Seven years ago today saw warmer than normal weather for November, so I packed my cameras in a bag secured to the luggage rack of my Harley Davidson Super Glide and rode up to Riverheads High School South of Staunton for the first round of state football playoffs for the Floyd County Buffaloes.
On the way home, I encountered an all-black steer, along with other cattle, on U.S. 221 at the intersection of Poague Valley Road in Roanoke County between Cave Spring and Bent Mountain. I laid the bike down on the asphalt to try to avoid the steer and woke up nearly a month later in Carilion Hosptial in Roanoke.
My memory of that accident — my first and only serious motorcycle crash in many years of riding on two wheels — is sketchy at best. I suffered compound fractures of my right leg, massive brain trauma, a dislocated right eye and facial injuries that needed plastic surgery to correct and spent several months in rehab after release from the hospital on Dec. 24.
Tonight, my wife takes me to a steakhouse in Christiansburg for an annual event: the steak-cow dinner where I consume the largest cut of beef and pretend it came from the cow (which limped away from the crash after crapping all over me and the bike).
Attending physicians at Carilion-Roanoke Memorial gave Amy a long list of projections on what life for me and her might be like because of the crash, starting with a feeling that I would not last that first night after arriving at the hospital’s ER. When I did survive, they predicted I could have servere brain trauma that would wipe out my memory, including even the ability to recognize her if and when I might wake up from a coma.
The orthopedic surgeon wasn’t sure he could save my lower right leg below the knee. Predicted I would not be able to see out of my damaged right eye. One predicted that if I ever woke up, I might have the “mind of a two-year-old.”
“That would be an improvement,” Amy told the neuro-psychologist. He later told me that he had to learn to appreciate her sense of humor.
When I left the hospital on Christmas Eve, after three weeks at the Community Rehab Hospital on Elm Street, the final report from the doctors called me a “walking miracle.”
I was lucky. I also have a lot of people praying for me. Churches in Floyd County put me on their prayer lists. Musicians at the Friday Night Jamborees asked the crowd to pray for recovery and articles by Wanda Combs in The Floyd Press and columns by Dan Casey at The Roanoke Times kept readers informed of my progress.
Fellow motorcyclists, including members of the Roanoke Valley Harley Owners Group, came by the hospital to visit, along with many residents from Floyd County, Roanoke and New River Valleys. Cards, emails and phone calls came in from around the country as word of the accident spread on social media and the internet.
Over the last seven years, I have tried to thank all of those who helped, visited and prayed.
Some expressed shock that I continue to ride motorcycles after the crash. Many asked Amy why she didn’t insist that I stop. She did ask me to stop riding at night and, for the most part, I no longer do. But she has a bike of her own — a Can-Am three-wheeler — and agrees that riding is good therapy.
Tonight, as I dig into a good steak, I will also continue to thank Amy for her love and support. Living with me is a challenge and I hope I never repeat what she went through on that Nov. 9 seven years ago or the times that followed over the next several months.
My thanks, too, to each and everyone who helped us get through that time. Without you, I know that I would not be here today.