It all happened in a split second; the bike’s brakes locked up hard on a path made extra slippery by a mix of bushfire ash and light rain. This caused the front wheel to skid which made the handlebars suddenly turn and caused the bike to go out from under me.
In that split second, my right hand shot out instinctively to grab the stone wall next to the path and unfortunately succeeded in getting a hold just as the bike went down. To my surprise and the many swear words uttered, the pain hit and this new kind of pain wasn’t normal.
A trip to hospital and an x-ray confirmed that my right shoulder had been dislocated and relocated but in the process had been fractured, taking off a 20 cent piece of bone.
Everything that was planned for the week was going to change. There would be surgery and a lengthy period off work because you can’t drive 26 metre long trucks with a busted shoulder.
The instructions from the emergency doctor and later the surgeon and physio were clear: For the 2 weeks before surgery and the 6 weeks after, you are not to use your right arm and then only use it for light duties for the next 8 weeks after that. And definitely, no bike riding for the next few months.
Upon arriving home, I realised that some of the things that I do around the home were going to be tricky especially that Rabea at this stage was 6 months pregnant. Here’s how things worked out:
- We are a gas free household so using a normal shower is not an option for us.
- Our portable solar hot water system was off the table as it required lifting a 10 litre bucket in and out of a solar oven and then later pouring it into a pump shower.
- The pump shower worked surprisingly well for one handed operation and I filled it using an electric kettle which still uses just a 25% of the energy that our hot water heater needed.
- We put the garden into maintenance mode by just tending to the main tasks (watering, harvesting, preserving) and still collected 20kg of produce in the first three months of this year.
- Maintaining a car free lifestyle has been fairly easy as I have used more walking and public transport instead of riding a bike.
- Most of our fresh produce is delivered from a grocer and we discovered a bulk food supplier who delivers to our area. Although the food is a bit pricier than dry goods and legumes bought from a supermarket, they are organic and don’t add much to our grocery bills.
- Instead of buying 7 litres of rice milk a week (and having to bring it home), we now buy half a kilo of rice flour and a few other small ingredients to make our own, saving money, packaging and effort.
- Outside of these changes, there were no noticeable impacts. All the other things that we normally do were manageable.
Help from friends and neighbours
- Getting to know the neighbours has been great for many reasons and we can now add that we had lots of offers for help.
- Neighbours and friends offered to give us a hand to move heavy items if need be, something that we were grateful for when the odd wicking box (30kg+) needed to be shifted or when we bought a change table from our next door neighbour.
- On two occasions, family and friends gave us a lift to the supermarket just after the accident to stock up on some goods which we’d normally do on the bike (or by taxi if need be).
- It’s good to know that in a time of crisis people have your back.
- If you regularly ride a bike in Victoria, it is important to remember that bike riders are only insured against a loss of income if another motored vehicle is involved which falls under the TAC (Transport Accident Commission).
- WorkSafe in Victoria hasn’t covered injuries travelling to or from work for commuters since 1998.
- Eligibility for transport accident insurance or workplace insurance when commuting may vary from state to state so check your local state.
- We are both members of Bicycle Network Australia which has an insurance component. They have covered most of the loss of my income starting from two weeks after the accident up to when I can return to work.
Although living large on less sometimes requires a little more physical effort to achieve, we were quite surprised at how well our energy, food and transport systems held up in the face of an unexpected crisis.
A final point
Australia’s public healthcare system may not be perfect (I waited for 11 hours in Emergency due to a very bad night for the hospital) but the nurses, doctors, surgeons, physio and all the other staff I encountered were highly dedicated and did an excellent job.
My shoulder is now getting better with each day, I can do more around the house and I am expecting to return to full duties at work in a month. It’s humbling to know that without a decent public health system, a bad luck situation could have permanently left me with a bad right shoulder or a very expensive private operation.
It’s easy to focus on individual actions and say in a non-fussed manner that one day the modern health system will collapse due to a variety of reasons (antibiotic resistance, energy descent and climate change) but if you’ve ever needed it, you’ll appreciate what it can do. We shouldn’t take it for granted.