On Labor Day, I decided to go for a quick little late-afternoon out-and-back ride on Skyliner. I was just about home, cruising down Galveston toward the Flaming Chicken, when a beige Toyota Prius in the oncoming lane suddenly turned left directly into my path. The scene has been replaying itself over and over in my mind in slow motion. I braked hard, but there was absolutely nothing I could do. My bike and my body slammed into the front quarter panel and passenger side door, ripping off the side view mirror. I somersaulted across the windshield and crash landed on the other side. Intense pain set in about 10 seconds later.
People were instantly there as I lay on the asphalt, clutching my left shoulder and moaning in pain. I remember yelling "Call an ambulance!" and then repeating two phrases: "Can someone give me pain medication?" and "It's not fair." A person in the small crowd came up to me, I think his name was Bill, and said, "I'm a first responder." He started the process of assessing me for head trauma and spinal cord injury and stabilizing my spine.
Unbelievably, my good friend Whit Ross had been buzzing down the street on his motor scooter at that exact time. He witnessed a body flying through the air and over a car. He stopped to help, and that's when he realized it was me. I can't tell you how comforting it was to look up and see Whit and hold his hand.
A police officer came, the ambulance arrived and they put me in a neck brace, strapped me to a backboard and loaded me in. I kept asking for more pain medication. In a little while, I was in the ER at St. Charles Medical Center. My wonderful friends Jan and Greg Gifford and John Kelly, along with Whit, were there. It was Jan's birthday. It was a little cool that day so I was wearing my PPP shirt, a bike jersey I bought in New Zealand and a Sunnyside windbreaker. They wanted to cut them off. John said he knew I would be OK when I refused to let them cut my PPP shirt.
After CAT scans and X-rays, I was diagnosed with a third degree AC separation of the shoulder, among other injuries. The Giffords kept me at their house that night and I was fortunate to be able to see Dr. Cara Walther the next day and schedule shoulder surgery two days later. She put in a plate and reattached ligaments. A second surgery will be required later to remove the plate, but Dr. Walther thinks I will be able to paddle and surf again. Words I desperately needed to hear.
A brush with death is a very emotional experience. On the one hand, I feel grief for my losses. I had to erase a surf trip, a mountain bike hut-to-hut trip and a backpacking trip from my calendar. I'm bummed that I can't go for a paddle on this beautiful sunny day. I feel concern about the long-term impact on my lifestyle. Right now, my vision is blurry.
But, even more powerfully, I feel gratitude. I'm grateful to be alive. I'm grateful I'm not paralyzed. And words cannot express how grateful I am to be living here in Bend, surrounded by so many loving friends. Even the people who hit me, cited for making a dangerous left-hand turn, sent flowers. To Jan & Greg for being my "Mom & Dad," to Kerie for all the house calls, to Cheryl & Doug for all the feasts, to Judy for the spin bike, and to so many others for the food, visits, videos, flowers, cards, calls, errands and healing vibes: THANK YOU!!
My accident was a nearly identical scenario to the tragic one in which Keith Moon was killed last month. One thing I know is that Keith was not wearing a helmet - I was. That helmet, cracked in two places, may have saved my life. As gas soars above $4/gallon and people care more about their carbon footprint, there will only be more cyclists and pedestrians sharing the streets. We've all got to realize this and do our part. If you're on your bike, stop at stop signs, ride on the right side of the street, wear your helmet. If you're driving your car, put down the cell phone, pay attention and expect bikes. It's a two-way street and we need to look out for each other.