My accident

Update

Note, see the follow up post which has some answers to questions in this post: Closing Time, it's also worth reading through the "one year update" first to see the latest info and status.

Original post...

It's been three weeks since my accident (that's what people keep calling it. A bit like spilling a cup of tea perhaps? I think there needs to be a more descriptive term.)


Caution

scary

and

unpleasant

photos

below.



Don't continue if this is going to be a problem.

You have been warned.






How Cara found me at 11pm Friday, I've looked better.
Thankfully I still have my good looks.

I've had ideas running through my mind a few times about what I've wanted to say, but I've swung wildly from one rant to another.
I'd hoped that after a few weeks I'd know what had happened and be able to write a nice clear summary. But version 3, was (apparently) *still* a bit too ranty  so I've tried to be more measured.

One of us putting on a brave face. Day1.
I'm mending. Now after several weeks, I've calmed down and think I can write something more reasonable. Albeit unfortunately still inconclusive.

Not impressed and slightly bewildered. Day 4.

For the first week I was utterly bewildered and deeply upset. I couldn't understand what had happened. I frequently burst into tears.

For the second week I was angry, furious, chasing the City Police and trying to get some action or understand any progress (I have a diary of each unreturned call we had made).

Day 6.

For the third week. I'm calm. I'm thankful. I'm lucky. Unfortunately, I'm also now resigned to the fact that it's possible that there there may be no satisfactory conclusion to this story (apart from being alive and expecting to make a full recovery!). So I'm writing down my thoughts, and moving on.

Backstory.

As well as running, I cycle commute a lot. I have a few regular routes. I cycle out of Central London then over Crystal Palace towards Croydon, then sometimes over the downs and on into Surrey.
It just depends on the weather, how tired I am and how much time I have exactly which route I take.
Cycling in central London is generally pretty safe and straightforward, traffic moves slowly and the roads are usually well maintained. I ride a top spec folding bike, this gives me options and means that I can ride in and take the train home, or ride part of the way, or ride all of the way.
An Airnimal Chameleon

I ride an Airnimal Chameleon. This is a high-end folding bike. The folding isn't quite as convenient as a Brompton or similar, but it is a fast light road bike. It handles brilliantly and feels amazing.
I have ridden considerable distances on this, done weekly cycling club rides on it, and have even raced using it.

I set off from work just before half past six in the evening on Friday 20th July riding south down Bishopsgate towards East Croydon.

Cara's view:

On Friday night I'm at home waiting for Ivor. Normally he's not late on a Friday.
6pm No text messages, perhaps he's not coming home early.
7pm Hmm, still no text. He must be on his way already, or he's riding all the way and will 'just turn up'.
8pm Still no sign. Hmm has he gone to the pub? Start chasing in earnest.
Phoning....
Chasing text....
Somethings not right.
9pm Phoning
Phoning
Someone answers! It's Ivor. Can't make out a word. Can just make out "East Surrey" (our local hospital) I tell him to hand the phone to a nurse who says "he's in the 'Resus' unit of A&E at the Royal London following a bike accident". But won't tell me anything else over the phone. Leap in the car and head into London.

Memory

I can remember lunchtime on Friday. I have a couple of very brief fragments of my journey in my memory.
I remember stopping in spitalfields to check my phone,
I remember pulling in behind a skip as I neared EastCheap and mentally tutting at the cyclists squeezing down the inside,
I remember waiting and then overtaking it on the right.
I vaguely recall there being one or two motorbikes around me doing the same.
I recall hearing a clunk.

Then I woke up in hospital, my first fleeting memories of anything start on Sunday night.
Selfie. 5am Saturday. I have no idea whats going on.
Initially I was convinced that I was dreaming and I would wake up soon.
One of my first sights.
Finally after a few bouts of consciousness it sank in that this was now reality.

Someone told me I had been cycling and had been hit by a truck, then brought here. Wherever here was. I'd worked out this was a hospital.

I finally started making memories as the new week started.

Looking back at my phone I have no memory of events or the messages I wrote over this time. It is scary (and funny) seeing the writing of a stranger, in my name.

Apparently Cara asked me to stop tweeting so that Hugo didn't see what state I was in. I have no memory or recollection of this at all.

Police

So starts our interaction with the City Police (for those not familiar, London has two police forces, the Metropolitan Police and the City Police, the City Police cover the small area of the "City Of London")
Normally I have a very positive opinion and experience with the police force.

Unfortunately I've been unimpressed with their interactions with me throughout this.

Firstly of course... I am hugely grateful for being found, looked after, stabilised and recovered to hospital in the first place. Clearly a lot of people were involved and did an amazing job. I can't thank them all enough for that.

Being looked after. Note the bank of *nine* cctv cameras directly above!

Looking back

No-one contacted me or talked to me, finally I managed to find someone to talk to the City Police who described the incident to me, albeit the conclusion just didn't make any sense...

Theory

"It was a folding bike wasn't it? Well it seems that it just folded up while you were riding and so you just fell off. You must have put your foot out when you felt it happening and so it got stuck in the front wheel"
I was also advised that because of this the investigation had now been "Closed" and I was free to come and collect my belongings at any time.
The same explanation was given to my wife when she was trying to find out what was going on or how to retrieve my bike.
The shoe

Clearly this is utterly preposterous. A folding bike doesn't just "fold up" unless there's been a serious and major failure somewhere, or there's some other  force or action involved.
But not being able to see the bike or view any camera footage, it was hard to understand or figure out quite what had happened.

In the intervening period I was contacted by someone through Twitter who had been told that they had seen the incident and I had been struck by a lorry (they provided a photo of the scene to show they were there at the time).
I forwarded this information to the Police, also I reminded them that there was a camera on my bike (at the rear), could they please check it.
You would have assumed that happening at the top of London bridge during rush hour there would have been extensive video, CCTV and security footage available. But it seems not.

Two weeks on, chasing again, I was informed that the matter was being dealt with by the investigations team and that it had "never been closed, whoever had told me that was wrong".
I could retrieve my bike but that I couldn't collect my camera because that was now evidence. Also they had some dashcam footage but they had been unable to view yet because it was "in the wrong format" - but they had been told that it showed me coming off my bike and that no other vehicle was involved.
Oh and that they had been passed information by a "random person on twitter who wasn't even there" which had been "confusing and unhelpful".

I let them know that as a software developer I had the tools and technology available to be able view or convert any format for them and would be happy to come in and help them in any way at any time. Without any response.

Damage

Two weeks later (after a protracted negotiation and getting different messages from different people) I finally managed to collect my bike from the Bishopsgate station to inspect.
All intact, in fact the rear bolt there was still fastened too tight to slot back in. This is purely to secure the post whilst carrying the bike anyway, and doesn't provide any security whilst riding. It had taken some force to come apart.
Inspecting this, clearly there was no mechanical failure on the bike, all of the hinges and joints were secure and functional. In summary: yes the seat was folded forwards and jammed into the steering, but folding it back required considerable force and a bolt loosening. It had only travelled forwards under a serious massive force.

Folding bikes don't just "fold up" whilst riding, they are designed not to.


Snapped fork, my foot between the wheel and fork must have caused this to happen. Since the shoe was wedged in here, this can't have initiated the crash either and must have happened afterwards. (if the fork had broken first, my foot wouldn't have been wedged there)
The front wheel was broken, along with the front carbon fork (when found this was where my foot was). Carbon forks don't snap easily and a broken fork can't have initiated the crash either otherwise my shoe wouldn't have remained stuck in there there. The bike has "clipless" pedals, your feet don't just come off without some action. This happened either during or after the incident.

Clearly no-one else had examined this to deduce it hadn't just "failed" or "folded". Something else happened here.

The cause of me coming down wasn't the bike.

I was told my camera didn't show anything, but was still evidence (no sign of my bike computer any more either, I had hoped this was around and might provide useful g-force data), and that once the investigation was complete I would be able to retrieve it. Also, I would be able to either pay to receive a copy of the dashcam footage or visit to view it but again only after the completion of their enquiries.

So I still haven't had the opportunity to see either of these to reach my own conclusions, and it doesn't appear that any additional evidence or video footage has been obtained either.

Unwanted

I don't understand why I'm not being allowed to participate in the investigation in any way. Surely as a very experienced cyclist with knowledge of my bike and my injuries, my input would have been welcome, helpful and useful.

Lucky lucky lucky


In summary my injuries sustained:

  • occipital condyle skull fracture,
  • broken right hand (fifth metacarpal),
  • injured left hand,
  • smashed front teeth,
  • cut and bruised face
  • something hurt inside my left ankle... guess we'll find out when I get back to running.


Thankfully all temporary and heal-able (or fixable, he says staring at shock and utter disbelief at the dentists bill.).

I was lucky. Very lucky. The following week I saw news of a cyclist in london who had lost their leg.

Recovery


I've started to recover now. Initially in hospital, then at home (and then work). 

Firstly mentally. For the first week I was full of morphine, drifting in and out of consciousness, and utterly bewildered and upset. I'd wake up then start to work out where I was and what had happened, then be utterly crushed and overwhelmed by feelings of hopelessness and confusion. I was also incredibly tired and kept falling asleep.



Then there's the guilt. Weird and bizarre. But I'd have crushing sensations of guilt. Given my grip on reality and drifting in and out, I could have not woken up. I could have been dead. and left everyone else alone.


Next I had to recover physically, and I needed to get home. After a short delay and frustrating hassle I had a partial cast applied to my hand and I could escape to familiar surroundings.
I'd avoided asking for or accepting morphine for a day partly to be able to stay conscious and be coherent and able to make judgments myself, but also to be able to have more awareness of my injuries.

Bid for freedom.
But still. Rather tired.
Kitten therapy
This may sound silly. But. having suffered a considerable blow to the head I wanted to "test it out" so at home we played games of chess and trivial pursuit. Thankfully all seemed to be functioning as well as before, although oddly, getting a weird sensation of "tired brain" after some time.

Now I needed to get some advice about what I could and couldn't do and I wanted a second opinion on my broken hand which didn't seem to be easing at all. Appointments scheduled with consultants and both hands were x-rayed (they are both painful) but only one was broken, the pain in the other is a mystery, the conclusion was its probably just soft tissue damage and would take a long time to resolve. Also the break although now healing hadn't set straight and now my little finger bends in at an angle. The conclusion was it's too late to do anything about that now, but if it becomes annoying or an issue in future it can be dealt with then. Typing is going to be interesting.

The verdict on my neck was, no bumps or jolts for 2-3 months, so no running. (along with reassurance that my fracture was just one side, and some terrifying warnings of what the implications of a bilateral fracture would be).

I'd had a (totally irrational and unreasonable) silent hope and prayer at the back of my mind that I was going to be told that "it was all fine, necks/skulls are strong and running would be just fine with these precautions" but no.

I went along to my local parkrun and walked around to get fresh air and see familiar faces.

So that was the years target races and my years "grand slam" (four 100 mile runs) totally scuppered. I *finally* accepted I couldn't participate and informed the organiser. (apparently Sulkily! 😀)

I really wanted a "one day" version of this.

The next week was the next of these races. The Centurion North Downs 100 mile ultramarathon. I started sulking. Really sulking. I sat up at night (can't sleep well at the moment) watching the online tracker, seeing various of my friends doing really well (or unfortunately having problems). At some point I'll have to start thinking about plans for next year instead.

I started doing a bit of work from home for a week, just to catch up with events and check I was actually being missed. Then this week I tried to get into London for a couple of days. Just about manageable, and it gave me the opportunity to collect what remains of my bike.

Next up. Dental work. The basics had been done in hospital to keep my teeth in my face pinning them in with a metal wire, but now it was time to get them straightened and tidied up properly and back to normal. 

Having suffered days of unbearable pain in the past with an extraction, I was nervous of what was described to me as "possibly four hours of root canal work", thankfully this all went well, didn't take all that time in the end, and left me with straight(er) teeth and a gap free smile. (There's still more work to do over the coming months, the teeth still don't "feel like mine" and I have difficulty and pain biting.)

Status

Hug therapy
I'm getting out and about in the sunshine. I wear the collar when I'm moving about. I have trouble sleeping, waking up sore and aching often with a headache or aching teeth. My left hand is about the same, usable but I have to remember not to use it to push myself up or to open a door. My (broken) right hand is improving all the time, the wrist brace helps me remember not to use it, but typing is a challenge and using a knife is maddening. Eating is still a challenge with hurting teeth. My eye-sight has worsened slightly but the hope is that's just temporary.

A perfectly normal family

Most annoyingly, my legs are just fine. But I'm not allowed to get out and *really* use them.
so for now, just enjoying steady walks or getting on the turbo trainer for a short session or two (posture difficult with the neck, it's a choice of a sweaty collar or an aching neck.)
Turbo time

Mystery

So at this point it's still a complete mystery what happened, or caused me to crash.
I am an experienced cyclist, riding a high quality bike, on a familiar route, on a good quality road, in the daylight, in the dry.

Something happened. Something brought me down, at speed and with considerable force leaving me with significant injuries.


To be continued....
(Update: we have some answers now: https://blog.ivor.org/2018/11/closing-time.html)

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