Awake the Whole Time

BY TROY LYMAN                                                                                                                                     

Where am I? I blinked my eyes a couple times and allowed them to adjust to the soft light that filled the room. From my prone perspective and the mediocre softness of the linens on my skin and the unfamiliarity of the walls and ceiling above me it was obvious I was not somewhere I was familiar with. I wondered for a moment if I were in a dream.

Slowly my thoughts sorted themselves and I began to piece together my situation. My last memory was riding along on my Harley Davidson on the freeway. I was cruising in the middle lane, adequate space between myself and the car in front of me. I was traveling with the flow of my lane, which was about 50 mph, while the lanes on either side of me were about 15 mph slower as traffic in Southern California’s morning commute was ramping up. Now I was here, wherever that was. The transition from my bike on the freeway to this cool, sterile room I found myself in now was instantaneous.

That’s when the realization of my predicament struck me. This was a hospital room. Something had gone terribly wrong.

Still looking straight up at the ceiling and lying motionless, I began to take inventory of my condition. I wiggled my toes and felt a brief relief when I felt them move. I repeated this with my fingers and again was rewarded with the satisfying feeling of my fingertips brushing over the hospital sheets.

With all limbs accounted for I began searching for signs my body was giving me as to where I was injured. The big toe of my left foot was aching a bit but since I could move it, I knew it was still there.

My knees were a little sore but I initially attributed that to road rash. I figured there would be more. My right cheek felt like someone had slugged me good and was tender. I opened my mouth to see if my jaw had been injured and as I ran my tongue across my mouth searching for cuts or abrasions I discovered my broken left front tooth.

Now I needed to try and move. Starting with my arms, a minor pain in my left shoulder arose when I tried to rotate it but it was no worse than how I felt after a hard workout. Moving to my legs and hips, my left knee let out a sharp pain when I flexed it, as did my left big toe, but everything else was okay.

I felt relieved and surprised at the same time. A nurse noticed my movement and came in to check on me and told me I had been involved in a motorcycle accident that morning. I inquired what time it was and she told me it was almost six in the evening. I rode to work at seven in the morning. Eleven hours of my life were gone. To this day, I have no memories of any of that time.

I was later told by family and friends who rushed to the hospital that day that I had been awake the whole time. I had asked that question of what happened a dozen times or more. I had told them earlier that I had remembered bouncing across the freeway and then being loaded in the ambulance at the scene yet I didn’t remember any of those events nor did I remember the conversation.

In the days ahead I’d find out the details of my accident and the full extent of my injuries. I had been hit by a driver in an SUV wanting to get out of their slower moving lane. The opening in traffic they thought they saw was me. I was told that I had tried to avoid them by moving to the right but still struck the right front fender of their truck after they were in my lane. There was nothing I could do to prevent it. I had been riding as safe and as defensively as I could.

A concussion accounted for my memory loss. My left big toe had been dislocated and relocated in the emergency room. My left knee had two torn ligaments and a torn meniscus. I had broken my right cheekbone and pulled the muscles in my left shoulder. I had road rash on both knees and the right side of my face. Thankfully I had been wearing a department of transportation approved half helmet, a heavy leather jacket with armor in the elbows and shoulders, and heavy riding boots.

With physical therapy, I was back on my feet in a month and on a bike again in three. My riding gear helped me survive a crash at 50 mph, allowing me to come away with relatively minor injuries. I’ll never ride without my full safety gear, because wearing full safety gear is the best way to prevent death or major injury.

Troy Lyman is a programmer for NSWC Corona. He has been riding for four years. His bikes of choice are the Harley Davidson Sportster and Dyna.