Total Distance: 1528km
It has been about 10 weeks since my crash on the edge of the Strzelecki Desert, 90km northwest of Tibooburra, NSW and I thought it time for an update on the story that has played out since then – through the surgery, my recovery and two 2-week lockdowns (just to further complicate matters).
The moment I arrived back in Melbourne, my good friends rallied around, which really helped me to wait out the eight uncomfortable days between accident and surgery. As I was being prepared to go into the operating theatre, the anaesthetist seemed bemused as to why I was so upbeat – it was not what he usually encountered. I was actually feeling very positive – the surgery would be the true start of my road to recovery. I am so grateful to Mr Gerard Powell, the surgeon, for coordinating the whole process, so I could receive the best expertise and care all the way through. I need my right shoulder to be strong and fully functional for everything I do – not just for cycling, but as a real tennis professional – and I trusted him, not only because of his vast experience, but because he knows and understands what I do.
The operation went according to plan and after an overnight stay in hospital, my friend Lizzie dropped me home. I have been pretty diligent at capturing each significant stage of this unforeseen adventure with my action camera – even some of the operation has been filmed! But there wasn’t much action for a while. On Day 3 post-surgery I felt well enough to try some gentle pedalling on my indoor trainer, right arm not moving, of course, in the sling. Thirty minutes of very easy pedalling to get the blood flowing was as good for my mind as it was for my body.
The first Covid-19 lockdown meant that my post-op consultation with the surgeon was via tele-health. I was able to remove the dressing and the sling, and the instruction from there was to go as I feel. For example, I could start to put both hands on the handlebars for indoor cycling and driving my car as I felt ready. It wasn’t all plain sailing though. While the bone seemed to be healing, there are many large muscles attached to the collarbone (such as the pectoral, sternocleidomastoid and deltoid muscle groups), and the insertions of these muscles, that were disturbed to access the bone during surgery, were super sensitive and have been the main limiting factor in my movement.
At the beginning of Week 5 post-surgery, I was struggling to imagine myself facing the Strzelecki Desert in a few weeks but I felt ready to start driving and could access the expertise of my long-trusted myotherapist and physiotherapist to get the movement and strength back. And what a difference that made! Thanks to Rob Granter and Craig Phillips (DMA Clinical Pilates), within a week I had a much bigger range of movement and was able to try riding outside for the first time, carefully managing the amount of pressure I put through the shoulder. The reactions were minimal and so I gradually increased the workload, easing off if it was too much.
After exactly 7 weeks post-surgery, I had the final consultation with the surgeon (in person) and was given the all-clear. I was up to cycling 30km+ and on gravel paths and gradually increased the Clinical Pilates workload.
It will probably still be another two months before it is ready for play on the real tennis court again, so it should all work well with finishing the expedition before returning to my job. Should! Now it is the latest Covid-19 outbreak that is complicating everything – not just for me, but for Mikey, the filmmaker for the next section (who managed to escape to VIC from NSW just before the border closed, quarantining for 2 weeks) and my support team (who had to return from travelling around South Australia and are now waiting).
So, we hope that the South Australian and Queensland borders will open to Victoria very soon, which will be our trigger to go. Fortunately, I happened to crash just on the Queensland side of the NSW/QLD border so I can access the spot where I stopped and continue without breaking the line of my journey, even while the NSW border is closed.
In the meantime, here are three videos to remind you of the journey so far, up until Tibooburra, thanks to Gavin and Morgan, who are toughing it out in NSW at the moment. I hope you enjoy these!