Saturday, October 29, 2011

Bike Crash

One of my greatest fears is getting in a bike accident. I always imagine it'll be me vs. car, but yesterday, my first major bike collision, it was me vs. pedestrian. It was awful.

I was working another race, this time leading a half-marathon on my bike. My job was to help clear the course and make sure the people racing had a path. They were mostly running on the Lake Shore path, which is a pretty crowded running and biking path as is. There were a lot of runners not participating in the race.

I tried to get out of the way of a runner coming towards me. He tried to get out of my way. We both moved to the same direction and collided. I don't know how I fell, but we all fell, me, him, and my bike.

When I hit the ground, I didn't feel anything, but just saw this guy just laying there. Not moving. I somehow managed to untangle myself from my bike and didn't even see if he was okay. My first instinct was to get him help, so I immediately called the race's medical team on my walkie talkie, and they were soon on their way. Meanwhile a few other bystanders had stopped to help and called 911 and were talking to the guy to keep him awake. I acted calm. But I wasn't feeling calm. The guy obviously hit his head. Blood had started to seep out from behind his head. He was talking, but he was too calm in my opinion. If it were me on the ground, I would have been talking more, asking more questions. He seemed confused and made no effort to move. And he was older. Obviously fit, because he had been running, but still. In his '60s.

It wasn't long before the medical team had arrived, and an ambulance and fire truck shortly after. He was obviously in good hands, and he was talking, though a bit lucid. His name was Ed, he was 65, and had no medical conditions, but he took one medication, though he didn't seem to remember what for. Everyone was super calm, and it all felt very a routine. I'm sure the medics see stuff like this all the time, and all they did was bandage his head and ask him a few questions before carting him off to the ambulance. In retrospect, that was a very good sign; no neck brace, no scary equipment. But as I stood by as they worked, all I could think about was that I was responsible for this guy on the ground with a head injury and blood all over.

Plus, there was a race going on. Hundreds of runners were passing by, clearly horrified by the scene. When the ambulance was ready to take him to the hospital, they had to reroute the race and send the runners onto the beach so they could back the ambulance out on the path. There was a puddle of blood left on the ground, but the medis decided to leave it because didn't want to wash blood onto the path of all the runners.

No one would take my name or let me file any reports or sign anything. I asked every single medic and firefighter present. No, they told me, it was fine. Everything would be fine, they said. Instead everyone was asking me if I was okay. I didn't understand why that would be an issue, and it took me a few minutes to realize that I could very well be injured too. But I wasn't, aside from a few bumps and scratches.

It wasn't fair that I, the younger person involved, the one with the vehicle, was walking away from this. Everyone kept telling me that it was no one's fault, even the people who had witnessed the collision said so. But I felt responsible. I should have been more careful. He was defenseless against a bike. I felt like I could have done a better job to avoid it.

The ambulance took him away and I just stood there. One of the medics made me feel a lot better. She told me these collisions happen all the time, which I know, they do. The Lake Shore path is always crowded. That didn't make me feel better about being a part of one. But, she said, he would probably just need a few stitches and go home fine. That a concussion is not the worst thing to happen to someone.

I considered following the ambulance to the hospital, but I was working and would have to notify my manager, who was out on the course somewhere. He didn't even know what had happened. Plus I had one of the race's walkie talkies, so I would have to drop that off somewhere. By the time I got to the hospital, it was unlikely they'd let me see Ed, because I didn't even know the guy. I didn't his last name either, so I wasn't sure how I would even find him. I decided the best thing to do was to let the hospital take care of him, that there wasn't really anything I could do by going there to see him.

Really, there was nothing to do but get back to work.

I still feel awful. I'm confident that Ed's okay based on the information the medics gave me, but I still have the image of him on the ground in my head. And I still feel like the whole thing was my fault. It's not a good feeling to have. I wish I had walked away with more than a few bruises and bumps. It's not fair that I got off so easy.

I hope Ed has insurance, and that they were able to contact his family so they could come be with him at the hospital. He didnt have a phone and it didn't look like any identification. Since he was talking and conscious, I'm sure he was able to tell the doctors who to call. And I also feel guilty for not being the first next to him talking to him seeing if he was okay when it first happened. I know I did the right thing; I had the walkie talkie and access to the medical team, so letting other people tend to him while I called for help was the right thing to do.

I wish I could tell him I'm sorry.

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