You always say, "This won't happen to me," until it happens. I would like to tell my story to point out a health risk during cycling which has nothing to do with falls. This can meet everyone, young or old alike.
Since January 30, 2018, I am now officially allowed to call myself a motorcyclist. When I got my Honda CRF1000D Africa Twin at the dealership that day, I was so happy. I was really excited with the lady to discover the world, and in my youthful motivation, I already planned the first trips. In Switzerland, as a learning driver, you are free to move around on your own without a license for up to a year. I planned a trip through Switzerland in March 2018 in my three weeks holiday to prepare myself for the motorcycle test. Said and done. After a few modifications and additions to the new machine, it started on March 13th. All 2500 kilometers across our beautiful country, I went on a journey of discovery. Through several climate zones in one day, over mountains and through valleys. Of course, most passes were still closed, but I didn't care. I wanted to discover the country and drove full of euphoria and driven by my thirst for adventure several hundred kilometers a day.
On the 30th of March, I returned exhausted entirely but overjoyed in my hometown St. Gallen. Of course everything hurt, but in the beginning it was a pleasant pain. It was the feeling to have managed something. To have made the route and to have seen more of our country like many others. Only this one pain in the calf muscle. It was torturing me...
I am a paramedic in Switzerland, and after I had this pain in the calf muscle for a whole week, I started to worry. Initially, I did away with this pain as a muscle pulling or sore muscles, but somehow I couldn't imagine that I got such a massive sore muscle by riding a motorcycle. After a week, the pain was suddenly gone. I was somehow happy but also surprised. Also, I quickly forgot the problem with the calf muscle again because I now had a pain in the chest. It was like muscle soreness in the rib muscles. But the day before I did some sports and I put that back on sore muscles. On the 7th of April, the pain became more intense, and I had trouble to breathe. With hot baths, massage and lots of sleep, I tried to do something good and relax my body. On April 8, then even more pain. I had reached the point where I went to work with painkillers. On April 9, then partly unbearable pain. Something had to happen. I got rid of the work earlier and went to a chiropractor because I was really convinced that I had something pinched me and that felt the same way. He was manipulating something here, and something there but the pain did not improve (except in the shoulder, which has gone).
On the contrary, the pain in the chest was getting worse. So I called my two best friends and asked them to pick me up. I had to go to the hospital. In the meantime, I no longer thought about a jammed vortex, but it was almost clear to me that there was something else behind it. In the hospital, then the first hint: fever. The doctor was somehow not so sure, and after a false positive urine sample, he put the suspected diagnosis of Inflammation in the kidneys (pyelonephritis). This diagnosis should turn out to be a misdiagnosis later. So he sent me home with antibiotics and painkillers. Since I was really in pain, I did not want to spend the night alone, so I asked my best friend if I can stay with her. This should save my life.
The night of the 9th to the 10th of April, I can only remember fragmentary. I lay down and woke up from the pain less than 30 minutes later. The pain was worse than ever. I was utterly unable to act. Huddled on the floor, I tried desperately to breathe a bit more through my cramping chest. I got dizzy. In the meantime, she had already dialed the emergency call, and an ambulance (my work colleagues) came in with loud sirens. The last thing I heard was "maybe it's kidney colic." Then the fentanyl (the somewhat strong morphine) arrived in the head, and everything went black.
I woke up in the next hospital, and the sweet doctor lady first told me that we are going to do some research to find out what's wrong. That sounded good, I thought. At least I was mostly painless. So ultrasound from the kidney, nothing to see. X-ray from the chest, nothing to .... hold on ... there is something wrong. Somehow this does not look normal, said the sweet doctor lady. Unfortunately, I didn't see much on this x-ray picture, but I was only a paramedic. She said we are taking blood now and she wants to control the D-Dimers. What that meant I knew. The D-dimers are a substance that develops during a thrombosis. It dawned on me the first time what could happen. A pulmonary embolism? No, I thought something like that did not occur to me. I'm just 25 years old. And suddenly the calf pain came to my mind again, and I felt queasy. After half an hour then the certainty: "You have a pulmonary embolism." said the doctor and rammed me in the sentence a syringe with blood thinner in a skin fold on the stomach. There I had my diagnosis: Bilateral pulmonary embolism with pleural effusion on the right.
After three months of blood thinners and significant losses in my physical fitness, I'm fine again. Nevertheless, I will remain a risk patient for the rest of my life and have to retake blood thinners on long tours or other risks situations such as long-haul flights or bed-rest. Therefore, now my appeal to all who read this report:
This diagnosis has pretty much thrown me off track, and I am telling this story here to sensitize you to this topic. If I had been alone this night on the 10th of April, then maybe I would not be alive anymore.
Even if you enjoy sitting on the bike and possibly traveling by your bike, then you want to make kilometers right at the beginning to get away fast. But I can only recommend you always take enough breaks. Since then, I have never driven for more than 60-80 minutes at one time, moving in the breaks. Walk back and forth and drink enough. Because riding a bike is much more angled than in a car, long-distance driving is an unusually high risk. So I was able to enjoy the last 38'000 kilometers in nine months without any further damage and enjoy the best of health again.
I hope you keep that in mind for your next long haul and stay healthy.
Always good and safe ride
The left in the greeting!
Fabian from St. Gallen
PS: If you find some mistakes, you can keep them.