Sunday, June 23, 2013

Out of the hospital

Navenka arrived in Butte last night and I checked out of St James Hospital today. 

Tomorrow the doc will remove my chest vent as my lung is restored. It's obvious now that something was wrong since the first crash, although the second had its own marks to make. 

I feel pretty good overall, I'm walking a
bit slower than usual for now but each day I feel better.  My right side has various scuffs and bruises up and down. 

The chest vent is an odd experience. I have a small tube coming out of the top of my ribs to allow the air that's not supposed to be in my chest cavity to escape. It has a small one-way valve leading to a bigger tube then a bag for what turned out to be very minimal fluid drainage. 

I call the bag my camelback, that's kind of what it looks like. It's strapped to my ankle for now. I had a good laugh in a certain giant chain store today as I fit right in wearing sweats with my new cane and tubes hanging out. 

The cane is a very temporary feature. I couldn't find a top hat to match. Bummer. 

I can't say enough for all the well wishes via Facebook and every other means. It's important to know that I see this as a valuable life experience along the way; not finishing wasn't my plan or goal, but that just means I get to apply what I've learned in doing it again which I definitely will.  This is about far more than just riding a bike for a ridiculously long time. 

I met some amazing people out there and made new friends. It's the kind of event where the competition finds more to like about each other and celebrate about each other- which is the major reason I moved away from some other sports that aren't that way. 

Today is the first time I've looked at the blue dots tracking everyone. It's a completely different perspective on the race especially seeing the people you were riding with doing well. I'm not feeling sad or sorry for myself, I feel lucky this experience turned out as it did. 

It feels odd but not sad for me. 

A whole slug of riders shared their experience and miles with me, and made the miles pass more easily- Chris Bennett, Sean Putnam, Peter Maindonald, Max Morris, Eric Foster, Nick Hutton, Ron Babington, and others come to mind. 

Two deserve special mention- Evan Deutsch, an MD whom I met before the race is one. We saw each other several times along the way and provided mutual support. I didn't want to make my day one issues obvious and expected them to clear, so that Evan and I could plod along together. Turns out otherwise as we know now. Evan is killing it using the strategy we both aimed for and I couldn't be happier to see him roll on. 

Ian McNab deserves thanks beyond words. We spent the better part of rep days riding together, bringing different strengths to the table. Our goal on day 7 was Butte to Lima which was a big and unexpected move that would shake up our standings.  Ian ensured my safety getting off that mountain and I am forever grateful for it. 

Turns out that Ian lives a short distance from where my wife grew up in the UK. How crazy is that?  She gave me the mission to meet him and I'd say we competed that one. Ian brings a special perspective and experience to the TD, having spent many years as a mountain guide in Antarctica. We worked together both during the ride and especially during my crisis moments. It's always good having someone along in a pinch, with the perspective and experience to help keep focus on what matters. 

Ian, you won't read this for a whole but I'm beyond grateful for our time together and what you did for me.  We are friends for life in my book.  Press on amigo!!

Doug Parker and his son and friend whose names escape me at present also deserve my deep gratitude.  I told the story about how these fly fishermen just happened to pull up when I needed help,
and both Doug and I later shared our beliefs that it wasn't accidental that we met.  I asked for help, and Doug felt the sudden need to pull into an out of the way turnout on a very remote dirt road. I have tears in my eyes as I type this on my impossibly small phone screen. 

There were quite a few other Angels warming over me the last few days. The Hospital staff in Dillon, MT made my first-ever patient experience very positive. Soon-to-be MD Nikki Mills and Dr Phillips along with the nursing staff whose names escape memory did wonders for me in my darkest moments.  They provide far more than just medical care. And we shared laughs too. 

I hope my bike is still safe and out of your way. We'll pick it up tomorrow. 

I couldn't convince them to let me borrow a wheelchair for a couple thousand miles. Seemed like a great idea at the time. 

I also had my first ambulance ride. I think Kathy and Ron were the best ever and hope that my special gift of a slightly beat up but unused can of bear spray was appreciated. Somehow, it seemed Montana appropriate.  Kathy looked excited about it but I think some of that was just having a patient willing and able to have a little fun on a long ride. 

The staff at St James Hospital in Butte were equally fantastic. I got a taste of their ebb and flow and grew to appreciate their work even more.  In particular, the nursing staff and nurses assistants, Jerri and Laura made my stay a totally positive experience. It was amazing watching them care for patients. 

It would be easy to feel sad about not finishing. Allowing that would diminish the value of the entire experience. That doesn't mean I feel great or like I won. I feel better prepared for the next challenge and for my return.  I had a spot of bad luck this year. That's racing. 

Those who are still out there have my deepest admiration. It is obvious to me how hard the TD truly is now. Your drive toward the finish has my highest hopes and I wish each of you Godspeed in your quest. 

I had some great advice about this race from previous finishers. The best of it all was that finishing must be the only goal. At no time until I got into Doug's truck did anything but finishing even cross my mind. But I know my body, and I know when my luck has been pushed far enough. I knew that riding off that mountain in the dark was an important life experience, a miracle of its own, and when I couldn't walk or lift a leg over my bike a few hours later it was clear that for this year, I'd done all I could.  I did cry quite a bit but I'm way past that now.  My wife Navenka made a huge difference in my attitude- she always supported me and definitely brought joy and peace when she arrived in Butte.  My parents were also huge factors along with my brother. 

I've already made my list of what I'll do different next time. 

The first is something I can't talk about yet because I'll spoil my opportunity. 

Thanks again for so much. None of us expected what turned out, but I'm better for it and hope that my experience helps you take the steps toward your next adventure. Each journey begins in small steps. Don't fear risk- manage it.  My brake check at low speed saved me from a much worse result. 

Someone asked me why I'd do this when I could relax with a beer on the porch instead. 

I told him that I'd like having a story to tell over that beer. 

And now I do. 


Blogger Mom & Dad said...

Awesome attitude!!! xoxox

7:03 PM  
Blogger Jeff Hurley said...

Boss, If I ever grow up, I am gonna be like you. continue your recovery and let us know if we can do anything to help.

Jeff and Christy

5:20 AM  
Anonymous Chris Rhoden said...

Hey, brother. Incredible perspective, and appreciate your keeping the blog going. Glad you're well. Anything we can do for you in VA? Don't be shy.

5:29 PM  
Blogger KAY said...

Don, sorry about what happened but grateful it wasn't even worse. Like say you fell and THEN saw a bear... seriously please take time to heal. Cheers, Karen O'Connor

10:31 PM  

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