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J.R. Buchanan


Motorcycle accident

It was the fall of 1996, September or October.

I had been losing interest in riding. I'm not sure why, but it just wasn't as appealing as it had been in earlier years, or even earlier that year.

I decided a nice organized ride with some friends would help. I decided that Southern Indiana was the place to be, because of the hills and twisty roads.

So I arranged for about a dozen of us to meat at a pancake restaurant down in Indianapolis (I live in Kokomo Indiana, almost an hour north of Indianapolis).

We had a nice big breakfast, I had an omelet.

I woke up from a very deep sleep, the kind where you are comfortably numb and you seem to slowly surface to the world as if rising from a watery depth.

As I approached full awareness, I realized I was wearing a motorcycle helmet. A little thinking later, and I came to the realization that it had finally happened. A serious motorcycle accident.

To this day, nine years later as I write this, I don't remember anything between breakfast and waking up.

They had just finished strapping me to a backboard and were loading me into an ambulance when I asked what happened. A beautiful female EMT told me that I'd had a motorcycle accident. Not news at this point, but she was very sweet.

Things aren't too clear for a while after that, I don't remember the ambulance ride or the intake procedure at the hospital.

I vaguely remember an MRI, it's hard to forget one of those. I don't remember the X-Rays they took of my shoulder.

I don't remember them taking off my helmet.

I clearly remember them wanting to cut off my jacket. They said that it would hurt too much to take it off any other way, but I was stubborn, and we got it off. It hurt a lot, they said that they were amazed by my pain threshold. It wasn't so high that I didn't let them cut off my sweatshirt and shirt.

They tell me that I was a great patient, laughing and joking the whole while, quite different from most people in similar situations. Why not, I was alive and not paralyzed wasn't I?

One of the doctors rode and so did the husband of one of the nurses. They treated me like royalty. A lot of compliments on the choice of wearing a helmet.

The damage: My left collar bone was broken into 13 pieces, and I had some internal bleeding. My urine had blood in it for a few days.

Soon after the examination was complete, they put me on morphine. A mistake, but not a big one. I'm not fatally allergic to it, but it causes some problems, which happened shortly after my wife and mother showed up.

I was in too much of an opiate fog by this point to remember, but my mother said that as soon as they told her I was on morphine, she said to get a bucket ready. And sure enough, after a while, up came the omelet.

After being observed for a while, I was sent home with my wife and mother. They had instructions not to let me sleep that night for fear of a concussion. Or at least I think that's what happened, I was still really out of touch with reality due to the morphine and the pills they gave me.

Talking to friends later, this is what happened. I was third in the group, doing my darnedest to keep up with two friends on faster bikes, and with more experience in the twisties. In my opinion, I was probably riding over my head.

I hit a patch of sand while leaned over in a corner and slid. I regained traction, but was headed off road at a very high speed. I managed to get control and try to get back onto the road, but there was step up and when my front wheel hit it, I lost control. I went end over end over the handlebars and hit the asphalt hard on my head.

My helmet was cracked down the side like the Liberty Bell, and deeply gouged on the other side. If I had not been wearing it, I'm sure I would not be here to write this today.

Meanwhile my friends picked up the bits and pieces of the bike (they did visit me briefly in the hospital, but were not allowed to stay long). By a wild coincidence, my accident was right in front of the house of a friend of one of my co-riders, He hadn't seen him in years and was surprised when he came out to see what was happening. He let me store my bike in his garage until I was better.

It took a while to get better. The collar bone took months to knit, they were about to give up on natural healing and operate to insert plates. I had decided against this option early on, as they would have had to operate again to remove the plates after the healing was done. I really wished I had gone with the plates in the first place, healing would have been faster, and I might not have the pain I get sometimes where the collar bone meets the upper rib cage.

One thing I'm sorry to report. When I went into the hospital I had several hundred dollars in my wallet. None when it was retrieved. Of course, no one knew *how* that could have happened.

My bike was in surprisingly good shape. When I was healed it only cost a few hundred dollars to repair.

My riding had been a bone of contention between my wife and I for years. After the accident, she *really* hated it. I wound up riding less and less. Then in 2004 we got divorced. I'm starting to ride more again.