When you open your eyes, realize you’re on your back and someone in emergency gear is staring down at you, you know something has gone terribly wrong and you’re in the middle of it. That was the case when my wife Diane and I were involved in a bicycle accident on Dec. 10.
Diane and I have been riding bicycles for decades, and our ride that day was no different from any other. Of course, that’s an assumption because neither of us can remember much about that morning.
We were stretched out alongside Ladd Lane by Safeway when we both became conscious of the paramedics tending to us. As I said, I’m assuming quite a bit because my whole world at that moment was focused on the face of a pleasant, kind young woman telling me something I don’t recall. I kept asking what had happened and she told me I had been in an accident. I asked about Diane and the paramedic assured me she was being taken care of. Then I went into shock; I assume that’s what it was, or I was just so cold that I couldn’t stop shaking. As the first responders cut away my clothing and inserted an IV in my arm, I did not know where Diane was and still couldn’t figure out what had happened.
Then I went on an interesting ride aboard a helicopter that took off from Ladd Lane Elementary School and flew me to Natividad Medical Center in Salinas; Diane made the same trip in an ambulance. The paramedics must have assumed I was worse off than Diane, but as it turned out that was not the case.
During my helicopter ride, I chatted with another young paramedic and kept asking her name because I wanted to remember her. I don’t. I assumed the worst as I shivered uncontrollably until someone put a warm blanket on me. At that moment, I thought I was going to die. I prayed and made my peace with God and I was good to go, whichever way it turned out. But the paramedics knew better, as they tended to me all the way to the hospital. I was taken to a scanner somewhere on the roof, it seemed, and inserted into a machine.
A doctor told me a couple hours later that I had a very hard head and I was going to be released with a warning because I had a concussion. Diane was not so fortunate. She too was concussed, but also had a brain bleed. She came home Dec. 13 with a whopping headache, medication and reams of instructions about not driving and not doing much of anything for the next several weeks.
Even after the accident, we only kind of know what happened from what we’ve seen on Facebook. Hollister is not the most bicycle-friendly town, and the intersection of Ladd Lane and Tres Pinos Road is one of those places where riders have to be cautious. If you want to cross Tres Pinos Road to go into the shopping center across the street, you have to move over into the center lane. There is no bike lane, so it’s a tricky maneuver at best as you try to avoid being run over.
I’m thinking—because I do not recall—what happened, as described by a man on Facebook who was in his truck in the Safeway parking lot at the time of the accident, was that a car passed me and either nudged me or came so close that I swerved. I lost control and jackknifed as I flew over the handlebars and crashed headfirst into the street. Diane remembers seeing me go down; it was too late to stop and she hit my bike and crashed.
The reason I’m writing this is twofold. I want to give a huge thank you to the first responders who were professional, kind and gentle with us. I tried to emblaze the two (or one, I’m still not sure) paramedics’ names in my memory, but it is like Swiss cheese at the moment—full of holes.
The second reason is much more important, I think. With Christmas fast approaching, there will most likely be quite a few bikes for kids beside their Christmas trees. I seriously encourage all parents to make sure there is a helmet with each of those bikes, and that the kids wear them. I cannot stress enough how important those helmets are. My wife and I were told that if we had not had our helmets on, we would most likely have died that day.