'You drove yourself here from Salem?' This was the first of many questions from the nurse on duty at Good Samaritan Hospital ER, in Portland after I told them my most recent flat track tale. It was about 11:30 PM on the first Saturday in December. Just four hours prior, I was exiting turn four in the first race of the night. Not just our first race of the night (Vintange 250 riders), but in a rare twist of events, THEE first race of the night, which was very unusual, as the Vintage 250 class typically starts its heat races somewhere around 11 heats into the program. I’d not yet completed my 13th lap (an estimation based upon the assumption that each practice session consists of about 6 laps, give or take, per class entered) and I’d signed up for two classes that night: Vintage 250, and Vintage 250 30+, the latter a class selfishly created by my friends to give ourselves more seat time at the races.
This was the 30+ version and things were going just swimmingly for #73, until they weren’t…
Korry was on the grid, as was Chris from The Iron Society on his new bike (little four-stroke thumper that rips), yours truly, and a couple of other riders from other classes on built 500s. From what I can recollect, I was in second place and twisting on the throttle coming out of the last turn. The bike was running better than it has since I became the owner…by far, and after lowering the needle by one clip position up to the top, it was responding at every part of the twisted grip! That blank part of the page right there…? It’s very similar to my memory with regards to what happened next. Chris says this is because I landed on my helmet, and I was out cold for a moment. The part where my memory started serving me again allows me to recall having a very tough time breathing while on my hands and knees in the middle of the track. I got up after a bit, walked off with a little help from my friends, and headed for the pits. I plopped down into a folding chair someone offered up and began trying to recall what happened.
The race had resumed, as I sat and looked into the eyes of a volunteer fire fighter who was at the track that night. He asked me several questions, the usual stuff about what day it was, my name, where I was, you know, boiler plate post-concussion discussion. He also flatly stated that I’d NOT broken my collarbones or sternum, even though I had a bone protruding from my chest that reminded me of a scene in that movie, you know, the one with Sigourney Weaver, and the thing coming out, and the teeth, and the goo…
Anyway, the fireman suggested I go for an ambulatory ride to Santiam ER. The only other time I was there, was when my daughter Lily broke her collarbone about two hours into our yearly camping trip to Detroit lake many summers ago, ripping around on her pink sting ray with white tires while I was setting up camp with her sister, and finding a patch of sand in the start of a left hander, at the bottom of a hill…that’s another tale, and it includes them MISSING the fact that she’d broken her Ulna, as well. I don’t recall which side…I know, terrible father, right?
I politely declined his generous offer, opting instead for sticking around for the rest of the evening’s racing, to root for my friends, take some video, and revel in the moment. I was sore, but how bad could it be, right?
With the night’s racing complete, and having seen the pros magically fly around the track defying several laws of physics, and Chris take home a first place trophy on his new steed, AND…and, most everyone else in our class falling (including Cory Churchill, a first for him), it was time to pack up and drive back to Portland. Chris offered to take my bike home for me, relieving me from any duty of lifting significant weight besides my tired, broken old ass into the Mazda. Jenny drove her car that night and got to the races immediately after my crash…this is probably better, as she would’ve not benefitted from witnessing it. Alas, it meant two cars, and two people to get them home. Thus, the intake nurse’s question upon our arrival at Good Sam…
Upon hearing my version of events, I was immediately seated in a wheelchair, collared in a neck brace, and wheeled into a room. Within minutes there was an IV in my arm and a team of very eager nurses and doctors working on me, one of whom who was this really fit and tattooed guy whose friends have been trying to get him into flat track for a while…yeah, turns out he knows Thor and George from See See. Next, it’s that cold jelly on my belly, but to the side, and that instrument which emits that strange noise only an ultrasound can make…are they looking for that alien? The last time I witnessed one of those in action, it was my then wife’s belly housing our daughters, respectively. Next, it’s down the hall for a CT scan… ”head, neck, and full torso,” commanded the Doc in charge. Whereas the nurses were pros, but willing to keep it light with playful banter about engaging in activities for fun which have risks attached, the doctor was all business. Analyzing the scan from the screen at her workstation she says, counting aloud 'Todd, you broke one, two, three, four…' tapering her voice off into barely audible levels, and then looking me right in the eye with a very motherly tone, elevated just so “SEVEN RIBS. Do you understand what I’m telling you?” “I think so,” I say to myself. She also thought it was necessary to throw in, right in front of Jenny, mind you, 'You’re not going to be doing any racing of any kind for at least six months. And, consider yourself very lucky.'
Thanks. You’ve no Idea how lucky I am.
It’s been 35 days since this occurrence. Some of those have been truly the most excruciating days and nights in my 55 summers, alas, I’m no stranger to pain. She’s been my dance partner and constant companion since a 6’ length of 2x4 fell from 14 stories and landed on my hard hat. At least this rib pain will subside. The doctors all tell me to change my view of pain, as I might host this constant headache for the rest of it all.
Looking forward to getting back out there for The One Pro races in February.
Cue intro…Paul Simonon bass line in synch with Topper Headon drums:
Ring-ring it’s seven AM, Move yourself to go again, Cold water in the face, brings you back to this awful place…