Reflecting on my mortality on my Death Day

No wrecks today except for a first-person (with supplements from other witnesses) account of a hit-and-run. Long-time readers of this blog know which wreck I am referring to, but as we have a bunch of new readers since then I’ll just open with the tl;dr version: At 0119 on 31/08/2001 I was killed by a hit-and-run driver. I stayed dead about 2 minutes, less than 5 for sure, and woke up to a world of pain.

The long version goes like this more or less. I was riding home from my second-shift job as a Windows help desk operator, and having to dodge thunderstorms along the route. My ride home was 15.2 miles from Farmer’s Branch to the northeast side of Garland, mostly along arterials because there was no connected grid of streets between the 4 cities I had to traverse to get home. In 3 of the cities I was mostly protected by LEO “not on quotas” following me to catch the crazy drivers that seemed to be attracted to me like moths to a flame, or as one LEO put it I was an idiot magnet and they could get a month’s worth of tickets just following me for a week. Except for Garland, my police shadow stopped when I crossed into my home city.

Any way, I had just crossed into Garland proper when some idiot driving a white pickup that might have been a late ’90s Chevy (I had rain on my glasses) stuck his head out the window to bellow, “Get off the fucking road!” As there was no place to get off the road and still continue to get home I ignored him and continued to ride. This infuriated the driver so much that the driver went to the next available cut-through in the median separating us to make a u-turn to get on my side of the road. Yes he was horribly upset that I was riding all alone on the opposite side of the street with 2 other unoccupied lanes of travel that he had to stop what he was doing to reverse direction and get on my side of the street. Did I mention he was presumed to be drunk at the time?

Location What it looks like now, there was a steakhouse where the mosque is now and no sidewalks

Anyway, after getting on my side of the street and about a quarter mile behind me at this point and driving on wet streets (rain) he basically floored the go pedal on the truck and got up to about 60 MPH (the guy that did the reconstruction put the speed as “between 45 and 65 MPH with highest confidence on 60 MPH”) I heard a noise behind me and started to turn to look over my left shoulder and heard “Get off the fucking road!” again just before everything went black. This is where what I remember about the wreck and what I was told about the wreck diverges sharply, because the people not in my body were watching a different channel than I was.

Location In the far right lane, notice how many lanes of travel there were

Watching from the outside people saw my body bounce off the windshield of the truck, crushing the roof, and then flipping and spinning violently on all 3 axis at the same time to land about 50 feet later on my face. My bike was crushed up to the seat post and went flying about a quarter-mile away to rest against a bus stop sign that is still there today.

My LZ Right in front of the camera car

And the bike’s LZ That sign! Still the same post, but the signs were different in 2001

Outside channel saw what appeared to be a broken corpse only oozing blood in the middle of the street as they called 911. The woman passenger in the car that was behind me and the weapon vehicle actually had enough time to grab her cell when she saw the driver make the u-turn in front of that vehicle and hit 9 and 1 between seeing me come over the top of the truck and landing on the street.

At this point the inside channel was being tuned to a new program. I didn’t get the “life flashing before your eyes” or the “light at the end of a tunnel” program, I got “welcome home, you get to become one with the Universe”. The only problem with that program is learning to use the zoom function, because from where they (whoever or whatever “they” was) left me all I saw was a bunch of dots that were galaxies on a dark background and no way to tell which one was the Milky Way from all the rest of the galaxies, much less find Earth and watch what was going on there (here). At this point I said something along the lines of “this is stupid and I still have things to do” and decided to be not-dead.

Inside channel and outside channels converge about this time as someone tried to move me and I told them I had “broken the upper end of my femur!” several times then I passed out again. Shortly after this I woke up in the back of the ambulance saying, “Did anyone get the number of that truck?” and wondering why it was so dark in there. I could see the cop asking if I saw the truck that hit me but only just barely, and I told him that it was a joke, that I said “truck” because it was already too late to be a bus. Yep, the second thing I said after coming back from the dead was a corny joke.

On that blindness, I should have been freaking out about not being able to see, but I was very calm about the situation and just decided they had the lights down low for my benefit. Obviously I was going blind from all the blood pooling in my head from the flipping compressing the optic nerve, similar to what happens to sprint car drivers after a violent flip. But I didn’t know that at the time. And I could see normally after about 3 days recovery. Well as normally as I could after losing my glasses in the wreck.

I have done the inventory before, but there have been many new readers since the last time so from the bottom: I had some abrasions to the top of my left foot from where my shoe came off in the initial impact, there are still a few scars left but you have to know where to look. The front of my lower leg blew apart from the impact to the back of my leg, exposing both the gastrocnemius and the soleus as well as the tibialis anterior and part of the extensor digitorum. All of those muscles had scarring and reduced mobility in some degree with the gastrocnemius taking the brunt of the scarring and reduced function. I can only raise the front of my foot slightly beyond level now. There was also much nerve damage that healed, for lack of a better description, “cross circuited”, I have numb areas and areas that touching one part will feel like another part of the leg or foot. I also broke the tibia and fibula, but the tib reset while I was flipping and the break wasn’t detected until after it had healed when they did the MRI of my knee. The swelling of the damaged muscles effectively splinted the leg until the bone knitted.

Moving up I lost some skin off the knee and tore both cruciate ligaments and the meniscus of the knee, both of which were not discovered initially because of other damage preventing the diagnosis. The internal damage I mean, the skin was quite easy to see. Above that I also broke my femur somewhere and broke the hip off the end of the femur, which was the only injury I felt at the scene. Since the treatment for the broken hip also took care of the other break nobody bothered to show me where that one was, but I got to see a lot of X-rays of my hip because that was the one they were afraid wouldn’t heal. I was also told that this one was a major pain in the tuckus because of how dense my bones were, requiring the use of power tool that had been only used for carpentry at that point…

I also lost skin off my hands where the gloves were not covering them, a large patch of my left forearm, and part of my face was detached when I landed face first on the street and had to be sewn back on. That one was the most annoying injury in hospital because it felt like ants were crawling on my face while it healed. And that segues (not Segways) into the other major life-altering injury, the TBI that didn’t get spotted because they didn’t know to look or how to look for it back then. I have what is now called Diffuse Axonal Injury, what was back then called severe concussion. I had 2 seizures, one in the ambulance and the other in the ER, that should have tipped someone off, but like I wrote they didn’t know what to look for or how to look for it back then. These days there are two ways to find the injury, one is with an MRI that can see the damage in the first hour or two after the injury, the second is to have a baseline CAT scan for comparison to spot the brain swelling that accompanies the DAI. These are required for F1 drivers and I think IndyCar, but AFAIK they are the only ones who do this. The NFL were considering this, but I don’t know what became of the consideration.

Anyway, the rest is history, my left leg got much shorter, my TBI caused me to lose some cognitive functions and a huge chunk of my vocabulary and foreign languages, and I went on long bike rides because I couldn’t get a job after the wreck because of very little overlap in what I could still do physically and mentally. Basically riding a bike and this blog plus basic life support are about all I can manage since the wreck. Other stuff could be done but not at a level of proficiency that would get me paid for it.

And that’s my 14th anniversary of the day I died. I will have a small party tonight, and then I get to do a massive blog post tomorrow with the links that have been accumulating since Saturday.

PSA, Opus the Unkillable Badass Poet.

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3 responses to “Reflecting on my mortality on my Death Day

  1. Joyce Anczarski

    My son was cycling and was killed by a reckless driver on Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico in 2010. My son was 19 yrs old and was declared brain dead…his accident was very similar to yours …I was just wondering if you felt the pain when you got hit…in other words, did my son suffer much?

    Like

  2. Joyce Anczarski

    Thank you Opus…..I am sorry for your difficulties..my prayers are with you. I miss my son so much.

    Like

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