So recently at a photo shoot someone ask me why I limped. I guess I figured people who knew me knew why. Then I realized how long ago it was. In fact, it was August 10th 1980. That seems like a forever ago. It might be.
So a cut to the skinny of that day. I was the proud owner of a 1977 Suzuki RM370. A beautiful bike at that time. Fast and maybe a little too much for me to really handle wide open. A picture of that model is below.
On August 7th I traded two motorcycles for this one. I’m sure by the time I wrecked it I had several hundred miles on it.
So it was a Sunday morning and before the motorcycle there was Church at the Beech Run Church of the Brethren. At the time I am sure I would have rather been riding than sitting in Church, although Church was fun because I always sat close to my Uncle Irvin.
I don’t remember the exact times of Church at the Beech Run Church of the Brethren, but the Church service had to be first. I left early that day, before the Sunday school. Yep, home to fill up the tank with gas and out to ride all day.
I guess because of the accident I don’t remember everything that happened that day. I do remember heading up to my Aunt Wanda’s place. At the time she lived on the same road that I would wreck on. In fact, she lived less than a mile from the accident scene. I went there because my Aunt Brenda was visiting from the Erie area. Last thing I remember was waving back at them standing on the front porch.
The next thing I remember was a doctor asking me if i wanted to get a new motorcycle. I said “No, I want the one I have”. That was me waking up from a coma 4 days after I wrecked. From what I was told, (because I don’t remember)
I left my Aunt’s went to the other side of the ridge I was on, rode a road near a graveyard, came back up the ridge road and killed a snake. At some point I headed back toward my Aunts side of the ridge. It was a dirt road and although I don’t remember, I am sure I was flying. In any case I was on the wrong side of a pretty sharp turn. Half way around that turn I met a pickup truck driven by a young woman. I hit, my helmet flew off and I bounced around 30 feet back the opposite direction.
I know I caused the woman who hit me a lot of nightmares and I am sorry for that. This was before cell phones and I don’t think she needed one to summon help. From what I was told she screamed after hitting me. A scream so loud someone on top of the ridge heard it and came to investigate. The woman who came was a nurse and knew I was in trouble.
The Hospital and Treatment
I’m not sure who called the ambulance or how I even got to the hospital. I’m not sure when I even went unconscious. They did tell me I kept wanting to get up and check my bike. I wanted to see how much damage was done.
So I am at J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital and doctors there were not sure what to do with me. They knew something was wrong in addition to a shattered wrist, a cracked ankle and cuts and scratches on every joint.
I’m not sure how long I was kept at J.C. Blair but if I would have been there much longer, I wouldn’t have survived. I was transported to Hershey Medical Center.
At the Hershey Medical Center they also knew I was in trouble. They found out what was wrong. When I hit the truck the impact hurt my heart and it was close to rupturing. Not my whole heart, my aorta. To be precise it was the descending Thoracic Aorta. That’s the large vein that carries blood to your lower body.
My doctor was Dr. Pierce. I only remember that because of the tv show M.A.S.H. After a struggle I had with a bunch of the staff they got me in to the operating room. I guess I didn’t want to lay down. I kept trying to get up even though I don’t remember any of it.
The doctor was able to cut me open and repair the part of my aorta that was ready to rupture. He cut me under my left arm and worked his way up between my shoulder blades. The doctors put a graft over the part of my heart that was ready to rupture. It was a close call. When I finally got awake from the coma they told me I was a cat and just spent 8 of the 9 lives. If we would have delayed any longer my heart probable would have ruptured on the way to Hershey and I would have bled to death.
Until recently when someone ask what happened I would just say my aorta ruptured. A recent visit to a cardiologist gave me the real answer. The doctor showed me on a screen where my issue was. The picture below shows.
The after effects
After I awoke from the coma I was ready to get home and get back on the bike and back to football practice. There was a problem. That part of my heart that was in trouble supplied blood to my legs, my spine, and most of the lower part of my body. At some point during the surgery there was a loss of blood to my spine. Moreover to the part of my spine that supplied blood to the nerves that controlled my legs. With the loss of blood came damage. I had trouble standing for a while and spent the better part of the year on crutches or in a wheelchair.
A regret I have was not working harder when the damage happened. I’m not sure it would have done any good to work harder, but I don’t think I knew the impact the nerve damage was having. I was 14 and just figured I would heal and back to normal. That never happened and my football career and many other careers were over.
I did manage to get walking again. High school that year was tough. I did get to leave classes early because I was on crutches the whole time.
So there you have it. Next time you see me limping a little or a lot you’ll know the reason. I am truly lucky to be alive and thank God for getting me though that mess.