I always assumed that if my scooter ever landed me in need of the tender ministrations of the medical community, it would be because of some high speed collision.
But assumptions are designed to make fools of us all, and the hours (so far) today I've spent getting poked, prodded, X-rayed, bandaged, injected, and dosed are but a prelude to what awaits me this afternoon at the orthopedist... and though as a result of my scooter, speed and traffic had nothing whatsoever to do with it.
The story begins with an otherwise routine commute home last night. The temperature was unseasonably warm... a mostly full moon peeked out from gently drifting clouds to illuminate the perfectly dry roadway... and no more than a slight breeze rustled the sparse vegetation along the side of the quiet road.
With the exception of a rare passing car, I was alone on the road for most of my commute. And I was alone when I saw the 'T' intersection looming ahead which marked the 2/3 point of my commute. As always, about 50 yards before the stop sign I rolled off the accelerator and let my speed bleed off naturally... applying the brakes gently only in the last few yards to stop the last of my forward momentum.
My scooter had almost come to a complete stop a few feet before the white line as I'd intended, when I suddenly had the sensation of drifting... as if my scoot was no longer in contact with the roadway. I knew my brakes hadn't failed because that would have caused me to roll forward in the direction I'd been traveling. Instead, I watched in puzzled amazement as the scooter began do drift crab-like eeeeeevvvveeerrrr ssooooo ssslloooooooowwwllllyyyy as if sliding on ice.
At the same moment that the moonlight allowed me to perceive that I was in the middle of a large slick of some sort of liquid, the stench of diesel fuel hit my nose. Clearly a truck with a leaking gas tank had sat for a good long while at the stop sign and soaked the roadway before continuing on its way.
I said a silent prayer of thanks that I hadn't encountered the fuel slick in the roadway while traveling at speed, and put my left foot down to stop the glacially slow drift of the scooter towards the intersection.
That's when things started to go seriously wrong.
The scooter continued to drift at an angle away from where I'd planted my foot, and within a few seconds I found myself being forced into a comical split as I tried in vain to support the weight of the leaning scooter with my hands on the handlebars... All the while looking down in panic as my planted left foot got further and further from the imaginary vertical line that intersects the scooter's center of gravity.
As my crotch muscles began to scream their protest at the unfamiliar demand on their flexibility, I began feeling like a Thanksgiving turkey where someone was enthusiastically trying to rip off the drumstick.
Just when I thought I would split in half like a wishbone, another part of my body decided to give way. I watched in horror as my left knee suddenly gave out, shaking off the confines of its usual axis of flexibility and allowing my lower leg to extend sickeningly at a 90 degree angle to the left.
The sudden lack of support from my leg forced me to fall to my left (further hyper-extending me knee in that unaccustomed direction) and allowing the scooter to slide gently onto its side in the roadway.
It all happened so quietly and with such surreal slowness (with the exception of my knee giving way) that when the scooter finally touched the pavement, it was as gently as if I had deliberately lain it down.
For a good 15 seconds I sat there frozen in that odd position with my hands still clutching the handlebars of the scooter, my right leg still straddling the scooter's step through, and my left leg extended at that angle that made me want to throw up.
Oddly, I didn't feel any pain. Yet. Just nausea and shock.
Then the pain hit my left knee and the left side of my groin as if someone had sunk a red hot poker into me. But for some reason I still couldn't let go of the scooter's handlebars. Maybe it was some blind instinct to try to keep it from rolling further onto its side (where it might get scratched up) or maybe it was to preserve the illusion that it was supporting me. But whatever was going through my mind, I just couldn't get my hands to let go.
Within a few minutes a car approached from the direction I had just come and stopped a few feet behind me. I heard the sound of car doors opening, and within a moment strong hands were gripping me under the arms, and another set were wrestling the scooter from my grasp.
I guess the guy who had me under the arms didn't see my left leg clearly, because instead of just pulling me away from the scooter and laying me down, he lifted me up into a standing position. As he did so I felt, more than saw, my left leg straighten out into a normal angle, and most of the pain evaporated. My groin still had a searing burn from the muscle strain of the split, but my knee seemed sort of okay.
I'm sure by then I was in shock and operating entirely on adrenaline, but when the two men asked me if I was alright or if they should call an ambulance, I told them I was fine and re-mounted my scooter. My knee was now throbbing mildly and shot me little lightning bolts of pain if I tried to turn my foot in any direction but straight ahead. But the leg could support me so I thanked them for the help and rode slowly through the rest of my commute... seeing, hearing and remembering nothing.
When I got home it took me a few minutes to be able to get off the scooter, and another few to get it up on the center stand. All I could think about was getting inside and sitting down.
When I walked in the door my wife wrinkled her nose and said, "what's that smell?".
I hadn't noticed it outside, but in the warm confines of our home the stench of diesel fuel wafted from my pants and shoes in cloying waves. We put my shoes outside and tossed my pants into the washing machine (getting them off would have been comically funny if not for the searing pain caused by the necessary bending and flexing of my legs), and I explained to my wife and kids what had happened.
I had a light dinner of soup and Percocet (I had a stash of pain meds in my travel bag for emergencies), and settled in to see how badly my knee was going to swell up.
I woke up around one in the morning on the couch with no recollection of how I got there. Until I tried to stand up, and it all came flooding back. I managed to make my way into bed and woke up this morning with both my knee and groin telling me that there would be a small change in plans for the morning.
I emailed my boss to make it official and waited for the local medical center to open so I could officially hear the bad news.
I couldn't drive our car because I didn't have a reliable left leg to work the clutch, and the idea of folding myself into the passenger seat while my wife drove me was a non-starter. So ironically the only semi-comfortable conveyance my leg could tolerate was the scooter.
One of the nice things about living in a small town is that there is rarely a wait for anything. I hobbled into the waiting room and the doctor, who was standing by the door of his office, waved me in. He poked and prodded the knee and very quickly arrived at the decision to order some x-rays. He told me that if I'd torn any muscle or ligaments it wouldn't show up, but he needed to rule out anything being broken.
While I was waiting across the hall for the x-ray technician to arrive, the nurse said she noticed I hadn't had my flu shot yet and offered to administer it. I gave her the go ahead and am now immunized against at least a couple of strains of flu. I know... a crap shoot, but better then nothing considering all the traveling I do.
The good news is that nothing is broken (not that this was surprising). I've filled a prescription for two different kinds of big league pain meds, and am now waiting for my appointment with the orthopedist in a few hours.
I'll let you know how that goes. In the mean time, send good, healing thoughts and lets hope it is just a sprain and that words like 'surgery' will not be part of the recovery discussion.
Oh, for those who are curious about such things, my scoot is fine. A tiny scratch or two on the beading along the left leg shield where it touched the road... but otherwise pristine.