In juli 2005, an oncoming car decided to steer to the left, at the moment that my front wheel was next to his car.
I'd never thought something like that would ever happen to me, but it did: I was hit, and thought I would die.
That didn't happen, and I recovered reasonably well, but is was and will always be a far-reaching event.
I was riding to work. Gently, enjoying the nice weather, and the landscape, I rode down the slope from Elkenrade without encountering any traffic in the blind corners on that narrow road.
At the T-junction with the Vrakelbergerweg (yes, sorry, Dutch name ;-), I saw a car to the left, very far away. So I joined the road, to rhe right. A few moment later I saw some cars in front of me, riding towards me, and at the moment that I was almost next to the first of them, this car turned his wheel to the left, towards me, in the direction of a narrow path to my right.
I can't remember the impact itself, but I do remember flying through the air, thinking: "so this was my life".
When I regained conciousness, there was an ambulance, and the police was there too.
I didn't see any hint that the car was planning or even doubting to turn.
I was (and am of course) very happy that I appeared to be in life, and even rather "whole", apart from many broken bones :-)
A yellow car just in front of me turns and hits me, just after my front wheel. I can do *nothing* at all."Damn, this isn't possible", is the only thing I have time to think, then there is the impact, that I can't remember...
The Ambulance to the left, people around me. A few meters away a woman motorcycist in black leathers (a police woman, I hear later, who was here almost immediately after it happened, and did take care of everything). I hear something like "She can't move this neither".
From the Ambulance to a bed, in phases, from the bed to a table for X-rays (many sessions will follow), in bed again, then to a table that rolls into the MRI scanner, and then in bed again.
All those replacements are very painfull, but the "Oh, how brave you are" makes up for a lot.
Also "You have to see the male motorcycle riders here, those with tattoos are the worst, they start to scream when they only see s syringe."
From the corner of my eye I see a monitor with somebody studying the police photographs (the black and white photographs on this page). It looks kind of severe.
I have broken my shin, but it's a "nice fracture".
The pelvis is broken too: "that needs time".
A vertebra is broken as well: "alsoa matter of time".
Two ribs have been broken, crushed by the left shoulder blade, and the left clavicle has been broken: "those will heal by themselves".
And a finger of the right hand...
One of the ribs has made a small hole in a lung.
"Oh", I think, "it's rather ok. Just some broken bones".
My head and neck are not injured, and the scanner didn't show internal injuries (apart from the lung, but that's a small hole which has healed fast). But they want to keep me for a while at the Intensive Care, to watch over me.
Yet another time onto another bed. This time it's a bed that's adjustable in numerous ways (just the broken right leg up, for instance), with a mattress that inflatess itself at a different place every time, against bedsores. Delicious.
The nurses ("Hello, my name is Koen, I'm here to look after you very well") here are great. You never have to ask for something, because they
just know what you might need, and make sure you have it..
And they make sure that you don't suffer unnecessary pain.
The doctors were different, however: "If we apply an epidural block and a central line, we have every measurement without disturbances of
painkilers", I heard somewhere in the neighbourhood of my feet.
The nurse objected: tomorrow I would leave the IC, and then everything would have to be dismissed again. The doctor explained to me what he wanted in plain language, but that wasn't necessary.
I had a strong argument against the epidural block (automatically controlled spinal puncture, of which I don't like the idea) because my head would not be painfree and I have a big one-sided headache.
They didn't go on with the epidural block, but the doctor tried to set a central line (a needle in an artery) three times. It was rather painful, and he didn't succeed. That made it necessary to get a sphygmometer that woke me up by inflating a manchet around my arm.
Some time later, a new doctor, and everything repeated. I convinced her as well with my headache argument, but she wanted a central line. She anaesthetized my arm around the artery, which helped a bit, and she succeeded at the second try.
In the meantime, I have been given a stomach tube, and my other nostril is used for a tube with oxygen. So there I am, in a hospital bed, measured and sampled, with an apneu now and then (which means your breath stays away) that is signaled by the electrodes that are glued everywhere.
With hindsight, I remember the IC as an amy tent of dark canvas.
Opposite of mesomeone who is less lucky than me, and has to throw up and cough, unstoppable, and who doesn't wake up...... "Ben, Beh-hen, Wake Up, HELLOOO".
To my left somebody has been tied up after he has pulled evey tube out of his body, and who now cries out, with a very loud voice: "I am leaving, I am gone here". And in between those two, I lie, being a model patient.
The night nurse tells me that the doctor wants to send me "up", to an "ordinary" department, but she thinks that's still impossible, because I need extra care: "If needed, I will block the door, so they can't take you away".
But the next day, when the night nurse is gone, the doctor does decide that somebody else needs the IC more than I do. Yet another time being replaced into another bed (AUW!). But I do get an anti bedsores matrass again.
The first day very nauseous. The police comes by to take my statement, and I have to pause to throw up....
I also get an enormous abdominal pain: "everything inside os replaced by the impact, and tries to find its original place", says the nurse. And I am beginning to feel what it's like to lie days (weeks it is, now) flat on your back, without the possibility to turn on your side.
Two days long I find it hard to cope: "how am I going to endure?"
But on the third day I feel slightly better, and from that day on, each day shows some improvement, tubes are pulled out, and there is less pain.
Well, still a year, and then everything is over...
When something like this happens, your world gets very small. Your body, where nothing is is taken for granted anymore, the people whom you love, your room in the hospital, the nurses, that's it.
Then the cards come in , the letters, and the flowers.
From family, from people I know for ages, from my work, and from people who know me only through my websites. From the newsgroup, from the GS forum, Motorshop Margraten, from everywhere.
And so I lie in a vast world, suddenly.
I rode at approx 60-70 km/u (own memory, statements of witnesses), which means about 20 m/s.
A "train" of cars approached me: an Audi in front, two vans behind the Audi, and a Mercedes as the last car. The drove slowly. I thought: a tourist, admiring the surroundings.
I think the speed was about 25km/u, that would be: 8m/s
The place on the road where the car hit me, and the width of the road, show that the car was turned in about two meters to the left. On that place of the road he hit my motorcycle, at the side (but mostly frontal), just at my front wheel.
That means that he turned in about a quarter of a second before the impact, when I was 5 meters from the place of the collision.
My memory, and the image, and the statements of the witnesses are consistent with those quarter of a second and those 5 meters.
The statement of the car driver was that he had to show the way to a couple of people driving behind him. He wasn't too sure of how he should drive himself. He remembered looking in his mirror, to check the vans behind him, and then he suddenly saw the (narrow) road that he thought he needed to his left, and turned his wheel without looking in front of him. He just forgot to do that; he remembered that he didn't see anybody the last time he looked, and just didn't realise that he should look again.
It takes about 6 seconds, when your speed is 70 km/h, to get from the corners (from where I came), to the place of the accident. If the car driver was doing something else than looking in front of him for at least 6 seconds, he just didn't see anything at all.
I don't remember any turn signals, the van drivers neither, but the mercedes does remember seeing a turn signal, and the car driver himself too. The most probable event is therefore:
The audi turned on his turning signal while turning the wheel: after the moment of making the turn.
The van driver behind him and me saw him making the turn, and then had a quarter of a second to realise that he really was turning, and think, respectively, "damnit", and "What's he doing now?" and then came the impact. Noticing turn signals just doesn't fit in.
The same applies for the second van, but the mercedes probably saw the audi, with the turn signals on, appearing from behind the first van.
That would be consistent with the different statements.
More visibility would not have helped, when you think of my bright yello motorcycle, my bright yellow helmet, and my front light: this was a problem
of not looking at all, and not a problem of not looking good enough.
I doubt whether a louder pipe would have helped: in a car, with the windows closed and the music on, an oncoming motorcycle is not heard, no matter how loud the pipes are.
I did notice that the cars were driving slowly. I didn't think much about it: you see it often here, slow driving cars: tourists often feel a bit afraid on the narrow roads, and keep their speed very low. And the surroundings are beautiful, so people want to look around while driving.
At the moment that the wheels turned, it was too late: almost immediately after the turning of the wheels, I was smashed against the car: on a narrow road, there is no space left, very soon after the turning of the wheels.
The only strategy left for this situation is the rule: don't be near a side road to the left, together with an oncoming vehicle (or a parking place,
or a viewpoint, etcetera).
Not always doable, but worthwhile to try.
I also questioned myself: would my intuition have warned me, if I had been less tired?
I don't have an answer. Intuition, in my opinion, means that your brains notice something faster, and compute faster what you should do, than you are able to think consciously. So, there has to be something from which you can predict, with hindsight, what might happen.
I don't believe intuition would have helped me, because there was nothing to work on, for my intuition. Nevertheless, I have decided to watch my tiredness more closely (take a day off in such a case).
After two days in the Intensive Care, I came to an "ordinary" department, for four weeks.
In the beginning I could do nothing: I couldn't move my legs because of the broken pelvis, I couldn't move my left arm because of the broken collarbone, and I missed most of the use of my right hand because of the broken finger and a ripped tendon in my thumb.
The hospital was a pleasant place to be: during "rush hour", you sometimes have to wait for a long time untill somebody has time for you, but on other occasions, nurses took the time to talk with you about the accident and how you feel. The visiting hours were generous, and were taken generously: Ernst could stay until I went to sleep (very early: I spent the first weeks mainly sleeping). He was even allowed to take over the nursing tasks from the nurses.
I was very happy to move to the rehabilitation centre: at last, I could put effort into my recovery myself!
It was, however, disappointing, because there was nothing I could work on: I couldn't do anything. My left leg was not allowed to cary any weight, because of the broken pelvis. My right leg, the broken one, was ollowed to carry weight, but had great difficulties performing. My right hand was immobile in plaster, and I had a brace around my body because of the broken back.
In practise, those inconveniencies meant that I could walk in water three times a week, for half an hour, and that I had nothing to do for the remaining time.
I became smarter and smarter in things as getting dressed or go to the toilet without help.
The visiting hours in the rehabilitation centre were sparser, and the rules were very strict. I wanted to get home, to be with Ernst again. So we did, much sooner than is the habit. Afterwards, the rehabilitation centre did change the strictness of the rules.
With hindsight, I almost cannot believe how we did manage: I needed help with everything, getting dressed, go to the toilet, preparing food, everything. I had a wheelchair, we had a hospitalbed downstairs (in the kitchen), there were grab rails at the toilet and slopes for the wheelchair over the thresholds, but the slopes were too steep for my weak legs and weak hands.
But we did manage, and after a while I could really start the rehabilitation by working out.
First there was the fact that I had wanted too much: the tensions of my ankle had been overstresses, and I had to rest them for weeks. So be aware: when they warn you not to stress things, to have patience, have far more patience than you can imagine you need!
When I finally could start learning to walk, it was a delight: you walk a bit farther every day. The progress is really noticable.
And then comes the moment when you can start working again, still half a day oper week or something like that, but really the work that
you always did.
You encounter two problems then: recovery slows down, and you are confronted with what you (still) cannot do, that you are not like you were used to, and that you never will be. The pain with movements will never disappear, for instance.
While I was in hospital, I somehow expected somebody from the insurance company of the cardriver, to discuss how things would be organised,
who would pay the doctors, and so on.
I recieved a form instead, and I had to fill out, for instance (with one line of space) the names of every doctor who had been at my bed since arrival (no idea: at the intensive care for instance, one after another came to look at me), and I had one line, to describe, "as detailed as possible" what my injuries were. I also had to explain why I was'nt back at work yet. Right then, I thought: "This is totally wrong".
I signed a paper that gives the right to see your medical records to the insurance company of the car driver.
A nurse in the hospital told me she had the address of a good personal injury lawyer. The police also told me, whenm they took my statement, that you should call for a personal injury lawyer at once, because otherwose, the insurance company of the causer of the accident will crush you. A lawyer of a legal aid insurance doesn't help: you have to find a specialised personal injury lawyer.
Afterwards, in the rehabilitation centre, I heard stories that illustrate that it is right: the responsibility being layed at the rehabilitant, though the poice report clearcly showed that he was in the clear. for instance, the lawyer from the legal aid insurance who advised to agree, and a personal injuty lawyer who succeeded, with one letter, that liability was pit fully at the opposing party...
I am shocked about the attitude of the insurance company of the car driver. My idea always has been that you pay an insurance company to
make sure that somebody who is harmed by your fault is really helped.
In practise, even when you have a personal injury lawyer, you have to put much effort and perseverance to get what you are entitled to. Until this moment for instance (almost may 2006, 9 months after the accident), my boss did not receive a penny, though my salary should have been payed for by the insurance company from the moment of the accident.
I hope there will be laws that punish insurance companies for behaviour like that. I hate paperwork and such, and when you also have to fight for your rights, at a time when there are different things you care about than money, it's just horrible.
After such an accident, you will feel all kinds of pain..
According to the causer of the accident (he has been visiting me, which I appreciated very much), I did stand up immediately after the accident, walked a few steps, said I wanted to get away there, and collapsed. Almost incredible, because my pelvis was loose both at the front and the back.
I remember vagely about lying on the ground, and that I saw an ambulance. I don't remember anything about pain. I only remember realizing: "I am there, I am alive".
Once in hospital, the adrenaline ran out: I remember a shivering that didn't stop, and every movement (and I had to move a lot for x-rays and scans and other research) hurt like hell. But I had the feeling of being taken care of very well, and therefore was capable of accepting what had to be done.
I received morfine-like painkillers, which made me sick, very sick. I remember telling everybody that I couldn't understand how people get hoked on heroin, because it's sick-making stuff, morfine, which I didn't like at all.
The pain my pelvis caused was horrible, when I had to move, and I had to every time the nurses cared for me. After a week I had an operation, and from one moment to another, the pain disappeared. Incredible!
k was - thank god - off the morfine. The biggest problem was the headache, that I had 24 hours a day, every day. It was treated with indomethacine, and mecause of that, I soon didn't need any other pain killers anymore.
During the day, I felt fine; during the night, I started feeling everything: ribs, shoulder, leg, everything.
On top of that, there were the daily injections with fraxiparine, to prevent trombosis.
You must be able to handle pain on order to get better:
There is pain that is in fact a warning signal; you should listen to that kind of pain.
There is pain that just is there, unfortunately, and that you should ignore as much as possible, because otherwise, your recovery will be too slow; you should *not* listen to that kind of pain.
But in the last case, you should not go too far ignoring your pain, because then you will probably force things, and tendons will rip, and you will be forced into immobility again for weeks.
In my case, the process of mobilising my fingers was something like that: day after day, the fysiotherapist had to mobilise them. It hurt like hell, but I tried to ignore the pain as much as possible.
Learning to walk, and enhancing the distance that I could cover, was more difficult.
In order to get your broken bone to heal itself, you should put strain it, so you should walk, even when it hurts. But the tendons and muscles are weak at that moment, and especially tendons are overstrained easily, and they will rip. So you should walk so much that your leg will hurt in the evening, but not so much that it will still hurt the following morning.
I will probably have to live with pain. Not as much as at this moment, but there will be pain when I start moving in the morning or when I have been sitting for an hour or so, or at night, when I have walked some distance during the day. Pain in my fingers when I grasp something, pain in my back when I bend my back, and pain in my head.
When you get involved in a motorcycle accident, soon the whole hospital will know that you are "that motorcycle rider". A great adventage
is, that many people will ask you what happened: you will be able to tell your story many times.
Ernst did hang a photograph of the remains of the motorcycle, and that photograph got even more people to ask about it.
I think that there is no better way to prevent such an accident becoming something that haunts you, in nightmares and such.
A lot of people (including the car driver himself) were surprised , but I never felt rage towards the man that hit me. For me, it was completely clear that this event was dreadfull for him as well: there was no point in being angry at him. Besides, he was straight to the police about what happened from the start, and didn't try to blame me. That made it easier.
I am happy about it, because I think rage doesn't have any positive consequences in such a situation: in the end, you will just have to accept the fact that it did happen.
What I do notice is that I tend to judge people who use their phone in traffic, study their maps while driving, or are fiddling with their GPS harsher than I used to do. That's also something without any point: I hope it will get less eventually.
Another trap is to keep thinking that the accident would not have happened if only you had done this, or done that. There were times when I couldn't resist: my decision to choose the route I took for instance, was made at the last moment, I had also the option of riding with Ernst via the highway. But I tried to stop those thoughts as soon as possible.
What I did do, was thinking about what my possibilities were, with hindsight. My conclusion is that, in the future, I can try to be extra attentive near sideroads, and try to prevent the situation where I meet an oncoming car exactly at such a point, but that's not always possible. That put aside, I don't think that there is anything I could have done, and that's a terrible thought.
When you change, from one moment into another, from someone commuting on her motorbike, into someone who is even not capable to turn onto her side in a hospital bed, you cwill certainly get "that one second" kind of thoughts. It is strange, that such an event happens to you, and sometimes you can hardly believe it all happened.
What did help, is the knowledge that many people experience, at some point in their life, "that one second" events. There are
many moments that can turn your whole life over, and "my" moment only temporarily turned things over.
When you think about it, it is more logical to be gratefull for any moment that doesn't turn your whole life over, than to feel aggrieved because of such an event.
After such an accident, you will have to cope with shame. You can't go to the toilet, your pelvis may not be heaved for the bedpan.
You have to use a cellulose mattress, and accept that the nurses have to clean you, because you can't do that yourself.
Happily enough, the nurses are great, and they understand how terrible you feel about it.
You understand, at those moments, how important those kind of things are. To be able to go to the toilet yourself, at those moments, means an enormous amount of happiness, and I hope I will always remember that.
During the first weeks, I did not much more than sleep, and when I was awake, I was in a kind of half-dreaming situation: I just lay there, thinking, fantasising stories, or watching to the sky and the birds there, and I was perfectly happy that way.
I didn't want television, and was always glad when I got a roommate who didn;t like television as well (I kept getting new roommates, becaise I was there longer than any of the others).
After a while, I had the energy to read a bit, listen to spoken books which had been given to me by people (a perfect idea for someone in a hospital), or listen to music from time to time (difficult, because I starting moving according to the music, and many movements were forbidden).
Later on, I could spend a quarter of an hour a day in the wheelchair, and afterwards I was exhausted: I was never bored in the hospital.
Bordeom struck me in the rehabilitation centre. I had to practise sitting in the wheelchair for a longer stretch of time, and I read books, most of the time. I also tried to "peddle" a bit, to keep my legs a bit fit, and then I started reading again, or listened to music.
I had, at this time, the energy to stay awake all day, and then a day is long. When reading and listening music is the only way to enjoy your day, you start getting bored. You realise that you try to "fill" your time, and that is a horrible thought: normally, I have much more plans than I have time. Life is so beautiful, that I want to enjoy every moment of it, and then I lay there, "filling" my precious time.
How I longed for internet!
The boredom stopped in one split of a second, when I came home: there I could watch our garden and its birds, I had all my books around me, I had Ernst to talk to, and I had internet, and my own newspaper.
Rehabilitation is not possible without frustration, I'm afraid ;-).
It took much more time before I could start practising than I had hoped, and from the moment I could start, I still had to be carefull not to do too much. When you overpractise (at what point whatsoever in the rehabilitation process), you get a relapse (which means, you can do less than you could), and psychologically speaking, that's very hard to endure, during your recovery.
I always have tjis tendency to go on and on and on with what I'm doing, and work very hard. But that's not what rehabilitation is about: you have to be careful, practise little bits, learn to feel where you should stop, and respect those bounderies.
Sometimes you see progress; that is a wonderfull feeling. Sometimes, it seems that you are at a standstill for weeks, no matter what you do.
Another source of frustration is the wheelchair! I am glad that I have felt how sitting in a wheelchair feels: people don't see you, don't make place for you, treat you like you're retarded (of course, there are always exceptions!). It is almost impossible to visit a city, with those romantic cobblestones, high curbstones and stairs. You completely depend on others. I am very glad that I don't need the wheelchair anymore, and will always try to remember what it means for people who have to use it during the rest fo their life.
Now that I get used to being able to move again (though I will never forget the joy of being able to walk!), it gets clear what my losses are.
In one second, I did get 20 years older. I was flexible and strong, and am stiff and weak now. Moving hurts, and will hurty in the future. Going on a camping trip for instance, will probably stay impossible.
Within about a year I will know the permanent damage, but I have to adjust myself to the idea that it will never be how it was.
In the beginning, every progress is an enormous step forward. The hardest moments were those where I did a step backwards. The moment for instance of the operation of my finger and thumb, when my hand was plastered: before the operation, I could do *something* with that hand; afterwards nothing at all.
When all you can do is lying in a hospital bed, sitting for a few moments at the rim of your bed is an enormous progress. The wheelchair even
The first time I could sit in the wheelchair (and I couldn't cope much longer than 5 minutes) was overwhelming: at the same time the joy of being mobile again, and the realisation that I would be "imprisoned" in it for a long time.
The biggest step forward probably was getting home. Sleeping in my own home (not in my own bed: I had to wait for that still a ling time), sitting in my own garden, eating in my own living room, and spending lots of time together witn Ernst!
Getting home too, is something with two sides: in the rehabilitation centre, everything is adjusted to wheelchairs or other handicaps; at home, you cannot reach light switches, can't reach food, can't open a bottle of water, and have to be helped to get under the shower or to the toilet, etcetera.
I could endure sitting in the wheelchair longer and longer, and I could eventually sit outside, notebook in my lap. A very big pleasure!
It's incredible how important walking is for a human being. When you can't walk, you will notice that there is no physical exercise that is sp rewarding and pleasant as walking. When you are walking, talking to somebody else, or on your own, your brains automatically get in a sort of associative state, which gives you philosofical thoughts about all kinds of things. I don't know any other way to reach that state so easily.
You will make your first steps leaning on the ledges of the bars. It feels great: suddenly, you see the world from a higher perspective again.
Then comes the time that you can stand on your own legs, without leaning, and then you make your first steps with crutches.
Every time you are very glad, and every time you immediately know what you still miss as well: when you walk with crutches, you can't hold anything in your hands, for instance: you have the choice of being dependent again, or choosing the wheelchair (I just couldn't get myself bacj in the wheelchair).
And when you can walk alone, at first, you will just be able to walk from the living room to the toilet and back, and then you get a bit farther every day, and then there is the day that you can really take a walk outside, through the vollage, and that you can go (much later) to a city.
You realise that you never knew how much those simple things mean.
The strange thing is that your brains forget very easily how they control your muscles, when you don't use your muscels for a while.
I was fortunate: my brains had not forgotten how to make me walk (it is not uncommon that they don't know how to), but finetuning is hard: balancing, walking in a straight line while talking, not starting to limp when I feel pain, are things that still are difficult (almost march).
During the first two and a half weeks I could use my right hand, a bit: my thumb didn;t have any strength, but I could, though with dificulty, grasp things, and even, with more difficulty, write. That was over after the operation where I got small pins in the joint of my middlefinger, and where the tendon in my thumb was glued to the bone.
I was relieved whan the plaster was removed. It is done using a sort of miniature electrical saw; the nurse was so friendly to put the saw, working, on his own arm to show that it wouldn;t hurt when he would toch my skin (which he didn't).
Unfortunately, you will notice, after such an eventm, that you can't use your fingers: there was almost no movement possible.
Rehabilitation of fingers is a long and painful work. I won't get complete movement of my middlefinger: streching is impossible, and bending only to a point. And it hurts.
But I can do everything I need to do, in daily life, but many things are harder to perform than I was used to.
The first big step concerning mobility, is when you learn, at the rehabilitation, to get from the wheelchair to the passenger seat in a car,' using a smooth wooden board. Then, you can ride in a car, and you never thoud=ght that the world could look so beautiful, from that position!
After the first time, we often went for a ride: just drive, without any goal. On those moments, I am extra grateful for the beautiful surroundings, where I live: the south of Limburg is very beautiful.
After the first euforia, you will find out that you have become extremely jumpy for oncoming cars, for people approaching from sideways, and
so on. In the beginning, I couldn't resist using my hands to protect myself from oncoming vehicles.
After a while, Ernst knew exactly which events would be difficult for me, and he would drive extra slowly. That way, I gradually got used to traffic again. I would not have wanted to sit in the car with anybody else.
When I could walk reasonably well, I started longing to ride motorcycle, and drive the car myself. First, I had to wait until the fingers of my hand could bend enough, and were strong enough, and until my leg had gained some strength.
Then you will be told that there is another problem: when I would drive a car or ride a motorcycle, ans cause an accident, my insurance
company could alsways tell me that I wasn't capable of driving or riding, just from the fact that I had been in a hospital and a rehabilitation
In the Netherlands, when you do your exam for a drivers licens, you have to sign a paper in which you declare to be healthy, and you declare also that you will give a notice when there is a change (like an arm or leg in plaster). And that means, that you aren't insured, in practice, when you start driving or riding after a heavy accident.
You have to fill the form again, and state, this time, that you have got physical hindrances (psychologically speaking, very difficult for me). After having done that, you have to perform in a test, where you have to show that you are able to use the brakes and the steerin wheel with enough force and speed. I succeeded, and got a piece of paper that I have to keep with my driver's license.
And driving the car myself proved to be easy! The fear had practically disappeared, after all the driving next to Ernst.
But it took me a long time before I dares to drive alone, without Ernst next to me. It was a huge step for Ernmst as well. We even bought mobile phones (we never had them): I needed the reassurance of being able to reach him any time, to be able to drive alone.
I learned to ride a bicycle again by just doing it, guided by my much appreciated physiotherapist (from the Stichting Revalidatie Limburg, in
Hoensbroek, the best rehabilitation centre of the Netherlands according to many people, and they're right). Uphill was difficult because of
a lack of fitness.
When turning to the left, I noticed feeling horribly vulnerable in traffic: I only managed to turn when there was no car within sight.
But physically speaking, I was ok! I could get on and off the bike (off the bike very careful and with difficulty, because balancing on my once-broken leg isn't possible at the moment).
My brain did remember riding a bicycle perfectly.
Riding a bicycle at home proved to be more difficult: it's very steep near our home, to both sides.
We tried once, and I had to get off the bike and walk next to it in many places. But in the end, we reached Noorbeek, our neighbour village!
From the moment I was at home, I have worked for some time during the week, by taking responsibility for a part of my job. For me, it felt very good, still to be part of it, not to abandon everyone.
I also went to my work much earlier than usually: I started very carefully, with half a day in the week, and I gradually extended the time. It was very important for me: I had the feeling of "conquering" my life back again, though I always have to watch myself, and prevent overstressing things (but I manage!).
Many people took it for granted that I wouldn't start motorcycle riding again. For many people, my accident was proof of the fact that motorcycle riding is very dangerous. And they are right about it being dangerous.
Nevertheless, I think that the risk of having a second accident like this (or worse) is very small. And the accident would take away too much from me when I would let it take away motorcycle riding, which forms an important aspect of my life.
The problem in such a case is that getting back on a BMW R1200GS is out of the question: I will have to get used to traffic again, on a motorcycle, and that's not easy on an expensive, brand-new motorcycle, and on top of that, it will take a long time before my legs will be string enough for the BMW. The R1200GS is high and heavy, which is hard, with weak legs.
We found a solution: I will use a Yamaha Tricker as an in-between bike: 250cc, 120 kilos (half the weight of the GS), and low. Riding and stopping will be very easy, so I can get used to traffic in a gentle way.
The first ride is already behind me. I could do it!
Obviously, I feel afraid of other traffic on the motorcycle. I have a long way to go before feeling confident again.!
My right hand is a problem too: I loose feeling in it, when it gets cold. For the moment, that meas=ns: only ride when it's warm; I will look for heated gloves.
For the rest, it's a matter of seeing how it will evolve: will I be able to ride the same distances as I used to, or will my body protest? How will my hand behave, and my back, when riding long distances?
But for the moment it is: ride in low-traffic places, and slowly get used to everything. I don't panic, that's a good thing.
I am thinking about my bext motorcycle for a long time (because the Tricker is only to get used to traffic and motorcycle riding again: you van't travel like I used to travel, and hope to travel again, on the Tricker)
A new BMW R1200GS is difficult, psychologically speaking: I can't blame the motorcycle in any way, but it is the motorcycle with which I experienced a severe accident. Besides, I wasn't very content with the engine. It had only 8000 kilometers on the clocks, so it wasn't run in at all, but the coarse running of the engine disappointed me, and I didn't like the lack of smoothness in the low revs.
But which motorcycle will it be then? When you are hooked to a GS, it's very difficult to get used to anything else. GSses are omnipotent, and they make motorcycle riding easy.
This Moto Guzzi appeals to me very much: I always liked Moto Guzzi, this bike looks fantastic, it has very wide handlebars, and when I sit on it ot seems as if it was made for me.
But will I be happy that it will not corner as joyfully as the GS, and that it will be hard or impossible to take a forest road up in the Sierra Nevada? I'm afraid not.!
Or will it be this one? A Triumph Scrambler?
Scramblers were "ordinary" English road oriented motorbikes, adjusted to make them capable of trail riding: off the road. They have a high exhaust, spoke wheels and noddy tires, but they are less high than most modern allroads.
Ideal for me, but this new Scrambler from Triumph weighs about the same as the GS (Scramblers shouldn't weigh much): the Griso would be an equal choice then.
At this moment, the plan is as follows:
I will buy a Derbi Mulhacen to ride around in the neighbourhood here, and for commuting. I will keep my old R1100GS, for long distances and holidays. When the old R1100GS will collapse (it had more than 300.000 kilometers on the clocks), I can always buy a second hand R1100GS.
So instead of one R1200GS, I will have two motorcycles.
The Derbi Mulhacen has the trustworthy engine of the Yamaha XT660. It's a modern Scrambler, and its weight is low. I think it will be perfect for the narrow roads here in the south of Limburg, and in my opinion he's very beautiful.
But at first, I will have to wait how things go: what the permanent damage will be, how I will get used to the traffic and so on.
Right now it is one and a half years after the accident, I work full-time again, and I feel "sturdy" again.
The time when I was almost at the point that I could work full-time, appeared to be the toughest time.
Before that time, I was "fighting" to get back my condition, my strength, my health and my life. But when I was almost there, I had to realize what was "lost".
Compared to the time before the accident. I am less supple and less strong. Only if I would go to the gym each
day, I could get that back, but that would be so boring that I do not want to spend my time and money there.
I am very happy that my concentration is like it used to be (I need that in my job); but it took much time, and I did doubt whether I would ever get it back, although doctors told me that it takes much time after such an accident in combination with some narcoses.
An important decision was to go on a nl motorcyle holiday to Romania.
I did that on the
en Tricker (Ernst took his
en BMW), and during that trip, I realized that I had become at ease in traffic, and that
I could ride fairly long distances.
But afterwards, it struck me that, by not going to Spain on the GS but on the Tricker to Romania, I had made sure that I could not campare trips before the accident and trips after: it was a way not to be confronted with differences.
So, with hindsight, the toughest period for me was when I was almost "back in normal life": almost as far that I could leave the fight behind me. Afraid that I was lost my ability to concentrate, and slowly realizing what I "lost".
There will be another operation, for my shoulder (I hope the pain will disappear then), and my finger (which will get straight or will get an artificial joint), and I will certainly loose my concentration again. But now I know that I will get most of it back.
Such an accident has consequences that reach far...