The story so far: Dad, Imogen and I travelled to Cyprus for some winter warmth. We had a few stonking rides before I had a very mundane topple-off with very un-mundane consequences. I spent six days in hospital where I underwent two operations to remove the stump that had been embedded in my leg, and to clean and close the wound. I concluded Part 2 with the three of us heading ‘home’ to Kalavasos.
In the final installment from ‘Cyprus: Sun, Cycling and Stumps’ Giant Pro XC Team come to town, Imogen is in charge of injections and I start walking again. Here is PART THREE…
Having left the hospital, the second item on the agenda was an ice cream (the first was to buy a lot of drugs – in Foxy, our black van with slidey doors and tinted windows). We sat on the seafront, where the fresh air and sunshine felt wonderful, then headed back to the apartment.
It was a different apartment to the one I had left on account of the fact we were meant to have checked out of Cyprus altogether two days earlier and our original one was now occupied. The new one involved negotiating several uneven steps heading up into the courtyard, and then a staircase up to the first floor. I couldn’t take any weight on my right leg and, despite my early confidence, I must say that I was rather nervous as I tried to overcome the obstacle course that was manoeuvring around the very rustic streets and buildings of Kalavasos.
Journey times are still long and I have learnt to expect delays, but those first few days were especially tiresome, both physically and mentally. Everywhere I went required a great deal of forward planning, a lack of bra and a liberal application of chamois cream under my arms to stop the crutches chafing, and, invariably, a backpack. I could ferry around miscellaneous items such as my book, sunglasses and a small snack (crutching is bloody hard work!), but putting a brew in your backpack is out of the question so I spent a lot of time standing next to the kettle and burning my mouth in my impatience.
Moving around became easier when we moved apartments, again, to one just down the street which was all on the ground floor. Thank you to Andrea and the team at Cyprus Villages for being so accommodating (excuse the pun).
Being temporarily disabled was made a great deal better by a number of factors. One was that I was in sunny Cyprus and could get my tan on. Another was that I was surrounded by a group of some of the best mountain bikers in the world, riders whose exploits I follow and admire, and they were asking how I was and sharing tales of crashes and recoveries. The guys from Giant Pro XC Team (Emil, Fabian, Hunky Henk Jaap Soft-hands Moorlag and, of course, Michiel), Marianne and Jolanda from Liv Giant and Alexandra from Ghost (who shouted “you’re alive!” and gave me a big hug!) are all incredible riders and absolute gems of people. It reinforced what I already knew about this sport, we are all in it together…and it’s bloody awesome!
All these lovely folk didn’t take the sting off my morning injection though. Imogen took over as nurse and after a shaky start (literally – the kid was nervous!) we established the ‘where’ and ‘how’ of making injections as painless as possible.
On Friday morning Dad and I went back to hospital, where Dr Stamitakis admired his handy work and gave me the all-clear. I had been tear-free from the crash until this point, but I did have a little blub when we arrived back to the apartment. Despite my somewhat nonchalant manner, I did realise that I had been very lucky to hobble away with only muscle damage.
Friday also marked the first stage of the second round of the Sunshine Cup. Dad and I took a trip up to the venue to check it out. We were a bit late to see much action, in fact it was really only my left bum cheek that saw any action (fear not, it’s clean): an hour of tight, twisty mountain roads whilst balancing on said bum cheek – tensing at every corner and for every break and acceleration – was a hell of a work out! Indeed, crutching around is the best core workout I’ve ever done. I have a stomach of steel, a hench left leg and pretty impressive gun show. Silver linings and all that.
Saturday’s trip out to watch the racing was similarly unsuccessful. Holiday mode makes it hard to get anywhere on time it would seem. Dad, Imo and Michiel had packed their bikes and, having dropped Imo and Michiel off at the top of the hill to ride the final descent of the course, we re-grouped at the finish and the three of them left me at the car and headed out for a lap of Sunday’s XC loop. Cheers.
Here comes another toilet anecdote.
I thought it best, for everyone’s sake, to omit from ‘Part 2’ my bedpan experiences. What I will say is that I have a bladder not significantly larger than a mini-egg.
So, soon enough, I found myself in need of a pee and ventured out to find a suitable spot. There were several factors that made this a particularly torturous affair. Firstly, it was terrain befitting a UCI sanctioned mountain bike race and I was on crutches. Secondly, there were a fair amount of people around. I stumbled around in the scrub for a while before spotting a bush (bad memories; too soon) that would have to make-do for cover. I’d say after many years of al-fresco weeing I am something of an expert, but when you can’t put much weight on, or even bend, one of your legs, one’s expertise is very much compromised. Unable to squat, I realised that in order not to pee on my pants I was going to have to take them off. Again, not easy. So there I was, not all that inconspicuously positioned, trousers down and, once more, essentially just pissing down my leg. And why is it that when you could really do with having a quick widdle, it just keeps coming? Nightmare. That wasn’t even the end of it; pants down is a whole lot easier than pants up. Remember, I have had a fairly hefty incision through my hamstring and bending forward is a complete no go, as is lifting my leg up. I ended up using one of my crutches to hook my shorts and knickers up to a point where I can reach them and then pull them up over my bottom, which, until this point, I imagine was a bright white beacon to anyone within a 100m radius. Smooth.
That night we lit a fire and enjoyed dinner and a funny face pulling competition with Michiel. That boy is multi-talented!
Sunday was our final day. We packed up and left Kalavasos and headed back up into the mountains to watch stage three. As well as finally getting to see some great racing, it was good to catch up with the guys from Orange Monkey Pro Team who, as well as being a top laugh, are setting the standard for British MTB teams. Get well soon to David who, not to be outdone, also took a trip to Larnaca Hospital after a nasty crash and concussion.
En route to the airport we visited Episkopi, where Dad lived for a few years as a young boy. It was lovely, and Imogen and I can now put a picture to the words of stories we have been told.
What wasn’t lovely was being wheeled through Pafos airport at world record attempt speed by a woman who was clueless as to what exactly my injury was. Whilst I appreciated the straight-to-front-of-queue service, I wasn’t overly keen on the bumps and bashes getting there, or the security pat down which involved a nice firm feel of my legs. No warning. No consideration of why I might be in a wheelchair. A classic Cypriot flurry. Ouch.
After an incredibly uncomfortable five hour flight and then the car journey home, bed felt amazing.
On Tuesday I had my staples removed, all 26 of them. Thank you nurse Charlotte. Thereafter I could begin to walk a little, a baby step or two to start with, and now, a week later, I can move around reasonably easily, though I am still using crutches out of the house. I am slowly getting more movement in my knee and in the muscles. Thank you to Claire for the physio advice.
I’m not sure when I’ll be pedalling again yet, but safe to say I won’t be storming to any kind of victory any time soon! Instead I will be doing more justice than anticipated to the name of this blog and ‘handing up bottles’ to my super and multi-talented little sister. She is a superb bike rider, a caring nurse and an utter goon. This last adventure has seen a lot of pain, much of which has come from my stomach muscles due to laughing so hard at Imogen!
Thank you all for reading, for your kind comments, shares, retweets and support. Stay tuned for Imogen’s race report and her hilarious perspective on events.
Stay safe kids, and don’t fall on stumps.