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Broken – 1: Snapped

Submitted by on Monday, 25 March 201312 Comments

Neil's Horrible Clavicle
Note: This has been written oscillating between pain and painkillers, please excuse errors in spelling and grammar.

“There’s some ruts,” comes Kevin’s voice over the Interphone F5 communicator. These are obstacles so minor, compared to yesterday’s ride up the Baja’s Pacific Coast to Eréndira, as to be unworthy of comment. We’ve done the tough stuff, and right now we are riding from the Panaderia to the beach with a brown bag of fresh baked goods for breakfast. I divert my attention from Kevin riding ahead to the road directly in front of me, goosing the gas and popping the KTM 990 Adventure R’s front end over a small cut out. I look up, and Kevin has stopped, right in my path. It all goes wrong.

I overreact grabbing the front brake. My front tire begins to wash to the left, setting me up for the best kind of crash; a low-speed, low-side. In this the bike simply slides out from beneath you. On dirt this is generally a no-harm spill, with the slide decelerating you and the bike, dissipating a majority of your inertial energy before fully hitting the ground. The front tire snags a rut, the bars are ripped from my hands, and the bike catapults onto it’s left side and slams me into the ground in a “highside”. This is the worst case scenario, the bike and rider’s kinetic energy, a combination of both masses, is redirected in an arc, trebuchetting you into the ground. The maximum speed occurring furthest from the arcs center point, namely the rider.

My shoulder hits the ground just wrong. The full force of the highside impacts my shoulder, and the force is vectored square-on into my clavicle.

I hear/feel a bodywide, “CRACK!” This onomatopoeia is best rendered in livid, large, grim and violent red comicbook lettering of Frank Miller’s 80’s Dark Knight. My helet follows, hitting just right, and protecting my noggin — Oh, Icon Variant Carbon Cyclic, you slick bastard, I hardly knew you.

“I’m down.” I announce over the F5, “I broke my collar bone.”

“What?!? What happened?”

“You stopped in front of me. I highsided. My collarbone is broke.” The tact has been knocked out of me.

My recall of dialog and chronology is now deeply suspect as shock sets in — my internal narration is gonzo and being on my back is the most comfortable thing in fractured world.

Kevin gets my helmet off and a toque on, to keep my head warm and help with the shock.

I hear Kevin wrestling the 990 Adventure R back upright – or at least the slightly-blue commentary.
“How’s the bike?”
“The bag mounts’s are toast, other than that, fine.” That confirms how violent a 20-30kph crash can be, and that I’m writing this on my laptop how solid the TraX bags cam be.

Big problem is how to get me back to town.

Kevin helps me try to sit upright, left arm in my lap. It goes poorly.
A granular blob of white light, grains outwards towards the periphery of my vision and my ears fill with ringing static so loud in nearly drowns out Kevin’s voice.
“I need to lay back down, before I faint.”
Laying back down, pull of gravity off my left arm, I skirt the comfortable side of unconsciousness. Laying with my eyes closed, I simply focus on the delicious concept of the “not extreme pain” being flat-backed offers.

I hear a quad pull up, and a conversation with no common language settles on fetching the local police and their pickup to take me to the Medico — which nebulously translates to local Doctor or small town doctor’s office.

The quad rips off the few block into town.

Indeterminate time passes in my meditative “hold it together drift”, until the police arrive.

With the police is Lynda, a force of nature and kindness, who speaks English, Spanish, is trying to put together a search and rescue team for the area, and happens to live across from the cop shop. There is a welcome instant rapport as Lynda acts as translator and ringmaster; herding the effort, and offering genuine caring in a no-bullshit sort of way through it all.

The police have a spine board. Lynda organizes the growing group to rolling me onto my right side, and placing the board under me so I can be lifted into the back of the pickup. My world view is looking skywards, there is a ring of faces.

“This is going to hurt, but can you roll onto your right hand side?”

I do my best to comply, with multiple helping hand, then eased back down onto the spine board and to be strapped in. I ease into the pain — it’s not as bad as expected.

Of the two local police, Fit Cop is doing much heavy lifting. Paunchy cop is eye-rolling as Lynda herds him around. Even in shock, you can instantly tell who’s upstanding and who isn’t.

I’m lifted into the back of the pickup, on the road back ruts that were inconsequential on the motorcycle, are massive white-pain filled crevasses on the way out to the Medico. I open my eyes. Fit cop is straddled over me, stabilizing me, crotch above my face. Of the expected, homoerotic subtext wasn’t on the list. I close my eyes and refocus on pain containment and bracing myself for the bumps, potholes and topes of the Eréndira’s unpaved roads.

I am carried into the Medico by the police, Lynda, Kevin and possibly passersby – I’m a turtle on his back facing skywards, my world view is limited. This graceless entrance is set to the faux-classical soundtrack of a direct to video Disney Princess movie playing on the waiting room TV.

Beyond the waiting room and attendant animated anthropomorphic mice and helpful birds, the Medico consisting of a doctors office with examination table, a back room, and little else. It’s a team effort to heft me from the spine board to the examination table, and I joke about my having recently lost some weight. It’s appropriate commentary, the doctor hooks me up to an IV does some weight-based calculations, then hooks me up.

Lynda, translates, but medical language is slippery; the gist is I’m getting an intravenous anti-inflammatory and a muscle relaxant.

Hamming Up the Pain in a MacG Clavicle BraceThings get very groovy for me.

The doctor does an amazing MacGyver job of using tensor bandage to create a figure-8 clavicle brace and immobilizing my arm, and, heck, most of my left upper body for good measure. For the record, the support has been unmatched by any offered up by Mexican of Canadian since — score one for small town doctors.

The next big question looms; how to get me to a real hospital or clinic 95 kms / 59 miles away in Ensenada? X-rays are needed and even now the medical and non-medical personnel are tossing around words like plates, screws and pins. Now that I’m stabilized the nurse ventures, jokingly, riding. I suggest we’d need to strap my left clutch hand to the bike to let me shift, but that’s just the muscle relaxants talking. While we work out options, I’m moved out to the waiting area so the doctor can see other patients.

Eventually Lynda, Kevin and the Police organize extraction by Ambulance, it will arrive in 40 minutes. Lynda offers to store my bike at her home, right across from the police station. Time must be passing for the others, but my personal temporal flow is a null state of shock and drugs. I cling to a singe instruction from Kevin, “Have the ambulance stop at Lynda’s, my bike will be out front. I’ll follow you to the private clinic.”

Lynda and Family

Lynda and Family

All good, except the ambulance crew when they arrive doesn’t speak English and my Spanish extends to ordering tacos, hamburgers and finding the washroom. Fit cop shows up, delivers the instruction for me as I walk with drug-hazed dignity to the ambulance, where the crew straps me in for the ride. So no dignity at all.

We pass by Lynda’s house, but Kevin is delayed, so the Ambulance screeches and squeals along the convolution of highway from Eréndira to Mex 1 without him, then stops and waits at the junction. The delay? Lynda has insisted on storing my bike in her living room for security. A brave and generous move given that the big KTM is covered with agricultural grade muck, stink and filth from a excrement filled puddle crossed in a ranch field during the previous day’s ride.

Next in Broken, a Mexican Ambulance.

CORRECTION: In the original version of this article I misspelled Lynda’s name as Linda, apologies.

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12 Comments »

  • Paul Bradley said:

    Rough start to the season Neil! I hope your recovery goes well.

  • advgrrls said:

    Oh Neil that sucks and must of really hurt. Are you going to head back to Canada or stay down there? Hope you heal soon as the weather up here is just perfect without the rain for riding…take care of yourself…Leslie

  • Neil Johnston (author) said:

    I am back home. Not to spoil the story, but it’s run on a time delay. Had surgery yesterday, in considerable hurt today.

  • advgrrls said:

    Oh sorry to spoil your story…pain meds are always good but they back you up! LOL Seriously glad you are home and safe…now for the healing…You going to heal enough to consider the Orca Run DS ride this year? The Dual Sport BC ride was last Sunday and was awesome!

  • Ryan King said:

    Damn Neil, that sucks. Glad you had someone like Linda step up. It just goes to show you that no matter where you go, there are outstanding people living near that will go out of their way to help out. I had a crash a couple of years ago, outside of Calgary, that was made much easier as a couple of nice people gave me a ride right into the front desk of the emergency room. Luckily I only had a small crack in a bone that did not require surgery, but it did end my riding season prematurely, and kill off my then new bike.

    Take care of yourself, and make sure to heal it all up properly.
    Ryan

  • mugwump said:

    Best wishes on a speedy recovery

  • wb5plj said:

    Hang in there I know you will be okay, if life is a collection of experiences well you just added one. In case you have never broken anything before when the docs give you the go ahead, push it, and then push it again. I have breaks that I pushed it to get back going and breaks where I was very genital for a long time. The ones I was genital on still give me soreness and aches and limitations. And wow Linda is great!

  • Jeff Katzer said:

    I’m thinking about you my friend, get better soon.

  • Dan said:

    Hope your back on the bike soon. Wouldn’t it be cool if big enduro’s had anti-locks that you could not only shut off, but where you could shut off just the rear? in my experience, it’s never good to skid the front wheel. I wonder if that would have changed the outcome.

  • drassif said:

    Neil. I’m really sorry to hear a about your accident. I think Though since you are going to be laid up and such a grade A wordsmith that you should consider writing Motorcycle fiction. Perhaps a motorcycle riding detective or maybe some Scifi like Time Rider or something. Just a thought. Anyhoo. Hope your feeling better and get well soon.

  • Ian said:

    Wishing you a speedy/full recovery from Calgary!

  • Neil Johnston (author) said:

    Thanks! Healing well.

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