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Hit and Missive: Reflections on a Bike Wreck

Our webmaster, Mike Dayton, was one of four riders hit on February 20, 2016. Here are his words about the crash, his recovery, and cycling.

I got hit. Put me down for 44 years without an injury, save for the occasional tired knee and lungs. A careful rider with a mirror to see cars that approach too quickly. A careful rider who watches and slows for riders off the back.

Yes, a careful rider, but I don’t remember seeing the car that ran over us on February 20.

The four of us were attempting Saturday’s 200k. We each knew the route and we knew each other. Like every other Saturday, we’d get through without a headache or hassle. We’d finish with minor strains and big laughs.

I got hit when the car ran us down – all four of us. To be honest, I hit my head and I don’t know anything about the wreck.

Twelve days later with my head ringing and my back aching, I was grateful to be alive. I’ve heard that in the ten or twelve days that I was unconscious, my wife was crying and my son was crying. I’ve heard that my friends showed up in the waiting room and consoled them, but I don’t know anything about those days. I don’t know who saw me, I don’t know who prayed over me, or held my hand. I just know that dozens of people were happy to see me alive. When I finally woke up, the wall was covered with posters and cards from neighbors and friends and riders across the country who had heard about my injuries and wished me the best.

Here’s an aside. We spend this time on our bikes. We think of our victories, about the hills we have climbed in front of others, about the 250 miles ridden in one day, or the multi-day pulls that leave us intact and ready for more.  I thought about those things. I’m a rider after all.

But I had more pressing problems to deal with now. The left side of my body was asleep and numb and my brain shut down every 2 hours, insisting on a nap. So, yes I was grateful to see another day. It would be two more weeks, however, before the full extent of my injuries became apparent.

Let me focus on the good things. As I talked to Kelly, I told her that I would start from zero and pick up everything emotionally and mentally again. When you live through severe injuries like I have, you get a chance to start over with your life. Instinctively I knew that, I acknowledged that, and I set my sights on a new beginning.

What does that mean to me? It means everything is positive and everything is a plus.

There are no negatives, only newfound opportunities. Never mind the sprints I had won or the hills I had climbed. Given my injuries, every step and every movement would be a positive.

When I started talking again, Kelly was there. There was a relief in her eyes and a pained smile. My son Daniel acted closer than he’s ever acted before, showering me with smiles and hugs. I hadn’t expected these things from either of them. As I began my recovery, I was confused by their actions and also grateful for them.

Meanwhile, the left side of my body was paralyzed. I couldn’t move my left eye or my left hand. I guess when you have a crash you pick yourself up from scrapes, burns and bruises and ride on. Not me. I was trying to make very basic things work again. So, what do you do when you can’t bike anymore – I was set to find out. I had notes from friends on the wall. They said they were thinking about me and encouraged me to ride again. But they didn’t know, no one knew the brain injuries I had suffered and how I would struggle to climb on my bike again.

Fortunately, I have Ann Groninger, a Bike Law founder and North Carolina bicycle crash lawyer, handling my case and she will get to the bottom of what caused the wreck. Please stay tuned for details about the civil case.

In the meantime, I’m working to put my life back together from the physical and cognitive deficits that I suffer. I hope you will read as my case moves forward and my recovery progresses.

If you are headed out on your bike today, please remember that every trip, no matter how short, is monumental.

Forty four years and no injury, but now I have one and it makes me rethink everything. I see biking as more important than ever, and I hope to return to it one day; after all it has been my life.   Please go out there and ride a 200k in my memory. Let’s all be safe and let’s all remember why we ride.

Now, about that driver. I’ve had drivers beep at me, throw cups at me, but this is a first. Driving carelessly and hitting one person is bad enough. You hit four people and your actions are criminal. You can’t run over four people and get away with it. I’ll leave this to Ann to sort out.

[Ed: Why Bike Law stopped using the word “accident.”]

Above are all my own thoughts. However, at this stage I would have never been able to reduce them to writing in an organized, coherent manner without the typing and edits of Kelly. So, as I recover, if you see more posts from me, please know of Kelly’s behind the scenes role until I indicate otherwise.

Thanks to Kelly and Daniel, and I want to thank all my friends around the globe. Please know that I’m not riding yet, but I look forward to the day I get back on my bike and can enjoy each and every one of you as a cyclist.

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