I opened my eyes. I was slow to wake and remember seeing a river. Strange. Where was I?
After at least six surgeries in the last 15 years plus another 2-3 “procedures,” I was 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 hospital and would be going home in one or two hours. I felt like I was coming out of anesthesia.
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 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.
Somehow an ambulance made its way onto the trail and paramedics were talking with me. I don’t remember any of the conversations with one exception. I asked where I was. The response was “Ohio.”
What? How was I in Ohio? Or why? I had no clue why I was here. My memory from earlier in the day was gone. I had my bike. I was wearing cycling clothes and it was obvious that I was on a bike ride but where and why?
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 there and where I was parked. Or if 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. They 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.
Some of my memory was coming back to me. We traveled almost one mile when we came to a trailhead which is where I had parked. The ranger asked me if that was my car and I told him it was.
The paramedics stopped and checked me one more time. I was parked right across from the highway from a hospital. They encouraged me to go to the E.R. to get cleaned up. I was pretty bloodied and my shoulder hurt, reminiscent of my broken collarbone five years ago.
The parking lot at the hospital was crowded. I saw one empty space up front for handicapped parking. I took it. I had a handicapped parking placard still in effect from my knee replacement surgery and on this day I needed to be close. I was still in a fog and forgot to hang the placard but wasn’t 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 leg 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 discharge 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 rear derailleur was messed up. The hanger was broken. I could not ride.
Slowly my memory started coming back. It was a cool and cloudy day. It looked like it might rain at any moment. And I wanted to ride near Piqua.
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 was spreading the mud around.
I chose to ride this morning’s route as my own journey back in time. We had moved to the small village of Lockington in 1964 when I was almost nine years old and lived here 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 Club 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-cent 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, actually 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.
What happened next will remain a mystery. I have no memory of being on the train south of the bridge. I would wake up and see the river and hear a voice.
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.
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 have undergone some type of exam – and passed. I was told later that I knew the date and my name. I don’t remember having any conversation.
After 90 minutes the E.R I was discharged. I was still in a fog. A major fog. I just hoped to make it to Springfield, Ohio, 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)