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The Last Ordinary Day With My Leg

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Editor's Note

This story includes graphic details of a motorcycle accident.

How do you share your vision with the world other than by telling a story; and what better story to begin with than my own dismemberment? Now this may be a word that makes a lot of people uncomfortable, maybe even the person reading this right now, but that’s exactly what happened.

It was a sunny south Florida day. Hot, humid; you could see the heat waves pouring off the coarse asphalt. It was my day off from pilot school and I was enjoying it by working on a new bike I had picked up not long ago from a friend — a Suzuki DR650 dirt bike with street tires and rims, usually called a “supermoto.”

The shop was small, suffocating almost; you could barely fit a single car in there and it was filled to the wall with motorcycles, parts and nostalgia scattered throughout. I wheeled the Suzuki out of the shop and got to work. As I navigated my way expertly through the mess back and forth to get to the tool chest on the far wall, my phone rang. I scrambled to pinch it out of my pocket before I missed the call. It was John. “Hey bro, shoot over to my place — we are going to get something to eat.”

“Cool, I’ll be there in a minute,” I replied. I stuck my phone back in my pocket and clambered to the front of the shop. I turned around and took one look at the mess. My Harley which I usually ride daily seemed as though it would take a week to dig out. I decided to take the new supermoto.

I pulled down the garage door by the hanging rope, and pinned it down with my right foot once it slammed to the ground, then quickly looped the lock through and clamped it shut. I stuck the keys in my left pocket, and swung my leg over the bike while flicking the kickstand up in one swift motion. I pulled in the clutch and depressed the start button with my right thumb, inputing a small blip of throttle at the same time, the single cylinder motor roaring to life before settling to its thumpy idle. Grabbing my helmet hanging off one side of the handlebars, I strapped it on and took off down the aisle of storage units.

I hit the main road and made a quick right. Traffic was in a jam at this particular intersection due to a combination of construction and time of day. Luckily the wait for the light wasn’t long and I eased the clutch out to take off and cycle yet again from first to fifth gear. Once moving, the breeze was a nice hiatus from the stagnant air of the cluttered shop and beating sun. I pulled up to John’s and revved the engine to redline twice with a quick flick of my wrist. Two of my other friends pulled in, Mitch and Steven. We all talked on the porch for a bit before deciding to head back to the shop to drop off the bike and get some food.

They all piled in Mitch’s car and I took off down the street, leading then back to the shop. I pulled up to the same busy intersection as before and waited at the stop sign for a chance to cross. Traffic came to a stop as a red light came up on the perpendicular street, and two drivers left us a gap to pass through. I eased the clutch out and looked left and right. As I was crossing once more I looked left. I was immediately broadsided from my right. The initial impact was a mystery to me. I had no clue what had just happened and was still dazed as I was ragdolled three lanes and several feet in the air for what seemed like forever.  Adrenaline always seems to slow time down.

By the time my body hit the ground, I recognized the feeling of impact from falling so many times before. But this time was different — a car had hit me. I just lay for a second winded before my first sharp breath and considered how long my recovery would be. How badly was I even hurt? Then the pain came. My pelvis felt as though it was shattered; it was ringing numbly. Then I felt the pain in my ankle. I was sure it was bruised quite badly, possibly even broken. As the waves of pain started rolling in stronger and with more frequency, I tried to focus on my breathing and started to self diagnose. At this point probably five seconds had passed, as my friends had not even exited the car yet. I felt my neck, slowly prodding my pelvis, and started to slowly sit up when I was pretty sure there was no spinal injury. I felt no shifting or cracking — so far so good. Then I saw a bright stripe of red blood across my knee. Where is all this blood coming from?

By this point my friends had surrounded me and were just saying “Oh my God,” over and over. The burning sensation in my ankle was unbearable at this point. I reached down to grip my ankle and was puzzled; my foot was no longer there. In its place was a stump of shredded flesh and bleach-white bone sticking out. The remnants of what was once my foot were now hanging by my own Achilles tendon, swinging with each minute movement. I felt lightheaded but didn’t allow myself to pass out. My instincts kicked in and I made myself a mental list. Don’t let anyone remove your helmet. Stop the bleeding immediately, keep the leg elevated, don’t let it touch anything to prevent infection.

At this point the pain was overwhelming but I was still keeping calm and focusing on my breathing. I lay back down and immediately tried to remove my belt. I asked Steve to hold my leg and keep it elevated. The smoldering asphalt burned my back where my shirt had slid up. I wrapped the belt around my leg and asked for help. It seemed as if everyone around me was in shock and I was the only one who knew what to do or how to react. Steve helped. I was staring through my helmet straight up and the blaring sun, not a cloud in the sky. I was immediately hit with extreme thirst. “Water, I need some water please, anything.” I felt as though I was dying of thirst. By this point police had arrived and blocked off the area and paramedics arrived shortly after.

I’ll stop the story there as I digress to my point.

Every day, people get up not expecting it to be the day that changes their life forever, or even their last day on earth. A normal, light day can switch to a bad one and it does often. Living through an experience like this can be not only damaging physically, but mentally and emotionally. This also breeds some of the most resilient; living through a near-death experience can give you confidence. If you made it through that really bad day, you can make it through any bad day.

Follow this journey on Traumatically Altered.

Getty image by Jamiga.

Originally published: April 3, 2018
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