Living Abroad, Scotland

Just like riding a bike

A few months ago I was writing about quarantine life and how I was keeping myself busy with new recipes, puzzles and alcohol. Oh, the good old days!

I also mentioned how I was getting out for some exercise. And one of the activities I took up was cycling. It’s an excellent source of cardio, allowing you to breathe in the fresh air and take in the sites around you. That is until you land face first on concrete and smash your upper lip, lose your front teeth and break your arm.

Let me backup. As I have previously mentioned, I am not an outdoorsy girl. But when a global pandemic hits and the only time I can leave the house is to go to a germ-filled grocery store or to go out for exercise, then I don’t have much of a choice. I do love a spin class, so I thought I would elevate my athletic ability to outdoor cycling. With less cars on the road I started going on 10 to 15 mile rides, taking in the Scottish countryside. This would include me cursing the bugs flying into my face and the intense wind trying to push me backwards. I decided in order to make these jaunts more enjoyable, I would incorporate stops in friends’ gardens to have a social distancing chat and wee break. Exercise with a hint of socializing, definitely more my speed.

Then one beautiful day in mid-May I was tackling this hill (I call it my Everest) and each cycle previously I would go a little further and then have to embarrassingly hop off and walk the rest of the way. But on this day I made it to the top without stopping! I was so proud of myself, what an athlete I was becoming. I would probably tackle triathlons or free climbing next. The sky was the limit! On the way back home I stopped at my friend’s garden to congratulate myself with a socializing chat. It’s all about hard work and reward! 

I was thinking of this very thing when I found myself, a couple of hours later, face down on the road unaware of how I got there. Perhaps triathlons would not be in my future after all. Good news is I have watched enough Grey’s Anatomy to know that you shouldn’t move when you have an accident. 16 seasons, approximately 24 episodes each, I definitely got the message! So I laid still on the road as I tried to make sense of what happened. Suddenly some friendly strangers appeared and this guy asked me my name and told me to remain calm as he put a sheet under my head and a blanket over me. He said an ambulance was on its way and that he would stay with me. An ambulance! Was that necessary? 

Next thing I knew my friend was by side, followed shortly after by my husband. They were both trying to hold back the fear in their face as they saw me. That’s when I knew that beyond my athletic goals being crushed so were my modeling ambitions. I know it sounds like I was maybe hit by a car or perhaps a sheep, but in reality I have no idea how I went from my bike seat onto the road. However, I would like to point out that I am not a graceful person.

Two weeks prior to this accident I literally fell down the stairs in our own house. I landed on my bum though, which is pretty healthy, and therefore didn’t hurt myself too much. My face, on the other hand, isn’t as sturdy. And sadly, it wasn’t the first time I had landed on my face. When I was five years-old I fell into a picnic table, while on a camping trip, and burst my bottom lip open. This required stitches and therefore probably my disdain for the great outdoors. I have also had a plethora of falls while walking along cobblestone roads and have taken some stumbles down hills. This was, however, my first ambulance.

When the paramedics arrived, they gave me a thorough examination. And I started to notice that my right elbow was not quite in the same place it usually was. Intense pain began to set in. They moved me to the ambulance and tried to give me some drugs. My friend kept reminding me to breathe while I screamed at the sight of the needle. Fortunately, there were two paramedics, one that could assist me and one that could assist my husband. He was getting overheated in the small ambulance and had to take a couple breaks from the intensity of MY life altering injuries.

After this excitement, it was time to go to the A&E (same as the ER in the states). Unfortunately, neither my husband nor my friend could accompany me because of COVID-19. One of the many things I would soon find out that made having an accident even harder during a pandemic. I spent the next several hours in the A&E, which consisted of multiple doctors telling me how grateful I should be that I was wearing a helmet, otherwise this would be REALLY bad. That certainly calmed me in my hysterical state.

Then I had numerous examinations, x-rays and the joy of getting my arm into a cast. Now in order to get an elbow in a cast you have to move it to a 90-degree angle. But when you break your elbow a 90-degree angle is a big fat joke! The nurses soon discovered that I had a very low pain tolerance and that drugs were going to be necessary.

They first tried to give me gas and air, which consists of sucking on a plastic tube. Under normal circumstances this may work for some people. But when you have lost your front teeth and your lips have blown up to the size of a middle-aged woman who just got lip fillers, it’s near impossible. This experience resulted in me screaming so much that four nurses had to attend to me. Two of which I think their sole purpose was to calm me the hell down. Finally, someone realized that a dose of morphine would be the better route and popped that sucker into a cast. The rest of the night was a bit of a blur.

Given my husband wasn’t allowed with me in the hospital, he could only drop some clothes off for me at the front desk. Unfortunately, in the chaos of packing my bag, my husband somehow only supplied me with one pair of leggings and eight tight fitting, long sleeved shirts. I had just broken my arm, so you can see the problem there. He also packed my electric toothbrush?! And thank goodness he remembered my Halloween socks. I wouldn’t want to be in the hospital in mid-May without those bad boys.

Fortunately, he did pack my iPad so I could pass the time while experiencing my first stay in a hospital ward. I was in the orthopedic ward with 80-year-olds who had recently fallen and broken their hips. There were a few sweet ladies who were concerned/terrified by the blood and scars on my face. And some cranky old men who yelled profanities in the middle of the night. It was a good time.

Being a patient in a hospital for the first time, as well as being alone, was not easy. And I have to give a huge thank you to the NHS staff. I am extremely grateful for all the nurses who put up with me as a patient. From what you have probably gathered, pain and the unknown isn’t really my thing. But the nurses helped me with everything, including cleaning and braiding my hair (which still had blood stains in it and went unwashed for 72 hours) and wiping away my tears when I caught sight of my face in a mirror. I will admit I’m a vain person. And seeing my face with scars and stitches was slightly terrifying.

The staff were also wonderful as I was hyperventilating going into surgery. I kept asking everyone for the max dose of drugs possible. Sadly, neither McDreamy nor McSteamy were doing the operation. But I soon fell in love with the nice doctor who said he was going to give me something that would resemble the feeling of having several glasses of wine. And then, lights out! 

The next day my husband greeted me outside of the hospital as I was brought out in a wheelchair. Still donning my hospital gown (please refer back to the eight tight fitting, long sleeved shirts that he had packed me). I teared up as I was so grateful to see him again. We headed home unaware of the joys the next couple of months would bring, including bathing restrictions, new eating habits, pain med side effects and a lot of sleep deprivation.

Nearly two months later and I am still toothless. But, slowly getting appointments with dental surgeons and discussing the future months of pain I have to look forward to. And in the meantime, a local dentist made me some false teeth that resemble Bugs Bunny. I have also discovered how often one uses their right elbow to do everyday activities. And have become reliant on my husband cutting up my food. One of the positives of this horrible accident is that my husband (who has been really wonderful taking care of me) has had to be my hair stylist and finally understands why it takes so long to dry and style my hair! For that alone, this may all be worth it.

I know there’s the classic saying “Just like riding a bike”, but damn nothing about this has been easy. But when you fall, you have to get back up again. And by back up again I mean onto a stationary bike in a safe indoor environment. So, SoulCycle this is my plea to you to please open up a studio in St Andrews for this athletically challenged, yet still eager young woman. And it’s cool that I show up with a helmet and elbow pads, right? 

#WhyIamThankful

Through all of this I have become very grateful for living in Scotland. I was already feeling comfort during the pandemic because the government has been so cautious. And for the first time I really appreciate universal healthcare. As well as a work environment that actually makes an employees’ health and well-being a priority. These are things that still blow this American expat’s mind! 

I’m also thankful for my family and friends who have turned my house into a florist! And have sent care packages, put “get well” signs up outside of my house and made me the sweetest video. I won’t lie, I like the attention. Only child syndrome.

7 thoughts on “Just like riding a bike

  1. Love you, Ash and your wonderfully humorous “spin” (pun intended) on a sucky situation! Let’s catch up soon- xoxo

  2. I think this must be the first time in y life (now 87 years old) that I have
    actually laughed and cried at the same time.

    When your world gets back to normal I really think you should consider
    becoming a stand-up comic

    Much love, your devoted Yaya

  3. You are so wonderfully talented! I can’t wait to see what the world holds for you bc this comeback is going to be epic! Love you big!

  4. I totally agree on the NHS! They are absolutely amazing and deserve so much more praise than they get in the US. (Though can’t believe they didn’t bring out a McDreamy for you!! 🙄)

  5. We are childhood friends of your Mom. ( Debbie and Liz McCarron) my sister and I are together right now and I am reading this out loud to her. Debbie made all the appropriate sounds ( ohh, aww , omg while I read). I have always said you have to find the humor in every situation and you have! Although I’m sure not when these events were occurring. We wish you continued healing and keep a smile on your lips!

  6. This was very entertaining especially the part about the clothes your husband brought you! LOL! I hope you are doing well, Ashley told me about this when it first happened. So glad you can see the humor in it all now. Wishing you a speedy recovery with it all! Love to you and yours! <3

  7. Is it bad that I really want to see a picture?! I love you friend. I love your spirit. I can’t imagine what you’ve been through. But your positive outlook and sense of humor is inspiring… truly. I miss you!

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