Broken Hip and Pelvis, but it could be Worse

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It’s close to 4am and I’m finally settled down in a hospital room in Iowa City. It’s not like I’m going to get to sleep much, maybe not at all. They are coming in to draw blood before 5 am, then the orthopedic surgeon said he is coming by before 8, so that pretty much blows the morning. I can’t say the last 11 hours have been so good.

Maybe I should back up a little. I fell on the last corner of the Quad Cities Criterium, BEFORE the race started. And I can’t really tell you anything about it. I remember just riding down the hill, talking, knowing I had to go slow through the last corner because they were having a kids race. Next thing I know I am laying on the pavement holding my leg. I don’t have any recollection feeling a slick spot or my front or rear wheel sliding first. Just up one second, down the next. Pretty strange.

I knew immediately that I was hurt. It was pretty easy to tell. The first two riders to me were Paul Martin and his team mate. Both asked me if there was anything that they could do for me are if they needed to call someone for me. Super nice.

The EMT guys came and put me on a stretcher and carried me over to the ambulance. The crowd clapped, like they do at a football game when they haul off an injured player. It struck me as strange, but I know they all had good intentions.

So, I was driven to a close hospital. Man, let me tell you something, ambulance rides are crazy bumpy. Like so bumpy someone needs to invent an air cushion or something to make it bearable.

I got to the emergency room and went through all the red tape. Then I sat forever. Finally a guy came and said he was a medical student and looked me over. Then a small woman came and said she was taking me to x-ray. I got there and she proceeded to start taking x-rays of my knee. I told her that my knee was fine, my hip was bad. She said that she didn’t have an order for hip photos and kept doing the knee deal. I told her she needed to stop and call someone, because it was super painful trying to get in position for these x-rays that weren’t needed.

So, finally, hip and pelvic x-rays ordered. I had to move from the bed with wheels to the x-ray table for the hip shots. Wow, talk about unbelievable pain. I moved about 1/2 a centimeter at a time. It would have been nice to get some pain medicine before that ordeal.

So, x-rays done and back to the waiting area. In the meantime, I was getting texts from my friend Stacie, an orthopedic surgeon from Louisville, asking what happened. I didn’t have cell service, just wifi. I told her my hip was broken and that I was supposed to get back in another ambulance and head over to another hospital to have surgery within the hour. She told me to hold tight.

Eventually, she got back to me and said I needed to be taken up to Iowa City and see a trauma orthopedic surgeon that was on staff at the University of Iowa. His name is Matt Karam. Then the phone rings next to my wheelie cart and it is Matt. I talked to him for a while and decided that he was my guy. Super articulate, seemed to know a lot about hip surgery and just sounded right to me.

By then, Bill had finished the race and was there. And then it started. The Emergency Room doctor seemed a little pissed that I was leaving their system and going to Iowa City. He said that the 50 mile ambulance ride was medically unnecessary. I told him I needed to take an ambulance ride somewhere, because they weren’t doing the surgery there, so I might as well go to where the best doctor is. I can sort of understand his issue, but not really. I told him that I had a few friends that broke their hips and that it didn’t work out so well for them. No blood flow, then eventually replacement hips. Floyd is one of them.

So, another really bumpy ride to Iowa City in an ambulance. They said it will cost between $1100 and $1710 dollars. Nice. Here, at the University of Iowa, it feels more correct. I had to spend a lot of time in the emergency room area again. I started kind of stressing because they told me that I couldn’t eat or drink after midnight and I had really eaten since breakfast. The orderly went to the cafeteria and got me a ham sandwich and piece of chocolate cream pie at 11:55 pm. Then I sat some more and finally moved up to my room later. I don’t have a roommate, which is great.

So, I’m scheduled for surgery tomorrow afternoon. Somewhere between 2 and 4 hours it is going to take. They have to screw it back together and then insert a plate somewhere. The only wrench in the whole plan is that the resident down in the emergency room told me that my pelvis had a fracture too and that might “mess things up some”. He told me I’m going to have to get some more x-rays tomorrow to check it out better.

It is so strange what goes through your mind when something life altering happens. Zillions of thoughts, most totally off subject. I just decided to not worry about it and stay the course.

Trudi is driving straight from Chattanooga to here. She got into Illinois and, I believe, stayed in Mt. Vernon last night. She should make it in time to be there when I wake up I hope.

I bet my health insurance kind of hates me by now. At least they should. I’ve been using it like crazy the last two years. This is going to be another expensive one.

I’m staying fairly positive so far. I could be broken much worse. They could be putting in a complete hip replacement. In theory, it isn’t going to even 2 months for the recovery. Not bad considering.

Okay, I’m getting a little sleepy. Pain killers are wonderful. This is not a painless injury. It is really hard finding the sweet spot so there isn’t a shooting pain. I’m going to try to find that very sweet spot now and get an hours sleep before the day starts. Wish me luck.

Dinner.

Dinner.

Looking so happy.

Looking so happy.

Brett and Tom Schuler, race promoter, trying to figure out the restart of the women's race.  They raced hardly anything too.  The men ended up doing 30 minutes.

Brett and Tom Schuler, race promoter, trying to figure out the restart of the women’s race. They raced hardly anything too. The men ended up doing 30 minutes.

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42 thoughts on “Broken Hip and Pelvis, but it could be Worse

  1. Philip Beliveau

    Just did my first race, Killington Stage race, after breaking my hip/femur last july. Had to have it pinned and screwed. I understand your pain. Good luck with the rehab and get a good pt!

  2. vtguy

    Really sorry to read your post. Broken hips are painful as hell (and I speak from experience). Hope the surgery goes well and that you heal fast.

  3. NJRoadie

    Mary has the right idea but I would take it a bit further. Anesthesia and painkillers have the effect of stopping the digestive system. If you do nothing to help things along, your poop will turn into concrete, and the pain of the resulting constipation will be severe, to say the least. I had a friend who got home from a harrowing crash after a couple of weeks in the hospital. The hospital stay was not as bad as when he got home and, “I nearly died on the toilet.” The same thing happened to me when I got home from a 6 day stay in the hospital.

    Thankfully, the constipation can be avoided.

    I would strongly recommend that you start taking Metamucil. For both me and my friend, the stool softeners were ineffective. The Metamucil worked. Take the max dosage and take it NOW. Continue taking it until you regulate yourself again, and then continue taking it for a while longer just to be sure.

    Prilosec is also really helpful in settling the stomach. The narcotic painkillers really upset my stomach. The Prilosec helped alleviate their affects. The generic Prilosec worked fine, by the way.

    I am really impressed that you took your care into your hands and went to a better surgeon and hospital. It was the right call. You definitely want the best surgeon possible working on you. The surgery will be a couple of hours for them, but you have to live with the results for a lifetime.

    I am really sorry that you crashed and wish you all the best on your recovery.

      1. bw

        Not to beat this turd to death, but the worst part of my hip replacement in February was definitely clogged plumbing. And the softeners did bupkiss – I’d go the Metamucil route for sure if doing it again. Good luck – you’ll heal fast – you’re a stud.

  4. Robin

    So sorry to hear this news but I’m glad you have a solid team heading in for surgery. Staying positive is the only thing you can do. Wish you the best. Heal up quickly Steve.. you’ll be back.

  5. Mick Beth Carley Libbey

    Good Morning Steve.
    So sorry. North Woods recovery and Red Zin may be in order. We look forward to some thoughtful blogs as you watch the world go by from a different seat.

  6. Fergie

    Well don’t need to say bummed to hear this.
    Challenges. Weather it be how to get yourself in the best shape, how to get the best result on any given day,how to get somewhere in time, how to extract a rounded-off drain plug.
    Another challenge to over come Steve.
    All the best.
    -ferg

  7. Randy Legeai

    You are in good hands. The Iowa City hospital is excellent and they have excellent orthopedics. My daughter was a gymnast at University of Iowa and had a few knee surgeries there.

  8. usedtorace

    Steve–as a former racer who loves the Midwest cycling scene, I’m so sorry to hear about your misshap. You are in my thoughts, and I’m sure in the thoughts of hundreds, if not thousands of others! Your blog is the so unique in the cycling world and you are a good man. Best wishes for the most speedy recovery.

  9. Nate

    So sorry to hear.

    Glad you were proactive in your care. Had a nearly identical injury in the spring of 2010 — without the proper, immediate care I think I would be riding with a replaced hip about now.

    Heal well.

  10. Sal Ruibal

    You are close to reaching “Million Dollar Man” status. Don’t let anything stop you.

  11. Rick

    Best of luck with your rehab . . . hopefully this is nothing more than a blip in your long, and on-going competitive career.

  12. KevinK

    Steve, you did the right thing finding the best possible surgeon, even though living with the pain is incredibly hard. I fell on the bike and fractured my femur at the hip (in three places) and got rushed off to surgery at a not so good hospital. The pain of any movement was tremendous, so I was happy to get it done.

    But, it took two corrective surgeries and 18 months to fix the mistakes of the original surgeon.

    Good news is I think there is nothing more therapeutic for hip injuries than riding a bike.

    Good luck, hope it goes well for you.

  13. gerrycurl

    Steve,

    I broke my hip in a training mishap 13 years ago. Here is a great website that’s a great guide for “so you’ve broken your hip”. It helped me with my injury and recovery:

    http://onlineartdirector.com/broken_hip/

    While in the hospital (and in the initial week or so at home, I strongly suggest you ask the doc to order you a CPM machine. It rotates the knee and hip joints “oh-so-slowly” and greatly eases the pain associated with the resulting stiffness. It’s like a soothing lullaby at night. Without it, I would not have slept at all the first week post-op.

    This is a humbling injury. Don’t be a Floyd and get back racing on the bike before it’s truly necessary. You’ve just given your body a horrible injury and it needs time to recover. A lot of that damage is the soft-tissue. The surgery will take care of the bone break. While I have no doubt you can be back racing again, you will certainly notice that there is no 100% recovery from this injury. You’ll always know in some physical way that you were injured there. For me, that means muscle stiffness and some residual lack of touch sensation around the site of the incision, and needing to get out and stretch the legs on any car ride of more than 2 hours. My leg is close to the strength it once enjoyed, but I doubt it is exactly the same as before.

    I had a clean-through-break of the greater trochanter without displacement. A few millimeters away from the “bad zone” that often leads to bone necrosis. I had an internal fixation that meant a big honking bolt drilled into the hip joint, followed with a 4-5 inch long plate that was attached to my femur (secured to the bone with what looked like 4 really long sheet-rock screws). 18 months later, I opted for the removal surgery, which I am personally happy that I went in for. That meant several weeks on crutches (and no bike riding during that time) as the holes left in the bone must fill in and solidify.

    As far as advice, you probably don’t need very much. You know your body. I personally feel that I went back to work too early post-op (and that means 3 weeks later). Physical therapy is a fantastic thing. Do your exercises religiously. But don’t double or triple the order, just cuz you’re an athlete. Be a patient and let your body heal. Take it easy. Rest. Read. Tinker. Let people help you. It’s amazing how those who care about you will help you out. Take the help.

    I know this sounds weird, but I wouldn’t trade the experience of my injury for all the money in the world. It was a traumatic experience (no doubt), but it taught me a lot about humility. Going to a zero level and rising back up is a very life-changing experience. At least it was for me. Best of luck!

  14. Richard Wharton

    Get tested for osteopenia/osteoporosis if possible. You’ve been a standout for so long, but your bones may be getting brittle from the perpetual cardio efforts. Either way, we hope the surgery goes well, and can’t wait to read more adventures from behind the handlebars.

  15. McRower

    Steve,
    So sorry to hear about your break. Please know that we are thinking of you and sending you positive energy and best wishes for your procedure, rehab and recovery.

    Reading the comments left today, I would whole heartily agree with “gerrycurl’s” comments. As you know, I have had 3 total knee replacements and it does teach one how important it is to rest, heal and give yourself permission to be bummed at times—this is hard stuff!. But with that said—have gratitude for each healing step and the people in your life who support you, love you and cheer you on. Please know that I am one of those people…cyber hugs, Diane.
    PS: Say hi to Trudi from George & I. GET WELL SOON.

  16. Ramona

    Hey Steve,

    This sucks – no doubt. I just broke my ankle in three places and can relate to the “life-altering” status of not being able to walk. I’m three weeks away from being outta my cast – but I’ve been doing a ton of research on bone healing and started using beef gelatin in a berry smoothie in the morning. Berries, ginger, and a bunch of other foods are great for inflammation reduction – and the gelatin is a great source of collagen. I’m already noticing my other old bones feeling better.

    I also got a nerve block during the surgery which helped with the pain enormously for the first week – I have nine screws and two plates…I was a happy camper for the first week and slept well. A suggestion you might ask your doc about.

    Get better soon – you’ve got a whole bunch of folks pulling for you.

    best,
    rd’v

  17. Linda

    I wholeheartedly agree with the comments about constipation – plain old magnesium citrate or milk of magnesia. The pain I got from hemorrhoids after my hysterectomy was far worse than the surgical pain and recovery. For some reason, the docs never talk about this much.

    Best of luck to you. You are a strong-willed guy and your body will heal up at its own pace. This is the time to cultivate patience.

    I’m glad your friend Stacie was able to connect you with the right peeps.

  18. Mark Kerlin

    Steve

    I’m very sorry you were injured. It’s the aspect of the sport that is sort of a function of exposure, if you’re out there enough, something might happen eventually. Don’t play the blame game.

    I broke my femur in 1995 in two places, spiral mid leg and up by the hip as well, right at the head. I got a plate with a piece going up into my hip. I was lucky it happened in Florida, they do that stuff all the time. I was 25, I had only catastrophic insurance, and I was in the best form of my entire life. I had no insurance for PT, didn’t know what to do for rehab, and it ruined any shot I ever had at being a pro because it took me years to recover my sprinting form, and that was my thing. It would have been during the EPO era so maybe it was a blessing in disguise. I was getting podiums in pro 1.2.3 road races with pros, so who knows.

    Watch out for blood clots. I got one post op and it’s a big deal. I’m 44 and I have to do aspirin therapy now because I got another one more than 10 years later. I’d be on coumadin if the doc had his way. Make sure you move around. Fight through that pain. Take whatever meds you need to take so you can do the moving. The shitty circulation I have now in my lower left leg leads me to wear compression socks all the time. Not a great look, wearing old man knee socks all the time, even though Assos makes some cool looking ones.

    Be smart about taking to the road when the time comes. Be conservative.

  19. David Ferguson

    Hey Steve sorry to hear about your crash,hope you heal up fast.Love to read your posts and not just about racing but about life in general,so as you rehab keep them coming. Fergybikes

  20. Jimbo

    Best wishes for a speedy recovery. You have great friends who will support you all the way.

  21. babble on

    Oh bless your heart. I am so sorry for your troubles, Steve. That sucks.
    I had a fall which fractured my hip and pelvis in three places, and so I understand how much pain you’re in. I was much too young for a a hip replacement when it happened, so instead I spent months in a wheelchair. I hope you get the best care possible, and your road to recovery is as hassle free as it can possibly be. And remember to have hope! As difficult as the whole thing was, it made me a stronger person in the end. I am a much better athlete now than I was when it happened 14 years ago. With any luck, one day in the not too distant future that will be true for you, too.
    Good luck. xo

  22. Brian Toone

    Steve, so sorry you broke your hip and pelvis. That’s great news that the recovery will only be a couple months. I bet with your fitness, you will heal up quickly and be back to winning national championships and racing strong very soon!! Brian Toone

  23. mike b

    Reading the first bits of this brought back a whole bunch of not so fun memories. Rolling along one second, the next, on the ground in pain like I’d never been in before, or since. Sending lots of good thoughts your and Trudi’s way.

  24. Sam Montag

    What a bummer. The hardest thing to do is be patient and let yourself heal. Stay positive, I know you will. If I can help with anything let me know.
    Sam

  25. Eric Struckhoff

    Sorry to hear this, Steve. This is one hell of a bad deal. Heal up quick, rub some dirt on it, and get back out there.

  26. Dan

    Steve , sorry about your accident . In January broke my Ankle and needed surgery . I was non weight bearing for 9 weeks and could not work . I looked forward to your blog everyday . Especially the rides around San Diego .Back in 2005 I visited a friend at the navel Base . While there I ve ridden , Torrey Pines , Have taken the ferry to Coronado Island just as you have. I really enjoyed the pics/ post . It made my recovery easier.

    Thanks so much for sharing your passion

    Heal well

    1. corky

      Steve: sorry to hear about your crash and breaking your hip.. Thinking about you and wish you speedy recovery. sounds like you were really lucky it wasn’t worse. Should of done it in July then you could just watch tour all day long :)

  27. Hemi

    Ambulances ride rough because they are overweight & have no spring travel. Rear springs are always bottomed out. There are solutions like parabolic springs, air suspension & even a floating cot platform but they are expensive and it’s all about the $$$$. Very few ambulance services will bite that bullet for the sake of patient comfort.

  28. jason

    Hi Steve, I broke my pelvis in 3 places (amongst other things) in a cycling crash. 8 months and 4 operations later, I’m back like nothing happened (apart from elbow nerve damage). But things get much better after surgery! The pain will be far less extreme, you’ll notice improvements every day, and you’ll be stronger for the experience. Good luck!

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