Saturday, June 21, 2008

A fall off a trail bridge left me with 17 fractures; what I’m feeling 365 days later

INTO THE WOODS, INTO AN AMBULANCE. On June 20, 2007, I went off the side of a trick bridge in the heart of a wooded mountain bike trail west of Indianapolis, fell 8-10 feet, landed flat on my bike with my bike on top of me, and suffered 17 (count ‘em) bone breaks. Four ribs in the front separated from my sternum, 11 ribs in front and back fractured, both shoulder blades broke, and four vertebrae were compressed. Ironically, my bike was unscathed. Paramedics carefully strapped me to a Stryker board and taped it to the back of an ATV that hauled me up out of the forest to a waiting ambulance. It might have been the smoothest ride to Methodist Hospital, but I felt every minor bump along the way. It was excruciating.

MY NINJA TURTLE SHELL. For all my fractures and a partially collapsed lung, there was no organ damage and nothing required surgery. Instead, I was fitted with a hard-plastic neck-to-waste torso brace that would be my “exoskeleton,” what I called my ninja turtle shell, for the next eight weeks. I blogged throughout this extended journey of pain and healing. Go to Bikehiker archives for June, July and August 2007. Thank God for good pain medicine, which I used at maximum dosage during the first few weeks and weaned myself of after six weeks. Thank God for a caring family and congregation. Thank God for a healing process. Though I missed only one Sunday of preaching and leading worship, I served from home for at least five weeks.

BACK ON MY BIKES. I’m happy to report, at the one-year anniversary (is that what we call it?) of my bike accident, I am fully recovered. I have taken my mountain bike back to the accident scene and I’m riding trails again. On Thursday, I pedaled my road bike 70 miles from Indianapolis to Clay City to attend the Wabash Free Methodist Annual Conference without any pain. I simply do not have pain in my back or shoulders. I DO feel some weird sensations in my back occasionally, but nothing that equates to pain. Some folks have suggested that I may eventually develop arthritis at the fractures. Perhaps. But not at this point. I’m grateful to have recovered so readily from such a tough and painful fall. I give praise to God for the way my body has healed -- without invasive surgeries, rigorous therapies, or costly medications (though I believe these, also, are often valid and God-glorifying avenues of bodily healing and health).

BURDEN OF A FULL RECOVERY. As with many others who have had near misses with tragedy or recovered readily when others experiencing similar traumas have not, I marvel at the burden of such a gift. Two years ago I was spared being caught by a pack of wild dogs (dholes) in India. Last year, I was spared debilitating effects of a fall off a bridge. For what purposes was I spared? Toward what ends shall a recovered life be lived? To some extent the message given to Private Ryan, after he was found and saved at the cost of many lives, applies here: “Don’t waste it.” Whatever the specifics of purpose and future impact, let it all be to the glory of God!

I welcome your comments and/or questions in the spirit of dialog. To share yours, click on "comments" just below. They're moderated only to reduce incivility. Shalom!


  1. Brian8:37 PM

    Hi John, I read your blog with great interest. I was hit by an SUV about six weeks ago while riding my bike to work. The impact broke by pelvis and dislocated my femur from its socket. I very much identified with your appreciation for strong pain meds and loyal family members.

    I'm walking now with one crutch and my physical therapist tells me I should begin walking unassisted next week.

    I sometimes worry that I won't make a "full recovery". It's hard to accept that I won't be able to return to my active lifestyle.

    Congratulations to you! I know that your anniversary came with A LOT of hard work on your part.


  2. Sorry for your accident and pain, Brian. I wince just thinking about what happened to you. I do hope you fully recover. I will pray to that end.

    I also think about the pressing need for bike lanes and "look out for bikers" signage for vehicles, particularly as more people take to bikes in an effort to save fuel and/or take carbon impacts seriously.


Your tasteful comments and/or questions are welcome. Posts are moderated only to reduce a few instances of incivility.