It’s bonkers how quickly your life can change. On Saturday 15th June, I was in the bike park with Adam and Tom. We got the gondola up, dropped into our first run (Blueberry Bathtub), 3 turns in and I go flying over the handlebars.
I was winded so my initial thought was to try and breathe. A few moments later Adam came up to me and asked how I was, it was then that I realised I couldn’t move my arm. Something was wrong with my shoulder. I told Adam who said that if I couldn’t ride then we needed to call patrol. They were incredible responsive and were with us within 10 minutes. They looked at my shoulder and said they didn’t think anything serious had happened but likely an AC separation.
Your AC (acromioclavicular) is the joint holding the shoulder blade and collarbone together. A separation means the 3 ligaments connecting them have snapped.
The patroller put my arm in a sling, put me in their ATV, locked my bike to the back and drove me up the run I’d just biked down. They took me Whistler Medical Center where they gave me an X-ray, confirming the injury was an AC separation. It was 24.6mm apart!! FUCK!! The doctor explained that this was a grade 3, and that it was likely I wouldn’t need surgery but he wanted a second opinion so he referred me to an orthopaedic surgeon. In the meantime I was given codeine and a sling which I would have to wear for 6 weeks.
Tuesday came and I was pretty confident I wouldn’t need surgery, but knew I needed to still attend this appointment. The surgeon looked at the X-ray and very quickly said I needed surgery, and that my separation was in fact a grade 5. Doctors typically only grade from 1 - 3, whereas orthopaedics go up to 6. At this point I was gutted!! She explained the surgery would involve a metal hook plate going into my shoulder and hooking the collar bone back to my shoulder blade so the 3 snapped ligaments could heal. She also explained that I’d need surgery again in 8-10 months to remove the plate. FUCK!!!
Before I continue this I want to state I have never broken a bone or torn a ligament in my life. I’ve never even had a filling. So I’ve gone from never doing anything to my body, to needing surgery.
She said I would need surgery as soon as possible because you don’t want to the ligaments to start healing incorrectly as that can cause longer term problems. Before I could agree I needed to check my insurance would cover the cost. I went home and read the small print of my insurance, it said that depending on the circumstances they may send me back to the UK. This wouldn’t have been a huge problem, but I had a gut feeling that because this is such a common biking injury here in Whistler, I’d receive better treatment here.
Long story short my insurance agreed to pay for everything so I could go ahead and book the surgery. After a few calls and a required checkup because of my high blood pressure, surgery was scheduled for Wednesday 26th.
The day before surgery I remember feeling terrified! I knew it was for the best, but the idea of being so far away from my family and close friends at such a scary time made me feel so far away from everyone.
On the day of surgery Adam and I took the 45 minute drive south to Squamish. I waited for a short time in the reception with Adam, who kept holding my hand and comforting me. I was called in, I remember having to walk down this really long hospital corridor. I went into a pre-surgery room where I removed my normal clothes and got into the hospital gown, socks and hair net. The surgeon came over and asked me a bunch of medical questions then gave me 4 pills (no idea what they were). 10 minutes later a woman said they were ready for me and that I should follow her.
The operating theatre was exactly how I’d seen it on TV, 5 people wearing masks around the edge sorting out stuff, the bed in the middle with a drip next to the bed. I laid on the bed and one woman started asking me a bunch of questions, I think she could tell I was scared so was probably trying to distract me. Someone asked if I was ok with injections, I said I’m fine, they found a vein in my hand where they then said they would start injecting me with the anaesthetic. Next thing I know I’m awake on a bed in the ward with a big dressing patch on my left shoulder.
During the hour on the ward I kept going in and out of consciousness. At one point I remember them saying my blood pressure was high and that they should wake me up so I could take a Ramipril. Ramipril is my normal blood pressure medication which I was told not to take in the morning. Apparently during surgery it’s easier to lower someone’s blood pressure if it’s high than increase it if it’s low. I fell back asleep, but shortly after I heard the nurse say my ride was here, AKA Adam. That did make me chuckle. I wasn’t able to move much, so the nurse helped me get dressed. They then put me in a wheelchair and wheeled me out to Adam.
He picked me up, annoyingly he wasn’t able to pick up my medication beforehand so on the way home we had to stop at a pharmacy. When he went inside I wasn’t able to keep my eyes open, I don’t actually think my eyes stayed open for more than a few minutes during any of that 45 minute drive home.
It’s been 2 weeks since I had surgery and I’m feeling much better. I had a scan yesterday, that showed it’s healing well. It kind of looks like a bug is in my shoulder.
I’m able to start physio now which I’m super happy about. I’m such an active person that the thing that scares me the most is not getting full mobility and strength back in that shoulder.
It’s been a huge blow to all my summer biking plans, and it’s made me realise that my body IS destructible. For 27 years I’ve taken it for granted so I think it’s now time I give it some much needed TLC.
P.S I may not be able to bike but I can still hike. Read about one of Whistlers amazing hikes - The Train Wreck