhill, just enough tiny gravel to continue the slide. No, grabbing street with fingertips is a bad idea! Still yelling?? Finally I'm stopped. Is anyone near? Now I'm yelling on purpose ... and thank god! Kyle is here! So soon. I'm ok, I'm ok, I'm ok. Well, sore. What happened??? I'm on my back, helmet still attached, laying on my Camelbak. Stewart's here now too. Ok, ok, ok, I'm just going to lay here. Wait, helmet is awkward. Please remove it. Shoulder sore, feels better with helmet off. Now head too far from ground. Please remove Camelbak. It's off, my head is stabilized as I'm moved out of the middle of the road and the Camelbak goes under my head and Stewart's is under my knees. Feel ok now. Yikes! Shouldn't have held up my fingertips to see them. Oh well, fingernails and fingertips grow back. Now park ranger is here, now EMS arrives, asking what day it is, what's my date of birth. I answer all questions correctly, looking around with both eyes but Stewart is holding my head tight. I start shivering. Park ranger has astronaut blanket and finds out how hard they are to open up but I'm wrapped and feel better. Elizabeth arrives and wraps my top with her fleece jacket. Much better. My new jersey is getting cut off. Oh well. People walking all around, can't see what traffic is doing. Yes, Obama is president, I'm at Crater Lake, it's Monday I think the 5th since we were in Eugene Friday the 2nd and Sat, and yesterday (Sunday the 4th) was the 1st day of our cycling vacation. What hurts? Fingers, shoulder, a spot where my shoulder connects to my neck. The EMT checks my legs, my arms, keeps looking concerned at my face, pushes on my hip bones and ribcage, runs his fingers down the back of my neck. I get transferred to flat board gurney and he checks my back while i'm turned on my side. I'm not hearing any "uh oh" so I think I'm ok. Then they tell me I'm going to Bend. They have a Level II Trauma Center so it's a better bet than Klamath Falls but will take a helicopter. Oh, ok... Don't worry, we're in a National Park so it's free. I ask if I'm still in the United States and they all get a laugh.

In the ambulance now, 35 minutes to the helicopter. I hear concern about timing from the EMT. I'm shivering again. We're flying. The EMT asks the driver to slow down enough to get the IV in. The woman standing over me gets me covered and warm again. The EMTs mention it's boiling in there but she won't let them turn up the AC. The IV is in. I'm asked what's the pain level from 1 to 10. I say 3-4. They want zero. Something goes in the IV. Time passes. I'm asked again. I say zero except there is a LOT of pressure on my forehead. I ask if they are holding my left eye shut. No, I'm told I'm doing that myself.

Here's the helicopter. I hear we made it in 20 minutes. Again some transfers and back checks. We take off. This is smooth! No idea how long and getting too tired to ask questions now. Answer all questions asked. Still zero pain but lots of pressure. We land without even a bump. Transferred and into the ER. On the table, the doctor asks my age, date of birth, what happened. I'm still answering ok. He orders a cat scan, some XRays. Asks if I have contacts in. Oh dang! Yes, hard lenses in both eyes. Ok, he and the assistant (PA? Nurse?) use gauze to dry my eyes and their fingers real good, pry my eyes open and squirt some yellow stuff in there. Then a few more pries and they are able to suction the contacts out, even from the eye that is totally swollen shut. Thank God!

Dr. Sampson tells me we're at St. Charles Medical Center in Bend. He checks my pelvis and ribcage again, verifies my arms and legs are ok, stares at my face a lot. I hear hematoma.

The orderly takes me to get images done and they do my head, my shoulder, my neck. Then it's back to the room and the nurse takes over cleaning my face and poor split fingertips. She says the Cascades Race was there last week so they handle a lot of bike crashes. No biggy. She thinks I've gotten very lucky here but we'll know more when the results come back from the imaging.

She asks for Stewart's phone number which I actually remember and she's off to let him know how I'm doing.

Dr. Sampson returns and sits down next to me. Turns out I have a fracture in my cheekbone, but one radiologist believes it's in place and other says it's minimally displaced. No need for treatment in either case. Cosmetically I could get it looked at in 6 weeks if I care. I also have a broken nose, again in place, again no treatment needed. FInally, I have a crack in my C5 spinous process, a protuding bone from my neck. But, miraculously, that bone is not associated with nerves and again in itself needs no treatment. These things will heal in a month or so on their own. Only one caveat: there is some separation near the C5 fracture and he wants to be sure there it does not cause any further issue so I'm to see a neurosurgeon the next day.

Fractures aside, he says my face should still be numb so he vigorously scrubs a tear on the crack of my lip and goes ahead and puts in four stitches. The nurse notes that since it's in line with my mouth, the scar likely won't even be visible.

Am I incredibly lucky or what??

At this point, Stewart and Zach arrive. We get caught up, and Stewart asks Dr. Sampson if I need to stay. He says no, I should be able to check out soon. What??? I don't think it's even lunch time yet. Amazing! Stewart and Zach go off to get a hotel and rental car and I lay back in my stiff neck brace to wait for checkout. I think they gave me Percocet and I'm very relaxed but can't sleep. Stewart returns, we get checked out and I even walk myself to the car (no wheel chairs here!).

Stewart tells me I hit a pothole in the shadows of the massive pine trees while descending the mountain. He felt the van hit it when they took me away in the ambulance and they picked him up to go retrieve our day bags at the boat ramp. Not sure how I could have avoided it but I'm thinking I'll stay much further away from the dark road edges in the future. That's right, I'm already planning my next bike ride. I get a little weepy in the car and chalk it up to the Percocet too so I switch to Advil (600 mg every 6-8 hours) and I'm feeling fine.

Then I look in the mirror! Horror show face! Buy a big floppy hat the next day at Great Outdoors in Bend and we take a mile walk along the river, trying my best not to scare small children. Seriously, I feel fine. Again, amazing!

We see the neurosurgeon on Tuesday and he checks my movement and sees no reason I should keep the neck brace. If I'm worried about turbulance on the flight home, I could get a soft collar. I actually slept fine in the hard one so I decide to take it on the plane so I can sleep sitting up and get special treatment. Didn't end up putting it on though, but did wear the floppy hat in lines. TSA didn't care. Somehow they decided my driver's license was the same as the face under that hat.

Treatment has been ice packs several times a day for the first few days, advil as mentioned, and soap/water to clean the abrasions followed by Neosporin all over. Still haven't gotten brave enough to put my contacts back in but the glasses work fine.

Five days in, I'm on the spin bike at home, have half my face back and my fingertips are starting to get feeling back. Guess my future as a safe cracker is in jeopardy. The bruises are sinking down my neck and torso but yellowing so they'll be gone soon. Got the lip stitches out yesterday at Dr. Lensing's office by Kristen, the PA. She warns to head to the ER immediately if I get a headache or become confused since brain bleeds can take up to 6 weeks to show up. I have a dental appt Monday morning and an eye appt Tuesday, presumably my first day back at work. I may have to work from home until people quit screaming when they see me, but that may be by Tuesday, one week and one day from the incident.

It has never felt that bad but it looks like hell since I chose the wrong body part to sacrifice to the gods of asphalt... my face. Got released from the ER in a few hours, no casts or surgery, just a few stitches, couldn't have asked for a better outcome really since I figure I was doing 25 mph or so when I landed. Stewart's Garmin shows 30 and he was beating me by a lot.

The final tally:

  • Nondisplaced/minimally displaced left zygomatic arch fracture (broken cheekbone)
  • Nondepressed fracture of the right nasal bone (broken nose)
  • Nondisplaced fracture through C5 spinous process, with slight assymetrical widening of the C5-6 facets without subluxation (broken neck part)
  • Abrasions on face, hip, calf, back of arm, elbow, back of hand
  • Two black eyes
  • All fingertips on right hand and three on left hand torn and scabby
  • Right thumb, right ankle and left cheek lacerations
  • Right ring finger purple and swollen from tip to largest knuckle (looks like I voted in Pakistan recently)
  • One top and two bottom front teeth slightly chipped
  • Bruises on left face, chin, right hip and both eyes

    Lessons learned:

  • Wear a good well fitted helmet! Mine was obliterated but stayed on my head
  • Always take your Camelbak (I think it saved my back and makes a great pillow)
  • Stay to the lighted part of the road as much as possible
  • Keep your speed under control
  • Keep sunglasses small (my Gyro's have a very large sharp edge)
  • Be nice to people who have your life in their hands
  • Stay positive!