I discovered recently that for five weeks I’ve been walking about with a broken hip.
How I acquired it is beyond the scope of the current column, save to say that there was no stupidity involved whatsoever, although I’d be prepared to accept that the “walking around for five weeks” bit doesn’t reflect well on my powers of observation.
There is a process to an A&E department, where they like to keep you a little bit in the dark about what’s wrong with you because it makes you less likely to argue.
Over the course of about two hours I progressed from man on crutches, to man in a wheelchair, to man being wheeled around on a trolley, to man being given serious painkillers and wheeled around on a bed. This did not feel like a trajectory I wanted to be on.
“Where are we off to now?” I asked a porter as he trundled me down a corridor.
“Majors,” he said.
“Is that a good thing?” I asked.
“Not normally,” he said.
In situations like this I revert to type, and that type is cyclist. When the consultant arrived to explain the series of screws and bolts with which he was proposing to put my hip back together, my first question was not, “When can I walk?” or even, “When can I ride a bike again?” it was, “Steel or titanium?”
“Probably steel,” he said, and I was aware that I couldn’t keep the look of disappointment off my face. I tried to reassure myself that “steel is real”, but what I really wanted was that combination of light weight and vertical compliance that only titanium can provide.
When he returned the following morning to say that he’d decided on titanium, I was the happiest I’d been in
There is one nice thing about being a hospitalised cyclist: you’re made to feel like the most perfect physical specimen.
“Ohhh — you’ve got a lovely back,” said the anaesthetist as she stuck a spinal injection into it.
“Great veins,” said a doctor who inserted two cannulas. “Best I’ve ever seen.” She celebrated by sticking needles the size of drinking straws into me.
Best of all, an alarm went off one night, waking up the whole ward. A nurse arrived. “Your pulse is only 39!” she said, paging someone urgently.
“It’s normally 39,” I said. “If I wasn’t so stressed I imagine it would be lower.”
“We’re going to have to do something about it,” she said.
I wiggled my toes beneath the sheets for a few minutes to get it up to the mid 40s. She seemed quite happy with that. I drifted back to sleep happy. Thinking that you’re fit is one thing, having an NHS machine wake a ward full of strangers to tell them about it is quite another.
I’ll be on crutches for the six weeks. Crutches are such a disappointment. The range of carbon models is shockingly limited. Aero crutches don’t seem to exist at all. You can’t get a Garmin mount; there are no Strava crutch KoMs.
Nothing has ever made me want to ride a bike quite as much as the events of the last week or two. There is no bike riding as alluring as the riding you can’t do, and there is going to be a lot of that.
I keep looking at the crutches and could almost weep for the miserable contrast they have to the light grace of even the most mundane of bicycles.
But I’ll be back. And I’ll be stronger. Well, obviously; I’ll be part titanium.
And you can’t get better than that.
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Michael Hutchinson is a writer, journalist and former professional cyclist. As a rider he won multiple national titles in both Britain and Ireland and competed at the World Championships and the Commonwealth Games. He was a three-time Brompton folding-bike World Champion, and once hit 73 mph riding down a hill in Wales. His Dr Hutch columns appears in every issue of Cycling Weekly magazine
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