The Road Back

Saturday I walked a lonely, surreal path to reception 3Z at Dartmouth Hitchcock for my 3rd career MRI of the brain.  The solitude of a weekend morning in a hospital like this – a gargantuan regional hospital – offered ample opportunity for reflection.  This place feels a thousand times bigger when no one else is in it.

I was here to determine whether or not I suffered a stroke as a result of the accident I had.  The more I have told the story of what happened to others, the more they suspected something like that may have actually induced the crash.  Many sleepless nights sat between the placing of this appointment and the delivery of the results yesterday, which showed no sign of abnormality in the brain.

That’s a relief, tempered by the fact that no one knows why this happened.  I will never know.  My neurologist likened those memories to something stored in RAM when a computer crashes.  Material not yet committed to the hard drive, it is effectively lost forever.

My timetable for full recovery is three months.  As we sit here at just about five weeks since the accident, I am at peace with that.  It’s patently obvious that this won’t be like my other concussions, where I went about my business and continued a normal spectrum of activity while recovering.  Some days my head is really a problem, and other days are better.  My memory still works – it works great actually – but I routinely discover things that I have to re-learn.  For example, I was tasked with rebuilding a pivot report in Excel recently.  I have built tremendous pivots before in Excel.  I look at them now and have no idea how I ever did them.  I know conceptually how to start them and where they need to finish, but the mechanics of assembling them – it’s like I’ve never done it before.

There’s a patently scary difference between the feeling you have when you can’t recall something, and then pull it back from memory a few moments later, and when you simply cannot remember something that comes back into your brain many hours later, or simply never does.  That is the cold shower of this experience.  That is what makes the decision to walk away from aspects of competitive cycling easy.  When you don’t even have the energy to read to your daughter at night, or stumble through the elementary language in those books.  Absolutely no way is that a hard decision, to live a life more averse to risk of injury.

I don’t even really know what that means right now because I am barely capable of being physically active right now; I feel like a shell of who I was before the accident.  I have no clue when I would trust myself to ride a bike.  I went on a 2.5 mile run last week and was absolutely debilitated for days after.  I played 45 minutes of soccer yesterday, and really limited my exertion, and am feeling better about that today.  Some days I can do alright, and other days I can barely get through mowing my .18 acre lawn without looking at it as some kind of endurance event.

It’s hillclimb season, which represents probably the most practical competitive cycling thing I can do going forward, but I will miss all of it this year, in no way capable of gathering the kind of endurance and intensity required to participate in things like that.  I truly love the Prouty, but see no way of being a part of that this year either.  It’s paradoxical and annoying that cycling is so fantastic for your mental health and for grounding you and managing your emotions, yet it’s the one thing I can’t be doing right now to get through a time where I really need it.  So in the meantime, I will seek out some other distraction mechanism, probably by buying a car that needs far too much attention, or putting some work into the house, or finally playing Metroid Prime.


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