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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

My motorcycle wreck

I don't remember anything about my wreck on my 2007 Harley Davidson Heritage Classic - an 800 lb beast. The police report says a woman ran me off of the road, and a witness stated I did everything I could to avoid hitting her.

I have 30,000 miles of experience on motorcycles. I've taken all the training available to me - accident scene management, CPR, and 5 days of training (parts 1 and 2) of the Motorcycle Safety Institutes basic and advanced training. I'm an Instrument rated pilot; I'm an engineer - I preflight everything I do......and according to the police, but not in the report, an Indian woman ran me off of the road while pulling in from a side street because, in her culture, it is my obligation to avoid her - there are no rules of the road to her and her culture except bigger owns all rights. So I pay for her convenience. But she left me with no options, and no where to go to avoid her.

In looking at the scene months later, I realize I took the best choice of those bad choices presented to me: exit the road and take a curb at a bad angle which threw me off of the motorcycle (this was it); run into the car, possibly sliding under the car and being run over like one guy I knew of; hit a tree; run over a 10 foot cliff and drop down onto a parked car.

My skid marks show I was successful in turning the bike, then bringing it upright, then applying full brakes. This is the correct way to make an emergency maneuver. A lot of people don't know, but applying full brakes while in a turn will drop a motorcycle; my training worked; I just ran out of room to stop.

I remember leaving the house, about 20 minutes before the wreck. I was returning to the office from meeting a contractor at my house at lunch to detail some work he was doing for us.

The next memory I have is of a dim episode with me being on a gurney being wheeled into the operating room. Someone asked me if I was allergic to anything - I responded in my typical joking manner, that I was only allergic to pretty girls, as my wife would beat me about my head. They all laughed. My wife isn't like that, so I took this cheap joke at her expense, but I knew she wouldn't mind - she would just laugh and roll her eyes and allow me this liberty at her expense. What a woman!

My next memory is the sound around me coming into focus, like someone that has headphones on that are keeping out all sound, then the sound gradually comes up, then the sound, all of it, is all there. Sssssssssssssuuuuuuuuuuuuupppppppp - and I have sound! All kinds of sounds; all odd and different. No vision yet, but other things are so big in my existence right now that lack of vision doesn't matter. And my throat - what the hell is this - it's like it's caked dry; I can't swallow! Just dry - a choking dryness. And what's this - something at my neck. I reach up to pull it away and people are yelling at me to stop! What the hell? There's a lot of people around me that I wasn't aware of!

My wife begins telling me that I've been in a wreck. Panic sets in - not because of the idea of a wreck, but because of the beyond-belief dryness in my throat - I can hardly breath, there's something over my mouth and nose, I can't swallow, I can't talk because my mouth is so dry, something is clinging to my neck, and I'm going to rip all of this shit off and find out just what-in-the-hell is going on! Why am I on my back? Why, when I move my arms and feel pressure from things, are there things connected to my arms? I'm getting up and throwing all this shit off! What the hell, bunch of god-damn crap, fuck this shit - it's all coming off, and it's coming off now!

My daughter's voice, H's, cuts through and orders me to "leave it alone, don't touch it!" What? I freeze - I don't know what's going on, but I trust my family's orders. My daughter is ordering me, she's ordering me? Respect for each other is a core tenant of our relationships for our whole family, for all of us - me, P(wife), H(daughter), and S(daughter). If H is ordering me, then you can bet your ass I'm listening and obeying! If she's ordering, then it's critical that I comply!

H orders me to "get a hold of your mind, like you've taught me to do". What! "You can't do this! You've got to leave everything alone!" What? But I listen and leave whatever it is at my neck alone. I begin applying some of the meditation I've learned, where you focus your mind to the exclusion of other things. On the one hand, I focus on minutia, while on the border, in the peripheria, I can feel the boundary: chaos, fear and panic. I know I don't want to go there, so I focus my mind on remaining calm, as H requires. I focus on her voice and that of my wife's, and I analyze every word, every nuance, for clues: what has happened, how bad is this, what's wrong with me, where am I? I think of these in a flash, not as separate thoughts, but one single thought: whathashappenedhowbadisthiswhatswrongwithmewhereamI. But I can't yet say anything because of the dry throat, the mask on my face....

P, my wife, tells me, in one stream of information, that I've been in a wreck, that I'm OK, but I'm in the hospital, that I've had an operation, and I've lost my spleen. Bang - one coherent stream of information. As an engineer, that's exactly what I wanted - straight information, no bullshit - bless you baby! That I have four broken ribs. What! That I've had a concussion. What! That I've got some sort of respirator hooked up and it's connected at my neck and I've got to leave it alone. OK - I can do that now that I know that it's there for a reason, not just some wild something that has a suck-attached itself on my neck.

I feel guilt. Me, myself, my entity, I view as separate from my body. I, my intellect, my mind, is responsible for my body. I need my body in order to have a mind, so I am dependent on it for survival. We form a symbiotic relationship: I adjust my environment to provide a safe place to experience life, and it provides me with my ability to live. And I've gone and caused my body to lose an organ. Damn. It's my fault, I'm not sure yet at this point because I don't know what has happened, but my body has to pay for whatever happened. I'm in total can I ever make this up to my body? Crap.

I want water. Badly. I want water. I want water. I want water. I want want want want water. It's the next day after my wreck that I'm waking up to this, and my mouth is 'caked in dry'.

Somewhere during this time, I become aware that I have vision. I don't know when it came back; it's just been there for a while before I become aware of it. The top part of an oxygen face mask frames everything. I realize the words I'm saying aren't clear because of the face mask. I reach up to take it off to better communicate, but someone orders me to leave it alone. I give up and comply.

Someone, a nurse, tells me in response to my plea that I can't have any water. I am going to get water, I don't give a shit what anyone says, I'm going to get water. Are they crazy? No water my ass! If they want all this shit in me to stay connected, then they are going to give me water. Till Heather tells me to either lie still or they are going to strap me down. Holy shit! As a claustrophobic, I damn sure don't want that! I'm not sure I can handle that! That looms as a bigger problem then the excruciating problem of no water!

So I can't bull my way - I've got to find another way to get water. From deep somewhere inside, I recall reading that while hospitals may not directly give you water, frequently they will give you a sponge soaked in a small amount of water, so that you can suck on it. I manage to ask for this. It's discussed, then decided I can try this - reality sets in that other people are controlling what I can, and can not, do; what I can, and can not, have access to. I've got to play their game to get what I must have. I've got to find a way to get my environment of people to help me get what I need.

A small sponge-like Popsicle with water on it is placed into my mouth. I suck on it, and a gush of water squirts into the back of my throat and down - too fast, out of control, and I'm on the verge of choking. But I realize, if I cough, I won't get any more water soaked sponge. So I fight... I hold my breath, I swallow swallow swallow, and finally I have it down without choking....I just do a little 'ummm ummm' throat clearing, and that gets me through it. God - I can't make that mistake again! I also become aware that coughing, with four broken ribs, is not something to be taken lightly!

It's amazing how much more claustrophobic I feel when I can't get water! If I can just get water, then a lot of stress will go away.

Water becomes my sole focus. I realize I've got to get it by guile, by intimidation, by any means possible. Any time someone leaves, or someone else returns, I ask for water. My goal is to build up an internal supply so I'm off the immediate demand need. And it works. I drink water all water prior to a nurse's shift change, then ask for more when a new nurse comes in. I hide water. I hide a cup. My goal is to drink all that I can, never let a cup leave with water in it. I transfer any water left in my cup that I can't drink right now to my hidden cup. It works - I have a small reservoir of hidden water, which helps to lessen the stress on my mind. It is four days before I can relax, somewhat, about drinking water and having a stash of water.

My immediate world consists of obtaining, and hoarding, water. I'm a one-trick-pony: anything for water.

And my wife, knowing full well what I'm doing, helps me. Bless her sweet, sweet southern heart. I'll never forget it.

End of part 1.

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