ICU, do you see me?
I have a new old friend. You know the kind.
You have a friend, and circumstances pull you and your friend apart, and then later, circumstances plunk you right back together again. It’s an emotional friend reunification and an exhilarating friend acquisition all in one.
Recently, my new old friend told me about an accident he had during our time apart.
An avid runner, my new old friend was taking his regular trip down the Cherry Creek Trail. A mixed-use path that cuts a convenient diagonal across Denver, the Cherry Creek Trail is well-appointed with smooth pavement, frequent on/off ramps, and a dividing center line in most portions. It serves a steady flow of diverse traffic: cyclists, bike-commuters, joggers, pedestrians, dog-walkers, homeless people, strolling lovers, you name it.
As it runs alongside its namesake, the Cherry Creek Trail is sometimes subject to puddles and minor flooding after big rains. Such were the conditions on this day. My friend—wanting to keep his sneakers dry, I suppose—veered to his left, toward the center of the path. As he did, a cyclist began to pass him on the right. A regular user of this path, my friend knew that everyone stays to their right. When he heard the bike behind him, he instinctively moved back to his right, but it was too late.
The cyclist collided with him, causing him to fall to the ground, where his head hit cement.
Stunned, he righted himself, then reached up to touch his head and pulled his hand away to see a palm-ful of blood. He didn’t feel a lot of pain but thought he’d play it safe and get checked out right away. The cyclist, who had stopped after the collision, called an ambulance for him.
At the hospital, doctors told my friend that he had a hematoma and fractured skull.
My new old friend was in the hospital for a week, in the ICU for three days. During that time, he began slurring his words and resisted sleep for fear he wouldn’t wake up again. As the fissures in his skull healed, he experienced pain so strong that morphine would not dull it. He described to me a half-hour stretch of time, during which he was waiting for his doctor to administer a stronger drug, which he said were the worst 30 minutes of his entire life.
Here I am always pointing the finger at bike-terrorizing car drivers, while my bicycling brethren are putting people in intensive care.
I was shocked by his story and sorry for his pain. Perhaps even more so, I was disappointed in the cyclist for her irresponsible behavior toward a pedestrian. Of course, she didn’t intend to nearly cause my friend brain damage, but she certainly wasn’t looking out for his safety either. I like to believe that all bike-riders are kind, conscientious, responsible—but I guess, in reality, we’re a mixed bag. There are a lot of good people on bikes, but there are also negligent commuters, irreverent cruisers, arrogant racers, and merciless messengers.
Hearing my new old friend’s story reminded me about what kind of cyclist I want to be.