a narrative about my motorcycle accident while in sparsely poplulated eastern Oregon
|We were returning from a road trip to Elko, NV. Stephen, John, Viola, Marisa, Scott and I had gone to a bike rally – not my favorite destination, as I enjoy it when we take off on our own. I said something about a diverse crowd and Stephen said he didn’t think so, it’s really that they’re all pretty much the same (or act like it). Anyway, I digress. It was about 1:00 PM. There were six of us on five bikes, and I rode my Sportster. We were in Harney County, SE Oregon, spare as the moon and nobody around for miles. The only signs of life were some dried-up insect carcasses. We had come off a straightaway that went on for about 15-20 miles and I went a little spacey as we came into a really nasty turn that was littered with parts from other accidents, I heard later. It was the wrong place to lose my concentration. I wised up about three seconds before my tire hit the gravel, and there was what’s called a curb trap – a lip of pavement that prevented me from getting back onto the road. I kept the bike upright and along the road for some distance, then finally went down the embankment riding the bucking bronco. At some point I got tossed off the back of the bike, among the boulders and the sagebrush – I remember the impact, and felt my breath leave me. I was unconscious for a minute or two, and woke up cursing. Marisa was with me by then and when she heard my blue streak, she said, “She’s going to be okay!” I was able to sit up, and knew that my right wrist and left shoulder hurt, plus I had a gash above my mouth and one on an elbow. Interestingly, the jacket didn’t rip – it is from Langlets Leathers in Portland, the kind the motorcycle cops wear, and it did an incredible job of taking care of me.
It took two full hours for an ambulance to come from Burns. I mean, I really picked my spot to crash land. In the meantime Stephen held my hand. He said the sheriff who came first walked down the hill with a shovel and a tarp, and Stephen thought, Wait! She’s not dead yet! The sheriff put up a sunscreen for me, but had little else to offer. There was one other character, a first responder who had more first aid equipment than the sheriff. He was a tall lanky fellow in a cowboy hat with a handlebar mustache. He said, “Howdy, ma’am. My name’s Mike. I’m a better cowboy than a doctor.” On the back of his pickup was a horse trailer. We wondered if that was the Harney County equivalent of an ambulance. "Excuse me for putting on these gloves. ‘They' make me do it. I was out working with the cows and my wife had to come find me". He asked me lots of questions and put a “c” collar on my neck. One of the huge blessings was that I was wearing a good helmet and all my leathers. I didn’t have so much as a headache, no back injuries, and only a tiny piece of road rash where my jacket pulled up. Our friends like to ride without helmets when they can, and often ride in tank tops. Although I respect their right to do what they want, I think they’re nuts, even more so now that I’ve been through this little adventure.
At long last the ambulance did arrive. They decided that although I was stable and alert, I had some fairly bad injuries that needed better care than Burns, OR could provide. Besides, Burns isn’t a very biker-friendly town! The ambulance folks took me away from my friends and gave me pain meds, a shot of some sleepy time elixir that had me out for most of the trip, except they kept talking to me. One of the techs started telling me horror stories about bike wrecks. I was glad I couldn’t stay awake. We went 90 miles up the road to an airstrip. From there I got the deluxe flight to Bend, a turbo jet ride. I do remember that Stephen and the rest of the group had caught up to us, because all of a sudden there he was, just before we took off.
In Bend, I began a very long wait to get stitched and x-rayed. There were several emergencies, worse than mine, so I got put on the back burner. Occasionally a nurse or a doctor would come in and wash a scrape or check my blood pressure. Every hour or two I think I woke up and considered making a fuss to get more attention, but the sleepy drugs would take over and out I went again. It was worse for my friends. They had to ride all the way across the desert to get to me, finally arriving very weary and saddle sore at about 10:30 PM. I think by that time, I had one of two lacerations stitched and maybe the x-rays taken. I had a broken left wrist and torn right shoulder rotator cuff. At 1:00 AM we finally left the hospital in a cab to go to the motel where they had gotten set up with a room. Hospitals don’t keep a person overnight unless they’re giving them a brain transplant, and then only if there are complications.
That was June 18th, Father’s Day. In the last nine months, I’ve had the wrist operated on and a plate put in to hold it all together. My rotator cuff surgery has been more problematic, the first repair failing to take. Currently my right arm is in the sling from hell, with four weeks to go before I can sleep in my bed again. Hello, couch. Goodbye, darling. Now, though, it is time to tally up the list of gratefuls, and stop whining.
My body is mostly in one piece, my mind is not worse for the wear (the best I can say for my mind), my friends and family have been remarkable and generous, and I have insurance and sick leave. I have not lost one day’s pay due to the fact that I’ve accumulated 20 year’s worth of sick days and not used very many in that time. Let’s hear it for steady employment, and yes, the great benefits I have as a teacher. I say that proudly and know I deserve it. Did I mention that our friends are amazing? First of all, John and Viola rode their bikes 150 miles back home the day after the accident, got the bike trailer, and returned to Bend for us. They made two trips from Bend to Hood River that day. My children have returned the favors of physical care I gave them when they were young. My sweetheart and I have learned to negotiate the tricky waters of his taking care of me. I encourage him to think like a woman, but really he is an electrician and biker to boot. That is a story in itself! I hope nobody expects much in the hair and makeup department right now, because it isn’t going to happen. Many other friends and colleagues have brought food and otherwise showered us with love. Most have kindly refrained from scolding me or saying, “I told you so”. To those who do, I say that life is meant to be lived, and I could die in some unforeseeable freak accident just as well as doing what I love. So, life is a risk. Grab it with both hands, kiss your loved ones, and hang on. Do be careful while in Harney County, though.