Dear Car driver who knocked me off my bike,
Please forgive me for addressing you in such an impersonal way. I would love to be able to address this letter to you personally, but as you have failed to report our incident to the police, or admitted any involvement at all, i am forced to address you as i have.
How are you? I hope you are well, and looking forward to Christmas with your family. For your children, a joyful time, with, i expect much playing in the snow. Unfortunately, i am not able to play in the snow with my children, as i dare not take the risk of falling, and doing further injury to my back. But of course, i am sure that doesn't bother you, or cause you to lose any sleep at night. By the way, how do you sleep at night? better than me i hope. It is very hard to sleep with a broken back. You see, i cant move around much, i cant roll over or get into a comfortable sleeping position. But then, i would imagine it isn't easy to sleep with a guilty conscience either?
In case you have forgotten, we met on November 12th. I was cycling home, from the swimming pool, when you pulled along side me, in your car, and turned left, staright into my bike. Do you remember? I was wearing a fluorescent yellow jacket, a helmet and had lights on my bike, if it helps to jog your memory? Notice the somewhat ironic use of the word jog there? That is something i cant do at the moment. The doctors has assured me i should make a full recovery, but you never can be sure can you? anyway, where was i? oh yes. You turned left, straight into me? Do you remember? It must have made quite a noise as your car turned into my path and i slammed into the side of it. My head and shoulder hit your car quite hard, so hard i have pain down both sides of my neck still, and cant turn my head quickly to either side. I wonder, did my lights flash across your interior, as i fell to the ground behind your car? Do you remember the words you said to me, once i came round, lying on the cold wet ground, in agony as pain blossomed up my back? You said to me that you thought i had gone past. Do you remember? When i was able to mutter anything and pointed out to you that if i had gone past you wouldn't have hit me, your brother, or at least i assume it was him, told me off for cursing. I am sorry, does your God not permit me to swear? Is a shame then that your conscience does not allow you to tell the truth.
My back hurt. You cannot imagine how much my back hurt. But lying on the road, in pain, frightened and cold and wet, shaking in pain and shock, i just wanted to go home. i wanted to be safe. So i allowed myself to be picked up and you brought me home. Probably the last kindness you showed me. You brought me home, and you, your brother, my husband and my children helped me into the house, as i could barely walk. You said sorry, again and again, and then gave us your first name, and a phone number, and said if there was anything you could do to call. And then you left.
And that was, probably, as far as you were concerned, was the end of it. Except it wasnt, was it. why werent you prepared to admit what you had done? Why, when the police called you, and when i called you, did you deny it? Why did you tell us your name was one thing, and then answer the phone and tell us you were someone else? Are you ashamed? do you feel guilty? I am sure you felt that everything was fine. And nothing to do with you. Well, allow me to fill you in a little on what happened, after you drove off that friday night, slightly delaying your return home, because of what, i am sure you felt, was a minor inconvenience.
I should perhaps interject at this point in my letter and just tell you a little bit about me. I am Emma, i am a 39 year old mother of 2. I also happen to be a long distance triathlete. Is this relevant? i think so. I love my sport. It has given me a release, a social life, a network of friends, and more confidence and joy that you can probably imagine. In any given week, i will probably ride my bike, run or swim up to 3 or 4 times each. In fact, i had just completed a 2k swim session on the friday night we met. It had gone really well. I was feeling strong and fit, and was really looking forward to the off season, when i would get to ride my new mountain bike, and take part in some off road races, some adventure races, and some off road duathlons. I was also looking forward to getting some good solid base training in on the bike, as i was on the waiting list for ironman lanzarote, and was hopeful of a place. I am the captain of my traithlon club, and i also run with the local running club. I was signed up to do cross country with them this winter, which is always fun.
In addition to my sport, i have 2 lovely happy active children. Right now they are spending the first part of the christmas holidays with their grandparents, as i am unable to look after them properly. In this weather they want to play in the snow, on their sledges, and i cant do that. Currently i am also not able to drive, so even if they were here, we would be stuck indoors. I have a job that i love. I cycle to work every day, and once there, i am a lab manager. This means i have quite an active job. I fix things, i carry things, and i work with some pretty awesome equipment. I work with huge magnets. Really big ones. I love my job.
But. Lets get back to Friday 12th November. When you left me, i was on the floor, unable to move or breathe properly. I just put it down to a bit of muscle spasm, but after 20 minutes of gas and air, the paramedics who had arrived thought that i ought to go to the hospital, just in case. They had trouble getting me up, and i had to take on so much entonox, i thought i was going to be sick. However, it helped, and i made it to the trolley, so the paramedics could get me to the waiting ambulance. The journey to the John Radcliffe, was fairly uneventful. Bless them, the ambulance guys were really sweet, even doing their best to avoid speed bumps, as they could see how much pain i was in. On arrival at the hospital, they put me in a cubicle, on an x-ray mattress on a trolley and bid me goodbye, as they had come to the end of their shifts. I want to say thank you to them here, if you don't mind. That was probably about 7.15, a mere 85 minutes after we met. I then spent nearly 4 hours, in my cubicle. Alone. They were very busy at the hospital, so no one came to check if i was ok, or if my pain was being managed. Unfortunately, the paramedics had forgotten to hand my the call button before they left, so i was unable to call for any assistance. I dont mind telling you, i did cry quite a lot. I was cold, wet and in pretty bad pain. Nothing life threatening, but it was pretty bad. The side of the trolley was up as well, so i couldn't even get off the bed. This wasn't such a big deal, until i realised i needed the loo. As i was alone, and the staff were so busy, i had to call my friend, who lived down the road. Bless her. She got her lovely daughter out of bed, so she could come to the hospital and help me go to the loo. What price friendship eh? At about 10pm, she managed to find a nurse to give me some pain relief, which was a blessing i can tell you. She then had to go home, taking her sleepy child with her. About 45 mins later, a doctor came to see me, who poked my back a bit and said i needed an x ray. The girls in x ray were lovely. Very gentle with me, even though they were busy, they took their time and were very understanding....and then, some time after 11, so really only 4 short hours after we first met, i was told i had broken my back. Incredible really. Apparently, when i hit the ground, behind your car, i hit it so hard that my pelvis tipped up and compressed one of my lumbar vertebrae. No wonder i was in such pain.
I spent the friday night on my trolley, in casualty. They were very busy you see, and had no beds anywhere. It was quite an eye opener, i can tell you. There were police, security men, drunks, people who had been punched, or glassed, all sorts of patients. So i spent a sleepless night in my cubicle, on a thin mattress, trying to get some rest and not move. As i am sure you can imagine, it wasnt a good night.
The next morning, i am taken to trauma, where i am fitted with a brace. It is a thing of beauty. I wish you could see it. The top of it goes across my sternum, then it goes around and down my sides, and there is a big bar across the front of my hips. And then it has a big flat plate that goes across my back. I have been told i have to wear it all the time, apart from when i am sleeping at night....It isnt very comfortable. A lot of the time, when i sit down, it rides up, into my armpits and digs in. After a spinal appointment, the week after the accident i am told i will be wearing it well into the new year.
I am then discharged, to go home. Still in pain. Since then i have taken painkillers, every day. Every single day. At first, i took codeine, but taking them meant i couldnt go to the loo. Eventually, when i did manage to go, the pain was unbearable. So i stopped taking it. It means the pain became less manageable, but at least i could go to the loo. For the first 4 days after the accident, my hip flexors were so sore, i couldnt manage to dress myself. I had to ask my husband to help my put my underwear on, as i was unable to lift my feet more than a few centimetres off the floor.
I havent been able to work since the accident. as i told you earlier, i love my job. Unfortunately i am not able to do it, so have been signed off since you knocked me off. Partly this is because i work with magnets, and my brace is made of metal, so is magnetic. But mostly it is because i cannot sit, or stand for much longer than half an hour at a time. I havent been able to concentrate much either. I have read a total of 3 books since we met, which is just not like me. I cannot walk very far, because my back starts to hurt too much, which has meant that i havent been able to take the children to and from school. I havent been able to go out and visit people, because i cant drive either, so am mostly housebound. I am reliant on my friends and family, visiting me and looking after me. And of course, i havent been able to do my beloved sport. My friends reassure me that i will be able to again, but sometimes i have bad days when i question that. The realisation of how much i have lost came with an email, telling me i had made it through the waiting list and got a place in the last Ironman Lanzarote. Nevermind. There will be others, i am sure, although this one is special. Lanzarote is probably the toughest ironman there is. I have been to Lanzarote for the past 2 years, training on the island, and am all booked up to go in March again. Another thing that i wont be able to do properly...
Those are the dark days. The days when no one visits and i am alone all day, unable to get out. The days when people are too afraid to touch or hug me, in case they hurt me more. In case their hugs or actions may cause me to end up in a wheelchair. The days when i get cross with my children because they are boisterous and energetic and i cant do anything with them, and i am frustrated. The bad days are the ones when i hurt all day. When my back aches so much i could just cry. When it is a beautiful day and i would love to be out, riding my bike, or running in the winter landscape. When i remember that i cant. When i cant play with my kids, when i cant pick them up and dust them off if they are hurt, or crying. When i cant pull their sledges in the snow, or make snowmen with them, or have snowball fights...
And now it is nearly Christmas. We are going to Devon again. Normally i go for a run or a ride on Christmas morning, and take a swim in the sea on Boxing day. I wont be able to do that this year. I wont be able to help with the family dinner, whether it is laying the table, carrying food through or washing up, because i cant carry or stand for too long.
I wont be able to take advantage of the time off work to ride my bike, and train, as i normally do. To meet with my friends on New Years Day and welcome in the new year by riding in the fresh January air.
At the moment, and i hope you will forgive me for being a bit melodramatic now, but the night we met, November 12th, you ruined my life. It will get better, but right now, you have ruined it. And you have ruined my bike. It is a write off. My lovely bike was my first road bike, and i love it. And that too is ruined.
So, I guess i can close this letter, by wishing you a very merry Christmas. I hope you can sleep at night.
Cos i cant.