I’m southbound on 6th St on Milwaukee’s South Side. The bike is running good. A fresh tune up and the ’70 Bonneville started right up. It’s purring like a pissed off kitten. It’s a gorgeous, if crisp, early April afternoon. We’re going to have a good day.
I head through the light on Lincoln, pulling past the Basilica. Without warning, everything changes. The gold minivan pulls into the street, and stops. I have nowhere to go. I plant the bike firmly into the driver’s side wheel well. My body cart wheels over the front of the minivan.
The single second that I’m airborne feels like minutes. A thousand thoughts run through my head. Then there is a painful landing. I hit the ground; my body automatically pulls me into the fetal position. I can tell that my right ankle is broken; it feels as though it has been completely shattered. A glance down at my left wrist, it is dislocated and likely broken. It takes only a second or two for me to process those injuries.
All of a sudden, the flood gates open. The pain from between my legs is unbearable. A scream from deep down, such that my lungs have never created. I’ll find out later that my pelvis is broken in three places. All I know right now is that I’ve never been in such pain.
This is April. This is my first ride of the year. This is my friend’s bike. I need to call Dad, I don’t have my phone. The slow cooker is running at home. I am seriously hurt. How could this happen? Why can’t I please pass out? Calm down.
“Calm down, you’ll be ok,” says the voice. Someone is kneeling next to me. A couple more good shouts and I start to calm down.
With my mouth, I pull the glove off of my right hand, so that I can have something to bite down on.
The voice tells me he’s a doctor. I’m badly hurt, he tells me, but everything is going to be ok. I’m calming down. I’m still angry. Everything I know has just been tossed upside down.
The voice tells me I made a complete flip in the air, “in case you’re the kind of guy that keeps track of these things.” I actually managed to laugh, a little.
The police and firefighters arrive. Between gasps, I answer questions for the officer. The firefighters begin their job; assessing the damage, working out how to move me. No head injury, they take off my helmet. They let me keep my sunglasses, thank goodness. The sun is in my eyes, and the last thing I need is a migraine.
From here, I could continue on in great detail about the rest of the day. But we can summarize a little more now.
When your blood pressure drops down into the 80/40 range, you can’t have much in the way of pain killers. For the next several hours, the only relief I will get is the occasional small dose. Just enough to “take the edge off.” When you’ve basically been crushed, every little bit helps.
By the time the ambulance got me to the hospital, I was still in a great amount of pain. There comes a point, though, when your brain shuts out a certain amount. I’m able to talk, even joke with the EMT. They say humor is the best medicine. I clung to that thought all night. Every chance I had to make a smart quip, I went for it, though I’m not sure if the hospital staff knew exactly how to handle it.
When your pelvis has three separate breaks, being moved is traumatic. The pain levels are nearly unbearable when you are turned onto your side and slid from a bed to a platform and visa versa. To help with that, I started rating the transfers, there were a lot of them to rate. The girls in the radiology department got a good laugh and had a round of high fives when I told them they were the best (seriously...nearly pain free, they did a good job). Something, anything, to keep the mind just slightly distracted.
After several hours, several bags of saline, and a few units of blood, my blood pressure finally came up to a healthy level. The trauma doctors were finally able to give me a solid dose of pain killers. Being in shock is not fun. Your body can’t regulate temperature, your heart rate is erratic, and you’re in uncontrollable pain. Once my blood pressure started to stabilize, shock slowly let go.
Anyway, it’s been a few months now. I’m still in rehab, but getting better every day. When I go into my basement, I take my cell phone because I’m not sure about those stairs yet. Getting around is slow. But at least I can get around. It could have been much worse.
People tell me I’m lucky. I say that not getting into an accident is lucky. All things considered, I’m a bit lucky though. If I had hit a foot to the right, I probably would have had some severe head and neck injuries.
Now that I’m back to driving (though not back on a bike quite yet), the things I see other drivers do scare the hell out of me. I had three close calls on my way to rehab the other day (watch it…we’re getting to the moral of the story here). NOTHING is so important that you should risk another person’s life for it. If we could all show a little courtesy, and general decency, there’d be a lot less death and mayhem on the roads. I absolutely don’t use my phone in the car (and I believe if you’re on the phone while involved in an accident there should be criminal charges). I’ve always been a defensive driver, I have no need for that level of drama. I know that nothing will change the way that people act, but it would be nice to think we could. Pay attention, be polite, we'll all be happier!