Lee Waldman, ready to fight to recover once again. © Annette Hayden

Lee Waldman, ready to fight to recover once again. © Annette Hayden

Last week, Lee Waldman, one of the cherished voices here at Cyclocross Magazine, was involved in a hit-and-run on Christmas morning, leaving him in the hospital with six broken ribs, a cracked sternum and a crack in his vertebrae. Many members of the cyclocross community know him as a tough fighter, and already within the week, he has reached out to us with another column, this one imparting the lessons learned.

by Lee Waldman

It hurts to cough this morning. Hurts to breathe. Hurts to twist in every way imaginable.  Hell, it’s even a challenge to type this piece.  My wife has become hyper-diligent. She wakes me with a semi-frantic “Lee” as I occasionally zone out and begin to weave over my laptop like an ancient snake charmer with his flute.

Yes, I am on drugs. Oxycodone, Oxycontin, Flexarol, Tylenol, a blood thinner, a stool softener, and those are just the ones that my addled brain can recall this morning. It’s been like this since Christmas morning when I was blind-sided by a black Hyundai (so, riders in West Denver / Golden keep your eyes open for said car missing a side view mirror).

I spent the next 8 days in the hospital! Now let me ask you, who spends that much time in a hospital bed these days, anyway? Because I have such a high pain threshold, I was scheduled to go home the same day I was admitted. My wife showed up at the hospital, as she has so many time in our 10 years of marriage, with my “going home clothes.” I just needed one more CAT scan.

What they found changed the plan. It seems as if I have 6 broken ribs, a cracked sternum, and a crack in my C1 vertebrae.

Being relatively naïve, I really didn’t understand the seriousness of all of these injuries until a friend who is also  PT explained to me that a C1 fracture is what put Christopher Reeves in a wheelchair tied to an oxygen canister. Lucky I had that CAT scan or I might be typing this with a stylus attached to my forehead.

A nagging pain in what I believed to be my shoulder blade resulted in one more MRI where, lo and behold, the technicians then found a fluid build up in my lung cavity.  Almost 500 ml later (yes, ½ a liter) my lung was clear and I was on my way home fully equipped with a shower neck brace, a breathing apparatus to exercise my lungs, and strict instructions as to what I can (which isn’t a lot), and what I can’t (which is a lot!) do.

Needless to say, I’m not racing in Austin this year. Last year my season was cut short before Boulder because of hamstring surgery. That was the bad news. The good news was that after a summer of mental and physical rehab., I was able to regain fitness and improve my bike handling.  If there is a lesson to be learned from this current setback it is that the body and the mind are capable of much more that we may believe.

Just like my hamstring injury, I’ve learned some lessons from this one.

Lesson one: Don’t minimize!  Lucky for me that the doctors and nurses were doing their job to it’s fullest extent.

Lesson two: Sometimes ear-buds aren’t the best choice. I never heard the car that hit me.

Lesson three: Carry identification. If it hadn’t been for the identification wrist band I was wearing, it might have been hours before the police contacted my wife.

Lesson four: There are indeed good people out there in the world. I’ve been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and good wishes not only from the Colorado racing community but from readers who I’ve never met but know me from my writing online.  Thank you all.  The energy you’ve sent me is helping and will keep helping through yet another winter of recovery.

Lesson four (a): Be a friend to others. It will come back to you in spades some day when  you really need it.

Lesson five: The mind and body is capable of much more than we credit it with. I’m looking at another winter of riding the trainer in hopes of regaining fitness for Spring mountain bike races. I know it can be done. So now it’s one step at a time, one training ride at a time, one day at a time.

Lesson six: Accept help. If it weren’t for my wife I wouldn’t be up this morning writing this column. I don’t know where I’d be but I do know that it wouldn’t be here.

I’m sure there are more lessons. Maybe that will be the next column. In the meantime I can’t ride for at least a couple of weeks, but you can.

Get out there and ride your bikes.