I stopped at the junction of what was a very narrow side street. It had a white line painted down the middle and the usual two dotted lines to signify Give Way, but in reality there was barely enough space for two cars. I was turning right onto a fairly busy dual carriageway, but it was a junction I knew well and I'd been driving for years already, so I was fairly relaxed and probably chatting away with my friend who was in the passenger seat.
That said, as far as I'm concerned, I did everything right. Every decision I made I would make again if the situation was repeated today, even though that particular day ended so badly.
As the big white box van approached from the right, in the left-hand lane, indicating left, it was obvious that it couldn't fit into the street unless I pulled out a bit. So I edged out into his lane as he turned left into the space I was leaving. I was careful to only pull out into his left-hand lane and then stop to see if there was anything coming once he had made the turn. As the back of his van disappeared though, it happened.
Time stood still for a moment and then it sped up to double or triple speed. I remember seeing the car coming at me very fast and it was almost on top of me. It was going much faster than the 40mph limit I'm sure. It was silver, maybe a Ford Focus or something similar. Did such a car exist in 1995? The driver was obviously driving staight at the van in the assumption that it would turn in time and if it didn't maybe he would have swerved around it knowing that the fast lane was empty. But by the time the van disappeared and he saw me there in my little green Ford Escort, there would have been no time to swerve.
He hit me. Hard. Judging by how my legs finished up, squashed against the gear stick, maybe I had jumped to the left, I think I remember my brain delivering that instruction just before I blacked out. When I came round again a second or two later, the car had spun around and moved down the road a fair bit. It was crumpled to half its original width in the middle with me and my good friend in it.
My door was pressed up against my squashed legs, having completely filled the area where my legs would usually occupy beneath the steering wheel. I remember comparing notes with my friend beside me. He was fine. I wasn't. I felt calm though. I remember moving my upper body around a little and being intensely relieved that I was only hurt from the waist down. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that my right leg was broken, but I didn't care. I was just relieved that my head and back and vital organs had been spared, knowing that my leg could be mended. It's strange to think now that I was capable of such rationale thought at a time like that. Maybe I'd think differently now that I'm a runner though! Maybe I'd be thinking now 'will I still be able to run'....
This was 18 years ago and I was no doubt in shock at the time, so my memory is a bit sketchy. I remember at some point my friend Eamonn got out and was probably talking to the driver of the other car and I remember a woman who must have been a passer by. I remember the fire service cutting me out of the car, but I don't know how long it took. It could have taken 10 mins or it could have been an hour. I do remember being on the stretcher and about to be loaded into the ambulance. I was told that they would have to staighten my leg, which was still bent at 45 degrees as if still driving. I said OK and they gave me oxygen and the paramedic straightened it out. I can't remember the pain, but I can remember that it was painful, if that makes sense. I know that I went through a lot of oxygen in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. I think I was as high as a kite by the time we got there. I remember the paramedic saying I'd had the whole bottle!
When you get to hospital after a crash like that it's assumed that you might have head or spinal injuries and so I was in some kind of brace and wasn't allowed to move until they were satisfied that the injuries were indeed confined to by lower body. They cut my clothes off. I was gutted. I really liked that pair of green cords and the green shirt I was wearing.
As suspected, I'd suffered a broken Femur, the bone that runs from your knee to your hip, and sustained a fractured hip. I remember having traction the next day to re-align the Femur. That was incredibly painful. I guess I then went into surgery not long after in which they inserted a titanium metal rod down the centre of my Femur and pinned it at both ends - just above the knee and below the pelvis. I can recall the x-ray which showed the metal rod and the two pins at each end with what looked like nuts and bolts on them.
Now this is all fairly significant stuff in terms of my health history and so when I was lying on the physio's table on Tuesday this week, 3 weeks after my last visit, telling Nick that the pain in my quad had got worse rather than better, he was wondering why I was only telling him about my car accident now!
The thing is, it only took a few months to recover from my accident and my leg has been fine ever since (or so I thought) and this happened 18 years ago at a time of my life that was, well, lets just say, very eventful. I don't think about it anymore, except when I set off metal detectors at airports, and believe it or not it's never even crossed by mind that it might have an effect on my running!
Now of course, having discussed with Nick on Tuesday, it all makes sense. Could it be that the pain in my quad, which is just above the knee and to the left, is a result of some movement of the pins in my leg? Lets face it, running as much as I have over the last couple of years, it's not inconceiveable that even after all this time, they are starting to work loose. If so, could they, or it, now be pressing on my muscle from the inside? Maybe.
Now I come to think about it, I've had my fair share of injury niggles over the last couple of years and I've come to realise that I must have a weakness on my right because the injuries are always on my right side - my ankle, my calf, my groin, my hip flexor - I'm sure they've all been on my right. Also, when I try and do glute and piriformis streching on my right, I find that my right hip is much stiffer than my left. Well I guess it's pretty obvious why I might have a weakness on my right now ha?! Do you know, I don't even remember having any physio whilst recovering from my accident....
So this is all great in theory, but it could be a wild goose chase. I'm going for an x-ray on Monday, so I guess I'll find out if everything is still in order with regards to the pins in my leg. I had treatment on my leg whilst we were discussing all this on Tuesday and Nick found some knots or such like which he massaged out and my leg has felt much better since then, so it might have just been that. I can still feel something, but not the pain and discomfort I was feeling before.
I've started running again this week after a 4 week rest. I started with 2 miles on Tuesday night, 3 on Weds, 4 on Thurs, then 5 this morning. The tendinitis in my foot seems to have cleared up (so far so good anyway). I've now got 4 more weeks until I run the first 25 miles of the Lakeland 100 course on the first of the recce weekends, so I'll continue to build the miles and start introducing hills from next week.
In the meantime, I'm doing strengthing and conditioning in the gym 4 lunchtimes a week, which is more important than ever now, and I'm focussing a lot on building flexibility and strength in my piriformis and my hips as well as all the usual single leg squats and core work. I'm also doing Pilates every Wednesday lunchtime and loving it!
As for the metal in my leg, I'm not going to worry about it. Hopefully an x-ray and a visit to the doctor will rule out any issues, but if there is something that needs to be done, then it needs to be done. Hopefully it will be a straightforward procedure, which I can time so it doesn't impact on my LL100 training too much. You can't have too many impressive scars anyway, right?