Falling off my bike

“It isn’t the first time I’ve fallen off my bike!”, I cheerfully exclaimed from the ground as a young woman approached to ask if I were Okay. Seemingly I was of the opinion that the frequency of my bicycle accidents somehow diluted the embarrassment of struggling to remove my right leg from the bicycle which had collapsed onto the ground, throwing me onto the sidewalk.  And all this commotion while merely stopped – in the middle of town in the middle of the morning at the most prominent intersection directly across from the Town Hall – to press the button to activate the pedestrian crosswalk. I had lost my balance. I augmented my mortification by continuing my effort to remove my right leg from within the central crossbar of the bicycle. Meanwhile the curious woman babbled on about my having to rest and other matters about which I lost the thread.  Finally I succeeded to put myself upright and to ask the woman to elevate the downed bicycle to my awaiting grasp.

The unwitting predominant feature of this otherwise typical old-fogey moment (lately made famous by 79 year old Joseph Robinette Biden Jr 46th President of the United States of America) was the noticeable chirping surrounding the incident. It was my Apple Watch. I examined it to discover “It looks like you’ve taken a hard fall”, “Are you Okay?”, “Do you need help?”.

If Apple Watch SE or Apple Watch Series 4 or later detects a hard fall while you’re wearing your watch, it taps you on the wrist, sounds an alarm, and displays an alert. You can choose to contact emergency services or dismiss the alert by pressing the Digital Crown, tapping Close in the upper-left corner, or tapping “I’m OK.”

If your Apple Watch detects that you’re moving, it waits for you to respond to the alert and won’t automatically call emergency services. If your watch detects that you’ve been immobile for about a minute, it will make the call automatically.

After the call ends, your watch sends a message to your emergency contacts with your location letting them know that your watch detected a hard fall and dialed emergency services. Your watch gets your emergency contacts from your Medical ID.

Some countries and regions have multiple emergency service numbers. For these countries, Apple Watch will call the number associated with ambulance services.

Apple Watch Fall Detection

Based on this technology I can assume that in 2018 when my heart stopped while cycling on the beach in Florida, I was not wearing an Apple Watch. My partner Denis reports it was nearing six hours before he heard from the hospital staff. Apparently I couldn’t remember my own name or telephone number but I eventually recalled his telephone number.

Late afternoon on Saturday, February 10th I arrived at Halifax Health on the cargo bed of a red beach ambulance with a black eye dressed in my sandy bicycle togs and plastic blue Crocs. My bicycle was nowhere to be seen. Halifax Health is a longstanding (1928) hospital in Daytona Beach located within sight of the world famous International Speedway.  Coincidentally the hospital has recently opened its prestigious France Tower named after the France family which founded NASCAR and owns the Interntional Speedway Corp. My arrival at the hospital was the result of a Traumatic Pneumothorax, basically the collapse of my lung caused by an injury that tore my lung and allowed air to enter the pleural space (the area between the lung and chest). Though this injury can be caused by motor vehicle accidents, gunshot or knife wounds, it is just as normal to arise from bicycle accidents. I also broke my ribs.

As dramatic as that particular fall was, I am stirred to account what to me is the more memorable incident which transpired in 1971 after I had graduated from 1st year law school and worked in the summer for the Judge Advocate General on MacLaren Street, Ottawa. I should first clarify that that incident was more memorable for the simple reason that I was awake when it happened, unlike the Florida beach incident in which I just passed out, lay on the beach for some time before someone called an ambulance.

The Ottawa incident occurred on a rainy day while I cycled along the Ottawa River Parkway which skirts the Ottawa River from Britannia in the west end (where my parents lived) to the Musée des Beaux Arts in downtown Ottawa. I would have been riding my new Garlatti racing bicycle which had been recommended to me by a gentleman friend of my sister. Speed was always an element of riding the Garlatti. It existed for no other purpose. What happened however was a collision of that ambition with a muddy collection of water on the paved bicycle path as I raced around a corner turn – and slid on my side, with the bicycle still between my legs, about twenty-five yards or more before coming to a stop. At the time, I was living with my parents.  When I returned home and walked into the kitchen directly from the garage, my mother (who was standing near the kitchen sink to my right) saw me and commented that I was all wet. It was not until I turned myself to address her that she saw my left side. My cycling pants (at the hip) were torn to shreds; my entire left side from the hip to just above the knee was a bloody mess. And my left arm and hand were about the same. We immediately went to the hospital to have the wounds cleaned and to get a Rabies shot for possible infection.  The greater imperative was, when we returned home, to cut the left leg off my woollen dress pants.  For the remainder of the summer I wore these and other “adjusted” pants to enable the air about my messed leg.

It was naturally my red badge of courage.  I persisted not to replace my damaged bicycling shorts which I wore as a mark of pride and to metaphorically snap my fingers at such paltry intrusion upon my cycling commitment. You will therefore readily appreciate that today’s slow-motion descent at the pedestrian crosswalk was by comparison unfavourable on all account. Although I recall having muttered to the lady who came to my assistance this morning that I am perhaps now too old for this stuff, I have no present intention to stop.

I will however confess having entertained the notion of a tricycle as a safety alternative. Frankly I have no shame to acknowledge the necessity of some safety precaution in this otherwise reckless enterprise. Whatever it takes to keep me mobile!