Saturday, October 29, 2011
Rita was showing Sondra and Johnny how to compress a large wound when Palmer burst through the door, scratched, scraped, and hysterical. “Stefan! He’s —” he waved his arms and pointed at the door, panting.
“Calm down, Palmer!” Rita snapped. “What happened?”
Palmer collected his wits and started over: “We were riding up the shoulder of ’85 against the traffic. We started racing and we bumped. Stef went over the guardrail — the bikes —”
“Never mind the bikes right now!” Rita said. “Where is he? Was he conscious?”
“Yeah. I think he broke his leg. I had to run all the way back here.”
“Could be internal bleeding. We need to get to him, stat. Palmer! You can get hysterical later, but you must take us to him now!”
“I’ll get Tim,” Sondra blurted, and ran out the door.
“Good idea,” Johnny said, “Tim can get you there faster.”
Rita finished packing her go-bag as Tim ran in. “Sondra told me what happened,” he said. “I’ll put Rita on the back of the tandem. Palmer, you ride my single. Trailers are already hooked up. Get us there.”
Two mangled bicycles, lying partway in the right lane, marked the spot. Trucks in the right lane eased over to avoid the wreckage. Stefan lay on the other side of the guard rail, feet resting on a pile of gear.
“Did you put him like that, Palmer?” Rita asked; Palmer nodded. “Good, that should help with any shock.” She stepped over the guard rail, legs a little wobbly from the fast pace Tim and Palmer set, and knelt next to Stefan. “How you feeling, Stef?”
“My leg hurts like hell,” Stefan said. “Other than that, okay. The damned trucks keep asking me if I want a ride. As if.”
“That’s good… if you weren’t hurting, I’d be worried.” She pulled the blood pressure cuff and stethoscope out of her bag. “Gonna check your vitals.”
“Still gotta pulse, doc.” Stefan laughed.
“Hm,” Rita said. “BP looks normal, which might be a little high for you athletic types. Pulse is a little high, but strong. I’m guessing you don’t have any serious internal bleeding going on, but we’ll have to get you back to Laurel to be sure. So… do you remember what happened?”
“Yeah. We were riding along, minding our own beeswax, and we got to racing each other. I was a little ahead, riding next to the guardrail, and Palmer and I must have bumped. I don’t remember exactly what happened after that, until Palmer was trying to get me comfy. He was freaking out, and I told him to go get you. I really need to pee.”
“Hm. Better check your leg, then.” She pulled out a pair of scissors. “Hope you don’t have any sentimental attachment to these pants.”
“Nope. Just what’s in ’em.”
“I’ll give you a coupon for a free pair from Town and Trail,” Tim grinned.
“Pair of pants, I guess — you can’t replace the pair I care about!”
“Boys will be boys.” Rita rolled her eyes and cut the lycra pant leg. Stefan grimaced.
“Hey,” Tim asked Palmer, “what happened to the bikes?” He looked over the mangled remains on the fog line. “Looks like a truck ran ’em over.”
“Well, Stef’s bike bounced into the freeway when he went over the guardrail. I guess a truck hit it —”
“If Stef wasn’t touching it, why did it get smashed? Remember Cody’s crowbar trick? If you weren’t touching the bike, it should’ve gone right through without…” Tim flapped his hand.
“If your ankle isn’t broken, we might be able to put you back together,” Rita reassured Stefan. “Your leg’s broken for sure, though. Looks like you’ll be riding a wheelchair for the winter. We’ll find you one.”
“I don’t know,” Palmer told Tim, “and right now, I don’t care. I just want Stef better and riding again.”
“Guys,” Rita called, “I need your help. We need to get Stef’s leg splinted, then get him onto the trailer so we can get him home. I don’t dare give him any painkillers until I’m sure there’s no internal bleeding, so this isn’t going to be fun for any of us. Especially Stefan.”
“Too bad we didn’t think about bringing Cleve,” Tim said. “Wasn’t he medevac in the Army?”
“We’ll make do.” Rita rolled up a cloth. “Stef, I’m not gonna try to bullshit you: this is gonna hurt. A lot. Bite down on this, so you don't lose a piece of your tongue.
“Palmer, you take his arms. Hold his hands, whatever. Tim, we’re gonna lift his leg and put this wrap underneath, then you’re going to pull to get the bones more or less realigned while I wrap it up. I’m gonna sit on his other leg so he doesn’t kick someone.” She straddled Stefan’s good leg and laid the wrap on the other side. “Okay, Tim, don’t pull yet, just lift a couple inches when I say to… ready? Easy up.” Stefan gasped as Tim lifted; Rita slipped her hands underneath, lifting with one and pulling the wrap into place with the other. “Okay, down easy. You okay, Stefan?”
“I guess that was the easy part,” Stefan said around the gag.
“Right.” She touched his ankle and worked her way up. “Good news, I don’t think your ankle’s broken. There’s a lot of swelling all up and down the leg, but it’s broke here.” She touched the center of the swollen area. “I’m betting it’s a clean break, which is really good. It’ll heal without surgery. Now comes the hard part: Tim’s going to pull and I’m going to try to set the break so the bones are together, then I’ll wrap it. With any luck, it’ll stay put until we can get home and I can put a cast on it. You’ll need to not pull back — relax those muscles as much as you can. Deep breaths, all of you… okay Tim, easy.”
Tim pulled; Stefan clamped down on the gag and screeched as Rita worked. At last, “Got it! Okay Tim, ease off and I’ll wrap him up.” She wrapped the leg and secured the splint with a pair of Velcro straps. “How you doing, Stef?”
Stefan was pale. “I’ve had better days. Are we done yet?”
“Well, we have to get you onto the trailer, then off it back at the clubhouse… Palmer? You alright?”
Palmer shook his head in a big figure-eight. “A little woozy. I’ll get over it.”
“Quick, I hope. I need you and Tim to roll Stef onto the backboard, then hoist him over the rail and onto the trailer. You think you can do that? Dropping your boyfriend would be a Very Bad Thing right now.”
“Yeah. I’ll get the board.” Palmer stood, a little wobbly, then stepped over the rail and retrieved the backboard from Tim’s trailer.
Rita looked at Tim. “What about you?”
“I think I’m okay… I’ve seen injuries like this on rides before. Had a lady tangle with another rider once, she went down and broke her wrist. Fortunately, the ambulance could come right up to her back then. We’re kind of on our own now.”
“Yeah.” She turned to Stefan. “You think you could take a little water and not throw it up?”
“Yeah, that would be good.” She handed him a bottle. “I know — sip it. I still have to pee, though.”
“Uh-huh. Maybe you can hold it until we get you home.”
“Where do you want this?” said Palmer, holding the backboard.
“Over here,” Rita stood. “Tim and I are going to roll him on his side, you tuck the backboard underneath, then we’ll put him on the trailer and strap him down.”
With the leg splinted and wrapped, rolling Stefan onto the backboard was easier than expected. Tim and Palmer loaded Stefan on the trailer and strapped him down as best as they could. The backboard, and Stefan’s legs, hung over the end of the trailer. Palmer drained his water bottle, and they started back to Laurel.