A night in the ER

I was walking from the control room into the studio — two back-to-back doors — just before a taping began tonight when my phone rang.

My phone never rings.

I have dedicated ring tones for most people, even though my phone never rings. So, even while the phone was in my pocket I knew from the song that it was my lovely bride.

She never calls me. We text.

I answer the phone. There’s some other woman on the phone.

Not good.

And her voice is breaking up. Bad cell signal.

I’m trying to be polite about this, but then suddenly there’s The Yankee on the phone, clear as can be. She’s had a bike accident. She’s OK. Deputies are coming and so is an ambulance and people have stopped to help. She’s going to the hospital because she’s sure her collarbone is broken and where am I.

I’m at work, of course. She knew that, but she forgot it or was speaking without thinking about it, same as I asked her, for some reason, what she’s going to do with her bike and what hospital she’s going to. I told the guy running the TV shoot and the engineer that I’m leaving. I rode my bike into the office this morning, which means I have to ride to the house to get the car to go to the hospital.

This was the fastest I’ve ever made that commute, perhaps even by car. I don’t even remember breathing hard or feeling it in my legs, which had complained all the way in this morning. At one point, just before the last hills, I remember being upset I didn’t have harder, faster gears to work through. My machine wasn’t equipped for the moment or the adrenaline or both, which never happens to me.

That part wasn’t important, of course. I got to the house, doused my head with cold water, put on dry clothes. Grab the insurance card, some snacks and a hoodie. Fed the cats, because who knows how long this will take. Out of the saddle and back out the door in seven minutes, at the hospital in nine more.

Emergency room. Chairs. Someone calls my name and I go to an exam room. The Yankee is off for a CT scan, and she’ll be back in a moment. There’s some of her cycling kit, and her shoes and her helmet. I pass the time studying the helmet. There’s one small displaced part on the left side. One crack inside. Some light scrapes near the crown of the helmet. So it’s her left collarbone. We’re going to match.

A guy wheels her bed back into the exam room. She’s in a neck collar. No one said anything about a neck collar — and there’s just no way to prepare yourself for seeing that — but when the doctor comes along with some of the results from scans and X-rays, he removes it. The neck collar was a precaution that was thankfully not needed. But her left arm is definitely the worse for wear. She’s got one tiny scratch on her knee, and a little scrape on her leg that wouldn’t impress anyone who has ever had a carpet burn. She tore the center pocket out of her vest, meaning she rolled or slid on the small of her back, but her back seems fine.

She was going straight through a small intersection on a straight road. A guy in a pickup truck was coming from the other direction, aiming to turn to his left. Apparently they made eye contact, he slowed, and then he decided to turn across her direction of travel. She doesn’t think she hit the truck, but we know from witnesses that the ass paused briefly and then drove away.

“Bicycle Friendly Community” is another quality B-town joke.

As we sat in the Emergency Room waiting for the next thing to happen one of the witnesses calls. This is the woman that called me earlier. She’s taken custody of the bicycle. She says her husband is also a cyclist. He has pronounced the bike fine. Like that matters.

What really matters is this: In one of those weird moments of normalcy that infiltrates a mild medical emergency, The Yankee says “I didn’t stop my Garmin.” Twenty minutes earlier she was getting brain scans and wearing a neck brace, but now the important stuff.

The lady says I can come get the bike whenever. I thanked her for that, and thanked her many times over for stopping. I think we were all a little moved by that. And so, to lighten the moment, I said, “Since your husband is a bike rider, would you mind asking him to stop her Garmin?”

“It was the first thing he did,” she said.

Cyclists, man.

Now an RN comes in. They’re going to move her to another exam room and put her shoulder back into the socket. This is news. But it turns out, apparently, that the RN was misinformed. Or at least I continue to hope so. I asked the doctor directly, in front of this RN, if we had to reduce a shoulder. And he said no. But he also missed the collarbone later, turns out. (Thanks for that catch, radiologist.)

So it seems there’s a collarbone break, and two broken ribs. And an orthopedist appointment in our future. Fortunately, she has an orthopedist.

She was discharged from the hospital at 11 p.m. We spent a half hour, 30 solid minutes, in the drive through of the only 24-hour pharmacy in a town of almost 100,000 people. There was one car ahead of us.

Our immediate future: Not much sleep tonight. And, if the memory of my own broken collarbone serves, the next month or so is just a bunch of gritting through pain, finding the least uncomfortable position possible and vowing to never move, ever again, and finally, wondering when you can sleep through the night, and waiting to use your arm again.

But we’ll let the orthopedist tell us that tomorrow morning, for sure.

What we are is lucky, and we don’t need an ortho to tell us that.

Wear a helmet, kids.

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