English version below!
The injury as a result of my crash at the North West 200 turned, after the initial positive ‘it’s not broken’, out to be a lot worse than just a big bruise. And some might say I’d have been better off breaking my leg after all. A broken bone, even a femur, is namely fairly easy to repair: through operation it’s fixed with titanium plates and/or pins, next you head to physio Brian Simpson in Ipswich (UK) for a treatment to speed up bone healing, and within a week or two you can resume movement and start building up strength. Even if it does take a bit longer, the recovery trajectory is simple and clear. The past month and a half there were many moments I wished I’d have ‘just’ broken my femur. But no, my body had to be special again; like the time I developed a blood clot for no reason at all after a routine collarbone repair surgery.
What happened to me is called a ‘Morel-Lavallee-lesion’, and it’s something so rare it took me a good hour of googling on the drive home from the North West to figure out what the weird waterbed like growth on my leg was called. Outside of a few case studies, all including extremely nasty images, there is no information on recovery to find. Great, that’s just my luck. The lesion comes in to being when a high-speed impact rips the top layer of skin and fat, along with nerves and blood vessels, off the underlying muscle fascia. This new cavity then fills slowly fills with more and more fluid, which needs to be removed manually and as soon as possible. When this doesn’t happen, in time the skin above the lesion will turn black and die off. I hope that at this point you can imagine the nasty images from the case studies. Considering this information, I went to see my GP (hometown doctor) as soon as I arrived home in The Netherlands. He was unable to look past the enormously swollen and bruised leg, but did agree to refer me to the hospital. After hours of waiting in the ER, where I felt like some kind of circus act as everyone came to check out ‘the girl with the gigantic hematoma’ – three surgeons stopped by. Unfortunately they also only saw the bruising and general swelling, not the loose fluid, and refused to do further tests until signs of infection would show. Their advice? “You need to rest. It’ll go away on its own, but might take months.”
Mentally this was of course very challenging, I knew 100% certain I had an injury that if left untreated would have incredibly bad repercussions, but no doctor would take me serious. Through Barry Veneman I was able to work with a physio at Papendal (high level sports facilities), and luckily after only a week of following his advice, the bruising and general swelling had almost completely disappeared. The pain became a lot more bearable also. For the first 2.5 weeks I didn’t dare get out of bed in the morning without taking a painkiller first (the first time I tried that, three days post-crash, I nearly fainted from the pain halfway through brushing my teeth). Time to go see my GP again. Now he did notice the waterbed on my leg, he immediately cut the lesion open and placed a drain with a vacuum/suction reservoir. Pretty cool, really. He also gave me a compression bandage and the instruction to sit still as much as possible. The latter is near impossible for me, but I’d do it all for the cause. After a week the drain was removed; the lesion still produced about 30ml per day, but the risk of infection was too high to leave it in much longer. That Monday afternoon my leg got a baptism of fire, I was able to test a Ducati 959 Panigale at Assen (see page 22 in magazine). Perfect to see how it would go at Terlicko that weekend! Riding itself really wasn’t too bad, but a couple of hours later the misery started. The general swelling returned, and I got a sort of lightning bolt type shooting nerve pain. The next morning my leg felt as if it’d been run over by a car. When the pain and stiffness were even worse on Wednesday, I decided (after talking things through with my doctor and the most experienced crew chief I know) while crying in bed to prioritise recovery over racing at Terlicko. Few things are more heart wrenching than deciding to skip a race.
Right now we are another three weeks down the line. I still wear a compression bandage round my entire upper leg for 12-24 hours a day. Every few days my GP takes a big needle and syringe to suck the new fluid out of the lesion. About a week and a half ago I received the OK to resume training, after near two months of sitting still completely. Quick movements and jumping is kind of still out of the question. Complete recovery could take a year or even longer, and what I should or shouldn’t do to positively influence it remains unclear. If one more person mentions arnica gel or sports tape or makes the remark ‘aw it could be worse, you could’ve broken your leg’, I think I’ll lose my mind. Still I am currently on my way to Imatra in Finland, because missing a second IRRC race is something I don’t accept.