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Anatomy of a 70 Year Old Cyclist

or

Why Was He Born so Beautiful
(if that’s how he's going to look after it)?

or

Somebody Up There Likes Me
(but, perhaps, not everyone down here)

Geoff in Royal North Shore Hospital

I thought I had better put a few things down on how lucky I have been in life, just to show that life is not all doom and gloom. You can be lucky!

In the beginning... (August 1942)

About three months prior to birth I was happily lying in mother’s womb with my, twin brother, Raymond, eagerly waiting for our next tobacco fix; they came at least 30 times a day. It used to be 45 per day but my mother wisely decided to cut them back in the interests of my brother’s and my health.

I heard an air raid siren go off, and gave Ray a nudge. My mother was trying to get some sleep, but my grandfather was shouting "Come on down to the air raid shelter". Ada, my Mum, reluctantly struggled down the stairs, being very careful not to fall.

Just as we were ensconced in our other little house there was a tremendous crash. A piece of shrapnel the size of our gas cooker came through our roof and through our bed, with part of this object coming through the floor and into the kitchen below.

Lucky day for us, Ray and I were both safe, and gave a cough of relief. We got a double hit of smoke as my mother consumed two cigarettes at once. In times of stress I noticed this happening more and more.

One week prior to our entry into the real world, I noticed that Ray had stopped kicking me. He had, unfortunately, died. However I had survived the ordeal, and now had to do without the regular tobacco hit, relying, now, purely on passive smoking.

The first few weeks of life were good in this respect because my mother had been given extra packets of cigarettes by friends and relatives. Therefore Mum was able to spend some of her meagre savings on luxury items like food and warm clothing.

Five Years Old (1947)

Year five, I had managed to survive the first week of school, with a modicum of luck. I had only broken two arms!

At home that year, I fell down the stairs, as you do as a young boy. Unfortunately, I was walking very carefully down the stairs when I fell, damaging my head (explains a lot) and losing several teeth, resulting in lots of stitches in my mouth.

Seven Years Old (1949)

When aged seven, I ran down the road to catch the last post, Mum needed to post her football pools off in the hope that she could once again smoke 45 cigarettes per day. I noticed that I had left one letter at the bottom of the box. These letter boxes were bombproof and had a heavy cast iron door. I was reaching in to retrieve the letter just as the postman slammed the door shut.

This time I was lucky enough to only break four fingers.

Nine Years Old (1951)

When aged nine, my dear old dad was lifting my three wheel bike out of the bathroom (we could not afford a shed like all of the rich children). Dad inadvertently caught the handle of a saucepan that was boiling away. Luckily, Dad escaped injury and I was only scalded on one leg and received an ice cream after getting out of hospital.

After I got out of the Hospital, I was climbing on a shed at a rich cousin’s house, when I managed to, somehow, fall off, but I only broke one ankle.

Fifteen Years Old (1957)

I’d been very lucky, over the intervening six years, not to have had more accidents, however that was about to change. At age fifteen, I somehow managed to get my right forefinger caught between the chain and chain wheel on my fixed-wheel bicycle as I was cleaning the chain with a rag while turning the pedal. Luckily (and I have been so very lucky) they managed to save the finger.

Sixteen Years Old (1958)

At age sixteen, after riding my fixed wheel bicycle non-stop to Edinburgh (207 miles - 331 kilometres - in 17 hours without an accident), the return journey was interrupted at Kendal in the Lakes district, when I fell down the stairs.

More stitches to my right arm and leg. Luckily, I was riding a fixed wheeler and was able to ride the remaining 100 miles back home without having to worry about changing gears.

I then caught pneumonia, but, luckily, only in one lung. This was, perhaps, helped by both my parents inflicting passive smoking upon me, not to mention my sister who had started smoking at around 12 years of age.

Eighteen Years Old (1960)

When I was eighteen years old, I was riding with my friend Alan on the back of his motorcycle. We were hit by a car from the left-hand side. Luckily, the injuries to my left leg knee only necessitated crutches for twelve months. Alan, on the other hand, suffered the agony of having plates inserted into his left forearm.

Nineteen Years Old (1961)

At age nineteen things began to turn bad. Whilst working on a job, I fell twenty-six feet feet from the top of a ladder (actually, it was two ladders lashed together and the rope had snapped) and, luckily, landed on my feet, sinking in the mud up to my ankles. This time no bones were broken, however this fall may have contributed to a laminectomy at four levels and two prolapsed discs in my lower lumbar region. That operation occurred some 3 years later, prior to our departing for Australia, and resulted in 15% disablement for life.

Later that same year, whilst exceeding the speed limit somewhat on my new Norton motorcycle, a motor scooter turned right, without signalling, as I was just about to overtake him, resulting in a collision. He was put in hospital, but I was lucky enough to have a brick wall arrest my flight, cracking my helmet, and leaving me with no apparent injuries apart from a stiff neck.

Two months later, with the bike back from repair shop and fitted with side car, I was riding, with my new bride-to-be in the side car, when I was hit by a car coming from the left. The side car took off with Carol inside and rolled over several times. Luckily, she managed to get away without any injuries.

Twenty-Two Years Old (1964)

By this time, I had decided that England was out to get me, so, for the sake of my safety, I made my way, with Carol, to the sunny land of Australia, which I’d been longing to visit since seeing “Smiley” as a young boy.

In December of that year, whilst working at my first job in Australia, for AGL servicing gas appliances, I visited a little old lady who gave me tea and cakes. After nearly tripping over a door stop in the shape of a bomb, I asked her had she had it checked out. "No", she replied; her husband had brought it back from the war. As he had recently passed away, I offered to dispose of it, on my way home, at North Sydney Police Station.

After getting off the crowded red-rattler, I presented it at the police station. The policeman was rather shocked that I had carried it in my toolbox (it was rather heavy) and he gave me a lecture saying it might well be a live one.

The next evening the police called round and said that the bomb had indeed been live and was exploded that morning by the bomb squad at Holsworthy. I received another lecture about travelling across the Harbour Bridge with a live bomb in my toolbox. Lucky for me (not to mention thirty or so fellow commuters) it didn’t go off!

Twenty-Five Years Old (1967)

At four in the afternoon, just outside old Marcus Clark building, I was packing up my tools and putting them in the boot of my car, when the car behind me started up in forward gear, trapping my left leg between the bumper bars. Luckily, my long tow bar went straight through the car’s radiator and finished up on the engine block.

This resulted in substantial damage to my left calf muscle: stitches etc. eight weeks off, full pay. Always look on the bright side of life. Lucky me!

Three months later, at the same building, I was working, with another plumber on a swinging stage that one moves up and down on the outside of a building. At four in the afternoon on the previous Friday, we’d left it parked outside and level, then climbed through the window to return to our cars. On Monday morning, we hopped onto scaffold, which suddenly dropped one and a half metres, before jamming itself against an outside window and stopping. I managed to climb back up to the sixth floor, then up to the roof.

There I found that some vandal had been on the roof over the weekend and had removed 80 per cent of the ballast weights.

Twenty-Six Years Old (1968)

Whilst working on a swinging scaffold, the scaffold fell from the ninth floor, with me on board, until it became jammed at the sixth floor. On this occasion, I only suffered superficial injuries. Lucky Me!

Forty-One Years Old (1983)

1983 was a particularly lucky year apart from Christmas Day. That was the day I tried out Darren’s new skate board, just as any young forty-year-old father would. I immediately landed on my backside, breaking my coccyx bone.

Forty-Two Years Old (1984)

In June, whilst driving to hospital for continuing problems with coccyx bone, I was hit up rear by motorist. I sustained severe injuries to lower back and had to give up cycling and three-positional shooting. The chronic pain persisted for two years until I decided to stuff it and cycle anyway. I was lucky; six weeks later, the pain was gone.

Forty-Three Years Old (1985)

Not being one to repeat mistakes, I chose, this time, to fall up the stairs. I was operated on for a torn right medial meniscus. Luckily my anterior was perfect.

Forty-Eight Years Old (1988)

I fell down stairs; well it had been quite a while since the last time I fell down stairs. This resulted in me requiring the same repairs as when I fell up them, so I guess, when it comes your time to go, it doesn’t really matter which direction you choose.

Fifty-One Years Old (1993)

I stepped on a chair, which, consequently, collapsed causing me to require further surgery; this time to repair the left shoulder - rotator cuff. Seven months off work.

Fifty-Two Years Old (1994)

I was hit by a car door opening whilst riding my bicycle. Luckily, I only suffered a break to the navicular bone in my left foot and collarbone and injured my right shoulder this time - rotator cuff again. After extensive removal of left medial meniscus from my left knee and repairs to my right shoulder, I was back at work four and a half months later.

Sixty-One Years Old (2003)

I was hit up rear by motorist while waiting to turn left on my motorbike. Unbelievably lucky this time, no injuries at all.

Sixty-Three Years Old (2005)

I was hit whilst exiting a roundabout on my motorbike, by a semi-blind motorist. Again unbelievably lucky, no injuries at all.

Sixty-Four Years Old (2006)

I experienced pulmonary/heart problems, and was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, which was treated with an ablation, as well as requiring me to take beta-blockers. Another two months off work.

The scan shows Geoff’s heart and the sites of the ablations needed to correct his atrial fibrillation.

Geoff’s heart showing the ablation sites

Sixty-Five Years Old (2007)

I was again hit up rear on my motorbike, this time whilst waiting to enter a roundabout. Another half-blind motorist. No injuries. I was starting to feel really lucky by this time.

Sixty-Six Years Old (2008)

I was riding my bicycle back from Mt White with my friend, Greg, when, coming around a bend, Greg suddenly stopped for a Stop/Go man. I hit his rear wheel, lost control of the bike, and wound up on my back in the dirt and gravel. As well as the initial concussion and bleeding (subdural haematoma), I suffered a punctured lung, broken ribs, broken pelvis, broken scapula, broken collarbone, a large tear to right elbow (which the hospital allowed to become infected), and a broken little finger. Luckily no other bones broken and I was given six months off work as a reward.

The X-ray shows Geoff’s collarbone with its plate and screws.

Geoff’s collarbone showing the plate and screws

Sixty-Seven Years Old (2010)

On the Three Peaks Challenge bicycle ride, which was held in the most miserable conditions imaginable for this fair land, I managed to fall down the muddy and slippery stairs at the lunch stop, a town called Dinner Plain - echoes of 1958. On this occassion I bruised my right hip, elbow and shoulder. Luckily no bones broken, but the right hip is still a source of discomfort.

The photograph is of Geoff in Royal North Shore Hospital.

Geoff in Royal North Shore Hospital

Sixty-Eight Years Old (2011)

I was riding my bicycle back from Pie-in-the-Sky with my friend, Andrew, when Andrew drifted off the tar then attempted, unsuccessfully, to regain the tar, resulting in Andrew lying, spread-eagle, across my path. This time I broke two neck vertebrae (C1 and C5), messed up my face, cracked the base of my skull and received a subdural hematoma. Luckily, Andrew wound up with broken ribs as a result of my hitting him with the bicycle.

Needless to say, I am still riding my bicycle, and consider myself quite lucky to be alive. However, after recovering from those injuries, I found that I was left with a severe case of tinnitus, causing me to sleep very poorly, achieving only a few hours a night. This has seriously impacted on my quality of life.

Sixty-Nine Years Old (2012)

Seven of our group of cyclists, including myself, were riding along Halcrows Road when several of the riders made a charge for the crest. I became entangled with Peter and Mike, then the three of us found ourselves heading in six directions.

Peter wound up with severe lacerations and bruising while Mike had broken his collarbone in six places. I was lying unconscious, uttering a droning sound and suffering a broken left collarbone, broken left scapula, four broken ribs, a punctured lung and a head injury (another subdural hematoma).

I did not regain consciousness fully until three days later. During that time I had lucid episodes, but would, afterwards, not remember the visits that I had received. And another six months off work. Anyway, not only have all the bones now mended, but I, now, am no longer suffering from tinnitus. Yippee!! A new lease on life!

Seventy-One Years Old (2014)

Whilst working, at home, on the flat roof from the safety of a step ladder, I fell off and managed to break my sternum and four ribs, and injured both my legs. This resulted in my having another three months off work, and receiving advice from my doctor that I should not work on ladders anymore.

Since that time, I have moved to a wonderful little place in Mooloolaba in Queensland (beautiful one day, perfect the next) and have, so far, avoided any serious accidents. At least, as of 2020.

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