This is a Sorry And Cautionary tale, although (fortunately) not as sorry as it might have been. And indeed, not as bad as it once was.
My M is a very keen cyclist. He generally prefers bicycles to cars as his chosen form of transport (he's also a long distance runner, and a couple of years ago ran 60 miles in one day, which gives you some idea of his toughness, but that's a story for another day).
Last week, in all that high wind, I had floated the suggestion of a veto on cycling in bad weather. This is because, six years ago, he was knocked off his bike by a man in a van who had recently lost his mother and was therefore not in a suitable frame of mind for driving. The man didn't see M and sent him down beneath the wheels of his van, thinking (as he said to me later) that he'd killed him.
L was eating pudding when M was delivered home by the man, carrying the twisted lump of metal that had been his bike. He was walking, so not badly wounded. At least, that's what I thought. That was until he came into the house and straightened his arm, whereupon blood pumped in an enormous and wide jetting arc across the kitchen, baptising the cupboards and the floor and making the hitherto unseen hole in his elbow (out of which a piece of raw and broken bone protruded) obvious.
I honestly thought he had gone through an artery and I don't think I've ever driven so fast in my life. I suspect I broke every speed limit that's ever been in existence rushing him to hospital that night. He had a four hour operation to rebuild his shattered elbow, spent three nights and four days in hospital and was off work for a month. In all that time he barely took a pain killer (something that caused the nurses great distress as they hovered with all kinds of heavy-duty pain-numbing pills almost insisting he take them). Instead, I treated him with arnica for the bruising, the swelling and the shock, with zinc to help the broken and damaged tissue repair, with comfrey, whose country name is knitbone, and with lots and lots of healing. The doctors told him his recovery was impressive, and it was, but then he is a very fit, healthy and positive person and that really counts.
The following year, he had another operation to enable him to straighten his elbow properly. If you are of a squeamish nature, look away now, because the next pic is a tad graphic, but it does illustrate what the injury was like...
He stayed off his bike for a good few months afterwards. Not because he was worried about it and didn't want to cycle, but because I was worried about it and didn't want him to cycle. But in the end I realised it wasn't fair of me to stop him doing something that meant so much to him, and that you can't, you mustn't, live your life by fear. So I gritted my teeth and told myself not to worry, and he got back on the bike.
Last week, however, it was windy and rainy and I thought cycling in a gale could be dangerous. We joked about wives issuing vetoes and M said he would be careful, would let me know when he got there and what time he would be leaving in the evening. And he cycled to work and back perfectly safely.
This morning, it didn't occur to either of us that it could be icy on the roads. The cars had frost on them sure, the surface of the ponds was gilded with slivers of ice and the grass was encased in silver, but the road was clear. We currently have a bloody great stream running across our drive courtesy of all the recent rain, and that was flowing freely with no sign of ice at all. Had it been icy that patch should have resembled a skating rink. But it didn't. So off he set.
And at 9am I had a call saying: 'Darling, I'm fine, but I've come off my bike and I've hurt my wrist....'
He had skidded on what turned out to be black ice (so, invisible) and had come off the bike while traveling at about 17mph (which is fast enough, believe me). Fortunately, this was on a quiet country lane and there were no cars nearby. There was another cyclist ahead though, who, beyond a cursory glance over his shoulder and a casual : 'oh, that happened to me earlier. Alright mate?' did nothing to make sure he really was OK and cycled off before M had picked himself up properly. Nice huh?
M had landed on his right knee with his left hand stretched out to break the fall. Being a tough sort of bloke he got up, got back on the bike and continued, albeit more slowly. And a hundred yards later on on a bend in the lane he came off again.
By this time the wrist was sore enough and the road slippery enough for him not to try cycling on, so he walked the last couple of miles to work, part of the way with a colleague who arrived on his bike and made sure M was OK. He got to work with bloody knees and a wrist that now resembled a fat Swiss role with five thick sausages sticking out of it.
Listening to the details on the phone I was pretty convinced he would need an xray. Having made the mistake before of battling on for a few days after an injury and then learning you have to pay for an xray if it isn't taken immediately after the accident, I would always now go to casualty and get it checked, particularly if a break is suspected.
So I drove to work to pick him up and took him to hospital, and there we have spent pretty much the entire remainder of the day, shuffling between various nurses rooms and xray departments.
The Verdict? A distal radius fracture. I know, because I saw the end of it snapped off in the xray.
And now I have a rather grumpy and fed up husband, whose arm is bound up in a plaster that means he can't drive for 6 or so weeks, which means wifey taxi, who has to go to the Fracture Clinic tomorrow to see the doc and get it all looked at again, who has various running competitions coming up that I know he will do regardless of the plaster on his arm (including a 25 mile off-road-up-cliffs-and-down-dale-mudfest in about 8 weeks time that will require some training for at least) and who is talking about getting back on the bike and cycling to work again as soon as the worst of the break has started to heal.
Luckily, it is his left wrist and he is right handed, so he can still go to work, and he isn't in much pain at present, and it could so easily have been a Whole Lot Worse, and these are definitely Mercies To Be Grateful For.
So how do I feel about all of this?
Well, I could be smug and say I told you so (and to be fair I did do that while we were sitting in one of the many NHS waiting rooms we have sampled today, at which point the nurse nodded knowingly and smiled broadly and said to him: 'wives always know best'), or I could just accept that this is the man I love and he would be different if he didn't don cycling gear in the foulest, most coldest of weather and set off with a cheery wave and a 'see you later my darling!' regardless of the blizzard howling outside.
I admire the way he simply refuses to let bad things affect his zest for life or prevent him doing the things he loves. And he is right of course, because, to put it simply, it would be awful to get to the end days and see holes where the things you wished you'd done should have been.
I may still issue a Cycling Veto occasionally, when it's blowing a gale or lashing it down with fierce rain, or there is ice on the roads. And occasionally he will agree with me and not cycle, not because he doesn't want to, but because he loves me and he knows that I will worry if he does. But what I won't do is insist he gives up cycling, because that would make him sad, and a tiny weeny part of the huge and generous light that is in his heart would flicker and go out, and I couldn't bare that.
So instead, I will put my trust in the belief that life works out for all of us just as it is meant to do, and I will not let worries and fears get in the way of my enjoyment of it, or of M's.