Hazards On The Hog

Posted: August 1, 2014

Rural Pen

It was the phone call you never want to answer.

“Hello, Mrs. Austin. This is Dr. Smith at Augusta Medical Center. Your husband has been in a motorcycle accident.”

The doctor reassured me that the injuries seemed to be centered around the Husband’s face, but since he experienced some abdominal pain, he was being airlifted to UVA Medical Center, where the trauma team could check him over.

So, on this beautiful Saturday afternoon, off I went to UVA.

In the meantime, I talked to my daughter in Staunton, who talked to my son in Harrisonburg, as well as the daughter in Oakland, Calif. The troops were rallying.

I arrived at UVA’s emergency department shortly after 5 p.m. The Husband’s face was covered with gauze. All I could see was blood streaming down from his eyes and a red, swollen nostril. An IV carried fluids into his arm. Wires ran from his body to a monitor that tracked his vitals, all of which appeared to be normal.

As I held his hand, he cracked jokes with the nurse caring for him. This is how Austins cope with trauma.

He told me what happened. He’d been riding his 1997 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide to work in Charlottesville. Crossing over Afton Mountain on US 250, he slowed to 35 mph at the top. A driver coming off I-64, stopped at the stop sign, pulled out in front of him.

When you ride a motorcycle — which I did for 10 years — you always assume you’re invisible. People pull out in front of you or pull into the lane you’re riding in pretty regularly, so you’re always thinking about Plan B.

The Husband has always been vigilant in this regard. His quick reflexes have kept him safe for nearly 20 years.

But on this day, there was no time. He hit the car, flew off his bike and slid down the road on his face. Throughout the whole thing, he never lost consciousness.

Around 2:30 a.m., he was admitted to the hospital and taken to an intensive care room. An hour later, a plastic surgeon resident appeared, wearing a backpack and carrying a small tub of supplies. Surveying the damage, he said the nose was badly torn and had empty spots. The skin over the Husband’s eye, beneath his brow, had also been ripped wide open.

Throughout the next 90 minutes, he stitched.

During his stay, the Husband was thankful for those who cared for him. The nurses and doctors treated him with respect, grateful for his acknowledgement of their care. This juxtaposed with another man in the ED who, as he was wheeled in, berated the health care professionals. And although they continued to give the man the very best care, there was a great difference in their demeanor.

The Husband and I wondered how courtesy affects the healing process. We certainly felt at peace. When he suggested to a nurse that the hospital offer lessons in patient courtesy before scheduled procedures, she smiled broadly and said it was a great idea.

He is home now. In addition to his facial injuries, he has a broken shoulder, an ongoing headache, road rash all over his body and lots of bumps and bruises. As we left UVA, a therapist told him his brain also needs to recover from the trauma; so, he’s spending a lot of time in a darkened bedroom. No TV, no computer, no books.

But he is talking a lot about his next motorcycle.

Luanne Austin lives in Mount Sidney. Contact her at RuralPen@aol.com, on Facebook or care of the DN-R

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