September 22, 2022 4 min read

I'm sure many of you have seen or heard stories about cyclists who had been in horrific bike accidents, usually hit by a vehicle, and heard their remarkable tales of recovery and the uphill battles they faced in the process. Everyone has seen the early recovery pictures:  the cyclist laying in a hospital bed with their face and body bruised, scraped and swollen. Well, I had really very little of that. it you walked by me on the street, other than the temporary cast I had on my hand for a few weeks, you wouldn't know there was anything wrong with me. For part of the summer, when I had my jaw wired shut, you could tell there was something wrong but, without the typical cycling road rash, you might assume it was just some kind of jaw surgery or dental work.  Heck, my bike was fine, my legs were fine and I rode away from the accident.  


So What's The Problem?

The damage to the joint on the left side of my jaw was extensive enough that is now unstable and needs replacing.  As well, my bite has now shifted in the healing process and is dysfunctional.   The process to fix it is twofold:

  • Step 1: Orthodontic work to move the teeth in position to allow my bite to work better.
  • Step 2:  Jaw surgery on both my lower and upper jaws to fix it all, including plates and screws as well as a prosthetic replacement of the joint on the left side of my jaw.   


The Timeframe

First, I wait for an appointment with an orthodontist. That could be a few months and at that point, I'll find out if an Invisalign product will work or whether I'll have to repeat the metal braces I wore just after my accident.  It sounds like the latter are the more likely option and will get the job done quicker but I don't know enough yet to have any confidence in that guess.  Then, the braces will be with me for months, at least a year.

After the braces are off, I'm looking at a short hospital stay for some major oral surgery and another month to six weeks of having my jaw wired shut again. That also means another major break from any meaningful training or exercise but that is a few years away. Hopefully, I'll have the flexibility of scheduling the down time to winter or fall, rather than missing the entire summer again.


What About The Money

I don't have all the estimates yet but it doesn't take a lot of predictive analysis to figure out that this it's going to add up to a bunch of money.  I'll outline the estimates when I have more details but, of course, it's not just the out of pocket cost of it all that is disheartening.  A year ago, I was fully engaged in training for my 15th Ironman finish and was in pretty good physical shape, nearly peak race fitness.  I did get myself to the start and finish lines at Ironman Arizona last November and managed a 2nd place podium finish in my age group. Fast forward to this summer, after the accident, and I found myself sidelined from any kind of swim, bike or run training for most of the summer.  From June 28 right through to the end of August, I couldn't swim, bike or run. Sure, I walked a lot and that was what saved my sanity and took me onto the trails I love so much, but it wasn't the same, was it?


Right Now

For now, I can live, work and train pretty much as usual. There is still a ton of stuff I can't eat as I am limited to a soft chew diet until this is all over.  I am one of those people who love, love, love salad and fresh vegetables and all of that is now gone from my diet.  Of all the training modalities, swimming seems to be the worst. The constant jaw movement is irritating so I'm  going to experiment with using a snorkel. That should resolve most of the discomfort.  

For now, I focus on the positives:

  • - I started eating more fish and I love it. It's also really, really quick and easy to prepare.
  • - Most days, I have a really delicious smoothie for breakfast with fruit juices, fresh frozen fruits and yogurt.  I've even got my husband having them. He needed to get in more fruit.
  • -  I started a nearly daily yoga-inspired stretching routine. You can check out the "Bend" phone app and see how easy it is.  And on of our cats, Eddie, joins me most days.  He has shredded one side of my yoga mat pretty well but he purrs and is so sweet, I let him do his thing.  He clearly loves it.


Going Forward

I invite all of you to follow along this journey.  Here's a short list of the things I'll be looking at and sharing over the next few years. You can learn along with me:

1. What happens after a crash like this?  We'll explore the laws as they relate to cyclists and others that we share the roads and trails with.

2. Under what circumstances should we look at legal action and how does that all work?  Who pays? how long does it take? 

3. What are some better, safer rules we can all follow to prevent accident and injury?  Maybe, together, we can come up with some best practices we can all follow.

4.  I never went to the emergency department after my accident. Would that have been better for me?  What are the factors that would have indicated that an immediate trip to the hospital is warranted?

That's just a start. I welcome your company along this journey. It's going to be along one and, for me, a painful one. Ironically, the actual accident didn't hurt as much as I though it would. Turns out, the future wouldn't be so kind.


Elise Gaudet
Elise Gaudet

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