Paul's Hospital Tag

X-ray of Paul's leg

Paul's broken leg story

Originally posted 1996

Back in December [of 1995] Simon and I went out to the Akatarawa's to check on the Karapoti Classic race course and to clear the bogs on the Devil's Staircase. Since before I first rode it in 1985, the staircase has had huge perpetual stench-type bogs.

Our plan was to go out there with an old ice axe and cut drainage channels so that the bogs would drain and hopefully dry out completely. As it turned out the March '96 event was held on a pretty wet day so most of our work was not very evident.

We rode round, did some real fine bog clearing on two thirds of the Staircase before we managed (well, Simon managed actually) to break the ice axe on a tenacious tree root. That put an end to the work part of the day. With nothing more to stop for we cranked it up on Big Ring Boulevarde, the downhill from Titi. In hindsite I would say we rode with a certain degree of recklessness. We b-l-a-z-e-d.

Then I punctured - of course. We fixed that, then blazed some more. Then Simon punctured. After using up all out repair patches we started to ride pretty damn carefully.

Not carefully enough though. Again I punctured. This has happened to people so often in the Karapoti races over the years that it has become pretty standard practice for people to carry a full box of patches plus two spare tubes. At this point we started trying all the oddball techniques that we'd read in a desperate attempt to get the bike rideable again.

Option 1: fill the tyre with grass - doesn't work very well. It's really hard to stuff enough grass in to create a cushion to ride on.

Option 2: tie a knot in the tube around the puncture and hope that it is an airtight knot. It's never an airtight knot.

Option 3: use a stick to twist around the punture and hopefully create an airtight twist. It seems to work about as well as option 2.

Option 4: suddenly remember that the Ground Effect shorts I'm wearing come with a spare patch sewed into the lining. Ahuh - not just a marketing gimmick.

So we got back on the bikes and rode very cautiously along towards Dopers Creek.

As we rounded a right hand corner Simon yelled out something. Then I saw the motorbike. He saw me. I saw him. Our eyes locked onto each other. We both slammed on our brakes. I watched as his front wheel twitched left then right - which way was he going to turn? To late...

Wham! I slammed into his shoulder.

An instant later I was laying comfortably on the side of the track. I sensed that I'd hurt myself in some strange new way. The motorbiker asked "Are you alright?". "I think my leg is broken" I said in a far-too casual way.

"Are you sure?" There was no outward sign of damage and I was acting pretty damn calm.

"No, I'll check." So I tried lifting my knee. My leg had acquired a new hinge, half way down my shin. "Yep, it's broken." At this point I was aware that I was being very calm. "I'm very calm", I thought to myself calmly.

Then we established that he was fine, and would ride on to ring for help. Simon checked my bike - it was OK. I ate some peanuts, and drank my juice. The weather was fine and sunny. Simon took a photo and chatted in a slightly cheerful way.

About 45 minutes later we heard the Westpac rescue helicopter above. They landed up the road a bit, at Dopers Creek and ran down to me. After giving me a shot of Morphine they removed my shoe and complimented me on my lack of external injuries. Then they wrapped a blow-up splint around me and pumped it up to be nice and snug. I was in a dull I'll-be-all-right-as-long-as-you-don't-move-me sort of pain. Still calm though, I noticed.

The flight to Wellington Hospital lasted about ten minutes. The medics spent all this time trying to get a reading from the heart rate monitor. As we landed it finally managed to say 75 beats per minute. I was strapped to a stretcher and got a fine view of the inside roof for the whole trip. Not a great sight-seeing flight.

We landed on the hospital roof and were met by a team of medics in the usual ER fashion which I thought was pretty cool. Then I got wheeled through miles of corridor to the fracture clinic.

They sent me to x-ray who got a nice shot of my broken tibia and fibula. I thought it looked pretty cool too. Lots of sympathy coming my way.

Back in fracture clinic they decided to slap me in a toe-to-upper thigh cast. This suited me just fine because I was worried they might want to stick some pins in my leg which would involve cutting me open and all that yucky needle stuff.

Then my sister arrived to visit and the nurse said I could stay the night or go home. So I went home. All-up it took about four hours from breaking the leg to sitting on my sister's couch drinking a warm cup of Milo.

A month later, in January, they replaced the full leg cast with a toe to knee cast. It's pretty gross what happens to a thigh muscle when it's not being used for that long. I still had some mud from the bog clearing back in December. Not pretty.

In March they replaced that cast with an 'ankle to below the knee' cast and in late April that came off. Now, in May, five months after the accident I'm riding pretty well, but have lost a lot of hill climbing power. I limp a bit when I'm walking because my ankle hasn't regained full strength yet. My knee hurts in cold weather too.

The doctors reckon I should avoid playing rugby for the next few months (never played a game in my life - no great loss). He thought cycling would be good for it.

Hee hee. I 'm sure he's right. Yeehaa...

Email Paul.


After posting this story in 1996 I received a steady trickle of email from other broken leg folk, so in June 2000 I set up www.mybrokenleg.com to allow others to share their experiences.

For details of what I do to earn a crust check out the Kennett Bros web site. Our latest project is a coffee table book RIDE - the story of cycling in New Zealand. The New Zealand Mountain Bike Web will give you an idea of what I do in my spare time. And in my other spare time I'm trying to make my home more energy efficient without spending much money; read about my cheap wall insulation project.


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