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2500 milliseconds. That's about all the time I had to absorb what was about to happen.

I was 15 minutes into my 22 mile commute home last night. It was quite chilly, and I was idly thinking about putting on more layers while I was stopped. I was at the intersection to cross Highway 34, which is busy enough to need a signal light, but never seems to get one. There is generally a long wait to cross on a bicycle. I checked to make sure my headlight was flashing, and reached back behind the commuter trunk to turn on the rear red blinky. It seemed to be lost in the folds, so to speak, because my new trunk bag was very long and I was having trouble finding where I had clipped it. While fumbling with the blinky, I made eye contact with a guy in a Mitsubitsi, who pulled up alongside to make the same Highway 34 crossing.

East bound traffic was clear for over 1/2 a mile, and there was a westbound pickup turning right onto the road we were on. I could see a little blue sedan behind him, staying in the 'slow' lane, westbound. All of the sudden, the guy in the Mitsu pulls out into the highway, and then sees the blue sedan – about 60 feet away at 55 mph! I watched in horror, thinking: “Crap! I am about to get run over by two cars in rapid succession!” Fortunately the blue sedan cartwheeled the Mitsu away from me.

Now, he was skidding and careening straight towards me. I had no time to do any thing. The next I knew, my bike was flying away, still attached to my shoe, right hand on the handlebar, and I was balanced, almost floating on the edge of the hood/grill area of the car.

That lasted about for what seemed like several seconds – I even thought: “Weird! I am almost floating in front of this guy.” More like the blink of an eye, and I was weightless, flying through the air, trying to see where I was going to land. More weird thoughts from time-slowed-down-land: “I still have my bike! If I can just get twisted around and set it down gently…” THUMP! I hit hard, face-first, in a very wet grassy ditch, gently sloping sides, and about two feet of water in the bottom. I remember the intense pain in my back, and thinking “Great! I am going to drown in a ditch with a broken back!”

Thanks to God, no broken bones. I was hauled off to ER in an ambulance that took longer than I would have on a bicycle, because they took the long way, but the paramedics (firemen) were great, as were the ER people. It was quite a struggle getting my soaking wet cycling clothes off, especially the bib knickers. Two nurses trying to get soaking wet lycra off a fat middle-aged man by tugging from the ankles – not going to happen. I finally had to intervene: Ladies, I know this is a horrifying thought, but you are just going to have to reach up there and peel me nekkid like a banana - from the top down! Quite a hoot, but of course ER nurses are troopers, and they got me stripped and warmed up. I did not stop shaking for an hour.

I have severe back pain (about a 6 if you are a MTB racer, I suppose), and will get an MRI this afternoon. Most frustrating, I have still not gotten hooked up with my bike. The State Police impounded it to protect it from looting, etc. Last I saw, the seat and luggage rack were pointed a different direction than the wheels, and while I was in the water, it looked like the rear wheel might have been taco'd. We shall see.

Sure glad I was wearing a helmet – It provided a slick skidding surface, so I slid down the bank into the water. I am going to credit it with preventing a broken neck AND a broken back!

Steve
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You are one lucky dude to still be alive. Make sure they check out your back very thoroughly. I went to the ER with a broken neck that they missed and didn't find out it was broken for a couple days.

So be real sure you don't have anything broken/dislocated in your spine. Don't worry about your bike at all. When you are young, you sacrifice your body instead of the bike (body heals free, bike cost money) as you get older, you need to remember to reverse that thinking. You're body no longer heals cheap, the bike costs alot less :)

I hope you get feeling better quickly, but don't push to hard to soon. Spine/back/nerve injuries are slow to recover, and easy to screw up worse.

I've had two really bad accidents, one fell going almost 40 mph on the roadbike, helmet was beaten up pretty bad, glad I had it on that time. The other one, I fell on the MTB, broke my neck. Helmet wasn't even scratched, still glad I had it on :). (landed on my neck/sholders, missed the helmet completely)

So I have a bit of experience recovering from nerve impingement type injuries. Don't push, and pay very close attention to what your body says. Tingling (like when your hand falls asleep) and loss of feeling is not good. Hopefully you don't have any nerve damage because it can take a long time to recover (if you ever do).

Keep us posted on your recovery.

-d.
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-d,

Thanks for the well wishes. And I intend to pay very close attention to the tingling stuff. I did get the feeling that was key - every paramedic, nurse, doc I have talked to have asked a lot of questions about numbness and tingling.

You are so right about the changing perspective about healing as you grow older. At 52, I am very aware that things do not heal so fast anymore.

SP
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Glad you are OK. Just one of those 'wrong place at the wrong time' situations. Hoping that everyone is insured. Take care of yourself.
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Dude! Glad you are OK. Whew. Take a long time making sure you're OK before signing off on any insurance settlements.
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JeezOPetesSteve,

You are one lucky guy to have come through an accident like that with no broken bones! I'm with what the others said about taking it easy and not signing away your rights until you know you're going to be OK. And nice catch on hittin' grass and not pavement.

Nancy

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Steve, glad you're still with us. You are one lucky dude that you at the very least didn't get injured more severely. You were just in the wrong place at the wrong time, which is why you should stop and smell the roses if you don't already. Might be time to catch some Hogan's Heroes on DVD for a few days and take your mind off of things. Time to let yourself heal, both physically and mentally.

As for the bike, it's replaceable no matter how expensive, and it seems, to boot, someone's (not yours) insurance should be covering any damage.

If the driver couldn't see a car bearing down on him until it was too late, what are the chances he'd see a bicycle in a similar situation?

And buy a new helmet, dude! The old one's toast.

dcanfiel
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Hey Steve - So glad you're okay. One other thought: don't feel freakish if you get jittery or have some flashbacks to the incident when you take up cycling again (which I assume you're going to do since you want your bike back.) I know from experience about "post-traumatic reaction", and it doesn't mean you're stuck with the jitters forever. If a "post-traumatic reaction" happens, just accept it, take some deep breaths, and move on to something else. It's okay to talk to someone professional about it too. It will go away. Best wishes.

EG
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Eyesglazed wrote: Hey Steve - So glad you're okay. One other thought: don't feel freakish if you get jittery or have some flashbacks to the incident when you take up cycling again...


Hard to say, so far.. My bike should be out of the shop by mid-week after Easter. I have certainly WANTED to be out riding. But, I do feel a bit nervous, even in a motor vehicle, every time I come to that highway crossing. My wife, more so, to tell the truth. I did not relate this in my OP, but as I lay in the ditch, a couple of off duty paramedics, one was an EMT, actually, came and held me from sliding back into the water and started to check me out for injuries, talked me into not going into schock, etc. One of them asked if there were anyone I wanted to call. He left a voice mail on my wife's phone. A little later, a policeman tried to call both wife & daughter, voice mails, left; and a few minutes later, the fireman EMTs called both and left voice mails. They came out of the store (phones both left in the van) and got all these voice mails. They were freaked out for the 25 mile trip in to town, and it took them a while to connect with me in ER, and find out all was pretty much OK.

I am well on the way to full recovery. My doctors exams have not shown any damage. My back still gets tired and sore by the end of the day, and my tailbone is very sore, but I am off prescription meds, and some days do not even use any Ibuprophen.

I got a new pair of bibs to replace the ones with the big hole torn in the butt from the wreck, and I am itchin to get back on the bike!

Steve
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