I Survived a Motorcycle Accident; Five Years Later.
On September 9, 2014 I nearly met my maker via way of motorcycle accident. I learned many lessons from the experience, I got to know myself as well as my friends and family a whole lot better, and saw how an experience like this can change one’s life forever.
Living in on the most beautiful states, I wanted to adventure and experience everything this state has to offer. Now, I’m not new to motorcycles. I’ve been riding motorbikes since I was a kid, even the days of riding with my cousins when I was 13 or 14 years old. Quick sharp turns and jumps, falling off dirt bikes, it’s that adrenaline I love and grew up enjoying.
Morning of September 2014, we hit the road to Mt. Rainier with my husband, Christopher (then boyfriend), and his dad. We took the back roads through the mountains, tall evergreen trees, and miles of wildflowers. The sun was out, warm, rarely you would see anyone on the road. It was the perfect two hour ride to Mt. Rainier.
Five miles up the road is the turnoff for the White River entrance and Sunrise. The road to Sunrise is steep and twisty, but the reward is well worth it. You’ll enjoy some spectacular views of the northeast face of Mt. Rainier. There are no guard rails here, so you have to pay attention.
As we made it to the top, the views were just stunning. Took pictures, chat for a while, and just enjoyed our surroundings.
Was time to head out before it got dark and cold. We switched positions, Chris leading, I was in the middle, and Chris’s dad was in the back. Before we headed down, I was messing around on the bike trying to see if I could hit 100mph on this one stretch on the mountain. Didn’t think this short road would let me hit 100mph, but I did it. Got that out of my system, now down the mountain we go.
We headed down around some twists and turns. I remember my tire getting sucked into the cracks of the road. During the winter months, they get feet of snow and the plow over time damages the road, leaving huge cracks and holes in the ground. You absolutely have to pay attention to your surroundings, even when people aren’t around. Nature will get ya!
I corrected my bike to avoid the cracks in the road. They were visible going around a turn and straights. Especially going up the mountain, I could see the road and everything that I needed to avoid. As I was approaching a steep turn, I downshifted before I reached the turn, but could not see what was on the other side. I road the turn and just before you could see anything on the road, my front tire was sucked into this huge crack in the road, causing me to lowside the motorcycle. At that moment I remember saying in my helmet “Oh shit, no!”. I managed to push off the bike because I knew that there were no guard rails, but I wasn’t thinking about the on coming traffic. My bike reached the end of the cliff and was stopped from going any further by a tree. You could take two steps and fall off the edge.
Now, in my head from what I remember, time immediately slowed down, all but stopped, and proceeded to provide me with a frame-by-frame record of me seeing my own ass. No amount of breaking would have saved me, I grabbed a fist full of brake, pumped down on the brakes with my foot and looked ahead knowing if I didn’t let go of this bike I was going to go down the cliff. This is a couple seconds of thought before impact.
Its nearly unbelievable how much time slows down in a situation like this, and how much detail one can take in. I struggle to believe it to this day, but I did not walk away from the accident.
I slid across to oncoming traffic head first. Waking up with my helmet still on, laying on the ground. I woke up and was moving my eyes around, trying to figure out what just happened. I begin to hear my breathing and it got louder and faster. I remember hearing Chris’s dad yelling my name to wake up. I closed my eyes and could feel my heart beat out of my chest. It was the loudest thing I’ve ever heard in my life. My husband was ahead and didn’t see me in his mirror so he turned around and saw me on the road. Chris and his dad tried to get my helmet off but they were panicking, having a hard time getting the helmet off of me. I was in and out of consciousness due to how hard I hit my head on the road. They took me to a safe side of the road, still trying to get the helmet off. When they took it off I was dizzy with a headache, wanted to throw up, completely confused, then instantly passed out.
Chris went flying on his bike to go get help from the ranger at the top of the mountain. People stopped in their cars to help, supplying me with water and trying to keep my awake. I am very surprised at the calm way I woke up and realized what had happened. With so much adrenaline, I hadn’t yet felt any pain, I decided to check what systems were still intact, if any. I wiggled my toes, both sides, the ability to do this provided me with much elation. I wiggled my fingers- success! As far as I was concerned, lying on the gravel, I was now in the clear.
I passed out again, but I would wake up with faint voices of Chris and a hysterical blonde woman shouting ‘Oh my God’ over and over again before moving on to complaining how unacceptably long the ambulances were taking to arrive. I think at one point Chris slapped my face a couple times and everyone telling me to stay awake. lol Everyone was trying to get me to walk, though dizzy, I gave it my all and got up but I ended up passing out again in Chris and his dad’s arm. They had to lay me down on the gravel. Another person to arrive had a massive impact on me, one that I will never forget. He was wearing a high-visibility jacket and carrying a helmet. He immediately told me that he was also a motorcyclist, and in a very caring, sincere, and personal manner he asked my permission to pray over me. I am a very private person when it comes to my religion and beliefs, I generally keep them to myself, try to maintain some faith, but still try to be practical, all the while remaining skeptical of religion in general. I gave the motorcyclist permission to pray over me, not thinking much of it. He starts praying for me audibly, asking God to help me heal, to watch over my body and guide those who would be treating me. I was surprisingly moved by this. I think it was the combination of him making me realize that I was actually in quite a serious situation, as well as realizing that this person, whom I had never met, and would never see again, genuinely cared about me, my condition, and my future. This made a huge impact on me, and admittedly nearly brought me to tears on the ground in front of everyone.
I didn’t understand at that moment what was wrong with me or what everyone was seeing that I couldn’t see. I wanted to speak, but I couldn’t. Apparently when I did try to speak, nothing made sense and I slurred my words. I was becoming more lucid as the the level of pain increased. I tried to move to see what my bike looked like and was very quickly reprimanded and told to stay still- sound advice. Still waiting, everyone decided that it was best that they take me up. I remember two other men help load me into their car and drove me to the top of the mountain to get me some help. I don’t remember what happened in the car, but I remember waking up to the park ranger and a crowd of people working on me. They checked out my road rash that was entirely on the left side of my body. Still quite calm, and some little pain, I racked this up as the first injury on the list. Two people were cutting my gear off of me, looking for any other injuries. What I didn’t know was that I had a huge gaping hole in my knee and injury to my right and left side of my body, with a head injury. When I touched down on the ground, I cracked open my knee two inches across and to the bone and it was shaved off from sliding on the pavement. You could see my flesh and blood on the pavement.
I was becoming restless waiting for the ambulance (they were already working on me but I didn’t know due to confusion) I didn’t know I had any injuries until the paramedic stuck his finger into my knee. I looked down my sleeve, went a bit pale and they were yelling over the crowd to the other paramedic that my knee was wide open, he could see the bone and gravel embedded into the flesh. Before I knew it the pain became overwhelming and I started to scream so loud, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard myself scream like that before. At this point my wits started coming back to me and with them, a good measure of pain. I immediately passed out. Woke up on the stretcher with my name being yelled to stay awake and a crowd of faces I’ve never seen before to stay with them. I also became aware of the people at this point. My neck was secured, I was strapped down, oxygen, and they called in for me to be airlifted. I was in two ambulances to get me to the hospital with it being a hour twenty away from the hospital.
I woke up in the ambulance with the paramedic using his knuckle on my chest to wake me up. I’m not sure how many times I was in and out of it but he told me that everything is OK and that I need to stay awake. He repeatedly kept asking me what my name was, birth date, where I live.
Meanwhile, Chris is riding his motorcycle behind us to the hospital. When I arrived, I was welcomed by a hippy ER doctor and trauma nurses doing their job. The ER doctor was absolutely amazed that my head and neck was intact, the X-rays and CT scan showed absolutely no fractures or abnormalities. And this was after face-planting, sliding on the pavement to the other side of the road. He examined my helmet and sat next to me saying “this thing saved your life, you would’ve had a very bad head injury or worse death. This huge soft spot on your helmet is where you hit your head in the front which resulted in a concussion. Without a helmet you would be dead judging by the location of where you hit.” I started crying and so did Chris. What do you say after hearing that? I wasn’t ready to die.
After hearing the doctor, he attended to my knee cap. I didn’t really see what it looked like until he took the bandages off. I see this stuff on TV, not right before my eyes. He cleaned it all out and numbed the area for stitches. I could hear him cut the jagged skin with scissors. It sounded like chicken skin getting cut off the flesh. I made the mistake of looking at him doing that and Chris said I turned gray and passed out. All was stitched up. They cleaned up my road rash, looked at my bruises, and loaded me with pain medication.
So what did I take from this?
I was in a really miserable state that would last a very long time. It is times like these that you learn a lot about those around you. I learned who really cared and who didn’t. And it is never, ever, who you suspect. It was a real eye opener and caused me to make major changes to my friendship circles, changes which I have never regretted once to this day. Luckily my family were all fantastically supportive and my husband worked selflessly to help me through it, with no complaint or reward, he is an absolute blessing. I have no idea how I would have recovered if it wasn’t for him. The months that came were very difficult, the recovery were long and slow, and I developed a generous serving of PTSD on top of this whole mess.
I have now recovered, with only a little functional impairment. Permanent nerve damage to my knee. It will never be perfect, but it has recovered beautifully thanks to the help of the doctors and nurses. The PTSD has also completely resolved and I’m back riding an even faster bike. lol
I took a lot of valuable lessons away from all of this:
- My husband is radically awesome and loves me plenty.
- My family is also top-notch.
- I learned who my real friends were, changed my life to include them, and excluded the crappy ones.
- Your life and safety is not only your concern, people who care for you worry for good reason and out of love.
On a motorcycle, you have to take ownership of anything – you can’t assume that people will act favorably towards you. Take ownership of worse-case scenarios, obstacles, the weather, the road. If there’s anything I could tell other beginning riders is that imagine as you sit on your motorcycle, anytime you sit on your motorcycle you immediately become invisible. Remember that no one can see you. As long as you operate that way, you’ll notice these things and other drivers.
A month later the state park sent me a letter saying that they have placed a guard rail on the turn I crashed at and have repaved the road.
Until my time comes, I’m thankful for another chance and I won’t do anything to mess it up. I have and will always live it to the fullest.