Recovery from injury can feel like two steps back

©Barry Sandland/TIMB - Rider at the top of the Gatineau hills

©Barry Sandland/TIMB – Coming back after an injury can seem harder than doing nothing.

“I recently had a serious accident. A tib-fib fracture. They went in with a rod through the tibia, right through the inside of the bone. Screws here and here. And then a plate here and some more screws and another plate over here. I was just walking home on a flat sidewalk. The doctor was surprised because that injury is more associated with a high velocity impact. Skiing, or something like that. The bike ride is because I am finally finding legs, but it is also physio. I was told cycling and swimming are the only two sports I can partake in right now. They are both low impact sports. Recovery is anywhere from six to 24 months. But the problem I am having right now is, I get badly swollen. By this afternoon, this entire lower leg area will get swollen equally as large as my knee. And then it his just pain because of all the scar tissue in there as well. This is about my fifth ride out since the accident. My first ride up here. Even after the riding it still swells. They say it will get better over time, but I suppose time is all I have on my side right now.”

Photographer’s notes: There were a couple of us chatting about the injury. Huge empathy from the others. We have all had some sort of setback and it is often pure luck that has kept some of us safe. I had my injury a few decades back. Running over a flight of steps, landed wrong and shredded muscles and ligaments on my right ankle. It was a couple of years before I could walk again. Longer before I could run.

But the bike was instrumental to recovery. I hobbled from the hospital in a cast, went home and found a metal plate to run in the cast. This would let me ride my bike every day. I was logging 60 kilometres a day through the recovery.

Funny aspect was, the doctor was impressed at my recovery until I told him what I did. Then he went into a fit of anger.

I am not much of a doctor person, but this doctor – and we are going back a few decades now – was considerably overweight and had an ashtray filled with butts on his desktop. Not the best environment to tell me how to stay in shape.

A new cast was fit and I accepted the limitation for a week. Then, on race day, I took a bucket of water and went to the rear steps and soaked the cast to soften it until I could cut it off with a knife. The leg was exposed, thin and  yellow from the confinement. But I was free of the cast and back on the bike, unfettered.

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