I left Ryan’s place on a beautiful sunshiny Wednesday around 10:30AM. We had a blast Ryan and I but as always it was time for me to move on. I was bound for my first Sturgis bike rally and gave myself nearly two weeks to get there. I was meeting my friend Connie and her family in St. Pierre to do some site-seeing and general tom-foolery. When I plotted my route I decided to take the river on the Minnesota side because it seemed there were many more place to access and see the river rather than from the Wisconsin side. A couple hours into my trip I stopped at a grocery store to get something for lunch. I sat outside the grocery to eat in the shade and although I had on sunscreen I could already see the pink showing up on my sun-kissed skin.
Now I had this rattle on the ride that was driving me nuts and I couldn’t figure it out. But when I was putting on more sunscreen I dropped the top and it rolled under the bike near the front tire. As I bent to pick it up, I put my hand on the Harley highway peg and guess what? The rattling stopped. As it turned out the Harley emblem inlay was loose and it was metal vibrating on metal. This is why it only happened sometimes because I have my feet up sometimes. Go figure. I sent this quick video to Ryan because we had pondered and wondered what the heck it was since it had just come back from the shop in fine shape. We got a little chuckle via text and then I was off again.
I fueled up and continued my journey on Route 8 west. Only a few miles down the road did I hit the signs for Route 95 south. I was so excited when I crossed the river; I had entered yet a new state on The BROAD journey. I was excited to see this piece of God’s country once again. (My first husband is from Minnesota so I have been there before but only seen certain parts and wasn’t really a tourist; add to that it was a blizzard when I was there.)
I took 95 south and within a short distance I saw the sign shaped like the state that says, “Minnesota Welcomes You”. I stopped to take a picture but of course, I had forgotten to delete my older photos and my camera was too full – no picture. So I simply put on Facebook, “Hello Minnesota”. Now typically I would have sat there and dilly-dallied with my camera to delete some pictures and make room and perhaps even have a cigarette. However, there really wasn’t a proper place to pull off. It was only about a 3 foot width of gravel on the roadside and I felt as if this was no place to dilly-dally, so I quickly moved on. I now wish I had dilly-dallied just a little longer.
The speed limit on 95 south where I was is 55 mph and typically I don’t push too much over the limit due to my load, my safety, and of course to take care of My Girl. I’m in no real hurry and don’t want to miss any sites. Just about 2 miles from the welcome sign headed south, I saw that which would change my life forever.
It was only one lane each direction and ahead of me a semi-truck was in the on-coming traffic. The curve ahead was no different than a million others I have taken and my lane was clear for as far as I could tell. As I headed into the curve and approached the semi-truck closer, that’s when I saw it… a car coming at me in my lane. He was trying to pass the semi-truck. The young man driving and I make eye contact and we knew instantly that this was not going to be good. It almost seemed as if we both had the same idea: you stay in the lane and I’ll head for the ditch… I remember keeping my eyes on that young man and we were screaming, “NO, NO, NO, NO…”
As we both headed towards the side of the road / ditch area, the car struck me hard on the left side. I remember the sound of the crash; metal on metal and the screech of tires on the pavement. Suddenly the entire of my surrounds were tossed in circles and spirals and it all ran together. Only it wasn’t my surroundings; it was me flying through the air. It happened so fast that I didn’t see how the bike moved or how my body moved, but it only took a few seconds and then I was on the ground, leaning against my luggage in a partially sitting position with both knees bent and head upright. If not for the incident you might say that it appeared I was simply relaxing leaning against a tree, or a boyfriend, or even sitting on the living room floor leaning against the couch. But no such luck; I was damaged and I was in shock.
It took me a few moments to realize what had just happened and as I looked down at my legs I saw my femur bone jutting out of my left leg and staring me in the face. My left leg was split open from the goody bits all the way to the knee and the meat and muscle inside my leg was now exposed and baking in the heat of this beautiful sunshiny day. I didn’t see any blood spewing but then again with everything exposed, the blood was just flowing through the meat. I couldn’t see my leg from the knee to the ankle and I later learned that the reason for that is because it was mostly gone. I could see my ankle and my Harley boot where my skin was perfectly torn around the top edge of my boot. The boot was covered in blood and unfortunately I could feel the whole thing. I screamed, “Somebody help me! Please somebody come to me. Please help me.”
In the distance I heard a woman’s voice say that she had called 911 and just that quickly the young man that hit me came to my side. He was in a freaked out panic mode and kept repeating, “Oh my God, Oh my God, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry. I was just trying to pass the truck.” I had to make the young man calm down because I needed his help. I asked the kid his name and he replied, “Anthony”.
“Anthony, shut up and listen to me. I need you to go find my phone; it was on my handlebars in a holder.” He took off and returned with the phone in his hand. I told him to go to my favorites on my contact and dial Larry. He did this and spoke to Larry for a moment telling him who he was and that his friend Ursula was just in an accident. He then put the phone on speaker and laid the phone on my chest. I told Larry that if I lived I was sure I was going to lose my leg and that I needed him to call my son; I told him how much I love him and told him to tell me son I love him too. There’s no way I could have called my son in that condition; he would have freaked out completely and I didn’t have the time for calming him down. Anthony held my hand while I was on the phone and after the call had ended I sent Anthony to find my water bottle. He called out from the distance that it was empty; I can only assume the lid had come off because I had just refilled it not 10-15 miles ago when I got gas. Still calling from the distance Anthony said he had water in his car and he’d be right back. I screamed, “Hurry Anthony, hurry, I need you.” The kid returned and gave me small sips of water and poured some of it on my chest because I was burning up in the sunshine. “Anthony, reach in my riding purse on my hip and light me me a cigarette.” He did as I told him, he lit the cigarette and held it to my mouth. I took a few puffs and then I was done. I grabbed the kid’s hand and just wanted somebody to hold me while I died.
In no way did this boy physically remind me of my son, but he was my son’s age and I just pretended that it was Nathan holding my hand. I thought of my son and my granddaughter and how I would never see them again. All the things that rushed through my mind were events in their lives that I would miss. Behind me I heard the voices of men asking questions of others as to what happened. Anthony tried to get up but I told him, “No, don’t leave me yet.” He stayed right there until the first responders descending the ditch and came to my side, they kicked Anthony away and were quickly taking action to apply pressure and a tourniquet. They introduced themselves as they arrived but don’t ask me their names now. They asked me questions such as my name, birth date, where was I coming from and all sorts of other things. In part they needed my information and in part they were trying to keep me conscience. A county cop appeared at my right side and asked if that was my purse as he reached for the bag on my hip. I acknowledged and he pulled out my identification. I wanted to fall asleep but the first responders wouldn’t let me. One of them told me not to look at the leg; look at his face. I told him I was looking at the cows. (These cows were in the pasture not 15 feet from the ditch in which I lay.)
A long eternity seemed to have passed, and then in the distance I heard sirens. Sirens are good and I wasn’t dead yet. I don’t think I really freaked out until I heard one of the first responders giving his assessment to the paramedics. Apparently I was in extreme critical condition and bleeding through the femur and tibia. One of them said we need an airlift immediately. Airlift; that’s not a good sign. I pretty much figured I wasn’t going to ever see my son again so I tried to replay some of the fun times we had together. I wanted to see my son’s face before I died. I wanted to tell him I love him. I wanted to tell him to make the most of his life and to live his dreams as I had tried to do. Even if I died right there, I was at peace knowing I had raised a beautiful young man that would struggle and battle but would be strong like his mother. I replayed a few of the sites I had seen on my tour of the country and I repeated what was once a joke; “If I die out there, at least I’ll die happy.” And you know what? I was dying happy; regret for all that I would miss, but happy for all that I had once had and done.
While my brain replayed memories and while I accepted my death the paramedics were working on me and made me pay attention to them. The memories faded and now they were giving me instructions. They were going to do this and do that and a helicopter was on the way. I was forced to stay awake, and within what seemed like a matter of seconds they had me in a neck brace, on a hard board with straps to hold me down, and were lifting me up and out of the ditch. I screamed in pain as they put me on a gurney and inserted me into the rear of an ambulance. I could hear it coming; the helicopter was approaching. I kept repeating that I wanted them to put me out so I could not feel the pain. I wanted to go to sleep; I wanted not to feel the pain any longer. I don’t know what they did to me in the ambulance, but I wasn’t there long.
I was whisked out of the ambulance and onto a helicopter. I couldn’t help but think about how weird the guy looked with that pure black helmet on his head; I couldn’t see his eyes and he looked like a character from an action movie. They got me positioned in the helicopter and when the door had closed I couldn’t find a comfortable place for my right arm. It wasn’t bleeding, I didn’t see any abrasions, but it hurt very badly and I could only move it certain ways. I wanted it upwards towards the sky. I reached up and held onto the window that I couldn’t see out of. I was continued to yell that I wanted to be put to sleep. The guy in the funny helmet leaned in to hear me over the loud bird. He told me they had no medicine on the plane and that my blood pressure was too low to do anything yet. He assured me that as soon as we landed at the hospital they would do something immediately for the pain. He was my tour guide; telling me every so often, “8 minutes, 5 minutes, 2 minutes, we are about to land and there could be bumps, just breath, we’re almost there and the doctors will take care of you.” No sooner had he said it, I felt the bumps and they weren’t that bad, and didn’t cause any more pain than I already had. I have no idea what they did to me when we landed, but that’s all I remember… we landed and the rest went blank. As I was told, I died just a few minutes after landing.
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