Friday, April 22, 2005

Flashback.

I came across a picture today that reminded me of my darkest day as a professional motorcylce racer. Here are a couple of the photos I have hanging in my office. I took pictures of the photos with my camera phone, sorry for the quality.


lean Posted by Hello


wheelie Posted by Hello

Then, while sniffing around the internet for news, I came across the following photo...


crash Posted by Hello

With the exception of the guy above having the luxury of wet pavement and grass to slide to a pleasant stop, my final day on the track looked much like this. Only my incident ended in a dry, hot slide to a stop in exactly the wrong place at the right time. Spooked by my theatrics up ahead, a pack of bikes ran off the track and I got rail-roaded at 80 MPH by another bike, cracking my helmet and leaving tire tracks across my leather suit.

I was fairly sure my arm had been detached from my body. When my uncooperative limbs wouldn't roll me over and get my face out of the dirt, my future perception of fear was forever changed. Corner workers began rushing to me in slow motion as the impacting bike disintegrated on take-off after each brief touch-down. It came to rest in a smoldering ball just at the fringe of my sight.

Corner safety workers are trained to ask a series of questions to assess any immediate head trauma. I knew I was in turn 4 on a Sunday. Having had the chance to meet track workers on various similar occasions, I readied myself for the questions. One asked, "Chachi, what day is it?" Race day. "What turn are you in?" The same one I'm lying in. "He's OK! He's OK!" Humor? Check. Health? Health?

My family, friends and girlfriend were in the stands in the next corner and I told the corner workers to let them know I was OK even though I wasn't sure I was. Officially dashing my illusions of this being just another crash, the normally robust voice of my dad shakingly said, "I'm right here." His determination to get to me was no match for the safety fence and the armada of corner workers trying to keep him safely away from the "hot track." He jumped one and found his way around the other, though I'm not sure in which order. With the ambulance parked as a blocker between the circulating bikes and my resting spot, a half-dozen frenzied faces worked feverishly in this spontaneous triage. As they carefully removed my helmet and applied the neck brace, I noticed another half dozen people providing intent shade and what I believe were prayers.

After a horizontal loading into the meat wagon, the attending paramedic began calling in my height and weight information to safely introduce me to morphine. The track exit was 5 corners away and bikes buzzed past us the whole trip. An on-course ambulance isn't uncommon. I'd always use the occasional cameo as a 'pick' to keep challengers staring at my rear tire.

I wondered who hit me. I wondered who would win the race I was just leading. I wondered when I'd be able to move my feet. Would I ever mow the lawn again? Brush my teeth? Give someone a hug? Was the kind of life I would have be different from the life I had this morning? Emotion gushed out the corner of my eyes. My mind only had room for the worst.

Sure I was filling my leathers with blood, I asked the paramedic to reach into my suit to investigate the dripping sensation. She unzipped them from my throat to my waist, reached in a pulled out crimson latex fingers. She wanted a better look, so my leathers had to come off. You need to know that racing leathers don't just "come off." To prohibit flapping at 185 MPH speeds, they have a very snug fit. Exiting a body glove of leather is more like a choreographed crappie flop. One person holds a sleeve and you jerk, jiggle then slither out, something like cutting the top off a week-old banana and squeezing it from the bottom. They weren't cooperating. She told me she was going to have to cut them off. $1,500 - $1,500 - $1,500 kept flashing in my mind, over and over. I made a deal with her. She wouldn't cut them off and I wouldn't beat her with the IV stand.

While I tried to be tough until the morphine started doing what morphine does, she managed to slip the suit off my shoulder. She told me the blood was just from the abrasion, no compound fracture. The dripping must have been the sweat. If I weren't strapped to a gurney, I'd have done cartwheels. Morphine and hope raced each other to the checkered flag. Photo finish. By the time I was X-rayed, my arms and legs began to move more freely. I think I remember the doctor using the term "miracle" after hearing the play-by-play from those gathered at the hospital. If he didn't, I'm glad my imagination added it. A sling carried my arm out of the hospital and my legs carried the rest. Thank you, Lord.

Physical therapy returned me to 100% a few weeks later and the only lasting evidence of the crash is that I use it as an excuse for any manner of things. I forgot to call you? Head trauma. Bad writing? Head trauma. Toilet seat? Head trauma. Burned the toast? Head trauma.

I suppose this whole post has been just been a way to remind myself that it shouldn't take a chrome ambulance ceiling to make me thankful for everything, anything. Maybe it was or wasn't my second chance, but I'm sure gonna treat it like it was.

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