A few years ago, I went for a mountain bike ride in the Soquel Demonstration Forest in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I was several miles up into the ride when I hit a tree and ended up on the ground. As my head cleared, I was in severe pain. I had a lot of pain in the left shoulder and couldn’t move it but there was nothing that felt like a fracture. I diagnosed a dislocation. The left knee hurt like heck, too, but was also not obviously fractured. I managed to get up and I could walk, although with a bad, painful limp.
Once assessing my physical condition, I assessed my assets and liabilities, as I had to decide what to do next. It was early on a Friday afternoon in February but was one of those perfect California winter’s days. Though it was not at all cold at the time, it would not be fun spending the night up there.
I decided that sitting and waiting for help was not an option. In retrospect, that was a good choice since I didn’t see a single person as I hiked out and there were no cars in the parking lot when I finely got there. If I had waited for help, I would have been up there all night. It was early in the afternoon in February but was one of those perfect California winter’s days. Though it was not at all cold at the time, it would not be fun spending the night up there.
Next, I had to decide whether I was better of with or without my bike. Though I couldn’t peddle it and could only use one arm, I decided to use it as a crutch and see how I did.
As I started hobbling up the hill, leaning on my bike, I realized I would be a lot more comfortable if I could relocate my dislocated shoulder. I have relocated many shoulders, including one on my friend on the ski slopes, so I was sure I could do my own. I put the bike down, grabbed my arm, bit down hard and tried to twist my shoulder back into place. This resulted only in a huge scream of pain. I gave up and, as soon as I could see straight again, continued on. As I went, I talked myself into believing I really could reduce my shoulder if I were just tough enough. I put the bike down again. I really focused all my attention on overcoming the pain and getting that shoulder back in joint. This time, I really pushed and twisted but with the same disappointing result.
After that, all I could do was just keep on going. When it was uphill, I walked, pushing the bike with my good arm and using it as a crutch. When it was downhill, I got on and coasted. Though this makes sense, the getting on and off was the worst part of it all. I couldn’t bend my left knee and any leaning over killed both the knee and shoulder. I was worried about loosing my balance and going down again as I struggled to get on and off the bike. I got so tired I was really tempted to lie down and take a break but my shoulder and knee had gotten so stiff and painful I was really afraid I would not be able to get up again once I was flat on the ground. So, when I had to, I rested by sitting on the bar of the bike but mostly I just forced myself to keep going.
It took me about two hours to get back to the parking lot, then I had to get the bike on the rack and drive about an hour from there to get to my hospital.
As soon as I could get a signal on my phone, I called my wife, told her I had hurt my shoulder and asked her to meet me at the hospital. She arrived first and was waiting for me at the loading zone in front of the emergency department. She was surprised when I told her I needed a wheel chair as she was just thinking of a shoulder injury.
They were waiting for us when she wheeled me into Room 2B. As soon as they pulled me up next to the gurney, I swooned. I think my adrenalin kept me going up until that time. When I was finally in a safe place, my autonomic nervous system let down and I almost passed out.
Next week, I will tell you about what happened next. I have told you about so many of my patients, I guess it is only fair to tell of my experience as a patient in the emergency department.
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