Hello again and welcome to the final installment of the Stitches Trilogy. The epic saga of one man’s multiple trips to casualty and general freaky occurences. By complete coincidence I’ve saved the best and freakiest ones til last. Sit back, have a nice slice of Mr Kipling Bakewell Tart and be thankful these didn’t happen to you!
Aged 40 – Broken Ribs And Possible Broken Neck – So after successfully cycling from London to Paris and climbing Kilimanjaro over the two previous years I realised I needed a special challenge as I hit 40. Something that would really push me to the limit and test my strength, endurance and spirit. Listening to the hits of Fergal Sharkey and Nick Berry on a loop for 3 days might have just done that, but I needed something a bit more physical as well. For that reason I decided on a mountain bike challenge to Peru from the Andes into the Amazon. It’s at altitude so very difficult to breath along with a risk of altitude sickness and possibly even death. It’s lots of cycling on extremely narrow paths with huge sheer drops either side which would result in almost certain death. Basically it’s pretty hardcore and you can die. Did I mention that?
As all my riding is normally on the road I borrowed a mountain bike and joined a group which included a friend of mine who met regularly for little jaunts off road. The first two times were great fun and I loved the differences that off road biking had compared with my regular eating the miles sessions on the road. During the next session we cycled though some woods and came to the top of a hill. It looked quite daunting so I said I was going to find a way down without the scary hurtling downhill bit. The reply from the group was not pretty. Some would call it banter, some would call it vitriolic abuse. Whatever it was, it had the desired effect and having caved in to peer pressure like a sad lamb I readied myself. Hurtling downhill I felt a mix of sheer terror and euphoria and all was good until I reached the bottom and my front wheel collided with a stump that was inconveniently placed in the middle of the path. I went head first over the handlebars at high speed and landed on my head / neck / face. It happened so quickly I can’t be sure in what order it all happened. What I can tell you is that it hurt…..a lot…….and that I screamed and cried a bit. The others (not realising how serious it as) thought it was hysterical and took pictures and video of me lying there.
The laughter came to an abrupt halt when they realised how bad it was and so it was ambulance time once again. The only problem was that we were in the middle of nowhere and not easily accessible by road. This meant that once they arrived I had to be carried on a stretcher through the woods whilst being whacked by branches and other annoying obstacles. That might have actually been what caused some of the injuries in the pic above. More gas and air to help with the pain which resulted in some off my head Facebook posts. I soon realised this wasn’t a good idea when I had friends and family frantically calling me to see what had happened as I’d written complete gibberish.
The resuts of the x-rays at hospital were, “Just severe bruising, nothing broken so go home and rest.” Having never felt in this much pain I went home and with the help of around 15 people got into bed. The next day I got an urgent call from the hospital asking me to come straight back in. Apparantly the x-rays taken were looked at (at the time) by a Dr at home who may have been hungover or just confused because on a second assessment the next day they saw that I’d actually broken two ribs and cracked the main bone that my skull sits on. The end result was 4 months off work and no mountain biking again. Oh, and I never made it to the Andes or the Amazon for the bike ride. The worst thing about it all was that the day after the accident I was telling one of the group how unlucky I was hitting the stump. He replied with “We always do that route and always make sure to avoid the stump you hit.” I’ll leave it to Adam Sandler in the Wedding Singer to show you my reply here.
Aged 42 – Torn Knee Ligaments – So it’s the week before Christmas and I’m outside a party venue with the family waiting for the caretaker to open up. The birthday boy points to my box and asks, “Is Mango the monkey in there?” I put my hand in the box, pull out a balloon pump and say, “That’s not Mangooooooooo.” The cause of my strange and severely elongated Mango was that I collapsed knee first into the road. It’s yet another mysterious / freaky / unexplainable event. The weather was dry with no hint of ice anywhere and I was standing completely still. I jumped up and although my knee felt very sore I didn’t think much of it.
When we went inside and I started setting up I had a quick peek at my knee. To my horror it was swelling up by the second and resembled an extra large honeydew melon. By the time the party started I could hardly walk so the first hour was unusually stationary with added odd grimaces every few seconds. To be fair, the children are used to seeing me making strange facial expressions so I don’t think they guessed anything was wrong. After the break it was games and I now couldn’t really move at all so I spent most of it sitting on a chair. After the party I drove home very gingerly and extremely slowly and it was then back to the hospital and the result was torn ligaments and a leg brace to be worn for 3 weeks.
I took part in the Watford Association of Magicians, Children’s Enertainer Of The Year competition 9 days later. So there I was sitting down on a chair with my leg elevated up like a Can Can dancer at the Moulin Rouge along with Mango and my beautiful leg brace. Somehow I actually won the competition and it made me realise that I didn’t need to spend so much energy jumping around at parties, I could be far more calm and have a nice sit down……nah, where’s the fun in that? In the three weeks after my accident I made it to all my parties along with an additional chair and helper and my lesson learnt was not to bring out Mango substitutes ever again.
Aged 44 – Broken Wrist – Ah, cycling again, what could possibly go wrong? In my defence I was cycling behind Jade and so at half the speed I normally go. All was fine until a pot hole appeared as if by magic just like the shopkeeper in Mr Benn. My wheel hit the pot hole, I went flying off the bike onto the floor and luckily my wrist broke my fall. It was just sore at first but this soon turned into “So painful I need to lie down and have a little sleep.” Ambulance, gas and air, arrive at hospital, acting off my head, blah, blah, blah. After the x-rays showed it was badly broken I was told I’d need surgery so would be admitted overnight.
With me as I’m sure it is for others, sleeping in a strange bed can be difficult. Trying to sleep with a badly broken wrist is even more difficult. Do you know what makes sleeping almost impossible? Let me tell you. It’s having someone in the bed opposite screaming out, “Paul!” every five minutes all through the night. Seriously, I don’t know what the story was but every time I started to nod off the manical outburst of “Paul” scared the living daylights out of me. Feeling fresh after a very pleasant 27 minutes sleep I waited for the surgeon to arrive and give me the time I’ll be going down to be operated on. Finally, he swept majestically into the ward looking very serious and surgeon like. He and his team crowded round my bed, closed the curtain to give me some privacy. He picked up my chart looked up at me, did a little Laurel and Hardy double take and shouted, “Oh my god, you’re Mr Banana Head!” Apparantly he’d seen me at parties and was calling me the following week to book me for hs daughters’ party. How we laughed (well, between my moments of agonising shooting pains).
After all my anxiety about the impending op he tells me that as the broken bones are placed so closely together he wants to give it a week and see if they move at all. Long story short, the bone fragments didn’t move and began to heal on their own. No operation was neccessary and I got to wear a really cool purple cast for five weeks. So we reach the end of an epic journey stretching back over 40 years. Has it been like Goodfellas for you full of action, fascinating characters and emotion or more like Castaway with Tom Hanks, boredom, pain and suffering on a loop. Oh and with an added basketball called Wilson? Either way it’s been an honour to share it all with you and this officially marks the end of my relationship with stitches, ambulances and freakish accidents. Until next time……..