Throwing up blood
I’m starting to capture my journey towards recovery after being hit by an SUV while riding my bicycle. I’ve learned quite a bit along the way. I want to share those lessons learned. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or any other sort of expert in this area. Any insights I provide along the way should be taken as my insights to my particular situation. In other words, seek professional counsel if you find yourself in similar circumstances.
February 8, 2014. It was a normal sunny yet cool Las Vegas winter morning. I decided to go on a longer ride, take a different route than usual. Nothing crazy, just head out a different way to the usual favorite on the west side – Red Rock Canyon. I remember coming to the first stop light. It’s a long one and I realized then that I didn’t have my sunglasses. I never ride without them. I decided to make an exception. Sure, I was only about five minutes from home, but the light was going to turn green at any moment. It did and I pedaled through and kept to the right of the road. That’s about as much as I remember about riding on February 8, 2014. The next thing I remember is waking up to my name being called, “Joshua? Joshua? Can you hear us?” My eyes opened and I couldn’t make out much. I couldn’t move my head. I was strapped down, straight as a board. I answered the calls of my name. They asked me if I knew where I was. I told them I didn’t. I asked what happened, where I was. They wanted to know more about me. Did I know my full name? Did I know what city and state I lived in? Did I remember what I was last doing? I answered their questions without hesitation. I could sense some relief on their part and that gave me some comfort, immediately followed up by panic. WHERE AM I AND WHAT HAPPENED TO ME?
I asked the people I couldn’t make out, only hearing their voices, what happened. They told me I was hit by an SUV while I was riding my bike. I immediately told them they needed to call my wife. I told them her number. We were all a bit surprised I remembered it. I couldn’t remember what happened thirty minutes ago, but I knew my wife’s name and number. The next thing I knew, I was being carted into the ER for examination.
There was so much activity going on around me. I was confused and my body was shaking, partially because of the cold but mainly because of the shock. I was “sliced” out of my cycling clothes by the paramedics, nearly naked, before they put me in the ambulance. I kept asking for more blankets. I remember my wife entering the area and I’m pretty sure I started to cry. I was so confused. I couldn’t remember anything about what happened and I couldn’t even tell how bad I was hurt. I asked her if she knew what happened. Did I do anything stupid to get hit? She assured me that it wasn’t my fault.
I was hauled back and forth to get various scans. Everything hurt. I was being poked and prodded. I’m not a doctor but I’m pretty sure the goal was to determine whether I had any serious injuries – head, internal bleeding, etc. That said, I had to go back for one last x-ray on my wrist after my wife went to hold my left hand and I cried out in pain. Turns out they missed that spot. I had a fracture on the tip of my left ulna bone.
Once they determined that I wouldn’t require immediate surgery, I was tossed to the side for a bit. I knew why. There was a guy near me who I heard was having one or both of his legs amputated. It was a viscous reminder that things can always be worse.
Eventually a young doctor came and said that he needed to stitch the left side of my upper lip, which was split pretty bad. Before I knew what was going on I was getting endless shots in the mouth to numb the area. It wasn’t long before the doc was stitching away. Every few minutes someone would come over and make an encouraging comment to him. I thought to myself, “That’s weird. Most doctors have enough ego to power a dozen people. Why are they treating him like this is his first time doing this?” I later learned that the hospital I was at was a teaching hospital. I served as the sewing dummy for an intern.
I was eventually moved into a room for observation overnight. I was knocked out for a decent amount of time after being hit, which during my dad’s days of playing football, would’ve meant he’d be back in the game as soon as he said his name (or anyone’s name) correctly. I suppose brain injuries are more serious these days.
I later proved that I was not a vampire by throwing up (what felt like) a gallon of blood. The nurses non-nonchalantly said that it was from swallowing so much blood from my split lip. My stomach couldn’t handle it.
Once I made it through the night, I was told I could go. I walked out of the hospital with noted fractures to my left ulna and my left clavicle. What was left undiagnosed at that time was the separation in my right shoulder and the fracture in my upper jaw. There was no surgery for any of my fractures. In fact, the only cast I wore was for my wrist, which was put on later that week.
All in all, it doesn’t sound bad. One cast? That’s it? Yep…kind of. The most damage was to my mouth. Along with a badly busted left upper lip, I lost a top front tooth, severely damaged another and it turns out that the other two top front teeth were dying. Other teeth in my mouth were shifted and/or loose. My upper jaw was fractured. I had stitches in my chin and left upper side of my face. My lip was stitched for repair, not cosmetics, which meant it formed a large patch of scar tissue on the inside that was uncomfortable and noticeable when I would smile.
One thing I learned during this part of my road to recovery was that the trauma unit of the hospital will miss injuries. My separated right shoulder was missed completely and caused me no shortage of pain. After feeling just as much pain in my right shoulder as I did on the left, I started comparing the look of my right shoulder to other right shoulder injuries on the internet. I honed in on separated shoulders, read up more on the specifics and determined that was likely what was wrong with my shoulder. My doctor took an x-ray and confirmed the self-diagnosis. It took a while to get to this point. I was in so much pain the first week or two, I couldn’t pinpoint what exactly hurt so bad around my right shoulder. I learned you have to be persistent with identifying your injuries. Not everything will be diagnosed at the hospital, and not every injury will be easily diagnosed within the days following the crash.