Broken Hip and Clipless Pedals

I was lying in the dirt, my head was downhill, my legs up the embankment.  It was August 28, 2010.  The intense pain in my hip was filling my body but I kept thinking that if I could just relax and rest for a few minutes the pain would ease and I would get up and walk my bike back home.

Rolling my head across the dirt I could see the edge of the roadway.  It was a new road crossing a wide open expanse of sage brush, chamisa brush and jack rabbits.  The new road began four miles away in a small subdivision, crossed a couple of arroyos and open desert, then connected to the road to the city dump three miles the other direction.  The new road was not yet open to the public so it was empty—no traffic.

I rolled my head the other way and looked uphill.  My bicycle was laying uphill from me, just beyond my feet.  I remember riding up the sandy incline of the new road, my bike shoes clipped to the bike pedals. The bike slowed to a stop.  I tried to twist my foot and unclip but I just tipped downhill, landing on my hip and shoulder.  Intense pain came instantly.

When I looked across the slope scattered with sage and chamisa I noticed movement in the brush.  The outline of a dog lopped along the horizon.  Except it wasn’t a dog.  It was a coyote.  I rested my head.  The pain was getting stronger.  I looked again.  A coyote appeared again on the hill, much closer to me this time.  He lopped across the hill and disappeared.  Do coyotes attack humans, I thought.  I felt uneasy as the coyote disappeared over the outline of the chamisa. Then I remembered what a local told me about coyotes.  They don’t hunt alone, they mate for life and they hunt in pairs.  Did I just see the same coyote circling me? Or was the second coyote the mate?

I felt the urge to move somewhere safer.

Raising my arms I pushed my hands against the soft sand and pushed–pulling my hips and legs up the hill toward the road. I raised again, pulling my body up the slope, motivated by visions of coyotes hunting me down.  Within 5 minutes I was at the edge of the asphalt.  The pain was excruciating.  I scanned to sage brush for coyotes but saw none.

A few minutes later I heard a car in the distance.  I raised my hand and listened as the engine slowed– a pickup stopped on the road near me.  An older guy in Levis and an old shirt got out and asked if I needed help.  He said he was out looking for his stray horse and he used the new road for a better view of the desert.  After a brief conversation, he grabbed me under the arms, lifted me onto the truck seat and put my bike in the truck bed.  With his cell phone, I called my wife and told her briefly what happened and that I was getting a ride home.

15 bumpy minutes later, we met my wife at our house, they got me into her car, put the bike in the garage and she drove me 20 minutes to the hospital.

Laying in the emergency room after x-rays were taken, the doctor told me the hip was broken at the neck—The head of the femur was separated from the femur itself and I had two choices:  Leave the joint alone, lay still for 6 months, let the bone heal then start intensive physical therapy to regain lost strength from no activity.   Or, he could insert a cap in the pelvic bone and a 4 inch pin with a new head into the femur.  He called it a total hip replacement, aka Total Hip.  I could be walking a week, physical therapy for 6 weeks and back to normal in 6 to 12 weeks.  I chose the new hip and rehab rather than 6 months of rest.

But it didn’t take that long—it took much longer.