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Bend it like Neck’ham Not!

Week 16/17– The weeks seemingly flying by to the ever present backdrop of this global pandemic  and national uncertainty I was hoping to check in with some kind of amazing up-date, alas not currently but then that’s probably me not being able to see the woods for the trees ! The weeks taking on the their new normal working again but with some changes as mentioned  in previous blogs, adapting to make sure things can still get done and during those working days it aids as a distraction to thinking about my neck – but even then it’s like a shadow following me around day to day without the need for sunshine to create it, but seeing this week 15 out meant a week away in North Devon something pre-booked a while back it would be my first holiday of 2020 all bar a nice week in Hotel NHS SJR Oxford lol. The last week of full on physio before the week away so we decided to pack up the TRX system and weights so as to try and keep things going as I wasn’t sure if missing a week would then mean a bigger step backwards in recovery, apart from me constantly aching inside, my neck flexation seemed again to be the same old same old! Bend it like Neck’ham Not!

Setting off on rain drenched Saturday heading southwest with the stop off on route in Tiverton for some lunch and supplies wasn’t a memorable place note to self on the return. It’s been some time since venturing this far south/west , memories flooding back of sunny rides along the Tarker trail with a young Shea, from Barnstable to Instowe, visiting Tapely House, Westwood ho. Another stint with Anita, Steve Howard and Claire staying in Croyde bay surfing and kiting, another time with Anita and the boys KB & Tate them having surfing lessons, walks to watersmeet, and surrounding areas so it holds fond memories.  Apartment was self-contained and a minutes’ walk to the large beach of Woolacombe and Puttsborough, just off the back of the latest storm the surf was erratic and messy and pretty big, thoughts of getting a wetsuit back on and doing some body boarding was on the cards as was going for a few rides injury permitting, but first and foremost that hand in hand walk on the beach with wifey getting that sea air in our systems.

The plan was to try go for a ride along the Tarker trail again as it was flat with a view for ice creams on the beach front of idyllic Instowe. Forecast was to be sunshine and shower day so dressed accordingly for a bike ride. Setting off from Barnstable train station the Tarker follows the estuary towards Bideford basically an old railway line. Hard work pedalling into the wind I got immersed head down cranking it along to Frimington, before being told off by wifey!  Was a good point to stop and have lunch in the amazing café, the food was awesome ready for the next stage trying to hold off the ache, picture stop and the heavens opened up into the driving wind typically in your face short lived and the sun was back out and the trail just disappeared off into the distance at times you were peddling and going nowhere fast and we made  it to Yellend, place of an old works but someway short of Instowe and that beachside ice-cream. A check on distance by wifey and the carried away with myself reality kicked in we had a 9K return leg and I was starting to suffer but the return from this point would at least be wind assisted, getting the hammer down the long stretches meant I didn’t need the head up all the time as it was feeling heavy with exhaustion, some sit ups and stretch out’s whilst riding and I just had to stop for a stretch and – re-group. Finally home leg and we were back and I was absolutely spent but from a 5K loop to a pushed 18K was pretty awesome as much as it hurt. Still emanates from the neck being held taut, that constant position just aids the muscle groups going into their own bodily lockdown, that in turn just wears you down to a point you struggle to keep your head aloft.  Bend it like Neck’ham Not!

A chill out was needed, with the sun now out and the new Lockdown dawning we spent a day mooching around Lynton and Lynmouth, lots of walks up the rivers and pasty’s on the beach good mental recovery tonic as we planned my first off road ride around the coastal path tomorrow. After a relaxed evening, watching the sunset and some light exercises the plan for the coastal ride was to ride to Ilfracombe and back, a little pensive but also excited. Anita was going to keep me reigned in along with the bike not having a seat dropper and flat pedals aided her and stopped me getting carried away on my first foray. Instantly felt good setting off along the coastal road overlooking the beach before peeling off onto the grass and pathway, popping up near Mortehoe to join the coastal path , a mixture of cliff top grass and pathways before some rock sections near the cliffs edge and plenty of undulating terrain to deal with but also plenty of stops to take in the scenery, take some shots and videos of the adventure, it felt good really good but like riding with those toddler reigns on but I guess that’s good in a way, we had made it to Rockham beach could see the lighthouse but a check on distance with the return in mind Ilfracombe was a long way out , so we decided to head back along the same route that would amount to 16K ish but again nearing the end the back was taut, the neck was stiff and the head was starting to drop with exhaustion.   Bend it like Neck’ham Not!

Another relaxing evening and some stretch out’s with some added hydro work on the back and neck muscles better make the most of this shower. But a positive day yesterday ok so I’m still a long way off feeling completely bike fit , legs are on point climbing but still nowhere near the evening pre crash.  Another sunny day lifting the lockdown first day gloom but also an amazing birthday morning too, thanks to Wifey I now have mini shiny stars in my pants and stuck to my body lol but a great start to the day, the beach was busy with walkers and the dudes were out catching the last of the swell, we decided to pedal the beach to Puttsborough and then the coastal path around to Croyde bay and back through the narrow Devon back roads a round trip of some 10K there or thereabouts with a stop for we hope fish n chips on the beach.  Boy the beach seemed to drag on the wheels depending on where you rode, not aided by a strong head wind to was a real workout, this side of the coastal path was different more cliff top meadow as we made our way out to Baggy point, then a choice of lines down into Croyde but the it was a ghost town so Fish n chips had to wait, steep climb out of Croyde heading out on the road over the headlands before dropping back into Puttsborough and back onto the beach traverse aided by the wind this time, starting to feel it now as the ride was more constant today that in turn speeds us the knackering “ think that’s a word but it works “ Made it to Woolacombe and the café was open yipppppppeeeeeee  no fish but pasty n chips on the beach with a brew sitting in the warm November sunshine fitting end to a really great week. Back to the pad for coffee n cake, a cake with a difference had a massive firework tune plying candle on it AWESOME ! Before popping to the beach to watch the sunset once more, then home for fizzy bubbles and tea does a day get any better?  Bend it like Neck’ham Not!

Saturday home lockdown style meant the roads would be empty or less busy and as luck would have it they were. Anita was out on the Sunday so I had a lazy one, met some clients and home to do nothing much as another full week loomed and back onto physio groove.  Keeping up the home stretches and TRX session, add some press-up’s now and some light dumb bell straight arm side lifts in a hope to keep building some strength up. Felt a step back in physio as it was more a general once over beating this session with the aim to be back on track the following week, still chasing BUPA to try and secure more sessions seems an uphill struggle for something that you pay for but hope to never use!  Another chaser to the Surgeon as I’d had no response since September and it’s long overdue my second out-patients visit, the tease of them sorting some NHS physio out also hasn’t come to  fruition either Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!  The week flew past nothing out the blue to report but after watching “ Being Frank “ on the BBC a story about the news reporter Frank Gardener, this coupled with “ Any one of us “ I’d watched a many weeks ago and made me cry, both stories about spinal injuries both very different journeys, I guess they hit home because I was millimetres away from very different recovery journey myself thank god I’m not. One thing that I found interesting was that there is a spinal injury on average every 4hours in the UK ! Fcuk ME ! a large proportion also seem to be people diving into shallow water !? Huh !? Why how surely something you’d check first? Another thing that I found interesting and I myself have had those thoughts were your dreaming your shredding, sending it on your bike then you wake up and reality kicks in and your nowhere near that stage but wish your dream state was reality and your fucked up body is your dream state, both worth a watch but you might need your tissues.   Bend it like Neck’ham Not!

Weekend was looking rather dire but Anita was out for a wet muddy shred with Top Gun ice lady Heather, So I kept busy on the home front, the same could be said for Sunday Anita out again with Adders for another helping of mud fest “she’s made for it“.  Managed a little spin in the afternoon as the sun made a guest appearance again seemed ok no further forwards in my eyes than it’s been before and the doubts creeping back in again that it never will be so was on a bit of downer and you guessed who gets the rough end of it Wifey, Anita and whilst I truly appreciate her comforting words it doesn’t erase the dark thoughts whirling away in my head. Another full week ahead and another session with Mark this coming Tuesday, I hope to hear from BUPA or SJR hospital you can but live in hope. Bend it like Neck’ham Not!

WEEK 18 – Another full working week on the cards, with jobs pushed out as I just can’t work as fast as I would normally. Finally the SJR got back to me and wanted me back the SJR spinal trauma clinic this Friday 20th November, at last I might get some answers I’ve been looking for. Physio session Tuesday Mark carried out the usual pre-beating checks, had quick chat about my fears and the backwards flexation and the bit that still seems like a brick or was that just the heads of the screws were prodding trying to see what’s what?  Again ever positive he went over my progress and range now and then just drilling that into my negative mind-set and way of self-assessment, same tune that Anita keeps telling the seriousness of the accident and the surgery and the time scale! Does it ever sink in I thought to myself when immersed it directly and they are only looking in from outside, Mark bluntly says he as he sees it, No! you’re not going to get the range you had pre-accident  BUT again it’s not been long in the recovery process – Revert above , there is still loads of range left in those muscle groups yet don’t worry with that the beating commences. First session is always face down a gentle lead up to things far worse and today was going to be working deep along the vertebrae lower back up one side and down the other increasing intensity as he went, then the elbow came into play deeper harder, working, working those stubborn muscles, my breathing deepening on the threshold of it being to painful breathing deep tears in eyes at this stage “ and 5 and 4 and 3 and 2 and well done !! Fcuk ME needed five minutes to compose myself in the child’s pose teary eyed before sitting up regathered rolled towel in lower back “ Exhale “  oomph spine popped before clasping hands behind head for upwards spine stretch out before going sunny side up for some neck works. Bend it like Neck’ham Not!

Massive relief after leaving Physio this week and back to work, the rest of Tuesday was tough and I got home spent, painkillers and do nothing.  Wednesday I felt like I had gone back 3 or 4 weeks even to a point of turning my head left or right with my upper body & shoulders again FFS!!!  Flexing backwards again limited as hell even with painkillers on boards this was the worse I had felt in a long time I felt tired, grumpy and sad as the dark cloud consumed me again. Home tears with wifey trying to release those dark thoughts inside just let it pour out sometimes it does you good just to cry and vent.  Thursday felt 100 times better compared to yesterday but then I guess the fallout from such a hard session the body will rebel a bit but I think the tendons joined the protest along with the internal ambulance crews for a mark against physio cruelty! As the day wore on things eased up , back onto the home stretches and TRX works prepped and ready for a return visit to SJR spinal trauma clinic in the morning . Quiet emotional going back seeing the ward windows staring back at me but this time I was on the outside looking back in, provoked memories of the need to walk 5 meters from my bed to take a look outside and try and spot Anita driving in to brighten my hospital day. The clinic is in another part of the vast hospital site , but it wasn’t long before I was in for a new set of x-rays adjacent to the clinic. Then called up to see the consultant surgeon, then the remark from the registrar you look fit, I’ll take that as a plus, compliment or a chat up but she wasn’t my type lol. I guess seeing others in neck braces and other supportive aids, and me just waltzing in like I’d had no accident kinda fooled them a bit. A quick update from both of us, the consultant was amazed at my progress and what I had been up to, even being back on the bike some what in a tame kinda way, drew the attention of other consultants who gathered around the latest x-ray shots and the pre-surgery MRi scans, another glance back at me then back to the screens as I was called forwards for a closer look. I think then it really hit home how close I was to being in another road in my life and I can’t comprehend how that would have been, or if I would ever have coped with being a different ME, the impact on life and my amazing wife, my kids and family. Again he confirmed what Mark had said NO my neck rear flexation will never be the same, but it’s up to you how far you want to push those boundaries of movement as your easily 4-5 weeks more advanced than a normal recovery and it’ll take a year at least to feel completely normal, debatable with my normality n randomness but being 4 months into that and ahead of the average joe I hope come the new year and prior to my next visit in February for a full discharge I’ll be a better me. Bend it like Neck’ham Not!

With that it was back home very positive outcome, re-affirming what Mark had said about range of movements even with the metal works in situ, I sat in the car and pondered over the visit and my time here initially at the SJR welling up a little with those historical thoughts and my journey to date, yes I have come along way in a relative short space of time considering the severity of the crash, the operation , those long weeks ahead when I was stiff as a board, but an amazing wife, family and friends, Mark and Stu have been my wave  of recovery that I’m still surfing and will be for some time to come before it breaks on the beach and I’m back to being the new normal me, has there ever been a normal me!      Bend it like Neck’ham Not!  

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No Pain for Little Gain?

Week 10 – still carrying on the healthy recovery diet, and trying to get life back to normal, or as much as this injury will let me. Still getting my TRX sessions in and pushing the neck in the directions advised by my physio Mark Booth. These are assisted stretch out exercises, that you can fit in as and when, either block them into your evening work out or sporadically during the day. I have booked a few more regular jobs in so kinda some sort of normal routine as the pressure to be helping Anita with running of the house income wise was starting to weigh on my mind, added to the not being able to ride in any kind of normal format is adding to my mental state of mind. Even being around the sport/past time in some sort of format, taking pictures, trail works, being in the environment doesn’t quiet cut it when it’s your main passion and go to release from what life throws your way day to day!  No Pain for Little Gain?

So Physio proper has started in earnest, and I mean deep uncomfortable prodding, manipulation, working deep into those muscle fibers stretching out those tendons with an aim to get them firing up and back to some sort of normal function. I knew it wasn’t going to be comfortable that was the whole reason going with Mark at body limits. He knows what I do as a sport and where I need to be with it, to coach, race and ride at my desired level. The root cause of the snagging or sensation of cramp like sensations was the scar tissue grafting to my muscles between my shoulders? Mark explained “So take a chicken breast outer skin rough in texture when you try to remove it you sometimes see an iridescent thin membrane that goes between the two, this enables your skin to move freely over your muscles” Mine has grafted together with the healing process, so every so often with certain neck movements I’ll feel a pulling sensation.  The manipulation of this area wasn’t a pleasant experience to be honest but it was something that needed doing and Mark doesn’t hold back I can tell you.  Anita has been on hand to help release this also and she’s quiet gentile in comparison but even her touch sent those snagging spasms up my neck.  No Pain for Little Gain?

Always leaving physio with a positive mind set, feeling looser or is that just the relief that pain of working those muscles is over for another week, tomorrow will feel considerably worse as the muscle groups will be angry, protesting with the internal ambulance crews still mending my shit!  A constant battle within, another try on the bike when the area had calmed down from being a physio war zone.  Positive mind set Mark, Positive mind set keep running over in my subliminal mind, felt marginally better or am I just kidding myself? We set off on the now standard 5k loop, knowing we could have rest stops. The neck still on almost full stops and starting to ache down my back we managed 2.5k before our first break, the second 2.5k consisted of a gradual uphill, that I put some effort in as the neck and shoulders got heavier and heavier just made it home absolutely spent, born more out of stubborn determination to put another bench mark in but really kidding myself it’s progress in my eyes! No Pain for Little Gain?

I mentioned the going to lie down on the grass the last of the sunny afternoons and how that couldn’t happen without a back arch to aid, this is the same for the position on the bike when on the bars the neck has to curve back to give you forward vision but more importantly feel free to achieve this posture.  This is the doubt the dark side that keeps creeping into to my mind and any future thoughts of being able to ride/race enjoy my riding as per pre-crash,  it is starting to wear me down a little but I keep pushing it back, Sundays are always hard to deal with, more so now as Backwoods side has suffered from the over covid-idiot use rendering a no go zone so I can’t even go up and immerse myself in trail creation, while the guys go shred, I deeply miss this part of my life. I decided to write to my surgeon as nobody has really given me a 100% categorical outcome as to range of movements I may achieve with the correct physio going forwards? What are the titanium rods function when say 6 months a year down the line and everything has healed up are they just a metallic passenger encapsulated in my body serving no structural purpose? Could I request the rods to be removed at a later date? Whilst Mark maintains the ever positive “We’ll get you there, there’s plenty more movement in those muscles yet” the doubt is still there niggling away and I have only questions and un-knowns currently. No Pain for Little Gain?

Week 11 – Weekend in, a walk this time seemed to be full of fatigue, but then I guess last week was busy by my standards. A few more local jobs then another full on physio session to look forward to I think before driving off to Guilford to help on a house renovation project.  A simple thing like a bathroom vinyl floor, De & Re-install of sink & loo and change bath taps, was all the pre-physio work out I needed a the start of this week. Mostly spent laying on my back trying to undo pipes and stuff left me shattered come 4.30pm.  After a shower some pain killers we thought we would go for a quick ride as it was still nice after the weekends down pours, who am I kidding it was the worse one yet didn’t make the distance as it was too uncomfortable so it was a shortened loop.

With a small overrun meant no rest Tuesday morning before Physio just after lunch so had time to grab brunch with Anita before heading off to get beaten up.  A quick posture overview and some movement range work, before getting stuck into those muscles and tendons, releasing all that pent up stiffness and toxins, I sure hope all this was helping the internal ambulance crews, still hard at work mending my body. This session was more painful than last weeks as he worked deeper into those stubborn muscles and tendons, a deep hug to crack and release the vertebrae again feeling very light headed after the session but again very loose, but you know it’ll be short lived as the morning I’ll be sore from the session. Touch base with wifey and off I set to Guilford with an impromptu stop to pay homage at the YT industries – the mill. Was really cool to get there and see the place the set up was really cool, bikes and merchandise and nice coffee shop area. Then off to my project and a night at a local premier inn Whooo-hoo I know how to parteeeey ! No Pain for Little Gain?    

The project and proposed week didn’t pan out as expected but once the other trades were put back on track, it was back on the road home, swinging past the bike park catching Stu, Phil busy working on tidying up the bike park lines. It was cool to catch up and explore a possible return to the shovels work permitting first and foremost , then home to surprise wifey and work on pulling in next weeks jobs and we went for another test ride on the bike, still street bound currently but again it’s still on those neck stops!! Aaaaaaaargh !!  Diet and exercise still on point but I must say some days I’m so tired after working the exercise suffers a little.  As the weekend kicked in we had a long walk in the fresh autumn sunshine, something that also seems to wear me out after time, so annoying from feeling super fit and really on top of my game to this another mental pressure being bottled up, but seeing my youngest always diverts any negative thoughts for those brief weekend moments.  Just chillin with wifey and Tate always a good tonic Saturday, Sunday we decided to go to the Bike Park and litter pick whilst the guys went on the normal Sunday ride. Being around the bike scene regardless is double edge sword because seeing some mates sending it and some coming through via their trail loops cuts deep into the emotional side of things as your not doing it, but also it’s just nice to be on the scene, more incentive to get back on it. No Pain for Little Gain?  

Week 12 or 3 months post-crash and post-surgery was always going to be a big mile stone and whatever way you write it seems a long time off the bike (riding properly / trails / DH / Racing) This mile stone apparently are when things are really on the mend and with another aggressive physio session on the anniversary you’d like to think you’d see massive gains. Again being immersed in it you don’t see those, but first comment from Mark the physio “well if I didn’t know you’d trashed your neck when you walked in here and I’d have to guess what had happened” Ever the positive is our Mark, but it meant a lot to hear and that’s down to the hard work and him beating me up weekly. Another painful session meant a few more days for the muscle groups to chill out but the proceeding days leading up to post surgery week 12 and into the weekend felt like a small corner had been turned, with those fears and anxieties about my neck never going to fully functional to let me ride the way I want to adjusted slightly with a hint of optimism thrown in for good measure. So my looking left and right is certainly less tensed up my gauge on that is driving, it’s feeling more natural and less forced. The same can be said now of resting my head on the floor it actually touches down now so I can do neck press-ups just lifting my head up and down off the floor controlled with no support. I wouldn’t say it’s 100% comfortable but from a few weeks ago when that seemed impossible it’s now happening.   More pointers that something is happening it’s not such a struggle to finish a drink now or shave under the neck these are my small bench marks of progression currently.  Sunday test rides now part of the recovery process now fuelled by the neck feeling more loose I was actually looking forward to see how it felt? The same 5km pathway river loop immediately it didn’t feel like my neck extension was pushing hard against the stops to the point my muscle groups following my spine tense up along with my shoulders and neck after a short time. Yes it was still being stubborn but more comfortable position wise at the same time feeling just a little less forced and held in a more natural riding position, the Left and right looks again not such hard work as they have been for sure so I’ll take this as a massive plus and Mark the physio thinks there is more range of movement to come as my lower back vertebra are all moving locked so yep you guessed it next Tuesdays physio session again is going to be aggressive in a good way. With the weeks now forming the new norm for me I hope as the weeks go on more defined progression can be seen and realised, if I was to be optimistic it would be a good goal to try a trail ride come the new year 2021 it’ll be a great way to start the year for sure .  No Pain for Little Gain?   

Week 13 unlucky for some –  So heading into a new week my main gauge being post neck surgery with the last of the aggressive physios (in my eyes) and a normal week with some work away and still buzzing from last week’s settling down after physio session my mind set was of now constant progression. Physio again was uncomfortable at best prodding, probing, stretching out stuff and that thing they do with the point of their elbows F…..K ! me that defiantly hits the spot, I’m sure my toes were curling whilst trying to take a deep relieving breath. Felt a really good session and more positive vibes from Mark and it was off down to Guilford once more, necked a few painkillers and anti-inflammatory and I was good to go.  Week flew past and I still fitting in some kinda away from home exercises on top of flooring works most evenings I was shattered, but as the week went on based on last week things eased off and I’d feel more loose and relaxed, come on please feel more loose and relaxed?  Throwing in a 10hour day fitting flooring perhaps wasn’t going to help but needs must more so with all this covid shit seemingly dictating peoples lives currently I was looking forward to getting home to wifey and chill for a weekend, although the M25 would play a strong part in prolonging that homewards bound journey.  I Still felt tight in the neck and again back in between the shoulder blades and with all the progress however small of late it didn’t feel right in my mind. “It’s been a more normal work week, aggressive physio perhaps it’ll take a while to settle” I kept telling myself but it really feels like it’s stopped again and the doubts are building once more and hasn’t dissipated over the weekend past Friday’s 13 week post-surgery millstone, in fact I was feeling worse!  Keep positive, keep positive, Saturday fitted all the TRX and neck exercises  in and settled for a chilled evening in, looking now pensively towards Sundays test ride after a nice sunny walk up the woods, bit of trail raking then home and ready for that spin, poor timing as I left it started to rain but as above the neck didn’t feel like it did last week peddling off down the estate roads , already the pressure on the muscle groups between the shoulder blades just seem to sap any positive enthusiasm about riding feeling free of pain, could only manage  a sorry 3k today it just didn’t feel great, my torso seems to be in a constant state of ache whether that’s connected to muscles or the operation to the spinal vertebrae who knows but 3 months + in now and it’s kinda wearing me down, just longing to feel normal inside, be able to take a deep breath and not feel discomfort, but it’s every day like a relentless shadow currently. Yes there has definitely been progress some who see me exclaim miraculous, unbelievable great words to here I just wish they’d take the discomfort away.    No Pain for Little Gain?   

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Getting there for sure

Week 8 post crash – still carrying on the healthy recovery diet, and as I’m doing more stuff, little jobs and been doing some trail maintenance bits just to keep me in the MTB loop kind of covers my daily exercise and some!   I guess with trail maintenance it kind of keeps me sane being as I can’t ride currently  and it gets me in the woods creating or just making sure everything is safe and groomed as best I can with the neck.  It’s a mental draw away from the everyday and you get to see regular riders, they stop have a chat; keep them up to speed, get some feedback on how the lines are running. Always take my camera; again another side line to the riding, racing and coaching it’s just my thing. Getting there for sure?

Week seven post-crash and surgery was a week leading into my first spinal outpatient’s appointment over at the Nuffield Orthopedic a place I know well from my hip operations. A little anxious but dying to get this one ticked off as a mile stone on the recovery road. With wifey leaving for a well-earned shredding trip up in the Highlands it was going to be a home alone week something I never look forward to as home seems empty, void of that soul mate that shares your passions for life and bike, but she has been an absolute star looking after my sorry arse, she needed this break.   Be my longest drive to date and whilst it’s not 100% due to the neck mobility there’s enough to fill me with confidence to drive and not be reliant on taxi services from Anita or my parents! So that in itself is another little goal ticked off. The drive over to Oxford was a steady one and got there in time mask on and signed in, wasn’t in the usual outpatients area but who am I to question. Getting there for sure?

The outpatients was a bit of a debacle and promptly changed back to the original outpatient’s area! Had an initial overview then was sent off for an x-ray. Back with the Consultant and everything looks OK, nothing out of place, some reflex testing like they do with your knee with hammer thing, but this was in several places along each arm, followed by some resistance tests all over my body and again all seems to be fine. I said I had lost the old pins and needles in both hands something I had had since my crash at Chicksands; the surgery seems to have sorted that! Bonus!  But the last two days leading up to this appointment I had a numb little finger on my right hand? So something to monitor but nothing too concerning at this juncture. The bike did seem a way off a few weeks ago when in the thick of things and I guess now with a clear mind and better perspective it’s there teasing me in the corner like some swanky I love bikes sculpture as my head is in the position it needs to be on the bike but it has nowhere near enough flexibility to go trail side yet. Getting there for sure?

I have been out on the trails with my son at the weekend as it’s a place I love and can switch off and immerse myself in, creating lines or just making them run awesome.  This in it’s own way has ignited some thought provoking moments and reflections sitting there in the woods running over where I was on the bike, the things I’d been hitting and racing the year leading up to today 15th September 8 weeks since that fateful evening, will I be at that level again? A small doubt, concern, fear I can’t quiet put my finger on it as it does battle with my subconscious mind-set primarily geared towards riding where I left off but it is part of my thought process now  and has been over the last week. As I’m writing this before I go into my first Sports physio session maybe this or ongoing sessions will light my pathway with more clarity as to what movement I can physically achieve with the titanium bars in place, I am a little anxious to be honest but I am where I am on the road life has put my way and I’m just going to have to deal with it and the outcome.  Getting there for sure?

Rocking up at Body Limits for my first session with Mark Booth stunning late summer’s days maxing out at some 30 degrees! Still a little anxious but here we go. A quick catch up and an overview on the latest x-ray followed by a quick check over “blimey you are tight and stiff in the neck upper back region! So what we’re going to do today is just try and loosen these neck and muscle groups up a bit get some blood flowing as they have been inactive for 8 weeks now, let me know if it’s too uncomfortable or painful.”  I do think Consultant’s air on the side of caution when it comes to recovery and rehabilitation whereas a sports physio, also someone you know and gets what you do, has a more positive view. Mark’s words filled me with a little optimism that my range of movements with work and manipulation would be far better than their current range is now 8 weeks post-surgery.  I keep having to remind myself as the consultant said “you’ve had a major operation to quiet severe spinal trauma so we are still early days!” Try telling my head that! Getting there for sure?   

Face back in the hole in the bed, thumbs and elbows pressing into my muscles between my shoulder blades up into my neck “he must be able to feel the metal rods I thought?”  I knew it was going to be uncomfortable as he worked my Splenius capitis and cervicis down to my rhomboids and trapezius muscle groups, taking on deeper breaths to try and breath out the discomfort, but I knew this is what was needed as my neck had seized and tendons shorted in that short space of time and still recovering from the impact damage and being cut into! Yuk!   Back to sunny side up on the physio bench to work on my front neck muscles and tendons, sternocleidomastoid being worked and this was only a gentle intro!  Getting back to sitting up feeling a bit light headed, but the neck in it’s current range moved with consummate ease until it hits the current stops, side to side, up and down I guess we are only talking degrees or millimetres of more movement but these are I feel steps in the right direction.  With some specific range exercises given to do each day for 10-15 mins these should keep what’s been done intact. Four more sessions pre-booked so something to look forward to! I think? Back out into the warm late afternoon sunshine, thoughts of Anita not being here to share this step in recovery, just sat in the van emotions washed over me a mixture of elation, optimism, relief and a little sadness, a few more tears then get my shit together and home we go. Getting there for sure?  

Trying my best to fill the week’s voids loneliness, few little jobs, going to the woods, friends inviting me around some evenings helped, but get home late to a big empty house, do exercises, sit and think! It was wifey’s birthday this week and our 6th wedding anniversary times we always share together but not this year and as selfish as this may come across, Anita way up in the highlands having a well-earned break doing something she/we love it did hurt seeing the posts, not being part of it so had to switch off from the social media so as not to rub it in anymore. It’s bad enough with the bike taunting you in the corner but we had a chat before she left about possibly going for a little spin when she’s back depending on how physio goes and how the neck position is! I know a few weeks back it wasn’t even on the radar and here we are thinking about it, I think that’s a good thing, right?  Getting there for sure?  

Wifey home after what transpires was an epic adventure and it was amazing to see her and hold her catch up face to face on her adventures and what I had been up to, cramming in the missed birthday and 6th wedding anniversary into one evening, heart n soul filled with positive energy. Sunday 20th September 2020 decided it would be a good day to try and go for a spin?  Un-coupled the bike off the turbo trainer and popped in the rear wheel, gave her a once over with the cloth, put new front mudguard on after it being ripped off in the crash. Dug out my new 7iDp lid and sat on the bike heart racing in the beautiful late summer’s morning, already the neck on full lock but with vision up the road/path, not like 3 – 4 weeks ago staring down at the stem and front tyre that’s how far it could lift up. Around the block soon led into a little spin further afield down along the local river Ouse, first pit stop after 1 km as the neck and shoulders were arguing WTF is going on!   As advised above my current range is right on the limits, but this was a great bench mark as to how far I had come, where I was currently and more important how bloody far I still have to go to even think of riding trail side. Emotions flooding in again and a re-assuring squeeze from wifey and off we set again for another couple of kms sat in the sunshine and got me on tape absolutely pinning it ! NOT ! lol.  Getting there for sure?  

With a gap between physio appointments due to them being stacked out a close friend sports physio Stuart Warnock who gave me my first set of exercises post hospital gave me a link to a TRX rehab video from a pro basketball physio – so working on upper body shoulders etc – ideal for my current state. Anita had just  got a set of TRX straps as a pressies so thought we’d give these a try. Press ups x 10 reps / Scap rolls x 10 / Alligators x 10 this one is a work in progress lol and inverted row x 10, popped these in after a second 5 km ride. Again the niggling doubt is still there with all the positive advice from Body Limits my dark mind is saying will my neck and metal work allow my head to truly be positioned comfortably were it needs to be to ride?  Another self-gauge for you all here, had a day out in Stamford lovely sunny day went to lay down in the sun on the grass something you wouldn’t think twice about “eeeeer nope” not having it! Trying to do it meant my upper torso and lower back had to lift and arch to allow my head to touch grass, so it wasn’t having any of it, like the shaving under your neck thing (lads only bit – unless you’re the bearded lady from circus) or taking the those last sips from a can or your drink, these my neck just can’t make it, so frustrating but adds to the doubts?  So sat on a bike in your ride position – your neck has to flex back more to achieve optimum position and as above mines at the stops currently, I don’t know if that’s just muscles, tendons all being tight and short, scar tissue etc or all 3 combined but it needs to be better, please be better! Getting there for sure?   

Had some strange twinges the last couple of days not sure if that’s due to the activity levels increasing wrestling with some muscles getting back to normal pulling on each other, it’s like cramp but in your neck and shoulders and can hit at any time. Still fighting the lack (my perception) of neck flexibility. Just watched “Anyone of us” (BBC iPlayer – Paul Basagotia – Rampage / slopestyle rider) quiet close to the bone for me totally had me tears due to how close I was to being on a different recovery road, with the next physio booked for 29th then week on week for 3 more sessions I’m praying my neck flex will improve. I’ll leave this here as we enter week 9 – thank you for taking the time in reading these blogs, thanks for all the kind support on a local basis and friends I’ve met on my MTB travels over my ride history it really means so much I don’t have the words – To my wife Anita you are amazing.  Getting there for sure?  

Any one of us https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p08q6jh8

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Going Forwards or Backwards?

Four weeks today still carrying on the same routine; breakfast in bed, nice and healthy to aid recovery, ease up, shower, potter about, possibly write some blog, do something anything within reason? Factor in exercises for the day, snooze if possible , lunch with wifey, potter some more, take drugs if required but trying to resist them, evening comes, weight and tiredness kicks in along with the burn, try to get settled in bed and repeat! You kinda get the monotonous picture now, Wednesday we thought try just one memory foam pillow again, in my mind it would let the neck fall back further and once asleep be relaxed enough to stretch them muscle groups out, well it didn’t induce snoring, bonus for Anita, I kinda think it helped the neck a bit. Going forwards or backwards!

Thursday 29th August again nothing to write home about but then it crept up on me late afternoon, into the evening a distinctive mood swing, a restless night just couldn’t get comfortable, up at 6.20am feeling shit, blank in mind, everything in my torso aching like fuck, sat alone with my thoughts and tears until 7am made breakfast that was a drag, even lifting a coffee cup seemed to hurt, bumbled into the bedroom, discomfort etched on my face, slumped on the bed in floods or sporadic tears, trying to find the words for Anita as to how I’m feeling instead of her guessing. I guess four weeks of being in pain, swapping to continuous discomfort, not really being able to do much (when normally active as) always reliant on someone mostly wifey to do stuff for you, cart your sorry arse around, not seeing improvement (in my mind/eyes), still possibly suffering from after effects of anesthetic, throw that in one emotionally unstable mind set and you hit your first low point. I couldn’t be arsed to do my exercises, just opted to hide myself away in bed at 8.30 not wanting to communicate just lay there feeling sorry for myself, sleep and awake in the same state of mind as above. Going forwards or backwards!

So offloading to Anita in the morning got it off my mind, albeit still in the shadows, trying to rationalise it. Body wise toes, feet, legs, hips all feel perfect as do my hands, fore arms, upper arms to shoulders 90%, eyes, ears and head all feel pretty normal to me.  My torso, shoulders, upper back and lumber, shoulder blades, neck, rib cage feel absolutely shattered, stiff, ache (if all your teeth had individual tooth aches) on a scale of just bearable to keeping you awake and making you feel like shit then that’s how most of my upper body feels and has done for weeks now, the edge now and then being taken off by painkillers, but the constant discomfort added to all the other bits does take its toll. Going forwards or going backwards!    

August 21st 22nd 23rd 24th 2020… Friday turning out to be a better day like a reboot/re-set button had been flicked, the rains had stopped and the winds died down a wee bit, caught up with writing, looking forward to seeing my mate Scott that evening and then more friends down for the weekend. OK I couldn’t join them on the bikes but I could get out and about in the woods always good for your mental state of mind.  Something did feel different over this weekend, not sure if it was the last lingering bits of anesthetic departing, I felt a lot looser around the neck and shoulders (still ribs and chest being most painful). No exercises over the weekend giving the operation and muscles a break from it, again seemed to have a positive effect, a try on the bike “nope still not feeling in the correct postural position” so that again can wait a bit longer.  The tiredness still comes late evening as the slow pour concrete feeling adds weight to your neck and shoulders, but a tadge bit more comfortable. Great getting out to the woods again on Sunday a longer walk with Tracey and Nathan (on bikes). Tracey testing out the hip fracture recovery on the Frenchman’s line and the sender out of Sleazy Mexican all seemed to be positive, I just immersed in offering advice, guidance, taking pictures catching up with other riders “good medicine for sure”. So here we are Monday and my positive feeling is still very evident, exercises at some point today with wife later I guess, the bike isn’t on the horizon yet but I feel it’s getting closer week by week. Going forwards or going backwards!     

27th August 2020 continuation of the exercise plan seems to be going OK, still have issues with the chest and rib cage, another sneeze yesterday felt like it ripped open again, a called the the GP who got up the CT scan done at MK hospital and advised no fractures or displacement to the sternum, or associated ribs! Hhhhhhhm. We concurred that it can only be soft tissue damage or cartilage at worst and localised anti-inflammatory and pain killers were the only solution as per a broken rib. DO NOT SNEEZE! Note to self.   Had a try in the van only a small journey felt OK but If I’m being honest like the bike not quiet there yet albeit mobility in the neck and shoulders is better day on day depending on my activity levels.  Diet wise we have added far more “aid recovery food types” to my diet, mind you with Anita being vegan as I said before we nearly had them all covered anyhow, so that’s the fuel side of things being taken care of. Waiting on the letter from John Radcliffe as to their up-date, also a local sports injury clinic as to an assessment and possible off site physio sessions, to again aid the recovery process, but more I hope get my neck’s range of movements to their optimum they can be with the surgery and metal structure in place.  Going forwards or going backwards!   

Week 6: post-crash and surgery and time seems to fly by when your not having much fun, storms have come and gone as has the last Bank Holiday which was meant to be a staycation pick me up with wifey, turned out not to be the case. A wet pre bank holiday start we’d booked a hotel in the Forest of Dean as Anita was joining the gang to go explore Mallards Pike on the Saturday. Traffic was bonkers on the A40 thought we’d stop for lunch in Burford but not a chance due to the torrential rain everyone makes b-line for shelter, cafes etc and we had a gin tour booked so time was ticking more so due to the traffic. This was the biggest journey I’d been on in the van felt OK apart from having to brace over any wallows in the road or sharp impacts. Local gin tour was good at Silver Circle Wye Valley gin, worth a visit if you’re in the area.  Found the Royal Lodge at Symonds Yat better be good for £150 a night, transpires NOT, no breakfast included and a £7 parking fee! What is it with accommodation in FoD it all seems stuck in some historical 70’s/80’s bubble or worse whether that be hotel, Air B&B, B&B it’s never been a great experience…..only one springs to mind the Forest Lodge self-catering chalets then I guess no outside influence.  Saturday was a sunny day at Mallards the gang duly arriving in time for the café to open. Looking on Trial Forks all the lines mostly come off the same hill so I thought at least I could walk up and take some snaps. Seemed a good idea at the time but only catching the gang once on Wookies middle I kinda started to sink into a low mind-set; want to ride but can’t ride and the whole thing starts on it’s downwards spiral add that into the mix of a constant ache all over your torso, your own self pity and bingo you have a “miserable git” I hate myself as this has a negative effect on Anita who try as she might can’t pull the dive bombing me up out of the dive of self pity which all took it’s toll on us both. Going forwards or going backwards!   

The following days were better. The weather cheered up, I joined the Sunday ride group and did some trail maintenance on Hogan’s felt good just to be in the woods, a mental mindset re-boot, standard coffee’s after to some kind of normality, it was good to see the gang. I’ve mentioned I seem to have reached a plateau or so I feel with exercises I’m currently doing, don’t get me wrong there is a marked improvement, no struggling like a novice escapologist in a sack getting my t-shirt off, bonus!  My side to side neck movements seem to be getting there too, but lifting my head back my front neck muscles and tendons seem to be in constant battle with my back neck muscles, small noticeable things like taking the last sips of a drink from a cup/can I’m having to lean back with my upper torso to achieve that, the same with shaving under your chin a real struggle crazy small little bench marks, but at the same time little goals to try and achieve in the big scheme of  recovery.  Going forwards or going backwards!   

6-8 week benchmarks seem the norm over medical advice on most things for your average person, but I guess that all depends on the severity of what’s happened and what’s been done to patch you up, I feel less foggy in my head currently and feel/think I can do more than I really should be!  We have been trying gravity assisted neck exercises laying over an edge with Anita supporting my head and chin and just gently trying to let the neck muscles ease back. Without a % gauge in my head it feels massive, reality is it’s small but it seems to help. Little fears creep in my mind as to will my neck ever be fully functional? We looked at mine currently against Anita’s and I’m miles off. Being realistic I guess the two titanium bars will restrict some movement backwards but as to how much I do not know, I sat on the bike this morning on the turbo and my head position is in a better position than a week ago, not as forced, but I’m not kidding myself it’s anywhere near being right as are the muscle groups in between my shoulder blade, still as taught as can be, but I’m going to take this little gain. With more aggressive sports physio due to start with Body Limits on the 15th September I hope we can see better improvements, yes it’ll hurt but my torso is hurting constantly every day in annoying tooth ache kinda way, so a little pain to gain and perhaps some tears will be a good thing .  Going forwards or going backwards!   

I have done some small jobs locally just simple tasks to keep me from going stir crazy, this is kind of exercise in a different way,  had another test drive locally again wasn’t too bad either but again as another gauge, my mobility wise is not too bad, things considering, but I am my own worst enemy constantly battling with my perceived what I can think I can do to what I can actually do, coupled with the constant ache come evening time I’m shattered. It was great  hooking up with James Fagan who again is a local lad who broke his back in the bike park the weekend before my crash and was in John Radcliffe the same time as me. Both on our own roads to recovery so I hope we can spur each other on somewhat, but I think between us we have pretty much broken a whole spine give or take a few vertebrae. So everything is kind of in place going forwards, the diet also helps aid recovery feeding those internal ambulance crews still working overtime fixing my body, loads of fruit and berries, nuts, eggs, chicken, fish coupled with healthy veg – don’t get me wrong there is still room for a few naughty snacks n sweeties. First outpatients at spinal injury is Friday 11th over at the Nuffield in Oxford fingers crossed they are happy with my progress.  Going forwards or going backwards! 


EGGS: It’s what’s on the inside that counts! Crack open some eggs to give your body a boost. Just one egg gives you a dose of protein, vitamins A and E, B-complex vitamins (including B12), riboflavin, folic acid, calcium, zinc, and iron. There’s a reason why eggs are among the first things served to recovering patients.

FATS: This one may come as a surprise to some people, but not all fat is bad fat! Following surgery, healthy fats help your body absorb vitamins from the other foods in your diet. It strengthens the immune system and can decrease your chance of infection. Other benefits of fats include providing energy and vitamin E, and they can also reduce the appearance of scars. Some healthy fats to add to your diet include: Avocados, Coconut Oil, Nuts, Olive Oil, Seeds,

FRUITS: Before and after surgery, you’ll want to get yourself a fruit bowl and fill it with all your favorites (simplify things and ask friends or family to send a fruit basket!). Fruits offer a good dose of vitamin A, C, carbohydrates, fiber, and antioxidants. One of the best fruits are berries; they may be small, but berries pack a punch! They’re also a great source of vitamin C, which has been shown to rebuild collagen and soft tissue, healing your incision site faster. Not a big fruit eater? Get out the blender and make delicious smoothies. There are countless recipes online! Some of the best fruits to consider in your diet include: Apples,Apricots,Berries,Grapefruit,Mangos,Melons,Oranges,Peaches,Tomatoes

LEAFY GREENS: Greens are like nature’s multivitamin, providing a wealth of nutrients a healing body needs. Eating greens will give you a healthy dose of vitamin A, C, and E. Not familiar with vitamin K? It’s produced by plants and is well-known for its role in blood clotting, which aids in healing. Need more proof that greens are good? They also give your body a hearty amount of fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium, and calcium. Go green with these leafy greens: Bok Choy,Collard Greens,Kale,Romaine Lettuce,Spinach,Turnip Greens

MEATS OR ALTERNATIVES: It’s surf and turf time! The protein and iron provided by meats are important to repair damaged muscles following your procedure. The amino acids in meat help regenerate tissue and aid in the production of collagen, which protects the skin and ensures effective healing. If you’re one of the 7.2 million Americans who abstain from meat, there are numerous other sources of protein. Vegetarians (and even vegans) can get their proteins from soy (it’s even better in the form of tofu), buckwheat, oatmeal, rice, quinoa, beans, hummus—even that old favorite, PB&J sandwich!

VEGETABLES: Vegetables provide some of the most important vitamins and nutrients to help your healing body. Vegetables also provide a source of carbohydrates, which give you energy and help stop muscles from breaking down. A healthy amount of carbohydrates will help you fight some of the fatigue you may feel following surgery. These vegetables are great sources of vitamin A and C, and add fiber to your diet, which can reduce constipation, a common side effect of pain medication and lowered mobility. You want to keep yourself from becoming constipated as putting strain on your body can compromise your wound closure, even resulting in wound dehiscence. Vegetables to consider include:Cabbage,Cauliflower,Carrots,Bell Peppers,Broccoli,Brussel Sprouts,Potatoes

WHOLE GRAINS: Most of us know the importance of fruit and vegetables, but often overlook whole grains, which is a mistake we must not make. This essential food group contains an extensive list of vitamins and nutrients, many of which are necessary for wound healing: protein and zinc to help repair tissue, iron to deliver oxygen to the wound bed, and magnesium to up the body’s defense mechanisms. Some foods to consider introducing to your diet include:Barley,Millet,Pilaf,Quinoa,Risotto,Whole wheat or rye sourdough breads,Wild Rice

  

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No Ordinary Life Currently

The first week out of the way the exercises seem to be OK as one muscle group relaxes another seems to be taut, the upper rib cage and chest still the most painful bit.   The past weekend was a nice one some really cool friends stuck their heads in always a good pick me up when your immersed in your own limited bubble. The week was ramping up to one of the hottest of the summer and the weekly routine kind of now set; breakfast in bed, nice and healthy, take it easy getting up, decide on the day’s activities that would at some point include the daily exercises, a test at some point on the bike to see how the head position was, walk of some description, lunch with wifey,  the resist a snooze but the latter normally won, chill out might even treat myself to a G&T, beer or glass of wine, nice healthy tea before that evening burn and weight kicks in, neck a couple of pain killers before bed and get ready to settle down and let the bodies ambulance crews work into the night repairing me. No Ordinary life currently!  

Anita went for the regular Tuesday evening ride in breathless heat albeit 17.00. Life carries on outside my world and I wouldn’t want my wife not to do the things she/we love, she works bloody hard on all fronts, work and Flow, now having to keep my arse in check, keeping fit and shredding. I’m not missing it in a strange way because I’m not ready, nowhere near ready, head position feels forced, and I don’t think I’d have any control even riding the smooth redways of MK  ‘never be a passenger on the bike’.  I seriously thought it would be eating me up but right here right now I’m happy (in an uncomfortable recovery way) thankful that I can do what I can do as limited as that is I’m not in a wheelchair semi paralysed!  Wednesday came back to routine a surprise from a old friend from way back, was so good to catch up and added more sunshine to the cool summer morning and my exercises. Plan was to hook up with the Wednesday night crew at the burn bike park but I was absolutely shot that evening the heat taking its toll, adding to the discomfort it was going to be a long night. No Ordinary life currently! 

Days now settling into some kinda of abnormal rhythm for me feeling set in a recovery lul of easing up each morning, healthy breakfast, shower, write some blog, go for a walk, plan when to do the day’s exercise, lunch with wifey, snooze, evening meal, chill before the neck shoulders and head start to get heavy the neck burn kicks in, drugs, ease into bed sleep and repeat!  Progress in a way but it’s only reaffirmed when you meet someone who may not have seen you for a week or a few days “wow I can’t believe your this, your that, you look normal” (pushing it!) but it’s my gauge of my progress and it does make you feel good about things. Friday night pizza night always look forward to this, easy TV and early bed as Anita was off with the gang in the morning to ride Eastridge so I was going to be home alone Saturday! Yikes! Probably the first day I really did do sweet FA, heard Anita leave at 7am, dozed off again, up at 8.30am made breakfast and back to bed to eat, chill catch up on messages, coaching stuff, shower and up. Exercised early and thought about a walk into town but it was whazzing down and that was set for the day writing the blog, watching TV, Arsenal stuff, old and new, interviews, Moto GP, Rossi, Mandalorian, lunch snooze, hoover as best I could snooze again and Anita arrived home everyone safe. Too late to cook so we ordered in with some wine, choose a film and got cozy for the night, kinda normality even if you added the late evening issues kicking in. No Ordinary life currently! 

Sunday no club ride today “what would you like to do Mark?” looked nice out so I said “shall we go for walk up the woods go to the crash site?”  “OK if that’s what you want to do”. So a lazy morning we got there for 10am, no neck brace today as we walked in taking it easy, impossible climb looked greasy under foot so we opted to go down one of Jamie’s old lines next to it, then up the gully climb to the hub of a few lines in backwoods. Andy rocked up as did Adders & Kivas, also had a chat with a few other riders that had heard my plight & recovery. Wasn’t too sure how I was going to feel as last time I sat here I was about to drop into this line after having an awesome ride. Thinking back over some of the accidents I have had over the years some bike related, motor bike and car there are only two that still stick in my mind as thought provoking, one gives me the shivers still to this day, the other at 53 made me take stock of my riding, how was this accident going to fair in my mind and future riding?  No Ordinary life currently! 

My Crashography so to speak and thinking about it in line with my current position – historically there was always some point on that recovery road/rehab I could see myself getting back on the bike to some degree and then kicking on, this feels different here right now I can’t see that or when that might even be? Perhaps age and experience is playing a part here, I can’t quiet put my finger on it. Going back to when I was 17 and a serious RTA I thought it would be a good idea to knee a car out of the way, ripping my leg out of it’s socket and shoving it up behind my pelvis, fracturing the head of the femur cleanly, fracturing the knee cap too joys! Immediate thoughts were to get my bike, eeer no chance, and then asking the ambulance crew if I’d be fit for the cup final in a weeks’ time?  Wheeling me in to Northampton Hospital as they wheeled my boyhood hero Barry Sheene out, one consolation I had the same surgeon.   A month in and no chance of a hip replacement at 17, they decided radioactive dye in the bone to see if nature would do it’s thing it did and they pinned it to be safe, then home and a year non weight bearing (something they wouldn’t dream of now)  it fucked my left leg up losing mass something it’s never regained all these years on. Lots of pool/aqua rehab, dad adapting my 50cc bike so I could get me self to physio crazy days, and I pass that scene thousands of times and never bat an eyelid only think that’s were I had my bike accident. It never stopped me in my sporting activity’s only drove more determination. No Ordinary life currently! 

Always been sporting and good at most, county athletics & cross country, club tennis, 14 handicap at golf, club football and county trials for rugby, something had to give, ditched the running stuff, golf and tennis, too skinny for the rugby, so my energies went into football, later on this mountain biking thing. I trained at a local club (Bradwell St Peters) South Midlands league purely as it was close to home and all I wanted to do was get fit, wasn’t interested in playing  after a season got selected for the reserves, played for  several local teams at County level stepping up to MK Borough reserves, southern counties three tiers below Div 4 (no premiership at this point) but a good standard, plus I ran a small a side team SCF86, 5v5 / 6v6 / 7v7 leagues, became the team to beat for years and the only English club to win the Prague 6’s being the pinnacle of that team.

Started mountain biking in the late 80’s buying a Kona Lava Dome bespoke build in stealth black, project one fork, Deore thumb shifters and group set, Onza tyres and bar ends, side pull brakes and toe straps “let’s go race”. Local club level XC racing  over Herts, Beds and Bucks Bill Steele events, in the top three on all the races over two seasons bagging seven top spots.  Venturing further afield riding over the UK, raced one international at Cannock Chase and placed 27th out of 350 riders in category. Training for Peaks endurance event my knee blew up at Woburn and knowing Mark Booth (Uk rider/Tri guy) popped to see him “Jamsey your pelvis is all out of line you need to get that checked out”. No Ordinary life currently! 

 

OK I’d lost 20mm off my hip bang goes football, after a year battling NHS red tape got referred to the Nuffield Orthopaedic in Oxford (spooky eh) BHR Birmingham hip resurfacing was to be the outcome after a year battling with walking like Charlie Chaplin. Two weeks and I was up and at em, on my feet after 5 days post op. Set about getting fit once more, down the gym doing pool/aqua work outs, gym work, there was always a point I could see me being back on the bike and I was and duly competed the Nats Peaks off road challenge of 50K. Riding the UK once more, and my local Woburn and Aspley woods some 34 years now. Carried on the football for a bit but riding my bike was to end up being the main attraction and has been ever since. Clubbing era and owning a dance record shop kinda got in the way in those foggy dry iced years before re-discovering the bike Specialized Rock-Hopper with I hasten to add had Rock-shox Judy’s front forks, still side pull brakes but wow. No Ordinary life currently!

Overtime I apparently wore the BHR out and suffered aseptic loosening on the femur fixation! Bugger! Back to the Nuffield Orthopaedic in Oxford where it was confirmed and on November 11th 2009 had a THR but some swanky new hip tech Stryker Accolade system, cemented in my Femur, with ceramic head and cup enabling possible revisions, a guinea pig of sorts but in five days again I was back on my feet and out again in two weeks post op, cracking on with rehab de-ja-vu and I recall I was with Anita now and come Boxing Day that same year I rode my bike again around the streets and never looked back enjoying riding my bike home and over Europe before Manzine (Morzine became the Benidorm of MTB). The DH scene had really kicked off now something I wanted to get into, but again there was always the bike at the end of the recovery tunnel and I could visualise it. No Ordinary life currently! 

I have had a few crashes over the years knackering my shoulder, inflamed bursa, got that sorted, flat side crash thought I’d broke my THR but again just soft tissue and muscular. Big crash at Cwm Carn DH tracks, wet day few wash outs on my YT Tues – bike of the year 2013 – passing riders/friends/Anita asking if I was OK “yeah I’m fine”. I set off and that’s the last thing I can recall other than being strangled up-side down, putting my full face on the track hanging onto a tree f’ing and jeff’ing at myself as to what I was doing and where I was, then the photographer asking if I wanted a hand up with my bike. Rolled down the trail into the car park to the waiting Anita and mates “where have you been, you’ve been gone an hour”. To this day it’s an hour I’ve lost in my life only those broken flashes, straight to A&E at the local hospital on a loop asking for tea n cake before throwing up with concussion, wasn’t to be the last!  I never rode there again until 2019 booking on a course with Olivier Morris on a DH speed day, putting those demons to rest finally a cracking day even if I was on an enduro bike “the old boy can ride”. No Ordinary life currently!

Woburn bike park 2018, Anita about to hit the middle gap on transfer line. Set off quick, check she was on point that’s the last thing I recall. The M7 line gaps the transfer line and some guy had literally jumped into my head his peddle cutting a gash in my Fox rampage, his tyre marking the and my back, Anita dropping the F- bomb (un-heard of !!!) but again on the repeat loop of concussion and off to MK A&E; pointless night of waiting over 5 hours not even triage so we checked out and went home to recover via Google! Again never really fazed me and I was back on the bike doing all the crazy stuff, racing downhill, enduro races over the UK. There was always a bike or being back on it on the radar just a matter of when.  No Ordinary life currently! 

So the car crash was sandwiched in amongst this lot at some point 2007 I think, wet autumn afternoon, road through Salcey Forest a road driven countless times, long right hander felt the back stepping out on my Mitsubishis FTO, tried to correct it but it went into over steer, brace hands off the steering wheel (slow mo this one) cartwheeling through ditches bending the car in half before being spat across the road into another ditch falling out the car into said ditch cuts n scrapes and wandering on the road in a daze. Checked out at Northampton General and home but still to this day gives me the shivers every time I drive past that spot and never had any impact on riding the bike.

The other one is mountain bike related back in 2018 at Chicksands bike park. Windy as hell day but in the basin of the woods still as can be, one of those days when you’re riding just wasn’t happening, getting angry as the gang Anita, Carl, Matt, Steve, Mark, Nikki went off to run the snake run, I thought bollox I’ll go hit the bull run and gap adjacent to the walk way.  Something that had taken a while to get in my ride repertoire but I’d nailed it on a loan 26” inch Canyon Torque and had done ever since. Coming in hot perhaps too hot but thought speed on this run isn’t such a bad thing ghosting over the first rise and nearly landing to flat on the second leading to that gap, again thinking shit I’m quick, hit it and slow mo kicked in briefly before fast forward SLAM ending up sliding down the landing transition sitting up bike thrown 20 yards away feeling dazed. Off to MK General Hospital for another pointless wait, x-ray and possible fracture of my Acromion (shoulder blade) sling and home before the battle of the consultants ensued “is it broke, oh no it’s not! oh yes it is” I gave up in the end. Don’t get me wrong as I said in a previous post I have the uppermost regard for all the NHS staff regardless of position but like in any organisation there’s always some bell ends and until this day not sure why a foot specialist got involved!  This at 53 altered my riding perception and it was as clear as day “why am I doing this stuff, what do I have to prove, why am I chasing the next big feature were the consequences are far greater if it all goes tits up”. I can hold my own with most riders across the board, in races and out on the trails and bike parks I’m content and love my riding, racing and coaching. No Ordinary life currently!

As we entered into week four of my new un-ordinary life, easing up each morning, healthy breakfast, shower, write some blog, go for a walk, plan when to do the day’s exercise, lunch with wifey, snooze, evening meal, chill before the neck shoulders and head start to get heavy the neck burn kicks in, drugs, ease into bed sleep and repeat! May throw in a few extras if you’re lucky… visit from Dad so he took me out, trying to resist having any pain killers until it was really on the uncomfortable side of things, another try on the static bike, naaah not having any of it, parked again, Kieron came over for few days and helped strip down some bits in his bedroom ready for eBay all made for a change. Increased some of the exercises that do not stress the neck too much up to 20 reps.

So getting back to my current state of mind verse the other crashes where there was a most definitive time on the recovery road when I’d be back on the bike. Perhaps patience comes with age but I think the possible severity of what could have so easily been a different road for me has altered my recovery outlook in “I’m thankful I’m pretty much fully functional”. Visiting the crash scene didn’t seem to faze me looking at it, as per the picture above, it was nothing I really contributed to like if I’d cut a new line, hit a new big feature where the risk level increases as does the possible consequences if it does go wrong, this was just an ordinary trail ridden thousands of times. No Ordinary life currently! 

Thrown from the arrow at the bottom of the photo, into the stump and landing where Anita stands
The stump

I was bit taken back how far I got thrown from the bottom of the picture head n neck first into the stump, spinning to a stop where Anita was standing the rest is new ride history!   So the bike is there as are the trails. I need to feel like I’m fully functional when sitting on the bike with my head not straining to be normally positioned to ride, my shoulders need to be free of the stiffness and lack of mobility. The first of those benchmarks will be on the turbo bike, moving onto the cycle ways around MK, before moving to the bridleways of the woods. As to when those goals will be I can’t say currently but I’m working as hard as my body will let me to put them on the radar and I hope a defined marker on my road to recovery. No Ordinary life currently! 

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Road to Recovery Week 1

The weekend done and a week post op surpassed seemed so quick to reach this point, but again using them as time line references. Few more bits to complete at a client’s, again only sitting watching and advising but again a muggy hot day, and something so simple as a sneeze jolted the body into instant tear enducing  pain bent double sucking in deep breaths trying to get some composure back, my mate could see my discomfort. That happened three times this day each one ending the same way, tear filled pain and what seemed like my first major setback. My sol plexus and chest so, so painful I must have damaged something or cracked some ribs as this seemed to be giving me the most discomfort more than the other parts in the league table of pain and discomfort, adding to the late evening burn there was no way I was exercising today as bed seemed the optimum outcome. Road to recovery week 1!

Based on yesterday Tuesday was going to be a ‘doing F-all day’ to enable me enough energy to do my first set of rehab exercises. I decided to do these after breakfast in the cool of the summers morning.   The plan going forwards: gentle stretch out and rolling of the shoulders / 10xchin to chest / 10xlook ups / 10xhead turn to RH shoulder / 10xhead turn to LH shoulder / 10xshoulder shrugs / 10xlight resistant band double arm pulls / 10xlight resistant ban arm raises / 10xstanding push ups angles to wall/ledge / 10xneck retracts / 10-15min spin on turbo. Carl had been around to set up the Cycleops loaned by Paul and got an old eagle cassette fitted after much ado trying to figure out as it was so close to the cover on the turbo.  We tried a training app out FulGaz kinda worked with real video footage but felt way too uncomfortable to sit in ride position, head was no where near being right, slight low but an incentive to work the neck. Road to Recovery week 1!

Again come evening head and neck always seems to get heavy, the evening burn kicks in around the neck operation and always feeling shattered never quiet putting my finger on as only a week and a bit ago I was bang on fitness wise so did a little digging:

“The surgery itself causes tissue injury. After surgery, your body undergoes repair and recovery, which drives a higher baseline metabolic rate and draws on your nutrient stores. So it isn’t surprising such intense activity at a cellular level results in feeling tired after surgery.”

Post surgery with honeycomb dressing
After the doctor’s visit to remove honeycomb dressing
3 weeks post op healing nicely

Ah-ha kinda coin drops, so on top of trying to go about general activities the body’s inbuilt ambulance crews are on overtime.  Anita had been putting together some high protein meals and I was eating well including my snacks throughout the day, but I was burning all this up with consummate ease. Mind you my metabolic rate was high prior to this heaven only knows the energy I’m knocking out currently, but the body is an amazing bit of kit. The scuffs on my head and nose had almost gone as was the one under my arm, so I guess those ambulance crews could be moved else where in the body, well there was a lot of shit to repair let’s face it.  My chest again was the main cause of discomfort, neck and shoulders only had a say late evening adding to the joy! Fuck another sneeze Tuesday evening again jolting me back into pains-ville, feels like your rib cage is being pulled apart and it takes you a while to get any level of comfort and breathing straight after, wipe away the tears, take the hug from wifey re-group and go again, not a great way to end the day I must sleep now. Road to recovery week 1!  

Steady would be the optimum word for the rest of the week, exercise during the day mainly in the morning, a little walk, some blog writing emptying the mind, lunch and power nap knowing the day would eventually catch up on me. The burn would kick in around 6-7pm quelled by pain killers only Paracetamol  as the last batch of meds would finish this Wednesday another goal on that timeline. The laxatose and senna now reducing the hiking boot n crampons passing down to a silk slipper, phew! As stupid as they may seem they seem like small goals surpassed as you trickle back into some normality. Don’t get me wrong there was shit loads going on with the internal ambulance crews but you take these little goals as steps in the right direction. The exercises seemed to be going OK albeit feeling knackered after and when your immersed in it you can never gauge how you’re doing other than Anita or people revisiting after a few days exclaiming “Oh wow look how well you’re doing etc etc.” So that always makes you feel good about yourself no matter how small that may seem. Still more messages from people I know from around the world and those that have gone through this recovery process. Road to recovery week 1!

Heading towards the weekend always a good thing, been trying to do nothing all week, few little ventures out and the exercises then back for a snooze, feeling shattered.  A longer walk into town and back Saturday would be the furthest walk so far, break in town to have breakfast, mooch around a little then a walk back having to stop for a rest, if I had a fuel guage it’d be running on empty by the time we reached the front door, but another little goal ticked off with a well-earned snooze. More exciting was joining in the Sunday gang for a ride (well walk for my part) I took the neck brace this time just as a safety net in case I tripped arse over. I took the camera too, something else to do, see who was about shredding some of my lines on Barns Hill, taking it steady made it to Social Distance a line I cut in with Charlie (my empire of dirt). Hhhhmmmmm needs some TLC but that’s for another day. Got some shots and bumbled over to TT, then over to Sleazy and Hogan’s gave them a little scrape with my instep but both needed some TLC too, too many bell ends dropping in not knowing the lines and just fucking the trail up with their ineptitude!!! Grrrrrrrrrrrrr just scope first then shred you twats or F-off to the park………..Ooh must be feeling better! Bumped into a few local riders, hitting up the booter out of sleazy, few coaching pointers and some shots too, one dude giving it a look mum a no hander! It was getting into 11.30/12 where are the gang? It was ticking on a bit and the neck was feeling heavy and I was starting to feel tired so started to walk out down sleazy thought I’d stop by the bomb hole in case some riders came through, good place for some shots as they loft out. A lad dropped in way too hot, newbie, sent it off the lip and started to over rotate in slow motion “OMG” I thought he’s gonna slam into the deck that’s all I need!  Landing backside front wheel and him about to tomb stone it would go either way and it went the good way! Phew! His mate came through, very steady I couldn’t watch anymore so walked away passing those guys stating “you were lucky there bud” he knew it as well. Anita and the gang coming across a guy who had done exactly that a few weeks before but came out the bad side, that’s the fine line we ride. Road to Recovery week 1!

Fuel cells on empty as the gang came past just out of London End Lane, all safe and sound, it was good to be in the woods but that positive mental refresh had been worn away by the exertion needed to do a simple short walk. Still it was nice to see people shredding, the gang out and go for coffee adding some kind of normality to life, then home for a snooze and re-set, a chilled rest of the day before the start of a new week of I hope going in the right direction. Road to Recovery week 1!

Guess I’m kind of up to speed now so these blogs will be less frequent, not wanting to bore or anything, but there’ll be up-dates as we go along, so at this point thank you for spending the time to read my adventure thus far, as honest as it is, seems a long road at the moment but I’ve got some amazing people around me, there are some goals on that road as to when I’ll get to them I’m not sure at this juncture but they’re there waiting, teasing, incentivising – well that’s how I’m thinking. You all take care ride safe and enjoy your shredding YeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeoooooooooW!”

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Going Home!

The plan was to try and time Anita’s visit to co-inside with the discharge as best we could so we aimed for 1pm just past lunch time.   Tea time came and went and the change of shifts and the vital checks and early evening tea trolley rounds, thought I’d go for a little walk, use the loo, just because I can now!, and try and settle down for the evening. The guy opposite (goby pub fight dude) was back from surgery after having his jaw wired; a rest from him talking bollox at least. Feeling pretty chuffed with my confident loo visit I got as comfy as possible circa 8pm and Jamie in the corner, still curtain bound, had already started the nose trumpet snoring so it was ear buds in and immerse in music, chatting with a close friend sharing music tracks and tunes.  I must have floated off on some chill out tracks jolted back to semi awake about 2am, the full ensemble giving it some beans nose trumpet wise. Going home!

A restless night but it would be the last one! Please be the last one?  In and out of sleep the night dragging on and then it was the change of shift and Thursday had begun in earnest. Last vitals and meds round done I drifted back off to sleep to be awoken by the breakfast guy; tea yes please! OJ, soggy Weetabix hhhhhhhmmmmmm kinda got into this now but can’t lie looking forward to fresh fruit selection, fresh coffee, croissants and Friday morning at home. Waited for the morning rush for the bathroom to be over, having a chilled morning eventually getting my slack arse out of bed for the shuffle to the bathroom. Same procedure getting up and at ‘em, getting more fluid each time, taking it easy waiting for the chest, shoulders and neck to find it’s weight level. Trying to go to the toilet seemed impossible, but they kept on insisting, a walnut was all they were getting, a shave and wash, some attempt to look half presentable for wifey. I was up looking out at the sunshine and outside world when the morning consultants came in and a sharp bark from Kat “get that chin up Mark !!” prompting a quickish turnabout chin up and smile, a smile that was reciprocated she was very pleased to see me up and steady. We kinda said our goodbyes and with that she was off to see her next cases at whatever stage they were at, amazing people. Going home!

Lunch came and went and Anita had arrived I said my discharge had been signed off we were just waiting on the meds to come from the pharmacy. The leaded clock hands kicked in once more as things were packed up, I wrote a heartfelt card of thanks to those amazing nurses and staff that had looked after me, some swanky chocolates too, again what could you give to say thanks that could even be measured on the same level, but all I had was words. With bags all packed up, finally the senior nurse came with my take away meds bags. This was the first time Jammie’s curtains had been open as they wheeled him off to physio and I wished him a good session, he actually responded with a thanks, but on leaving time he was zonked out but I said goodbye regardless, it was good to see him at least open to the outside world/ward. Him moving his arms was remarkable when you think about it and we walked gently out the ward past the nurses desk saying goodbye again them all smiling wishing me well, their job done for me setting me off once more and out the ward security doors we went. Going Home!

New territory for me feeling OK on my feet, into the lift to ground level the enormity finally hit me, fear and trepidation that I was leaving that safety of 24/7 care at the touch of a button, shifting that onus onto my amazing wife she just put her arms around me and said “it’s OK we’ll be fine you’ll be home soon”. Another amazing day looked so bright and felt so warm as Anita pulled the van out so I could step up on in, with a pillow to support my back we set off back to Stony Stratford. First time I had seen the route she had been driving all those times coming over, obviously better than my journey in via the ambulance over a week ago, I just gazed out the window can’t really recall my thoughts just lost looking at the world oblivious, a world away from being inside those hospital walls. Going Home!

Took the average hour getting home, roads now familiar as we pulled up our driveway and was in fact truly home.  All seemed a bit surreal walking into the house and sitting in our garden, looking forward to some home cooking, not forgetting to stick to the regimented time slots for the med 1000mg paracetamol, Codeine 60mg, and laxadol in the evenings the only addition being Tramadol 100mg in the mornings; had stock for about 7 days so that would take me into the following week at 4 times a day.  Tate was coming over to help out and keep me in check as Anita was WFH. Looking forwards to my own bed Anita had done some homework on pillow arrangements as I gently, with a little help, got into bed as ours was a lot lower than a hospital one, I was in almost a reverse of getting out then legs up and rest! Going Home!

Amazing full night sleep as Anita woke me with that breakfast I’d dreamed of, bit of a struggle getting to sit up but I was up hhhhhhhhhmmmmmmm so good, a great start to the day looking out into the garden and beyond through the glazed bedroom walls. Meds taken time for a nice home shower one you could actually stand under, up and into the garden taking in the warmth of the morning, Tate was up, felt quiet emotional today for some reason? Just pottering around Tate trying to keep me in check the I’m OK back to normal irrational mind-set I can do all these mundane things in my mind. Tate trying his hardest to keep me doing nothing I think this was going to be the next hardest step ‘Doing Nothing!’ Me being active in my daily routines and then also the coaching and just shredding all that now parked for however many weeks there was no time line currently to work to, only the first week I was to rest, that would turn out to be a hard first goal. Going home!

Yep it was, just a day being up and mobile took its inevitable toll as the recovery roller coaster went into it’s first low point, but visits from neighbours, family and friends and the countless supporting messages keeping you on the level with hope ahead that things will be alright?  Saturday again battling with doing nothing along with the gang off riding Breacon Gap on Saturday I prayed for a safe ride, Anita not doing the Sunday ride this time again her and Tate keeping me in check. We talked about putting together a rehab exercise plan with the help from a mate that spends most of his time mending  pro superbike racers, but again as I was already more advanced it was a matter of adapting the routines to my own personal work out with an aim to start in a weeks time. Going Home!

The days ticked by steady, Anita and Tate working well as a team keeping me in check, doing little walks around the block, catching up with neighbours who seemed amazed at my progress, a steady flow of visitors family and friends and again support from the MTB community I am lucky to have so many amazing people around me.  The laxatose, Senna and gravity combo plus the other concoction of drugs doing battle, as I was getting concerned as to where all this food was going? Oh and there it was normally regular as, things started if shitting a walking boot out your arse with ice crampons on was anything to go it wasn’t a pleasant experience, screwing up the macerator in the process oh for FS!!!!!!! Going Home!

That was to be the precedent for the next few days. Wednesday was here with a 10am slot to have my wound checked and scar dressing changed if required with a check for any signs of infection. Anita had purchased some large Mepore water proof dressings in case, but the nurse removed the honeycomb dressing and gave it a clean and confirmed everything was hunky-dory, but gave me some water proof dressings just in case. I guess another goal achieved in the recovery time line like taking a crap, next Iwas guess the meds finishing them all seem to be a goal on that line of recovery. I’d contacted some clients about outstanding work projects and arranged for a close friend to complete the works with me just being there sitting around on the coming Friday, I wasn’t going to be much use but I was there in spirt I guess. We got the job completed, well all the major works. The Friday was as hot as into the 30’s degree wise and the day and heat took it’s toll, I was shattered. The rescue team Anita, Gosia, Paul, Nikki and Carl were popping around for an evening alas Chris and Andrew could not make it, but I needed to see these people and say my heartfelt thanks in person. It would never be enough as their prompt actions most defiantly contributed in me being in the state I am now and not in a wheelchair For ever indebted, amazing people and with all the shit that’s going on in the world restores faith that the majority of people/human beings are just bloody amazing. Going home !    

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Change of Life’s Goalposts

Anita arrived and what a mood change, as uncomfortable as I was but not in any real pain, it was so good to be out the other side seeing her, a heeling tonic in itself. I’d been moved to a general ward of four beds, old guy opposite came in for kidney scan found cancer on the spine, to my right another old guy had a fall and bleed on the brain and in bay 4 a guy in his late 40’s who had a wake board accident and broke his back and had been in six weeks already in a proper bad way and spent most of the time behind closed curtains, they made up the triple brass midnight nose snoring orchestra. Back to regular eats now albeit trial and error with swallowing stuff, so mainly mince stuff, mash, soup, pasta, veg that kind of thing, backed up with goodies that Anita brings in, you know me and my snacks. Lots of amazing messages and thank god for video calls all again great tonic and I realise now a massive relief for all those on the outside that things had all gone to plan. Change of life’s goalpost!

Was it time for Anita to go already the precious hour (well eaten into and over) but she had an hour + drive back home and normal life to carry on. Hospital life carries on seamlessly through shift changes but the standard never slips. Laying there mind now changing tact into all those things, movements, actions we all just take for granted when we are fit and able and the simplest of things just shifting in bed, to reaching for something on the table right there, yes right there!! becomes something to achieve. Being able to sit up and eat properly and drink a cuppa without a straw, make it to the toilet just 3 meters away seemed massive goals to try and achieve, the whole thought of getting on my feet as Nik had said this very morning seemed so very distant. Change of life’s goalpost!

The battle of the visiting hour meant Anita could not come over on the Sunday as the slot was given to my parents, so a video call was arranged with wifey instead. Mind you both parents came walking into the ward how they pulled that off heaven only knows but all the same it was good to see them both. Both looking well and, putting aside any issues they may have had, both in their 80s now I was expecting the lecture on “should you still be doing this sport at your age!” but it never came because it’s what we do, it’s part of our life and if you give up on things you love and love doing then what have you got? My mum potters around doing her thing looks great for it, my dad still enjoys riding his various motor cycles even after a RTA last year; yes it’s knocked his 60 years of experience but he’s back doing it ‘inspiration right there’. There is lots of inspiration about if you look – Brook Mcdonald’s story a year after breaking his back in a UCI world cup DH race, more pro riders that have had big crashes, but even on a local level riders I know have had some big knocks and long recoveries and are back on the bike. Change of life’s goalpost!

No Sunday lunch today but again thankful for my lunch think I went for the sandwich option with added snacks that Anita had smuggled in. Looked a nice day out as much as I could turn my head right to peer out of the curtains. Had a video chat with Anita, Tate, my sister and responded to mountains of messages and well wishes, even from people I don’t know, made my heart smile. Anita told me of another local guy that was at SJR who’d broke his back, punctured lung, broken ribs – James Fagan, bro of Sam Johnson exceptional rider and trail building guru. We exchanged some messages and shared experiences but I couldn’t get to see him, due to the Covid restrictions, perhaps a hook up when we are out, sounded awesome. The goal of standing up would come tomorrow partially aided, but right now with the loo 3mtrs away and having to walk there seemed insurmountable – enter more tears, not running into my ears this time as 30 degrees bed tilt meant cheeks run off. Seems silly I know but it’s those simple things that seem so very f-ing hard as you battle with your thoughts. Change of life’s goalpost!

First shit night’s sleep as the JR philharmonic brass nose orchestra kicked off early, at best it was an hour here, an hour there, interrupted also by vital checks and another regular injection in the abdomen wasn’t good prep for the next day’s getting on your feet party! Getting used to the shift changes now and collecting my empties (urine bottles) was I plugged into the mains water system? Breakfast down, wash n brush up, visit from the consultants and encouraging words from Katarzyna saying “I want to see you up today and we’ll book you in for some x-rays OK”. She was so so gutted she could not attend the actual surgery procedure in person, but again spoke with excitement on how well it went. Text book, neat and tidy, “trust yourself Mark, your neck is super strong but use those muscles OK”. I felt energized but scared at the same time as the nurses arrived to get me up. Roll to the right hand side of the bad with feet slightly dangling over the edge ready to go for the sitting up first stage. On three… one, two, three big push with my arms and I was sitting on the edge of the lowered bed feet on the floor, the sheer weight of my head and shoulders felt like I was lifting half dozen bags of cement head feeling so so wobbly “trust your neck it’s strong” on repeat in my subliminal thought, you got this. Nurses on hand just in case I was too unsteady. Gather myself some slow breaths and here we go something you would just take for granted, one big push and I was up on my left leg with my right knee still on the bed, that immediate rush wasn’t exhilaration as I was hoping it was the opposite end of the scale the weight of me and gravity bearing down on my neck, shoulders and back was unbearable to the point the pain threshold had been superseded and I thought I was going to faint. I couldn’t move, I was hyper ventilating, the nurses unsure what to do, trying to ask me if I was OK, I couldn’t get any rational words outs, my thoughts were “no I fu-ing wasn’t”. I just collapsed on the bed in a blubbering mess nothing positive there to hold onto, more drugs to calm me down and I hope to re-group. Change of life’s goalpost!

Took a few hours to get to some level playing field aided by the thought Anita was due in around 3pm. With my music and funky blue tooth ear buds I sank into my music, catching up with friends until Anita arrived. Told her about this morning’s set back trying to hold back the tears again, but with her encouragement we agreed to give it another go when I was ready. Felt daunting once more but with her there it relieved some of that anxiety, as I got to the right hand side of the bed once more. De-ja-vu, legs dangling onto the floor ready for the push to sitting position and go! I was sitting again so good so far. Sat there for bit to steady my head and perception of balance, ok ready with her holding my hands I went for the two footed method unlike the scared effort of the morning and I was up ! I was bloody standing up! Bit like Bambi but I was up as gravity perched that weight on my neck, shoulders and back, what’s with these fuc-ing tears albeit ones of happiness I think. It must have been 5 minutes before returning to sitting then slumping to my right pleased and absolutely shattered a goal achieved. Change of life’s goalpost!

I still had no idea of what the metal works looked like in my neck or the gory scar, couldn’t really feel my neck shoulders or back as it felt like a scaffold plank. Had quick look at my 7iDP lid and examined the damage OMG! Well that did the trick and possibly saved my life or at worst some sort of life long paralysis. I just don’t get why people think they are uncool I’d gladly swap ya! James opposite was discharged to his local hospital and the guy to the right of me also going home, still curtains drawn for the other poor guy and then there was two. Only for a short time as a new guy came walking in undressed and plonked on the bed opposite, brief with the nurses, me eves dropping “well I was just standing in the pub and then some bloke punched me out cold! It’s OK as my mates got him and I hope he’s in the morgue” hhhhhmmmmm twat I thought and wanted to punch him too just had that way about him !!! Change of life’s goalpost!

Tuesday x-ray day and a possible challenge of walking 3 meters to the loo to save Ernie’s urine collection round or have a shower. How exciting, how daunting! Just after lunch they came to take me down “do you think you could sit in a seat Mark?” “I’ll give it a try” I said so going over the same routine as the standing up, roll right side with dangling feet touching the floor and push and sit on bed edge, phew done. Take a bit of time to compose for the switch to the porters chair with a little help to switch I was in, phew! Felt like a full body work out but it was good to see the corridors in different perspective, more normal as we made it to x-ray ghost town. Finally we found radiologist who went over the procedure and that she needed me standing “do you think you can manage that Mark?”. Knowing that the more stable I would become on my feet the more chance I had of being discharged “I’ll give it a go” I exclaimed. There were supports to grab hold of but geez it was hard work getting up and I think exertion and gravity resulted in me pissing myself a bit! Fuck sake how embarrassing! Nurses not perturbed not a jot “don’t worry Mark you’re doing great hold that position”. I must have said sorry over and over again but again they just batted it off as if it was nothing out the ordinary… amazing people. Change of life’s goalpost!

Back on the ward I just crashed out but pleased I got the x-rays out the way another goal achieved, now I was looking forward to seeing wifey and the possible toilet walk. Bang on time she arrived like a ray of sunshine. Had a little catch up and she took a look at my scar and the x-ray I had taken a snap shot of. My nose was healing now as were the impact scuffs on my head from the helmet. They say once I’m stable on my feet there is no reason I can’t be discharged. Massive incentive right there grasped fully, told her about the disaster I had at the x-ray, but again it just didn’t seem to both her either, more important was getting up for the shower walk we agreed! A few sits on the side of the bed going over that routine a few times feet firmly planted on the cool floor thinking it’s 3 meters away I got this with one big push I was standing once more holding Anita’s hands gently just getting my balance killing the compression sock anti slip sock combo playing havoc with my OCD colour co-ordination! Change of life’s goalpost!

OK lets do this – fear, anxiety, drive, goals, discomfort, can I do this thoughts all jockeying for prime spot in my thoughts. Anita my safety net as that first step, second step, third step albeit a little doddery, 2 more meters, 1 more meter the door handle, smile, welling up, I’m there I fucking made it! I said felt like was a doddery old man to Anita she replied “well you are old, and you were doddery” we both just creased up with laughter or as much as I could laugh it felt good to laugh. Change of life’s goalpost!

This would now set the president for the next few days pushing for that green light from senior ward nurse that I was good to go. Getting up to go to the loo felt a luxury although it was a bit hard to look n aim, but feeling more confident, walking to the ward window peering out finally to people going about their daily business in the sunshine, chatting with the guys in the ward, venturing outside the ward feeling more confident hour by the hour before crashing for power nap. More simple goals ticked off sitting up eating, no more straw or beaker, yes a proper tea cup. Wednesday came and a new goal added to my pottering around and being told sharply by Kat the consultant to keep my chin up, we had a little chat about things, life etc not related to hospital are things changing to normal life? Walked to the window gawping out to see if I could see Anita driving in, but she beat me she was by my bed looking for me, plan was to go for a bigger walk down the side ward corridor, feeling more assured on my feet now the weight still evident on my neck and shoulders, but able to just keep it under the pain threshold. We filmed the little 100 meter walk, then it was back to bed to chill and catch up on life, friends and family. We had a chat to the senior ward Sister and things were looking good for discharge Thursday 30th July. The consultants were all OK so it just tying up the paper work, discharge sign off and then getting the meds done, another night I could cope with that… this time tomorrow I’ll be home. Change of life’s goalpost!


Simple fractures usually take about 6-8 weeks to heal, although larger or elderly bones take longer. There are four main steps to bone repair:

  • The blood vessels ruptured in a broken bone cause a blood filled swelling called a haematoma at the site of the fracture
  • A cartilage callus forms in place of the haematoma. It acts to splint the broken bone
  • A bony callus forms, replacing the cartilage with a callus made of spongy bone
  • The bony callus remodels in response to stress placed on it, forming a strong, permanent patch at the fracture site

Promoting the wound healing process is a primary responsibility for most health care practitioners. It can take 1-3 days for a closed wound to actually establish a seal. Infections usually occur in 3-6 days but may not appear for up to 30 days, according to the CDC guidelines for preventing surgical infections. The wound healing process can be seen as an overlapping healing continuum, which can be divided into four primary phases:

1. Hemostasis Phase
The hemostasis phase of the wound healing process begins at the moment of the initial injury, and takes approximately 15 minutes. Whether a surgical incision or accidental breakage of the skin, a wound starts an outflow of blood and lymphatic fluid. This starts the hemostasis phase of the wound healing process, which aims to stop the bleeding. During this process, platelets adhere to the damaged endothelium and discharge ADP (adenosine diphosphate) to create clumping in the thrombocytes, which stops up the wound. The enzyme thrombin initiates the creation of a fibrin mesh, which stabilizes the platelets into a stable clot. After the vasoconstriction is finished, the blood vessels dilate to allow an influx of other blood cells and thrombocytes.

2. Inflammatory Phase
The inflammatory response is the defensive phase of the wound healing process that lasts 4-6 days, and is often associated with swelling of tissues, reddening of the skin around the wound, heat, and pain. This stage of the wound healing process focuses on removing debris and destroying bacteria. Within 24-48 hours after the initial injury, white blood cells called neutrophils reach their peak population, and do their work of killing bacteria and taking away debris. As the neutrophils leave after about three days, specialized macrophages enter the wound site and continue the debris cleanup. Macrophages secrete proteins that orchestrate:

  • The multiplication of endothelial cells
  • Sprouting of new blood vessels
  • Duplication of smooth muscle cells
  • Macrophages also secrete growth factors like TGFs, cytokines, interleukin-1, tumor necrosis factor, and PDGF, which attract immune system cells and begin tissue repair.

3. Proliferative Phase
Now that the wound is clean, the proliferative phase (which lasts 4-24 days) begins the process of filling and covering the wound with new skin. This phase of the wound healing process has 3 stages that operate in an overall and ongoing process:

  • Filling the wound
  • Contracting the wound margin
  • Growing new skin over the wound or re-epithelialization

First, red granulation tissues fill the wound bed with connective tissues and new blood vessels. Next, in contraction, the margins of the wound begin to pull to the center of the wound to close it up. Finally, epithelial cells come up from the wound bed and margins, and migrate until the whole wound is covered with new skin or epithelium.

4. Remodeling Phase
The remodeling (or maturation) phase of the wound healing process is where the wound bed slowly strengthens and gains flexibility. The collagen fibers reorganize, remodel, mature, and regain the tensile strength of up to 80% pre-injury. The collagen deposit in normal wound healing reaches a peak in the 3rd week, and maximal tensile strength is usually achieved by the 12th week. Depending on the severity and type of wound, the remodeling stage can last from 21 days to 2 years.

Primary Intention Wound Healing Process
Primary wound healing occurs when the tissue surfaces are closed by stitches, staples, skin glue, or steri-strips. A surgical incision that is closed by stitches is a good example. This sort of closure of the wound surfaces creates very little tissue loss, and makes the wound healing process as quick and easy as possible.

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NHS – They Can Rebuild Him

A restless night ensued, kept thinking to myself by this time tomorrow it’ll all be over and I’ll be recovering surely.  Losing track of the night, the vitals, nurse shifts coming and going, Friday was here already tired and exhausted through worry, no breakfast adding to that lethargy, there was no looking forward, no excitement, no positive thoughts, the lead handed clock again was ticking as the team of consultants rocked up with a bigger entourage going over the revised procedure, more reassurances and “we’ll see you later”. Another double check from the anesthetist, weight and height then back on the lead handed clock watch!

As the morning bled into the afternoon the hospital porters turned up around 14.30 “OK Mr James let’s get you down to theater” as jolly as can be.  Feeling of dread and fear was the main motion, more ceiling tiles and pictures on the corridor walls, passing the children’s wards as things became more clinical looking  – big sign above the door “Main Theaters” through the double doors and into a lift and upon exit exchanging for pre-med and anesthetist guys wheeling my into pre-surgery room dressed in what looked like space suits. I guess full over suits and full face mask protection fresh air assisted all in a day’s work for these kicking pub like mates conversations about what I do hobby wise, what brought me here as they went about putting more cannulas into me. I could feel the tears trickling down the sides of my face, dry throat, clammy with fear of going under – it’s not the first time so you’d think I’d be used to it by now. Hell scares the shit out of me every time. They can rebuild him!

As the anaesthetic started to send that cool chill in your veins we were just busy chatting away, sometimes they ask you to count but not this time and I was gone into that state where they take over your functionality, time becomes irrelevant as you have no concept of it, the next thing you know you’re in recovery with a kind nurse asking how your feeling and taking your vitals again as you drift in and out of that semi-conscious state, not knowing where you are, tired slurred struggling responses but with a hint of “thank God that’s over” Zzzzzzz ! Zzzzzzzzz !   It transpires the surgical procedure was 2 hours 20 mins but the whole time frame was circa 7 hours before back on ward around 19.00 ish. Oh boy that cuppa tea never tasted soooooo GOOD sucking through the straw, just had to have another. A better night’s sleep and the snoring brass nose quartet could knock themselves out I wasn’t waking for anyone as the meds were still on point. Arm on autopilot throughout the night as the night nurse carried out their duties, bonus having blood thinning injection in the abdomen. Joys eh, I was so out of it they could have stuck anything in me I didn’t care. They can rebuild him!

Saturday breakfast couldn’t come fast enough, again tea tasted divine, backed up with OJ and two Weetabix left to go soggy so I could swallow properly, breakfast never tasted so good after so many days of eating sweet FA!    More meds and “have you passed anything Mr James ?” eeeer like no, I haven’t eaten for 4 days I’m sure I could offer you some methane I thought, but my deflection tactics worked a treat.  Weekend shift came on and asked if I’d like a bed bath? I thought WTF I’d gone past caring about being prude, crack on I said and they don’t hang about and it’s wasn’t a scene out of roman gods being bathed in milk, more like wham bam thank you mam, never had so many ladies seeing me naked, and they didn’t hang about throwing a hot flannel around my rhubarb patch!  Roll this way, roll that way, change of sheets, dry off and fresh CK’s  and they were done! All in a days work, they are amazing people, they become your very function without batting an eyelid, deal with your mood swings, your pain and discomfort, fetch and tend to your every needs as you become solely reliant on THEM.  Clapping in the F-kin street an insult really as I have always held all nursing staff regardless of position in such high esteem they are all truly amazing people doing some real shitty jobs for the pure love of caring for other human beings, mending them, treating them with upper most respect and dignity no matter how long your stay is and only those of you reading this that have had a stay at any hospital will know exactly where I’m coming from here amazing, amazing human beings. They can rebuild him!

The bed bath set off an eruption of pain that I can’t put into context. Those pain filled tears flooding down my face, deeper faster breathing trying to quell the painful  feelings, fire burning down my neck and shoulder blades, like a Sambuca line had been set on fire, dripping with sweat, nurses jumping on it immediately connecting up a morphine drip, getting a fan set up, nerve drugs being administered, as the morphine started to filter through muscle groups relaxing, fire started to be put out as the dreamy calm took over the sensations and rest!  They can rebuild him!   Back on point in time for the morning rounds of the consultants. This would be the last time I’d be seeing Nikolaos, Head Surgeon, from now on in until discharge it would be Katarzyna, Trainee Surgeon.  Nikolaos he’s effervescent self “Morning Mark how are you feeling? The operation went really well your neck is super strong now, stronger than before so get yourself up and get yourself walking. Get your neck muscles working and try not to rely on the neck support or the titanium”. With that they were off on the rounds, I just pictured them in surgery after completion going round high fives and fist bumps such was their enthusiasm in the results of the procedure comforting signs I guess, it’s just a matter of  mind over matter now from me, trust in their work.  They talk in a different mind-set and language with consummate ease almost as if it’s a meccano building challenge. They can rebuild him!    

Stronger than before, they can rebuild him!
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NHS – The John Radcliffe Experience

World renowned it forms part of the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and is named after John Radcliffe, an 18th-century physician and Oxford University graduate, who endowed the Radcliffe Infirmary, the main hospital for Oxford from 1770 until 1979. (JR) is Oxfordshire’s main accident and emergency site. The JR provides acute medical and surgical services including trauma, intensive care and cardiothoracic services.

Another Covid test and more entry vitals taken continued in frequency into and overnight not having eaten since Tuesday lunch time I was allowed to sneak in evening tea time meal in who ever ordered the day before I was just pleased to eat anything by this time and have a cuppa before the 2am nil by mouth kicked back in again apparently I was booked to have an MRi scan Thursday. The JR Experience!

I had been put into a single private room just off ward, felt very privileged but also cut off again not being able to see anyone only nurse staff when they came in and no contact with Anita although I hope MK had told her I was now here?

Mornings start early in hospitals I should have remembered, circa 6-6.30 am first vitals followed up by meds, if you’re lucky you can grab a power nap again before the breakfast trolley and cuppa arrives alas not for me this morning “bloody starving”. Noise levels kick up as the night shift exchange with the day shift, they again seem to come around for another vitals check in and offer of a wash to get you looking nice n shiny for the senior consultants and surgeons visit. Still in my cycling under padded shorts and ride shirt, there was no way they was getting my shirt off over the neck brace so finally they cut it off to reveal more dirt and forest floor assortment, oooh and new one on me anal swab ! You gotta be f-king kidding, this has to be You’ve Been Framed, c’mon where’s the camera crew? Apparently MRSi related and SJR procedure, OK cotton wall bud up the jacksy it is then.

Feeling more refreshed with just my CK’s for modesty now pain killers and morphine doing a grand job as I met the consultants who went over vital stats, the CT scan results and advise I’ll be in for a MRi scan later that day and from then on they can advise the correct procedure to get me up and running again. Knowing also by this time Anita could come pay a visit and bring me up to speed with the outside world. The JR experience!

“CT Findings: Mr James sustained a mountain bike accident and fractured sublaxaled his C6-C7-C4 and also T1 and a strain of the posterior band between C3
& C7”

2 days in and finally Anita is allowed to visit

The leaded hands of the clock hardly seem to move as the lunch service came and went, so jealous at this point I could have eaten a dry Jacobs cracker and it would have been Michelin 5 star rated. Think it was about 3pm when that amazing lady, my wife, walked though my room doors looking fab, a brief rest bite from my own thoughts finally she was here to hold and take some of that anxiety away; sods law they only rocked up to take me for my MRi scan!! Benefits of a private off ward room Anita was allowed to stay past the allotted 1 hour permitted time slots as I was gone for 55 mins. The JR Experience!

Now MRi this was a new one on me never quiet making it into one, not that I was hankering or anything, but they prepped me and advised Karen (lovely nurse on the ward) I’d be about 15 mins. “Ok Mr James we want you to keep very still and you’ll hear lots of loud noises so here are some ear plugs and if you feel anxious at any time press this button – insertion of pad into hand – and we’ll pop you straight out”. Hold tight here we go, slight purring as I was fed into the space tube like a human torpedo, all seemed very Star Wars at this point as you just listened to all the noises as things engaged. Then the techno sound check started and I’m sure some of these noises had been sampled by some of the worlds finish techno DJ’s! Well that was some 15 minutes, transpires it’s was 50 mins. Karen had gone, replaced by another nurse who appeared to seem nervous about conversing unlike Karen who could have been a lifelong mate, still awkward conversation better than none and that wasn’t as bad an experience as it’s made out bonus going back to see Anita it’s all good. The JR Experience!

Back in the room I was allowed to nibble some cookies, grapes and have a cuppa before Nil by mouth kicked in again at 2am. Great catching up with Anita and what had transpired that fateful evening still not coming to terms with what had happened it most definitely was on the distorted 2020 script for sure as we had so many bike plans crammed into the latter part of the year due to the pandemic putting pay to everyone’s early 2020 plans. I was glad the visit seemed to drag in a very good way but all good things come to an end and I had to say a tearful goodbye to wifey, knowing at least she would be in tomorrow, Friday I think?

A bit out of the norm, a second visit from Head Surgeon Nikolaos and Trainee Surgeon Katarzyna with feedback from the MRi scans. If hospitals had air steward training they would have instructed “Brace! Brace! Brace!”. At this juncture as Nikolaos advised the findings and what they proposed to do “yes it was serious, more serious than the CT scan had shown” and “yes it was surgery” with fractures and damage to various vertebrae C7 & C6 fractured and displaced by 7mm fractures to C4 & T1 and a whole array of other issues highlighted in this report. Emotional wreck would sum me up nicely as the surgical procedure sounded horrendous and they both knew it was a lot to take in no matter how much they tried to comfort me their worry was paralysis at this juncture and to stabilise my neck paramount, going in via the throat, with all its gory sounding issues, and bone grafts etc. way too much to take in drugs or no drugs, again left alone to comprehend all that was laid on the table, with this looming the very next day scarred was an understatement. The JR Experience!

“MRi Findings : Patient was discussed in MDT and posterior long fixation was recommended. Un-displaced spinous process fracrure at C4 and bilaminar fractures at C6 with fracture extension into the right C6 facet, fracture dislocation at the right C6 C7 facet joint with perching of facets. There is a grade 1 anterolisthesis of C6 on C7 with circumferential disc bulging and fracture throughC7 superior endplate with anterior displacement of the anterior corner. Further superior endplate oedema seen at T1,T2 and T3 with oedema extending into T1 pedicles associated with acute bony injury. Extensive soft tissue oedema extending along the anterior longitudinal ligament through this region – into C3 to C7 consistent with high grade acute ligament injury. There is discontinuity of the ligament flavium C5 and C6 with a defect measuring up to 7mm in keeping with rupture (sag series Im: 5-6)”

A short text to Anita telling her about the consultation, fat fingers stabbing at the phone pad through tear stained eyes the severity VERY REAL now and any thoughts of riding again seemed torn up and thrown out the window. Emotions are very powerful more so when left alone to dwell but positive messages came flooding in as the news broke in the outside world, better than any drugs the thoughts and well wishes took the edge off a bit. The JR Experience!

The plan was an early morning or “first thing” as they said, I now know that could mean anytime depending on surgeons shift so Anita hadn’t booked a visitors slot knowing I’d be in theater most of the morning and recovery ward thereafter. Still Nil by mouth hours drifting away, the anaesthetist came took some weights and dimensions promptly followed by Nikolaos, Head surgeon and Katarzyna “Ok Mark we still plan to operate but after further consultations we feel we need to go in via the back of your neck, less complications but priority being stabilisation of the fractures better recovery options too OK, please don’t worry all will be fine”. I did feel a little wave of relief wash over me as the second procedure sounded a much better option, quick message to wifey then back on the waiting game and running over in my head… by this time tomorrow it’ll all be over operation wise, bit of a sadistic way of looking at it but it meant the start of mending, the damage would be fixed-ish, I’d see Anita positives. The JR Experience!