I was riding with some friends one time in the desert on a challenging and beautiful path. At times the path narrowed into a tiny ridge that curved around the desert cliffs with about the width of my handlebars. Scary but also exhilarating. I am comfortable with that sort of riding. As long as the trail is uphill or flat, I can manage the terrain without worry.
Downhill technical riding is something else. This is when you ride down steep paths that were never really designed for bike riding. When I start down a tech section, I am usually freaking out and just hope I can get to the bottom in one piece. Every now and then you have a drop. A drop is a ledge that you ride off of and then both you and your bike fall to the ground. If you are lucky, you fall together and land together and continue riding as if that was all part of the plan.
The worst thing you can do with a steep drop, is stop riding and look at it. If your brain has any power over the rest of your body, it will insist that you get off and put the bike on your shoulder and climb down to the bottom.
So I knew that this particular path in the desert ended with a big, rocky, steep, terrifying drop. So I came up with a plan. I rode right behind the lead rider and told myself that when I saw him go over the ridge, I would speed up and turn off my brain. I simply would not allow myself to think about all the potential outcomes of riding down that cliff.
Sure enough we came to the part and I saw the lead rider disappear. One moment he was right in front of me, the next he was gone. I pedaled hard for a few seconds and then rode over the ridge and let gravity do the rest of the work. Somehow, I got to the bottom in one piece and was very relieved at the outcome.
At around four in the morning on Friday, I woke up to see Stella in a great deal of pain. If you have never met Stella, you have to know this. Stella doesn’t “do” pain. She is somehow able to shrug off stuff that would have the rest of us screaming our heads off. But it was bad, that was clear. Within a few hours it got worse and she finally agreed that going to the hospital made a lot of sense. (O.K., it took about 4 of us to convince her, but the bottom line is we went.)
As we drove, I thought about all the terrible, horrible, possibilities that this could be. I finally decided that since I have no medical background, I had no way of guessing anything. My job was simply to drive and get her to the people who could find what was wrong and fix it. Like going over a drop, I shut my mind off and got her to the emergency room.
Late Friday night the doctors decided that she had a small hole leftover from the surgery and it had led to an infection. They got her started on antibiotics and fairly soon the grimace had been replaced by her usual charming smile. They admitted her and moved us back to our old haunts on the 8th floor. She got a bed and went right to sleep.
There was no place for me in her room so I tried sleeping on various benches out in the hall. When that didn’t work, I explored the hospital. It was surreal to see this place that I have gotten so used to, quiet and deserted. But you know, fun as late night hospital exploration is, it gets old real fast.
Of course if I had predicted we would be there, I could have set up lots of alternatives. But one of the drawbacks of shutting off your mind is…well… that your mind is shut off.
I finally found an abandoned hospital bed sitting at the end of a corridor. It was in a weird position and not remotely comfortable. But it did beat lying on a row of metal chairs. I climbed into it got a few hours “rest.”
By the morning Stella was feeling fine. It’s amazing what antibiotics and pain killers can do.
I, on the other hand, was a wreck. I had a sore throat, stuffed up nose, and splitting headache. Plus, I was exhausted.
So we did what made sense. She got in the chair and I crawled into her bed for some needed sleep. I was even there when the Docs were doing their rounds. I explained how I felt and told them that I would like some medicine. Hey, they are doctors, and I am a sick guy. What did I get wrong about that?
They ignored me and did NOT give me meds.
You know, I think both of us are getting a bit of a rep on the 8th floor.
Anyway, Stella should be home in a few days and so our appointment with the yucky chemo will have to wait. Shucks.
As I have learned, there is no way to really think through when these things happen.
Sometimes you just close your eyes, shut off your brain, and push yourself over the edge and just hope that everything will be ok in the end.