A Twist of Fate
Sunday, May 21 , 2000 was a wet cool day in Hooksett, New Hampshire. It had rained on and off for the past two weeks. In order to stay fit weather doesnt generally interfere with those who are determined to stay in shape. Determined to get a ride in for the day, I chose my favorite unicycle, a 26 inch Semcycle to do my daily exercise. I wore tennis shoes, shorts and an athletic tee shirt so I would be comfortable for my 4-5 mile total workout. Strapped to my waist was my water supply and a small towel to wipe the sweat from my brow at needed intervals. To complete my outfit was a baseball cap and a pair of sunglasses.
I started out from my driveway at the house as I always do. I free mounted my unicycle from the driveway which is slanted in a downward slope to the road and veered to the left around the cul-de-sac and up Autumn Run for about quarter mile. At that point Autumn Run and Debbie Street intersect. Debbie Street is a steep quarter mile incline ending up at Morrill Road. I pedaled up Debbie Street as far as my muscles would allow which was about 150 feet. At that point I exhaustingly dismounted and walked my way up to Morrill Road. As you cross Morrill Road, Debbie Street becomes
Wimbeldon Drive which is another quarter mile steep incline. When I reached the top of Wimbeldon Drive, I took my swig of water, wipe my brow, took a few deep breaths and prepared to ride through my 2.1 mile neighborhood obstacle course.
The idea , of course is to do the ride in one sitting. If all goes well, I can do the ride in about 20 minutes. I call my adventurous ride a triple hiller double cul-de-sacer because I have to travel down three steep hills and around two cul-de-sacs. The second cul-de-sac has a challenging incline which can be tricky at times.
After my last deep breath, I am off and on my way down Wimbeldon Drive. All is going well as I approach Morrill Road where I have to make a right turn. The dip in the road as you turn right onto Morrill Road is tricky enough, but you also have to watch the traffic. Well, I am onto Morrill Road going at a pretty good pace. Morrill Road will go on for one half mile. Near the end of Morrill Road I make left over some rough surface onto Autumn Run and go for about 400 feet until I make another left onto Winter Drive which becomes the second steep downhill in the course. About half way down Winter Drive I feel I am going a little faster than I want so I put pressure on the pedals to slow down.
A moment later I was thrown to the wet road surface landing on my back. It happened so quickly there was no reaction time for any adjustment. In attempting to slow down, my right foot had slipped off the pedal into the spokes. My foot had separated from my leg. As I looked down my leg, I saw the horrible result of what had taken place. There was no foot at the end of my leg. The foot was just hanging on by the soft tissue. My foot was still in the tennis shoe. I knew I would just have to deal with the situation. Luckily, I wasnt experiencing much pain and the bleeding was minimal. I had full control of my senses and was very aware of my dilemma.
As I laid on road for a very short time, a neighbor was pulling into her driveway.
I yelled for her to call 911. Within a minute many of the neighbors had rushed to my aid trying to comfort me while waiting for the ambulance to arrive. It was a traumatic
sight for everyone to view. I really felt sorry for those who had to witness my dilemma because you can never remove the image from your mind. Fortunately, I didnt see any children hanging around the area to see what I had done. One neighbor had a cell phone on each ear. He was speaking to the paramedics on one phone and my wife, Benita, on the other. Bill who was speaking to Benita on the cell phone tried to prepare her for what she was going to see. Benita at first thought I had crashed my unicycle and was ready to pick up the pieces.
After about ten minutes the ambulance arrived along with a fire truck. The paramedics quickly placed an oxygen mask over my nose and mouth. They started asking me questions about what I had done and what hurt. I could see them silently looking me over to assess the situation. It seemed like they had their own facial language to one another about how to get me into the ambulance. At that point I yanked
off the oxygen mask so I could talk with them. They wanted so badly to give me pain medication, but I kept refusing because I wasnt in any pain. They delicately lifted me onto the stretcher. Being over 200 pounds, it took several people to lift me into the ambulance.
Once they got me into the ambulance it was a ten minute ride that seemed to go on for an hour. I did feel some pain as the ambulance traveled over some bumps in the road. During the ride to the hospital, Karen, one of the paramedics in the ambulance, was very insistent that I take some pain medication. I kiddingly turned to her and suggested that she take the pain medication herself if she needed it. I know she really cared about my situation. She really did a great job and I am grateful for her assistance during my time of need.
When we arrived at the hospital, they rushed me into the emergency room. Benita was right by my side and giving the necessary information that was needed by the staff.
Fortunately for me, Dr. Heaps was on duty. He was a specialist in micro hand surgery and lucky for me ankle surgery. He calmly looked me over and decided that surgery would have to take place as soon as possible. There was a possibility that I might lose my foot. He would start as soon as his team could get to the hospital. I reconciled in my mind that I would deal with the results with a positive attitude whatever the out come.
In the course of discussion of what happened, I had a sense that people were dumb founded that I could even ride a unicycle. I had the feeling they wanted to laugh but couldnt because of the seriousness of my injury. It sort of reminded me of the sitcom, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, when Mary burst out laughing at Chuckles the clowns funeral. I am sure the emergency room staff had not given treatment to many others resulting from a unicycle accident.
There was a waiting time after the surgery to see if I was out of the woods. Anyway, I had fared better than Humpty Dumpty because Dr. Heaps was able to put me back together again. I had been stitched up across the top of the ankle. A stainless steel rod had been screwed into the right side of my ankle for support and strength probably for the rest of my life. After two days in the hospital, Benita took me home to start my recuperation.
After eight weeks, three different casts, one walking cast, a pair of crutches and a trip to South Korea for our sons wedding, I was walking and working again.
At the end of twelve weeks I was ready to get back on the unicycle again. To make sure my ankle had plenty of support, I bought a pair of high top, steel toed working boots that I would now wear each time I rode the unicycle. Believe it or not, they felt pretty good and I could feel the extra support on my ankle. The time had come to get back in the saddle. I rolled out the 26 Semcycle to the roadside at the end of the driveway. Benita was with me to provide whatever moral support I was going to need.
With even more determination than when I first started riding, I placed my left hand on the mailbox for support and mounted the unicycle. There I was back on the unicycle again and ready to take the next giant step. The pedals were in the horizontal position. As soon as my body tilted forward I knew I had to start pedaling. After two misfires, I was finally moving along as I expected. I was a little rusty but confident. After a few more tries, I was able to ride one complete lap around the cul-de-sac in front of our home. The best part was that my ankle didnt hurt. It didnt hurt pedaling or dismounting.
It was a great feeling to be riding again. I had overcome the anxious moments that follow an accident when you start over. Each day got better and better. As summer turned into fall I was riding longer and feeling stronger. As I rode through the neighborhood, many of the neighbors would ask if Benita knew I was riding again. Of course, she was my best supporter. I guess it was hard for people to understand why I would ever get back on a unicycle. For people that dont ride a unicycle it is difficult for them to understand the satisfaction you get from performing a skill that requires physical, emotional and psychological strength. Every unicyclist requires a determination to succeed. Success equals fun and happiness.
Well, it is year later from the time of the accident and all is well. I am back up to riding 25 -30 miles a week up and down the hills of my neighborhood and at a high school track. I ride five different size unicycles, but the 26 Semcycle is my favorite.
Since I have been riding for only four years, I guess its not too bad for 61 years old.
As long as you keep on pedaling, you will keep on rolling.