Tuesday, September 06, 2005


It was a beautiful sunny day in late June and I was enjoying a leisurely ride to work. The last thing I remember was the wonderful feeling of the wind in my hair and the sun on my arms. I had recently started a new job as supervisor for a local security company and enjoyed the opportunities it provided in contrast to the dead-end job I had just left. I was truly elated perched atop a beautiful motorcycle with the magical popping sound of a twin-v engine rising from beneath me.

The next event that I remember had me lying in the back of an ambulance conversing with the EMTs about the condition of my ankle. Their initial assessment was a dislocation and the sight of my foot displace three to four inches to the side of where it should have been adequately supported this assumption. In the process of shredding my pants they found my cell phone and offered to use it to call someone to meet me at the hospital so my wife was notified quickly.

Over the next few hours I was both x-rayed and CAT scanned over almost every part of my body. I quickly realized that the C-spine collar I was wearing was an unnecessary precaution but I humored the medical professionals until after the x-rays and CAT scans; they all seemed to think that a few years of med school trumped by nearly four decades of intimate and often extreme use of and interaction with my body. My injuries were eventually cataloged and included significant abrasions to my face, a little asphalt ground into my arms, a small patch of road rash on my left shoulder, considerable bruising on my left side from the hip down, both the tibia and fibula broken at the ankle resulting in my complete dislocation, and, as one nurse mater-of-factly put it, “by-the-way, your nose is broken too.”

I do not remember the first time they tried to set my ankle but I definitely remember the second time. My fingerprints are probably permanently imbedded in the steel side rails on that bed despite all the morphine they gave me. Later that day someone asked me to rate my current pain on a scale of zero being no pain and ten being the worst pain I had felt in my life; I had to initially state that my pain meter had recently been recalibrated. Due to the nature of my fractures, as illustrated by this example x-ray, my foot would not stay in place and they wisely decided to knock me out completely for the third time they tried resetting my ankle.

My next noteworthy event was regaining consciousness after surgery. I do not smoke or drink and I have never used illicit dugs because my clarity of thought is very precious to me, so the mental fog that prevailed when I awoke was very unsettling. When I announced my discomfort the cat calls from the nurse’s station which included, “you just came out of surgery,” “just stay put,” and “you’ve had a concussion,” only added to the confusion. In my mind, I was somewhere I did not want to be and I was leaving even if I had to fight my way out. I suppose we were all lucky that my body would not respond until after my head had a little more time to become clearer.

They kept me in the hospital over night, which, along with my broken bones, was another first for me. I slept remarkably well considering the circumstances but still awoke early enough to ask the nurse to part the shades so I could watch the sun rise. That was one sunrise I appreciated more than all the previous ones because I knew I had beaten the odds stacked heavily against me.

As you could imagine, I have reflected a great deal on the events surrounding my accident and, as an old soldier, wish I could remember the event of the actual accident so I could conduct my after action review (AAR). All I have to work with is the police officer’s accident report which states that I did nothing wrong. It does document that a young mother with little kids properly restrained in her small SUV decided to make a left turn through my path on a residential street. I wasn’t wearing my helmet that day, I seldom wear it in the Arizona heat, nor was I wearing my jacket or gloves which was rare even considering the heat. I consider the restricted range of motion and field of view that my full face helmet provides too restricting especially when I consider that I have never struck my head in any of my previous motorcycle spills regardless of whether I was wearing my helmet or not; I have always managed to tuck properly to avoid injury.

Many people have told me not to ride a motorcycle again. This advice has come from family, doctors, and religious leaders but it is advice I do not expect to follow. In my relatively short life I have lived a couple of lifetime’s worth. I do not intend to stop living so I can live longer. So, with my next motorcycle purchase I will buy a less obstructive helmet with the idea that a half helmet that I will wear is better than the full helmet I will not wear. I have yet to decide what will replace my Virago but I will say that I will only purchase a Harley when two conditions are met. First, I must have more money than sense and, in all humility, claim that I have been gifted with more than my fair share of sense. And second, Harley needs to make a bike with a drive shaft.

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