We have a family joke that I assign letter grades for the rides that we do on bicycles. For example, an A+ day was the day we rode in the San Juan Islands next to the ocean. Gorgeous day, mid 70′s, no wind, lots of beautiful scenery; we took a detour that led us right through a blueberry patch which we liberally enjoyed. I think everybody would agree that was an A+ day. On the other hand, the day we rode up in Amish country, in Shipshewana, it was about 40 degrees, spitting rain, 20 mile an hour head wind, absolutely miserable, borderline hypothermia. My grade for that day would be a C. The kids of course bellowed and whined that there was no way; it was much worse than a C. They asked what would it take to be an F, and I replied that F would stand for fatality. So the worst you can get on a bike ride is an F. Well, today was a D- ride. It started out as an A+. Everything was beautiful – riding along the Moselle River which was just like glass, beautiful vineyards that climbed the hillsides, flower boxes, the stereotypical Tudor style German houses. The day was absolutely picturesque! Cycling was easy. Everybody was happy. We took a lot of pictures. Spirits were high – until about 11:30, maybe quarter till 12. I was riding at the back-end, as I usually do, keeping an eye on the family unit and making sure the kids adhere to cycling etiquette. Ella and Sarah were riding about 200 yards ahead of me. I see Ella’s bike convulse and swerve, and watch her, much to my horror, fall as the bike went down. Benjamin commented on how quickly we accelerated; the adrenalin kicked in. We blasted from about 12 to 25 miles an hour in probably 3 seconds. I sprinted up to see what was going on. We came upon the scene and she was crying and conscious, thankfully, but in a lot of pain. I asked what happened but didn’t get a good answer. Apparently she swerved while trying to quickly get the hand brakes and wiped out. She landed basically face first. Thankfully she had a helmet on. The helmet probably saved her head, or at least her face, as her face had just a few scratches. It would have been much worse had she not had a helmet on. Andrea was ahead so she whipped around and came back to the scene about the same time I got there. She was complaining immediately about her arm, specifically her elbow. We knew it was probably serious. We stopped a German couple cycling toward us and they called the German equivalent of 911. Approximately 10 minutes later the ambulance arrived. The sight of that ambulance was a tremendous relief. The lead paramedic, Richard, was a very nice guy. He tried to keep things as light as possible. He told us he would check her out in the ambulance before he took her away to the hospital. They assessed that she probably had a break or two. So it was back to Koblenz, the town that we stayed in last night, for x-rays and so forth. Well, we had a logistical issue ahead of us because of the 5 bikes. Andrea, obviously, wouldn’t leave Ella alone and wanted to ride in the ambulance with her. So we had two bikes and the gear on the bikes. In all, there were eight panniers, 2 bicycles, Ella, Andrea, Richard, and two assistant paramedics to squeeze into the ambulance. Fortunately Richard agreed to it, even though he is not technically allowed to. He twisted the rules a bit, and jammed everything into the ambulance. That was a time I was thankful that the bikes were small. Richard gave us good directions on how to get back to the hospital. So the rest of us, Benjamin, Anna, Sarah and I, booked it back. This was perhaps our first miracle – that we made it back without a hiccup, in probably less than 20 minutes. We cranked as fast as we could. Thankfully, the hospital was rather close to the bike path. Any hospital you go to is usually sprawling. While this one was on the small side, it had a lot of choices of entrances to choose from. I happened to pick the right one. I’m sure it was the grace of God that took me to the right place. I walked in and met Andrea immediately, which was fantastic. We hugged each other in tears; our emotions were very intense.
We were led back to the room where Ella was. Fortunately there were some assistants and people who could speak English. They got Ella as comfortable as possible, and took her to x-ray. It was discovered that she had broken her right arm, close to the elbow, and left wrist. The elbow break was such that it would require surgery, wires and so forth. So we had a decision to make. We had to either have the surgery done that day in Koblenz or we could have her transported back to Frankfurt and have surgery there. The transportation would delay the surgery, and it would be more pain for Ella, but there is a youth hostel where we could stay. Our dilemma with Koblenz is the fact that there is no place to stay here. Koblenz is the host city for the federal flower show (BUGA). It is going to be all summer long, and every available place to stay is booked. It was a big, administrative hiccup. It might be the equivalent of planning something like the Super bowl in Xenia, Ohio. It’s a huge event with not nearly enough capacity for people. So there is absolutely no place to house us. We were waffling on what to do, wanting to stay in Koblenz for Ella’s sake, when the anesthesiologist, Dr. Barbara Jarmusch, came in to talk to us about Ella’s surgery. She is an amazing lady! She explained in very good detail what the procedure would be/what to expect. We told her about our dilemma, and she said, “Well, I live close – just over the other side of the Moselle – and I have a rather small garden (a yard is what we would call it). You are welcome to pitch your tent there.” God’s grace once again. Dr Jarmusch doesn’t know us from a load of coal, but has graciously offered her yard to us. So that is what we will do. We’ll have Ella’s surgery here in Koblenz and camp out in the good doctor’s yard. Fortunately the hospital will let Andrea stay with Ella and they wheeled a bed in for her to sleep in.
We waited as long as we could hoping to see Ella before she went into surgery, but by 7 o’clock we had to get to the Jarmusch house. Barbara’s husband, Michael, was going away for the evening, and we needed to get there before he left. With a very difficult good-bye, I had to leave Andrea and our wounded puppy to take care of the other kids. We pedaled off to the other side of the Moselle River to the Jarmusch house. It was a very hard thing to do and we had no means of communication – no cell phone, no room phone. We arrived at their house and met Michael who is a very nice guy. His English is excellent. We pitched our tent, and slipped into our sleeping bags for a very fitful night’s rest. So that is the end of a very difficult D- bicycling day.