Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A near miss...

The lunatic is in my head

You raise the blade

You make the change

You rearrange me 'till I'm sane....Pink Floyd “The Dark Side of the Moon”


The first thing I remember is lying on the gurney. A nurse said I could go home. She ordered a wheelchair to take me out to the car, but when I stood up, the room went white. Voices seemed to come from farther and farther away.

The next thing I remember is being wheeled into a hospital room. Mary said I had a seizure in the ER, so they wanted to keep me overnight for observation.

Hours earlier, I'd left work on my bike, riding north on Mingo Road. It was July 2nd, a nice summer day. I had my new Giant CFR, a bike I normally didn't ride to work since it didn't have a rack or fenders, but on a gorgeous day like that I wanted the 'go fast' bike. I had less than 600 miles on it.

The following came from eye witnesses and police reports. I have no memory of these events.

Just south of 76th Street, a car bumper hit my back wheel, went through the seat stay, and hit my left leg. The passenger side mirror hit my leg too. Witnesses said that I never let go of the handlebar as the bike and I rolled over. I hit the pavement with my head and right shoulder and rolled diagonally across my back and onto my left hip. My helmet was flattened on the right side. I had a concussion, extensive road rash, and a broken left leg. Owasso police and paramedics were there in a few minutes. They transported me by ambulance to a landing zone, where a Lifeflight helicopter took me to the hospital.

The driver who'd hit me was a real stand-up kind of guy. He tried to convince the police that his girlfriend was driving. Of course, he didn't have a license or insurance. His car had an expired tag and was worth less than my bike. I'm sure he would have fled from the scene except for the witnesses. Eventually, he would plead guilty to three offenses and pay a $750 fine. This may have been the third or fourth time he buzzed by very close, as I have a vague memory of a similar dark-colored car doing this in the days before the crash. There's no way to know for certain.

After my overnight hospital stay, I went home with a pair of crutches and a cast. Let me say this about concussions – they're not entirely bad because they make watching daytime television more enjoyable. Folding laundry was fascinating too. All my highs and lows were gone. I didn't get excited. I didn't get depressed, and I had the patience of a Buddha. My doctor warned that there could be lasting effects, and for a while I had difficulty reading aloud, following conversations, or writing without transposing letters. How much of this was due to the impact and how much was merely my increased awareness of everyday mistakes is something I'm unable to determine.

When the cast and crutches were gone, I started hobbling along the sidewalk with the aid of a cane. I met my kids coming home from school and walked a little bit farther every day. Months later, I was back on the bike, commuting to work.

If there's a lesson here, it's this – we can influence people without ever exchanging a word. All those parents and teachers around the school watched my slow recovery. Some thought I'd never get on a bike again, so they were astonished when I showed up on my commuter one afternoon and every afternoon thereafter. Months later, one of them told me that he'd thought to himself, “If he can do it, I can do it.”

One final thing. Susan asked for “close calls” stories. This one is more accurately a near miss, as in 'he nearly missed me'. Statistically, getting hit from behind is fairly rare. Just my luck.

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