My mate Matt worked at Bloomberg. Mostly, he was writing about fancy financial stuff, but occasionally about motorbikes. “Could you come out next week and do a story with me?” he phoned one weekend. “We’ve organized a new Ducati and a BMW 1300, and if you can bring your Speed Triple we can do a comparison test. Whadya say?” I said yes.
The day arrived: a shower or two was forecast, but mostly good weather. I’d talked my mate Tim into coming along too. We spent most of the day riding round sedately for the camera, but every now and again giving the bikes a bit of go — they weren’t registered in our names after all . . .
At the end of the day, we rode back sated towards the city, and peeled off on a 270degree left hander to the BKE highway. I was back on my own bike, feeling comfy and just cruising. See if you can predict what was coming next.
Those forecast showers had wet the road; almost everywhere the sun had dried it, but on this corner, trees shaded the tarmac. The front wheel started to slide on the damp. Not wanting to brake, I kept the throttle open and the whole bike drifted slightly but controllably to the right. So far so good. But then the turn tightened, the dirty rubber/gravel/oil and rubbish on the outside of the turn foiled any attempts to keep turning — and I still daren’t touch the brakes. I ran wider and closer to the Armco until, noisily, I slid into it.
I was probably doing about 70kph, grinding down the side of the Armco with sparks flying and very unhappy graunching noises coming from bike’s plastic fairings. But still, so far so good: I was upright and in with a chance of righting things.
Unfortunately for me, this bit of Armco had a few extra posts fitted to keep it super-firm and stop vehicles popping across onto the opposite carriageway. My right boot hit one of the posts, snapping my ankle immediately — but more seriously, flipping me violently backwards off the bike onto the tarmac. I landed flat on my back and head, arms outstretched at about 60kph. The bike carried on along the Armco, unmanned but still upright. Then it slowed enough to wobble across the road and smash into the gutter. I watched aghast from my prone position on the tarmac as shattered bits and pieces of my pride and joy flew into the air.
I immediately jumped up and began to run down the road, but unsurprisingly my right foot kept flopping about and wouldn’t point in the correct direction, so I slumped down against the Armco instead. I undid my helmet, and took it off, although my right wrist felt a bit funny too; I guessed I had stupidly put my hand out as I hit the road.
By this time, Matt and Tim had realised I’d crashed and called the medics. Within a few minutes, a motorcycle first-responder paramedic in a hi-vis jacket found me, checked I was alive, and advised the ambulance where to collect me. He reassured me I was going to be fine.
Once on the scene, the ambulance guys gave me a checkover, and complimented me on wearing a good helmet; a cheap one would have seen the impact turn my brain to jelly, they said. I sighed with relief until they said I had definitely broken my right ankle, and it looked like my right wrist was cactus too. A very bad fracture, they said. That would explain the wobbly hand then. But it didn’t explain how I’d managed to prise my helmet off with both hands — maybe adrenaline had something to do with it . . .
I arrived (disappointingly without flashing lights or sirens) at National University Hospital, Singapore’s leading research and teaching hospital. The A&E doctor laid me on the trolley, felt my ankle, felt my wrist and peered into my eye with a little light. The little light agreed with the ambulance men — I’d had a good helmet. The ankle was definitely poorly but fixable. But the wrist gave him a bit more of a challenge.
When you break all the bones in a limb clean through, the muscles tense up to pull the broken ends together. But if the breaks aren’t in line, the muscles pull the bones past each other and you end up with a short, locked and spasmed limb. The only thing to do is pull against the muscles and get the two splintered ends to sit against each other as soon as possible.
This is accomplished by the doctor putting his foot in your armpit, and hauling on your hand. Meanwhile, two burly nurses pin your body to the trolley so you can’t move, and another nurse holds your head to one side so you can’t see the abominable things they are doing to your wrist.
You can, however, feel the ends of the broken bones grating against each other. It’s an interesting experience; luckily they had given me intravenous drugs of powerful effect; novocaine I think. It still hurt like hell, but I just didn’t care.
Strapped up like a Frankenstein, I lay in bed overnight while the experts pored over my X-Rays. It was a mess, they agreed. Next day, I was wheeled into the operating theatre, and lay there insensible for five hours while a team of two specialist surgeons and one Professor of Surgery cut me open and wiggled several bits of titanium and a whole pack of chipboard screws into the newly opened gaps in my wrist and ankle. See the photos.
When I came round, they told me I was lucky because they had just perfected a new technique that should enable me to regain almost complete usage of my wrist. It turned out that it had been shattered into so many fragments it took two plates and 12 screws to pin it all back together. My ankle had a piffling one plate and six screws. They all hurt. Various friends visited and gave me chocs and grapes and advice about motorcycling being a bad idea, nurses came by and plied me with heavy-grade opioids that did nothing at all, and the porters gave me a set of crutches as I hobbled out six days later.
Six months later I was walking, riding, cycling and even laughing when I showed people my scars. I am certainly glad I crashed close to NUH; a friend in Australia who worked in a hospital there inspected my wrist and said that kind of quality would cost at least $50,000 in Oz, and I might not regain full use of the wrist.
Now, I don’t even know all those plates and screws are still in there, several years later. Full strength, full mobility, not even a tiny sign of the repair — well, a scar or two is all. And because it’s titanium, I don’t set off the alarms at airport scanners either.
Absolutely superb job, guys. I was billed $5000 including my hospital stay and meals, including follow up physio. If you are thinking of crashing your bike, can I recommend Singapore as the place to do it? I’m certainly glad I was there — thanks Lion City, I owe you.