I Survived A Horrific Accident Without Proper Protection
Thirteen years ago, half of my skin was ripped off in a motorcycle accident. I was a 20-year-old passenger, and the only piece of gear I was wearing (a full face helmet) happened to save my life.
After tumbling 522 feet down the highway in nothing more than jeans and a sweatshirt, I laid on the ground with third-degree road rash on 50% of my body (warning: image below is graphic) for 45 minutes waiting for emergency crews. While slowly bleeding out, I imagined what people would be saying about me at my funeral. I talked to whoever is “in charge” and accepted my fate. At first I was scared, but then I just wanted to die.
I spent two months in the hospital and had nine surgeries. I developed a life-threatening blood clot and eleven different types of infection as a direct result of my injuries. My parents visited me every day – their lives put on hold. I begged them on a regular basis to “make it stop” and screamed in pain during my daily dressing changes, which drove my father out the hospital room on several occasions.
I became dependant on my pain medication (there were at least 14 in my system throughout my stay) and had violent mood swings with my doctors and family as a result. A complete stranger had to help me shower while I sat in a chair made of PVC pipe. After all the surgeries, I had to learn to brush my hair, sit up in bed, and walk again.
There were more consequences that would take longer for me to realize. Because of my injuries, I lost a military career path. I lost my favorite sport. I lost my youthful athletic body. I lost all of my hair. I lost my self-confidence. I lost my ability to bear children. I lost my clear and focused mind in exchange for PTSD and anxiety. I lost all these things at the age of 20.
For a long time, it felt like I had lost everything. People ask me how long it took to recover. Sadly, I fear the true answer is forever because I haven’t fully recovered, and it’s been 13 years. I am still suffering from the physical injuries and ongoing mental effects of skinning myself alive. Every single day my life is affected by the outcome of that ride without gear.
There’s a lot more detail to the story. You can read my account of the entire first year after the crash, learn more about the consequences 10 years down the road, or take a look at the emotional struggle 12 years later.
You might think you understand. Very few actually do, and they are the ones who have lived through similar. Ask them to tell their story, and if you have the chance… listen.
Another Crash… In Full Gear
This September, just nine days before the 13th anniversary of my accident, I crashed my own motorcycle at 40 mph on the racetrack.
Of course, I was all the gear this time (it’s a requirement), and in fact, I was wearing full race-level apparel. What does that mean?
- ECE-R 22-05 certified full-face helmet.
- One-piece custom cowhide racing leathers.
- CE Level 1 D3O impact protectors in the shoulders, elbows, back, hips and knees.
- Armored road racing boots.
- Cowhide and kangaroo gauntlet-length gloves with floating knuckle armor.
After a short slide and a few tumbles, I got up and walked to the edge of the track without assistance. Once the track was clear, I helped a corner worker pick up my bike (her name is Breezy). I smiled when Breezy started right up. I would have ridden my banged-up Yamaha R6 off the track if it wasn’t against the rules. So instead, I jumped in the crash truck, which brought me and my bike back to the pits.
My boyfriend and parents were there, waiting and so worried. I immediately hugged them all and told them I was just fine. I drank some water and then helped fix my bike enough to pass tech inspection. I rode an hour later. I raced twice more that day, even after crashing, while the people who love me the most in this world watched and cheered from the stands.
The Real Difference Protection Makes
Just one day after my crash, I was packing a suitcase and boarding an airplane. Two days later, I test-rode a new bike at a press launch in California for nearly seven hours. I never once questioned my ability to return to normal life. Once the small bruises on my elbow faded, it was like it never even happened.
Because I was wearing all my gear, I was protected from many types of injuries – from the catastrophic to the minuscule and everything in-between. I wasn’t just uninjured; I was able to continue riding, spend time with the people I love and return to work immediately after my crash because I was prepared and protected.
Each piece of gear I was wearing played a part, and together it made a difference in every aspect, including the immediate repercussions and any long-term effects. That’s the true impact of choosing ALL the gear, ALL the time.
It Won’t Happen To Me!
Why do I still tell a 13-year-old story? Because I think it matters to every rider on the face of the planet. I will never forgive myself for what I put my family through in 2005 AND I will never forget how wonderful it felt to hug my parents and tell them I was okay immediately after my crash at the racetrack. Those two outcomes speak for themselves. You might think it will never happen to you, but there’s a large community of riders out there who have crashed, and who will admit that even the smallest injury isn’t worth the hassle if it could have been prevented simply by wearing gear.
The right protection can dramatically change your life and the lives of those you love and the people who depend on you.
When it comes to choosing what to wear when you ride – simply remember both of my stories and imagine yourself in my shoes.
Choose wisely, my friends.
The above story was originally published on WebBikeWorld.com on January 24, 2019.