Saved by a Bicycle Helmet

Life is precious. How many times have we heard this before? As cliché as it may sound, it is true. Just ask anyone that has experienced a close call, and they will echo this sentiment. My recent brush with death, (or at least with a world class maiming) happened on July 5, 2013.

Like many people, when the 4th of July Holiday weekend rolled around, I sought the solitude of a good vacation spot, to get away from the rigors of my daily routine. For me, there was no doubt but to head to our “cabin” on the Nehalem River, in Vernonia, Oregon. The weather ¬†promised to be warm, sunny, and beautiful, so we packed our trusted 4 legged companions in the truck (along with everything else we could fit) and headed out to paradise.

Lizzy looks like a ghost here

Lizzy looks like a ghost here

Mid morning on July 5th, Tony and I headed out for a nice training ride on our bicycles, along the Banks-Vernonia State Trail. This is a beautiful 21 mile paved bike path with 13 wooden bridges, lots of hills, trees, streams, and glorious scenery. We warmed up and started riding strong as we approached the planned turn-around point at Hill Top. For the next three or so miles, we flew along at a steady 20 mph pace, having the time of our lives. By now we were 9 miles into our ride, and COOKING! I had just moved into the lead position a mile back, and was in the zone. I’d never ridden this fast for any sustained period before. Well, things changed in a heartbeat. (And could have ended there)

I hit a hole in the asphalt that I didn’t see because we were in a shady area, and I think it was covered with a thin film of moss. My front wheel exploded to the right, and the bike started zig zagging back and forth at an alarming and uncontrollable pace. I quickly realized that there was no way I could regain control and I knew I was going down. I knew that if I went down on this asphalt, there most certainly would NOT be a good outcome. I do not like pain. I especially do not like when my bones are sticking out of my flesh. I took immediate evasive action!

Berry bushes, Nettles, and fallen branches make a nice bed.

Berry bushes, Nettles, and fallen branches make a nice bed.

I managed to steer the momentum of my bike toward the outside of the path and onto the softer shoulder, so that when I fell, I would be on a more appealing surface. What I didn’t realize, however, was that the surface contained plants that were covered in thorns, nettles, and every prickly thing you could imagine. PLUS, the thick growth hid the fact that there was a cliff and a ravine under those vines! Like a rag doll, I flew off my bike, into the foliage, and over the ravine. As I was tumbling, hitting my head, and more or less waiting for whatever the outcome was, I heard (aside from my own cursing) a skid, crash, thump, and load moan from my husband. What the HELL???? Why did HE fall?

Upon hearing his crash, I jumped up to get to him and see if he was alright. Of course, I forgot that I had just careened head first over a cliff and had to stop myself for a few seconds and let the dizziness subside. Plus, I had to take stock and make sure all my bones were still encased safely inside my skin. Thankfully, they were. The prickers and thistles had their way with me though.

OUCH, talk about painful. Look at all the swollen bumps and scratches!

OUCH, talk about painful. Look at all the swollen bumps and scratches!

I climbed up the hill and onto the bike path and ran to Tony, who was still laying on the side of the path. Not moving. Still. Immobile. I asked him if he was ok, and he said he didn’t know yet, but still wasn’t moving. Finally I saw him move his arms and legs and I knew at least he wasn’t paralyzed! At this point, I started running around in circles. This is what I do when I am on the verge of panic. “What can I do for you?” “Can you move your legs?” “Can you speak?” “Can you talk?” “Do you want me to call an ambulance?” I am sure if he had his wits about him, he would have told me to SHUT UP A MINUTE!

I ran back to my bike, and retrieved my phone, just in case I needed to call 9-11. As I ran back to him, I had this (rediculous) thought that I should take his picture in case I needed it for evidence or insurance…..huh? Really??? I know this makes no sense, but I did just fly off my bike and hit my head, so I am not judging my actions in any way. Her’s what he looked like:

He landed more than 12 feet from his downed bike and rolled off the asphalt

He landed more than 12 feet from his downed bike and rolled off the asphalt

For what seemed like an eternity, he laid there, waiting for his body to tell him it was ok to get up, and I helped him take off his helmet and sit up. We both sat there and took stock of our injuries. We were both bleeding and dazed, but overall, we could stand up, walk, and pretty much function. I was amazed. I ran back and got my bike out of the bushes and saw that, other than a broken front brake, it seemed to be rideable. His was too. Since we were still four miles from our cabin, and we couldn’t spend the rest of the weekend on the bike path, we decided to ride back. It was not the most comfortable ride, to say the least.

Once we got back, we both showered and that’s when Tony said he needed to go to the hospital. It is a 40 minute drive to the nearest Urgent Care facility, and after waiting there for an hour, we got in to see a doctor. He started examining Tony and decided that he needed to go to the Emergency Room at the FULL hospital down the freeway. SO, we packed up our aching bodies and headed out. AGAIN.

Five hours later, after X Rays and exams, we left, armed with prescriptions for Valium and Oxycodone, and a bottle of Lidocane. Diagnosis: concussions, and a cracked clavicle (Tony). I had the remnants of all those nettles in my, so for about 9 hours, I had the sensation of fire ants crawling all over me and biting me. FIRE! The whole day seemed surreal to me.

The meds helped us sleep (Oh boy, did they!), and the next day, we both felt a lot better. Then I looked at our helmets.

Glad I was wearing this!

Tony's cracked in two places.

Tony’s cracked in two places.

Suffice it to say, we were both very happy to be alive, recovering, and saved by our helmets. We spent a lot of time over the next few days recounting what had happened, and how “lucky” we were that things didn’t end up differently. In a heartbeat things can change. We still don’t quite know how we managed to walk away so unharmed! All I can tell you is that if you ever go for a bike ride. Wear your helmet!

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