Tag Archives: bike accident

seven years

 

One second. That’s how quickly it happened.

https://paulcdavid.wordpress.com/pauls-bike-accident-and-recovery/

Seven years ago this morning, I was riding my bike to work. A driver who was lost and late for a job interview, turned his F150 right in front of me. I hit the side of the truck and rolled under his rear wheel. Many injuries – most seriously a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) that threatened my life and livelihood.

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by the outline the police drew of my bike, 10 weeks after the accident.

A week in the Neuro ICU – much of it in an induced coma, a month in the hospital, and nearly six months away from work. I had people with me 24/7 for the scary and difficult first few weeks. All that love and support from family and friends helped me focus forward, one small step at a time.

I’m probably the luckiest person you’ll ever meet. I’m able to do the things I love, with the people I love, and am very grateful.

Going from running marathons and earning my living with my brain, to requiring full-time care in the space of a second forces perspective on things. I learned a lot about what it means to be human in the space of those months. And I try to remember these lessons every day.

Hug the people you love this morning. You’ll be happy you did.

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our kids visiting me in the hospital, three weeks after the accident

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six years past …

On July 7, 2008 I woke up in Harborview Hospital in Seattle.  I’d been in an induced coma for six days, after being in a bad bicycle accident

I reflect on this each July, marking the anniversary of the accident itself on the first by riding my bike into work.  I take the same route I took that morning six years ago.  The first time I visited the site after it happened, you could still see my bike’s outline painted on the road.  That’s long since faded.  

Each time I ride towards the site, I hold my breath a bit, like I’m diving into water.  When I pass, it’s relief.  Strange ritual –but I do this each year to show myself that I can. 

When the accident comes up in conversation now, I’m struck by a sense of distance from it.  That’s good.  Over time our scars fade – even if they never quite completely disappear.

When I reflect on those days in 2008, I feel appreciation for the love and support from my family and friends that pulled me through this.  My strange ritual is a reminder to appreciate these things every day.

I wouldn’t have chosen this particular adventure, but I’ve been given a great opportunity with it.

Reflect, hold your breath, then dive in. 


five years

Five years ago, we’d just gotten back from a nice trip to Minnesota, where we’d spent a week visiting Kris’ family.  We’d spent time with our friends just east of the Twin Cities, and the kids played together a bunch.  Our younger daughter learned to ride a bike on this trip.  We celebrated our eldest daughter’s 11th birthday.  We took a family picture outside Kris’ parents’ cabin that I have up on my office wall. 

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visiting the northern woods of Wisconsin, the week before our lives changed.

Memories are funny things.  I remember these things very well five years on, probably because of what happened next.

At about 8:30 on the morning of July 1, 2008,  I was hit by a pickup truck while riding my bicycle to workReading the police report tells me that I’m probably the luckiest person on the planet.

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two days after the accident – it would be another four or five days before I’d wake up.

Not a day goes by that I don’t think about what happened five years ago.  The first few months were very tough.  Beyond the physical pain, it was very hard to reset my own goals and expectations.  Within a few seconds, I’d gone from being a marathoner who earned his living (with his brain) as a software engineer, to needing help doing the most basic of tasks.  With recovery, there’s often no clear roadmap.  That’s hard to wrap your mind around.

Taking one step at a time, so much is possible.  I had the benefit of good health and a runner’s mindset before the accident.  Most importantly, I have family and friends who gave me the great gift of hope.  They seemed to believe in me – which made it much easier to believe in myself.  This gift of hope is the most powerful thing we can give each other.

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visiting Harborview’s Neuro ICU in December of 2009

Last week I was at Harborview Hospital, visiting a friend  who had been hit a car up in Woodinville last week while commuting on bicycle to work.  While I was there, I dropped by the Neuro ICU, where I’d been taken immediately after my accident.  I told these people working at the premier trauma center in the Pacific Northwest just how much it meant to me that I’m around to see my kids’ cello recitals, and school musicals.

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visiting Redmond Fire Station #12 back in 2010

And on July 1st I stopped by Redmond Fire Station #12, the first responders who answered the call.  I rode the same bicycle, along the same route I’d taken five years before.  I thanked all of them for what they do.  I told them how blessed I feel to be able watch my kids grow.  The lieutenant looked up the accident report from 2008.  The language was succinct : “bicycle v. pickup truck”.  He was thoughtful enough to look up the crew members who answered the call, and let them know that I’d come by.

The quick response and care I received saved my life, and prevented more profound damage to my brain.  It’s an amazing experience to visit these people, and say “thanks for everything” and to really mean everything.


four years …

Four years ago this week, I nearly lost my life.  I reflect a bit on this every day.   And when the first week in July comes around I think about just how fortunate I’ve been. 

When I was looking for something in our garage last week, I came across the the bicycle helmet I was wearing. It was not designed to withstand a run-in with that red Ford F150 truck. Yet somehow it did.

Here’s the journal entry Kris wrote about that first day :

Written Jul 2, 2008 8:56am

Paul was hit by a car while riding to work yesterday. He sustained severe damage to his head. He had some internal bleeding in the area over his left eye, so they performed an operation to relieve the pressure on his brain. He currently has a piece of his skull removed and the brain has expanded into the opening. They are keeping him sedated and monitoring him to watch for more swelling. They will be putting an IV into a main artery into which they will put a 3% saline solution. This will help draw the fluids away from his head and into the rest of his body where they can be flushed by his kidneys. The next 48-72 hours are a critical time where the primary focus is to reduce the swelling. After that, we will be able to start assessing whether there is any brain damage.

The most helpful thing you can do right now is send all your thoughts and prayers to Paul.

Thanks,

Kris.

And here’s the journal entry from six days later when woke up (I remember many of the things Kris writes about) :

Written Jul 7, 2008 10:06pm

Wow, what difference a day makes!

In the morning, Paul was able to tell the doctors his name, and respond to commands in a more definitive manner. When the doctor told Paul that Hal was on his left, he turned to look at him. And when the doctors asked if it would be okay to put an intravenous line in, he said no. At one point, he said “Out!”, which is what Kayla used to say when she wanted out of the jogging stroller 😉

When I arrived around noon, he was once again awake and the nurse was asking questions. He was able to say his name, where he was, and the year. He also was able to put up 2 fingers on each hand, wiggle toes, and squeeze the nurses hand.

When the nurse was done, I went to his side and started talking to him. He told me he couldn’t hear me, so I talked louder. At one point, he asked me to kiss him, so I knew he was feeling a lot better!

Throughout the day, he continued to engage in conversation in between periods of rest. He was shocked when I told him he’d been there for 6 days, then asked me what was broken. After I listed all of his broken bones, he said something that can’t be repeated in this forum 😉

At around 3pm, I asked him if he’d like to see the girls, and he gave me an emphatic YES! I immediately called the people who had picked them up from camp, and they brought the kids to the house so that Matt could bring them to the hospital. They arrived around 4:30pm, and I showed them a picture of Paul and talked about what they would see.

The girls were shy at first, but they both talked with him a bit, and they we let him rest. While he rested, the girls filled out a “About My Family and Me” chart that the hospital gave us, and then we went to dinner.

When we came back to say goodbye, Rachel told Paul and old family joke about a duck in a bar. Paul’s face lit up and he gave us a huge lopsided grin!

I remember nothing between the first and seventh of July 2008.  The journal Kris kept has helped me understand more about what those first days were like for me medically, and for my family as well.  She included notes sent by people who stayed with me too.  Some of these entries are inspiring.  Some of these are scary.  And some of them are amusing. 

In the two months following my accident, I was completely dependent on others for care.  I required help standing, eating and everything else.  To say the least, it’s humbling to go from running marathons to requiring help getting to the bathroom.  As humbling as this felt sometimes, having someone with me all the time proved to be a source of hope as well. 

I cannot express how much it meant to see familiar faces and to hear familiar voices. I laugh when I think about some of the conversations that happened while I was drifting in and out of a medicated dream-like state. And I smile when I think about how many of these visits helped me redirect my fears about what might lie ahead and instead focus on enjoying the moments we shared, and on the things I could do. I still read about them sometimes.

In addition to spending time with me, our community brought food to my family, took care of our children, and offered rides when they were needed. 

Later this week I will visit the first responders at Redmond FD Station #12 (I’ve done this several times before).  I’ll also go by the Neuro ICU at Harborview Hospital (have also done this several times before).  I’ve had the good fortune to have met some of the people who treated me that morning.  It’s important to me that these folks know that what they do matters so much. 

These powerful gifts of hope I received four years ago were absolutely essential to my recovery.  And I think about this every day as well.  And for this, I say “thanks for everything”.

The original version of this post included a a reference to my helmet and head passing under the rear wheel of the truck that hit me.  Witnesses to the accident told the police that this is what they saw – it is included in the police report.  It seems more plausible that my head injuries were the result of my collision with the truck or with the ground.  I’ve revised my post to reflect that.


three years and thankful

I nearly lost my life three years ago today.  You can read about that adventure here if you’d like.  Not a day goes by that I’m not reminded about what happened.  Not a day goes by that I don’t feel fortunate to be alive, and active.

For the past two July the firsts, I’ve visited the fire station that answered the call for my accident – Station #12 in Redmond.  Getting to thank people for saving your life is quite amazing. 

The first responders have a code they try to adhere to – called 7-7-7.  That means no longer than seven minutes to get to the scene, seven minutes readying a patient for transport, and then seven minutes to the hospital.  For Traumatic Brain Injury patients like me, time is of the essence.  Taking longer can jeopardize the patient’s life, or leave them vulnerable to sustaining brain damage.

Perhaps from their standpoint, the cyclist hit on Old Redmond Road near Grasslawn Park at 8:30 that morning posed no special challenge to them. Perhaps they simply did their job, making sure I was stabilized, and made it safely to the trauma center at Harborview Hospital in Seattle.

But it’s clear that what first responders like those that helped me, are true heroes.  What they do really matters – as it did to my family and I that morning three years ago.

They invited me back into the firehouse, and we talked for a while.  They asked how I felt, whether I remembered anything about the accident, and whether I’d spoken to the driver at all (I haven’t).

We talked about efforts to create stricter negligent driving laws, and I told them about some of the people who shared their stories in Olympia in support of the Vulnerable User Bill (signed into law by Washington Governor Christine Gregoire this past May 16).

And then we were interrupted by a call they needed to answer.  I stood by my bicycle and waved as they left, thinking about how they’d done this for me not too long ago.

In many ways, I’m happy to leave these memories behind me, and simply move on.  But remembering this anniversary by saying “thank you” is a reminder of just how blessed I am.


recovery–time on my wheels

A couple of weeks back, I posted about having a LeFort 1 Orthognathic Osetotomy.  Basically, I had my Maxilla (upper jaw) rebroken, in order to better align it with the mandible (lower jaw).  Pretty straightforward procedure, but still not fun.

I’d known this was coming for about two years, ever since my first consultation with an orthodontist to address the alignment issues resulting from the bike accident.  And something about having that much time to think, or about it being a bit more ‘optional’ than my other four surgeries back in 2008 (the initial Decompressive Craniectomy for my TBI, an initial LeFort Osteotomy for my facial fractures, then two cranioplasties to reinsert bone, then bolster the left temporal area of my skull) – this latest one had me a bit nervous.  Part of me wondered why in the hell I’d invite someone to move my facial bones about again.

The surgery was about eight days ago.  It took about 90 minutes and according to the doctor, went quite well.  That first day, I felt far worse than I had after the cranioplasties (I don’t remember much about the others).  I was really out of it from the anesthesia, and there was a lot of blood back in my sinus cavities.  I’d sit up a bit and bleed all over myself (ick).  But the next day, I felt better.  And two days later I went for a nice long walk with my daughter, and felt even better.

Eating stuff that has the consistency of baby food isn’t fun, but not as bad or as hard as I’d worried it would be.

Two days ago, the doctor told me I could basically do anything short of running (too my jostling and impact), or chew food tougher than a ripe banana (need to allow the bone some initial healing time). 

And this afternoon, I got a lesson in what recovery is about.  I’m back to work, and finding ways to stay active again.  I got the okay to ride my road bike.  Standard cautions – don’t overdo it, etc.  Today was beautiful – too nice to pass up a chance at getting a good ride in.  So I rode into work, and took a slightly longer than usual route.  I put in a good day at work, then took advantage of the sunshine, and aimed to take an hour-long ride home.

I’m still not 100%.  Definitely feeling fatigue a bit more than usual.  So I kept my perceived exertion rate modest on the uphill stretches, and just kept things steady on the flats.  Downhill was interesting.  I found myself nervous about picking up too much speed.  I was very conscious of not wanting to lose control, fall, and yes – break my face.  I’d felt some of this before, usually on long downhill stretches, but today’s apprehension was a lot more pronounced than usual.  Really bugged me too.  I’m no daredevil at the best of times, but I basically rode my brakes on most hills.  When I got home, I was really amazed at just how much tension I was carrying from the ride.

And therein lies the lesson.

There are few miracles in recovery.  Lots of good fortune – yes.  But the thing I don’t always remember from my experience of 2008 is that a lot of this is about just staying with it.  Time on your wheels, opening your heart and mind to fresh, positive experience gets rid of doubt and fear.

That’s what I’m telling myself now.  Need to spend more time on my wheels.


the vulnerable user bill advances

Got word yesterday that the Vulnerable User Bill has passed a floor vote in the Washington State Senate (as SB 5326).  Now it’s on to the House, and the companion bill HB 1339.

Having taken several trips to Olympia over the past two in support of these bills, it’s nice to see positive change.  Being a part of this has been a way for my family and I to apply our own experience with a negligent driver two and a half years ago and hopefully prevent what happened to me from happening to someone else.  Channeling positive energy into this has been a great way for us to continue our healing process.

Watching the coverage of the floor vote in TVW’s Weekly Legislative Review allowed me to see some impact that the testimony we delivered to the Senate Judiciary Committee had (the segment on SB 5326 begins at 12:10).

Senator Adam Kline speaks first.  In addition to being the Judiciary Committee Chair, he was the primary sponsor of the bill.  The second speaker was Senator Cheryl Pflug.  During the hearing, she’d asked several questions about whether civil action wasn’t a viable avenue for victims to secure recourse from the offender.  Several of us spoke to this point directly –in my case, the driver was uninsured and unemployed.  Additionally, pursuing civil action means subjecting one’s family to a legal process fraught with emotional consequences.  Senator Pflug incorporated this into her message today as she spoke in support of the bill prior to the floor vote.  I’ve already written thank-you note to her for this. 

If you are interested, you can see the debate and vote here (discussion of SB 5326 begins at 31:00 and is less than seven minutes long).

Watching how the legislative process works has been an education.  It has taken three years to get this far, and given my experience last year – I’m definitely encouraged to see things come together like this.  The biggest lesson for me has been that legislating is a lot more like sausage-making than making software.  The end result might taste okay, but generally you don’t want to visit the kitchen and watch it being made.  On the positive side, it’s been a great way to show the kids how bills become laws :

The Cascade Bicycle Club folks have posted the below diagram on their advocacy blog to help explain where we are now :

The diagram doesn’t show that the Senate bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee today, and that it is scheduled for a public hearing next Wednesday, March 2.  There are just a couple of weeks left in the session to get this done.  With all of the focus on fiscal issues, there’s the possibility that even with the apparent support behind this bill, it will get left by the wayside.  This effectively this happened last year in the Senate, when the bill died “on the calendar” (did not come to a vote prior to the imposed deadline).

Washington State voters should contact their legislators and convey support for HB 1339 – it definitely can’t hurt.