Tom’s Crash

I crashed on a slippery patch of road between Palermo and Ficuzza in Sicily on the afternoon of Sunday, May 8th.  The sun was out and the road appeared dry BUT there had been light drizzle earlier, which probably floated some oil or mud to the surface.  The GPS data show that I was on a 9% descent and slowed from 27 mph to 16 mph to take a curve.  I was apparently still braking as I entered the curve and was down to 11 mph when my tires lost traction and I skidded on my left side.

I was transported by ambulance to the Civico Hospital in Palermo, where I spent the next 24 hours on a gurney in the hallway of the emergency room.  Beppe, Giuseppe, and Bill stayed with me until I had x-rays and saw an orthopedic surgeon around 1 AM.  I fractured the neck of my femur and my clavicle.  Surgery on the femur was promised for Tuesday but no beds were available, so I stayed on the gurney in the hallway.

Just before Beppe et al. departed, an angel appeared in the form of Eleonora, a young nursing student who speaks English.  She returned several times to help me get through the night and to translate the staff’s questions and commands.  She also brought in some food for me as nothing is available in the ER.

On Monday Giuseppe returned to learn that no rooms were available and the surgery had slipped to Wednesday.  When he came again in the afternoon, even Wednesday was uncertain.  That’s when he called his friend Ferdinando, the head tech guy at the private Cosentino Hospital and booked me in there.  By suppertime I was in a proper hospital bed with excellent nursing care and a date certain for surgery.

My angel reappeared Tuesday morning bearing breakfast: pistachio and chocolate gelato stuffed into a brioche!  I had more x-rays, ECG, etc., met Dr. Riccardo Lo Cascio (who speaks English), and was delighted to see Carla who arrived in time for supper.

Surgery was done on Wednesday with a spinal, although they put up drapes to prevent me from observing it.  I now have a titanium bionic leg to match my ti bike (see attached x-ray) and a letter to carry when I pass through airport security.

Dan arrived later that day from Greece, Giuseppe and the angel Eleonora continued to visit and translate, and the staff were all terrific.  I had six days of recovery and light PT.  Dan left for Paris on Saturday.

Beppe, Federica, Bill, & Christian continued the tour, which was beyond all expectations, and Giuseppe joined them for the final weekend.  They got lots of photos and I will collaborate with Bill in the next few weeks to complete the journal at

On Tuesday, May 17th Beppe transported Carla, Bill, Christian, and me to the airport, where we caught our originally scheduled flights home.  The Croce Rossa in Palermo and Misericordia in Rome provided wheelchairs and helpers everywhere.  I sat upright from Palermo to Rome (~1 hour) but then Carla and I got business class seats to Boston so that I could lie down in a podw and sleep much of the way.  Dave and Michele were waiting at Logan with a van to whisk us home, where Bill’s fleet of three walkers was waiting for me.

I moved into our downstairs guest room, found an orthopedic doc, and started PT a few days later.  Progress is slow but steady.  I can now put 50% weight on the leg, walk with crutches, and climb stairs with difficulty.  Using the walker or crutches is complicated by the broken clavicle, but it’s fortunately not displaced and seems to be healing quickly — I started PT on it last week.  I borrowed a wheelchair from the Lexington Lions’ Club for short excursions, and we hired a part-time caregiver for the first two weeks.

I borrowed a recumbent stationary bike that also has hand cranks and I have enough range of motion now to turn the pedals.  My PT nazi limited me to 5 minutes at a time until I see the doc again next Thursday.  I hope then to work up to some aerobic exercise.  I’m now 3.5 weeks post-surgery and have widely varying estimates of when I can walk, ride, drive a car, etc.

I intend to beat all the predictions: see you on the road!