A fall - Just For The Craic - CycleBlaze

August 6, 2009

A fall

a night in hospital in Tralee

After breakfast, the main road north out of Tralee climbs for a way and we turn off it at a fork, making a right to venture down some really quiet lanes, away from the traffic. 

It seems like the weather is going to be kind, but... well, you never really know.

Once at the top of the hills, the road runs along a broad ridge with remote houses dotted here are there. Farms. 

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It's a single lane with grass and nettles lining the verges and trees giving us a bit of shade every now and again. Sprouting down its middle is more grass and we basically have the route to ourselves. You'd find it hard to believe that someone could come off on such a peaceful stretch of tarmac, but... you never know.

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I pause by the verge, waiting for Debbie to catch up, listening to a skylark. She's probably having a drink or whatever.

A Range Rover speeds up and I squeeze into the grass to let it pass, careful of those nettles. It stops suddenly. The driver speaks through the open passenger window, asking urgently if I'm riding with a woman. She's fallen off, he tells me. I pedal back for what seems like ages - following the concerned-looking farmer - but which in reality is probably only a few hundred metres to find Debbie flat-out on her back in the road.

A young farm worker found her unconscious and she'd been out for the count for a couple of minutes. She still can't speak. Another car driver has called an ambulance. Her helmet is smashed, a chunk out of the back edge, and yet her bike is undamaged. Strange.

There are the usual cuts on her knees and elbows, blood stains and rips on her arm-warmers, bottoms and gloves. She'd have been cruising along here at less than 20km/hr. She's not reckless. 

I'm very worried. My mind races... 

A few months ago actress Natasha Richardson died after having an accident during a skiing holiday in Canada. I recall reading that she suffered what's called an epidural hematoma, which is when your head gets a whack and starts to bleed inside. Something like 2 percent of head injuries result in an epidural and of those, nearly one-fifth result in death. Sadly Natasha and her family didn't know that and as she said she was okay, they didn't seek treatment. A few hours later she complained of a headache, but it was then too late and she died a couple of days later.

Quick medical surgery is vital. I'm very relieved to see the ambulance arrive.

The two medics ask questions and try not to move Debbie's neck while carefully strapping her up to a stretcher and we then all lift her into the back of the ambulance and it drives off, back towards where we came from earlier this morning, but this time to a hospital's A&E department.

The bikes are left in Frank the farmer's rear yard. I've got a few things that Debbie might need - an overnight bag. She still can't talk. 

In the hospital the doctors gather around and ask the same questions as the two ambulance guys. Debbie throws up.

Observation is advised and so I have a night in a nearby B&B and give the nurses the tel' number just in case they need to contact me. Hopefully not. 

The hospital bill is almost 1,000 euros. I use my plastic. It's an expensive night's accommodation. 

My bill for a local B&B isn't too bad, at around 30 euros. The house is a modern one, a dreary semi just a short walk away.

Today's ride: 20 km (12 miles)
Total: 357 km (222 miles)

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Scott AndersonSo frightening. I’ll never forget the sight of Rachael splayed out behind me after her concussion-inducing fall. She was right behind me and I heard her land so I knew immediately. I can’t imagine what it must have been like biking back to find her like that. The stuff of nightmares.

Rachael has never recovered her memory of her fall either, but I’m sure she just hit a small pothole on the bike path and went down sideways. Has Debbie had any long-term effects from this?
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1 year ago
Graham FinchTo Scott AndersonShe still doesn't recall anything, but there have been no lasting effects. It was certainly scary and without her helmet on it could have been very serious -- it got smashed at the back where her head hit the tarmac. I wonder if something like a wasp flew in her face, making her swerve... the lane was about as safe and quiet as you could possibly find.
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1 year ago