This is what happened to my husband, Eric (age 47), on Friday, August 10, 2001. At approximately 5:00 pm, he and his friend were returning from a dirt motorcycle ride in the Foresthill area of Auburn, CA. (in the mountains near Lake Tahoe), about 150 miles from our home. They had spent most of the afternoon in the OHV (off-highway vehicle) Park and were returning to their staging area about ˝ mile away. It was unclear whether the narrow “two track” (one lane) dirt road was designated OHV-only. They had only seen one vehicle (Forestry) all day. My husband was 20’ feet ahead of his buddy when he took a right turn around a heavily wooded area and discovered an oncoming old Dodge full size pickup truck filling the road in front of him. They both hit the brakes and he tried (partially successfully) to steer into the ditch to the right of the truck. Eric figures they were both doing about 20mph when he impacted the left front bumper of the truck ‘with a sickening thud’. (This is the equivalent of hitting a brick wall at 40 mph). After rolling to a stop in a crumpled heap, Eric knew very quickly that ‘something’ was wrong with his leg – he knew it was fractured by the strange position of his foot. His right shoulder, left elbow, and hand were swelling and tender. It also turns out that his chest protector was unable to prevent 2 cracked ribs. I am so thankful that my husband always wears lots of protective gear. Many of his chest armor pieces are cracked. Shin and elbow guards too! Most importantly, he also had on high riding motorcycle boots. Several nurses and doctors have said that without the protective gear, he would have lost the foot from the ankle down.
The couple that was driving the truck and Eric’s buddy were successful in making a makeshift splint for the leg with a branch and, of course, duct tape. They managed to get Eric and his buddy into the truck bed and the nice folks took them to civilization and to an ambulance with EMT’s! The EMT’s took great care of him. They also confirmed that this was indeed a compound fracture “tib-fib”. Eric asked that they spare his new dirt riding pants (WHY is this an issue with so many riders???) but he let them cut off MY vintage Joe Nameth knee brace that he was wearing for support! At this time, his buddy took out his digital camera and starting shooting. What are friends for?
His friends didn’t call me. I think they knew how I’d react. Eric had hurt his back just 3 weeks prior and I wasn’t happy that he was taking this ride. So the first call I got was the Auburn Hospital saying my husband was in a serious motorcycle accident and needed emergency surgery. I thought it was one of his friends joking with me. Then I realized it was real. He was so far from home. I called a friend of mine who’s a surgical nurse and asked her to call the hospital and find out what really was going on. She lives in the mountains, about an hour away and she jumped in her car and drove there! Bless her!
Upon arriving she assessed the situation, spoke to the doctors, nurses and “the ‘hooligan’ motorcycle riding, dirt covered, friends of Eric’s”. She called me and said I needed to get there. They would operate in a couple of hours and he would be there for a few days. My girlfriend and Eric’s buddies stayed with him until they wheeled him into surgery. The staff actually gave him a portable phone and I talked to him twice during that time but the morphine was making him really sleepy. While Eric was laying on a gurney, prepped for surgery, a CHP officer actually came in and tried to complete the accident report! I decided not to attempt the ride to Aurburn until the next day. Friday traffic from San Francisco to the mountains is terrible and I had to borrow a van, in hopes of transporting him home. I also had to find someone to take care of our three dogs and I didn’t know how long I/we would be gone. I was also so upset and angry that I knew I shouldn’t be driving.
My OR nurse friend left instructions for the surgeon to call me when the operation was over. It was about 11pm when he was wheeled into surgery.
Eric has been riding (and racing) for 32 years and has never sustained a serious injury. Some people are saying he’s lucky… it could have been so much worse. My brother-in-law sums that one up with “Lucky is winning the lottery. Lucky is not going head-on with a truck”. He’s right. To be continued….