After at least six surgeries in the last 15 years plus another 2-3 “procedures,” I was plenty used to waking up from anesthesia. There’s a bit of grogginess followed by a desire to go back to sleep. Each time I knew I was in a hopsital and would be going home in one or two hours.
This day was different. Much different. I woke up, saw a river, and heard a voice. I don’t remember a face with the voice and the only words I recall were “I’ve called 911 and I’ve answered that question seven times now.”*
I had no clue where I was or what I was doing. This was much different than 15 minutes earlier.
It was a cool overcast day. This was to be a pre-ride before the Ride of Silence in Dayton at 7:00 p.m. I had parked in Troy at a trailhead of the Great Miami River Trail and ridden north to Piqua. There was some mud on the trail and I passed a worker sweeping and I thought he is spreading the mud around.
We had moved to the small village of Lockington in 1964, I was almost nine, and lived her for three years. The small parsonage is now an extension of the church.
From Piqua I rode to the Kirkwood bridge which was a covered bridge when I lived here. As a kid I could ride my bike all over and this one was tough because in an otherwise pancake-flat topography, there was an actual hill to ride down from Lockington and then back up. The bridge burned in 1989 and was replaced with just a bridge. Looks like a roadway.
As a kid, I rode my bike to deliver newspapers (Piqua Daily Call – I made 2 cents per paper), to the Piqua Country Club to golf, and to Piqua to Echo Hills Golf Course where a youth season pass cost $5 for the year. No helmets and I don’t remember ever carrying water.
We would use our bikes to rid litter off the roads. A soda (or pop) bottle was made of glass and carried a 2 cents deposit. These were like gold to kids. Find five, and it wasn’t that hard, and we would take them to Forsythe’s Frozen Locker in Lockington. We could trade five of them in for a cold Mountain Dew (10 cents) that we would drink there. A bonus would be to buy a frozen Zero candy bar for another five cents. While history will tell us the 1960s were a turbulent time, for a kid growing up, they were pretty good.
It was a nice trip back in time. I found myself a bit fearful on some of the roads with the cars going by too close for comfort. And I think back to 50 years earlier when I was a kid. I rode on these roads and either those drivers were much more careful than today’s drivers, or probably, as a kid I just did not perceive the risk of riding my bike on a highway – as a 12 year-old.
Piqua is such a beautiful city and I rode through it twice. The trail passes the nuclear reactor which made Piqua the first nuclear-powered city in the U.S. I made my way south on the trail and remember crossing the Great Miami River where four people were walking and taking up the entire width of the trail. I rang a bell and politely announced “passing” and thought it was a bit strange that three moved to the right and one moved to the left. I went right through them. And my memory ended right there.
I would later compare the time stamp on my Garmin file with the timestamp of the 911 call and determined I was unconscious on the trail for six minutes. A retired Piqua cop, Paul Sullenberger, happened to be riding by and saw me. It was his voice I remember hearing.
The left side of my body hurt. My leg was bleeding from road rash. My left shoulder hurt. I thought I may have broken my collarbone. But mostly, I wanted to go back to sleep.
I don’t recall how the ambulance(s) got there. Nor do I remember talking to the paramedics. But I did. I don’t remember the 911 call yet I can be heard talking on it. I must of undergone some type of exam – and passed.
A park ranger arrived in a pickup truck. At first, I didn’t know where I was so I certainly didn’t know how I got here and where I was parked. But my memory slowly was coming back and they asked me if I was parked at the trailhead about a mile south of here. They had seen my car and I told them I was parked there. The paramedics wanted me to jump in the ambulance but I just wanted to go back to my car. I did not try to ride my bike. We put it in the back of the truck and the only act of clarity I had was to turn off the Garmin so it did not record more miles than I actually earned. I rode with the ranger.
I got back to my car and the paramedics strongly suggested I go to the E.R. It literally was right across the highway and I did. The only spots reasonably close were handicapped spaces and I had my handicap parking placard from my knee replacement. I pulled in but did not have the presence of mind to display it. Thankfully, I was not ticketed.
I was wearing cycling shoes. My cycling jersey was ripped. They asked me if I had been biking. And that was sort of the highlight of the exam. They cleaned my legs wounds (mostly) and X-rayed my shoulder (negative). The nurse told me she was going to take my blood pressure again. I said to her “again, but you haven’t taken it yet.” She responded, “Don’t you remember? I took it when you first came in here about 30 minutes ago.”
Despite this exchange, this was not enough to suggest they should examine me for a head injury. And while it’s possible they did a full exam on my head which I don’t remember, there was nothing on the discharge paperwork stating they had checked me for a concussion. Not only don’t I remember them ever checking me for a head injury, the paperwork did not list it either.
I would not have been happy but they should not have discharged me and let me drive. But I left and went back to the trail. I was going to ride some more (this was the primary indication I had a head injury). I went to get on the bike and saw the derailleur was messed up. The hanger was broke. I could not ride the bike later today in the Ride of Silence.
I was still in a fog. A major fog. I just hoped to make it to Springfield where I had pre-paid for a room. I did. I was still sleepy but knew with a head injury that sleep wasn’t good. I stayed up as late as I could and went to sleep fearful that I might not wake up.
*The question was “Did you see me go down?” (He hadn’t)