Well, it must have been all the well wishes, because I've been healing at a very pleasing rate. My hand remained swollen and tender for a quite few days after getting home, but the collarbone was less and less painful as long as I didn't do anything stupid. I was really good about trying not to move it the whole first week.
During that time I went to see my local orthopedic surgeon that helped me through the much worse, displaced right side (the other side and dominant hand) clavicle fracture at the end of 2004. He was on vacation, but his P.A. Jim Thomas, who happens to ride for NEBC and is really, really strong, and is also an occasional training partner took super care of me. It was so cool to have a familiar face and an actual bike racer to be able to talk to. No eye rolls, no looks like I'm a crazy man, just a friend reaching out to help. That alone brought my spirits way up. He looked at my hand as well and noticed that a few of the stitches were "matress sutures" and that the continued swelling of the hand had more or less sent the stitches under the skin.
He had another X-ray taken at the PRO sharp shooter angle and then he brought me some good news. The bone had already started to heal a bit and it hadn't slipped at all. It wasn't likely that it would now. It's right in the middle of the clavicle between the sternum and shoulder. He said it broke upward, but then returned back down to it's (more or less) normal location. All this was good news and I knew he knew the next thing that was gonna come out of my mouth. "When can I ride outdoors"? He said "Well Tyler Hamilton did it the next day, and this is probably similar to the break he had" he went on to say "it's not gonna feel real good and I wouldn't reccomend any mountain biking just yet, but if you can take the discomfort, the bone isn't gonna move."
Then before I left, he took a closer look at the sutures and said that the wounds, were more or less healed, at least enough where they weren't gonna split open again, and that if he wanted me to have him take the stitches out instead of doing it myself one handed, that it wouldn't be a problem. I said "sure, have at it". It was a good thing too, because those matress sutures really were a little trickier than any of the ones I've ever taken out. I couldn't imagine wasting a trip in Cape Cod summer traffic to have someone cut a few tiny stitchs and then pull them out, so it was great that he took care of it there and then.
That was Thursday and I decided to wait til the next day to try a ride, making it a full week off the bike, which I was really kind of due for anyway. Friday I ended up really busy and didn't get a chance to ride til later in the day and at the last minute I decided it would be best to give it a go on the trainer, just to see what everything was gonna feel like. It was a smart decision, unlike many I make, and it turned out the hand was the hardest injury to deal with since I really had no strength in the hand and it hurt to try to close it. I just sort of sat it on the top of the bars and it supported some of the weight that I was allowing to be on that side which was probably only about 25% anyway, so it was good enough. I rode for an hour and was thrilled to be able to ride, but my hatred for the trainer was firmly in place.
The next day Jamie dragged me around for a couple hours on the roads. I took a few feeble pulls, but not much. The collarbone definitely lets me know it's busted, but I'm more or less in a fixed position. Trying to look back can be more painful than hitting a bump. The hand was slightly better too, and I knew it was good to be trying to use it. The skin is actually a lot tighter since the holes in my skin weren't lacerations, but rather deep abrasions, and had to be pulled together somewhat unnaturally to close the wounds. So I guess I got a "hand lift". That isn't gonna help these old catcher's mitts any.....trust me. After being a cyclist and a carpenter all my life, my hands are a bit weathered to say the least.
I've been able to ride each day and the hand is now almost completely back to normal size, except for the middle knuckle that stuck out the most and absorbed most of the impact. It's a lot stronger and the skin is starting to feel like it won't tear when I try to make a fist, which I still can't do. Having this happen to my non dominant side is more than a big relief. Having injured that side of my body before, I know full well the pitfalls of trying to do life's little things with the useless hand. Try wiping your butt with the "other" hand sometime and see how that goes. I hope you're not a fingernail biter! Thats just the beginning of it, it goes on and on. So things are a lot better than they could be!
The one injury that isn't cooperating is the ribs. They seem to have actually gotten worse. I think the soft tissue damage is starting to rear it's ugly head and combined with the ribs themselves, it's pretty sharp at times. When I first get on the bike it's like having just gotten off the deck after crashing. The pain is sharp, as I'm not used to the lungs expanding that much and thats what pushes against the inside of the ribcage. Eventually after a few miles it gets a little better, or I just get more used to it, but it's hard to get the oxygen to the muscles when the breathing is handicapped. It's fine though, it'll get better in time and for now I can actually ride.
I'm just getting a little stir crazy though (I didn't have far to go). Today I took the cross bike for it's first voyage since Belgium and it was nice to have a little more upright position and a softer feel from the tires. I figured I'd make sure to give it a shakedown before I try to ride it Saturday. I thought I might take a little spin on it in Western MA on Saturday with a few friends. There's this little group ride called the D2R2 that is lots of fun, so I think I'll go do that since I already entered and all. I need to ride with the boys more than anything and see all the smiling faces to really get me back on my feet. I hope to see you all there, be sure to come say hi.
Thanks for all the shout outs and for reading, JB