Thursday, August 25, 2011

Happy Anniversary to Me!!! Number 9. I am a life member in a club I never wanted to join!

  • I have gone through a lot of "stuff" to get where I am today (fill in the blanks as you choose, especially if you know me well). I can finally admit to myself and others, Superman cape aside that it was not easy, and it still is not easy, on a daily basis.

    I will have some physical things that I will never be able to do again, and as tough as you think I am, some days I am not, Those are the facts, plain & simple, black & white, no grey areas. I really thought that I would just bounce right back, and all of the doctors were wrong, that a "miracle" would happen through hard work & perseverance, and I believe it did, just not to my level.

    This past couple of years has been the hardest, finally realizing that the daily aches, pains & problems are all real, and at 42 years of age, they will be there at 62 years of age, and 72 etc. How is it possible that I continue to have more & more surgeries?

    I Still believe in ALL the things that I have learned since 8/29/04 & then some, read on!

    August 29th, 2012 Happy Anniversary to ME!

    Eight years ago today, I was struck by a car, on a post-victory recovery ride. I have told the story in bits & pieces, but figured I'd lay it all out on the table.

    August 28, 2004: Sherman Park Criterium, Chicago, IL. I found myself in a 3-man break with two excellent competitors, Greg Springborn & Chris Daggs. We were off the front of the field for 48 of the 75 minute race, working well together. I downloaded my SRM, and avg'd 298 watts of power for the 48 minutes we were off the front. I took 1st place, Chris took 2nd, and Greg took 3rd place. I had finally won a Pro, I, II race, even if it was a smaller event, the competition was stiff. It was a good victory.

    The next morning, Sunday, after sleeping in, I decided to go for a 3 hour lactic acid ride to clean out the legs. It was cool, as in cool enough to wear arm warmers, vest and oil on the legs. I took off across the river, as the wind was out of the NW.

    Winding my way back toward home at 12:15 pm, in Peoria Heights, which is about 5 miles to get back to the house, the following happened:

    Tailwind at my back, I was cruising about 26 mph through the intersection of Sciota and Prospect Rd. I heard a squeal of tires, and then euphoria. By the time I could blink, I was suspended in mid air, looking at the roof of an auto part store, and wondering to myself, that this does not look right.

    It's amazing, when you have been struck & thrown like that, time stops, just like in the movies. It is the most un-describable feeling. You have no pain, no worries, just time to think, and I don't mean seconds. It seems like hours.I thought of many things while I was up "there", like did I kiss Gina goodbye and tell her I love her as I do before we always leave each other, why am I here, where is the white light & tunnel, am I dead, will I fall to the ground, only to be struck by another car once I hit the pavement, will I actually land on a car driving down the road, will I have time to say goodbye before I die?

    All of this happened in a split second, which seemed like an eternity. My last thought was, oh well, I have to land, and it's going to hurt, and hurt bad!I landed on my right side, almost in a fetal position. Eyes open, breathing, alive, and looking at what appeared to be a stream of blood sputtering from my lower extremities, across the road.

    The lady who hit me was backing up with her car, right at me! She stopped, got out of the car with a cell phone in her hand, and waddled over to me. She asked "are you OK?" I said "NO you F-ing Bi#ch, dial 9-11." (that is the only words we have ever spoken, not even an apology from her) She was so frazzled, that she could not even dial.

    At this time, people had stopped, and were out of their cars, huddling around me. I looked over at my left leg, and saw what appeared to be about 5"-6" of tibia and fibula (shin bone & back of the shin) sticking out of my shin, skin ripped open by the bones crashing through. I was laying in a pool of blood, still spurting out of the open wound, and swelling quickly. I thought they would have to amputate my leg, which at that point, I was pissed about, because the adrenaline was still kicking in, and I felt no pain.

    I said to myself, (I think out loud) that I had two choices as Lance Armstrong states in his book, "It's Not About The Bike" "to give up, or fight like hell"I reached in my back pocket, grabbed my cell phone, and handed it to a Good Samaritan who was there. I said, "dial 9-11, and call my wife, her name is Gina, under "HOME" on the contact/address book. Tell Gina that I love her, always have, and always will."

    Then the pain came, and came on like Hurricane Katrina, all at once, throughout my entire body, with exception of my head/face.I was screaming in pain at this point. No way to control it. Between breaths, grabbing my left leg above the knee, trying to stop the bleeding, and somehow ease the pain I believed. Bystanders were around, and I was dyeing of thirst. Throughout the entire ordeal, I never went into shock, or lost conciseness.

    After though, I wish I had passed out, as the pain was unbearable.A young lady named Shelbie Meister was in the car behind me at the time of the wreck. She was a 3rd year nursing student at Olivet Nazarene University. She witnessed the accident, pulled off and took control of the scene. She told me to breath, deeply, don't scream, no fluids from anyone, as I begged to get a drink of water. She held me in place, like a baby, so I could not move until the EMT's arrived.

    I could see the left leg was in big trouble, but didn't realize at this point that my right femur was broken in multiple places as well. She somehow suspected this was the case, or that I had shattered my pelvis, as I was turning blue from the mid stomach down.The EMT's arrive. They begin by cutting my clothes off of me with huge scissors. I said WHOA! STOP! This is my Team Mack kit! They then carefully cut my shorts off, jersey, shoes, socks etc. all up & down the seams, as if I was going to sew it all back together after I got better.

    There I was, naked on the street, covered by a foil blanket. The neck brace was installed, and all of the questions like "where does it hurt? can you move your fingers, toes etc" Well, my left leg hurt a "little", and I can speak, so my head is intact. I can move my fingers, so I am not paralyzed.I had to be stabilized, and placed on a backboard. I asked, what are you going to do to stabilize my left leg, still bent, and about 5 inches shorter at this point. They said that they were going to place me on the back board, and I said NO WAY! get a splint or something, and we'll do it that way. Another truck showed up with an air splint to place the leg in.

    That's when I realized that my right leg/pelvis was in trouble. They tried to "flip" me on the backboard, by grabbing my right butt cheek, and I screamed bloody murder. I asked them to place the backboard against my back, then we can all flip at the same time. They said that would not work.After what seemed to be an eternity, and chickening out of getting on the board again & again & again, the head EMT looked me in the eye and said: "If we do not get you on this board, in the ambulance, and to the hospital, you will bleed to death right here, take your pick"Between screaming, moaning and spouting EVERY cuss word in the book, I agreed to get on the board. We mapped it out, and agreed to count to 3. The EMT's put a rigid piece of plastic in my mouth for me to bite on, while they were flipping me over. Then came the count: 1, 2 and they flipped me!

    I screamed so loud that I think a blood vessel broke in my head!They quickly strapped me to the board, and placed me on a gurney, heading towards the ambulance about 10 feet away. Once inside, I begged for pain medication. They could not give me anything, as I was to be rushed to the trauma unit for surgery.

    Just then, a catholic priest hopped into the back of the ambulance, and asked if I wanted to pray. I asked him "Father, am I going to die?" He said that I would, just not today or anytime soon. We prayed, and he held my hand in the ambulance, all the way to the hospital.

    I was freezing at this point, and carrying on a conversation with the EMT's the best I could, through screaming in pain, and attempting to breath at the same time. Blood, snot and road debris was all over me. I felt dirty, caked with crud. All I wanted was some pain medication and a shower, not realizing that I had two completely shattered legs, and sitting, let alone standing would be impossible.The EMT's asked what hospital I wanted to go to. Huh? The best one!

    They did not realize at this point that I needed to be brought to a level 1 trauma unit, and the only one was OSF St. Francis. Off we went! I asked if anyone had talked to Gina, and they said she had been contacted, and she was on her way to the hospital to meet us.Still screaming, we arrived.

    Out the back door of the ambulance, and into the waiting ER unit. There was a team of professionals waiting for me. All I heard from the head ER Nurse is breath, breath, breath. Then the round of questions, again: "what hurts, can you move your fingers, do you have a headache, does it hurt when I poke here, when did you last eat, are you allergic to anything etc" I told them just give me the pain drugs, and NOW! They said they could not do that, as I needed to be examined, and a MRI or CT scan done.

    The ER nurse got my attention. (Now, remember, I am on the table, stark naked, covered in blood, screaming in pain, bones sticking out of my leg, surrounded by what seemed like was 100 people, all doing their jobs in the most efficient manner.) The ER nurse shows me a rubber tube, and states that she has to catheterize me. I said, and WHERE are you going to put that thing?

    Before I could finish the sentence, she had installed the catheter in my penis, and felt like a rock had struck my bladder. More screaming.More shuffling in the ER, and they asked who the physician assistant on duty was? Kelly Sparks was the answer.

    I screamed "Kelly?" I know Kelly! He' s my racing buddy. Not 2 minutes later, here comes Kelly, taking charge of the situation. He came into the ER, and calmly said, Steve, what happened, as he was holding my hand, like a child. (I still don't know how he retained his bedside manner through this) I said Kelly, I got hit on a ride. You have to get me the BEST doctors, period, who will get me racing again.

    He looked over the situation, checked all of the stats, and was making a prognosis. I begged him for pain medication. Not as of yet was his response.He then went to the foot of the table, and said "Steve, this is going to hurt". At that time, he grabbed my left foot/ankle, and PULLED the leg toward him, to forcefully pull the broken bones back inside the leg, and straighten them out. I screamed so loud, that the Nun that was with Gina in the waiting area, actually got up and left.

    A second later, Kelly yelled to administer the morphine. The pain drugs reacted within a split second, and I was back in euphoria at that time, not a care in the world.Once the morphine fully kicked in, I was OK. I was transferred to a staging room, with G by my side. She's tough, like an alligator skin suitcase. Calm as you could be in this mess, and telling me to breath. I stayed in the staging room with G and a couple of employees/friends, Brad Menold & Pat O'Neill, who G had contacted. They rushed to the hospital immediately.

    They told me that I had shattered the right leg, as well as the double compound fracture to the left. No further information at this point. I spoke w/ my parents on the phone, and waited for surgery.

    Several hours later, between nodding off & waking up, I met Dr. Bell, the anaesthesiologist who was to put me to sleep for the operation. I only asked that he makes sure I wake up when its all over. He said he would.

    Down a COLD hallway to the operating room, I was cracking jokes with the nurses and attendants. We were quoting scenes from the movie "Airplane", as I was so high from the pain drugs, I had no clue what I was doing. I looked up from the gurney, and here was Kevin Neblock, my old cycling coach and friend.

    I really thought I was dead, as all I could see was the ceiling, and bright lights at this time.Into the OR, pre-sleep meds go through the IV, and they said to count to 100. I made it to 2, and woke up Tuesday in the ICU after two emergency surgeries.

    Six surgeries later, including two bone grafts since that day, the last in June of 2011.

    •I learned several things since 8/29/2004:
    I learned that on 11/30/1996, the best decision I ever made was to say "I do" and marry my wife Gina. She has been the best throughout this ordeal
    •I learned that I have more friends and supporters that I could have ever imagined, even to this day
    •I learned that grown men cry, especially when they see their friend in the hospital after an accident, and it is OK
    •I learned things like this happen, and when someone offers you their help, take it. No man is an island
    •I learned that these things not only affect you, but affect everyone around you. Realize that, and work with them to help in your recovery
    •I learned that you cannot be a victim
    •I learned that you must fight like hell, everyday, although some days a little more than others
    •I learned that no one is going to do it except for you, and pity parties are not an option
    •I learned that you must get back up after being knocked down, as many times as it takes, as long as it takes, as many resources that it takes to achieve greatness
    •I learned that you must be a positive leader & friend to those who are going through a similar situation, whether you know them or not. It is not your choice, it is your duty & responsibility
    I learned that you must pay it forward, period.
    •I learned that “giving in” is NOT “giving up”
  • I  learned that friends have come into my life that continue to inspire me to keep the "good fight", and that is epic! I need you all!!!!
  • I KNOW that a helmet saved my life & allowed me to even write this blog, period. Please don't debate me about helmet use, save your breath, and make sure you have signed your organ donor card.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

2K10 & Beyond

Just thought I would throw out some updates, as I have been a little "loose" on the blog-o-sphere world, although I have been doing a lot of tweeting lately. Go to Twitter, and I am

Winter is here, so G & I headed off to Tucson for some sun, riding & warmer weather. I cannot handle the cold like I used to, or would even like to. The cold weather on several titanium rods in my legs, as well as a tool box of screws that are inserted through the bones do not make for a good combination. I shall be back there in the spring, or even Naples, Fla, for some though miles and spring training.

I got a couple of hundred plus miles in out there, did some climbing, and had a lot of fun. On one of the rides, I "hooked up" with Andreas Kloden (2nd place TDF, 2006) & Gregory Rast from Team Radio Shack. They were having their winter training camp out there, and staying one resort away from where we were staying. I rode with them for about 10 miles, then pulled off for some pics. they spoke little English, so I directed them to the base of Mt. Lemmon, and we said our goodbyes. they were very nice, and accommodating for an old dude from the Midwest, trying to get some miles in.

Christmas came, and was very relaxing. was off the bike for 3 days, and that was just fine. Enjoyed my in-laws in Quincy, IL, and came back, hours before a 10" snowstorm dropped. I am glad the holiday's are over. Between the cold, darkness and riding indoors, I get just a little seasonal depression. Throw some pain on top of that, and well, to be honest, it stinks for a while.

Uncle Gary & Sharmin, who know my love of Sock Monkey got me these really awesome Sock Monkey slippers for Christmas. I have been wearing them nightly, and they are awesome!

I got home this afternoon after a 2 hour, indoor ride at Vision Quest Peoria. Thirteen turkeys come strutting down my driveway, and take up camp in my back yard. Maggie didn't even see them, as she chilled out in the blankey, warming up in the sun.
I will be giving a presentation at the end of this month to the Illinois Valley Wheelmen about adversity, perseverance and getting up after being knocked down. As many times as it takes, as long as it takes, as many resources as it takes.
Life is good, and I welcome a new year. G & I have been hanging, trying to stay warm, and enjoying life and each other. Looking back over the past five years, I think we truly appreciate that I am still on this earth, in good health, and able to love & be loved back. This will be an exciting year for us, and I hope you as well.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pay It Forward-Lessons in Life

I have attached the two separate links (Intro & Article) to the Peoria Journal Star article that Jack Brimeyer has been working on for some time now. Jack & his wife Liz have been dear friends of Gina & I for many, many years. They have been with us for the whole ride over the past five years, as well as all of my other fiends and supporters.

Thank you to all who have helped, prayed, supported, assisted, and for many of my friends, who just listened to me. Gina and I have grown stronger in love and our marriage, (if that was possible). I realize that, per my many mentors in life that the one core value they all shared, as do I, is that it is your responsibility to pay it forward, with no expectation of return, sometimes not even a thank-you. It is not your choice, it is your duty & responsibility.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

How Does That Work?

A friend asked me "How does that work"?

You see, I met Barry Connor about 1.5 years ago, and yes, we met "on-line". He found me through my blog, and sent me an email.

Barry had been in a horrible accident involving a ladder and two-stories of a home. He suffered similar injuries to mine, especially the left tibia/fibula, which was a severe fracture, and non-union, which means that it was not growing back together. He googled "non-union tibia" fractures or something, and found me through my blog. We have been conversing via email for about 15 months. He has gone through all of the things that I went through, pain, depression, hurt, doctors, more doctors, family, frustration with the whole situation, quality of life issues, why won't this dang leg ever heal?

We did a lot of back & forth support via email, even with a 6 hour time difference, it worked out pretty good. Due to the lack of healing in the left leg, something had to be done. He was exhausted of the pain management, and a decision was made. The doctors removed his lower left leg in June/2009.

Soon afterward, G mentioned that I should go meet/see Barry. I immediately sent him an email, and he said "Sure Mate"! I booked a plane & hotel, and headed to East Kilbride, Scotland to finally meet Barry, post surgery. 7600 miles round trip, to meet my pen-pal, who I had never even spoken to on the phone. Leap of faith? Faith in another human being, who needs your help? Crazy? Doesn't matter, he was in a time of need, and I wanted to do what I could.

I arrived on a Thursday late am. Checked into the hotel, quick cleanup and caught a taxi to Barry's. No calls, just c'mon by, so I did. We met, spent that afternoon & evening just getting to know each other. Barry's wife Sharon was there as well, and I think we were all a little uncomfortable with the "what ifs". After an hour or so, we were pretty cool. Shooting the breeze like ol' buds and cracking jokes. He thought I had a funny accent, and I thought the same of him. A couple of Guinness' into the afternoon, and we were relaxing. His children came home from school, to find a crazy American had invaded their home. Barry & Sharon have three lovely, very respectful children, which is an awesome reflection on them, as they are a really good Dad & Mum. The evening got late, I had not slept for 34 hours, and headed back to the hotel.

We met the next day, and hung out. I also attended a Rotary meeting that afternoon. That was pretty cool as well. That evening, his Uncle Pat, who drives a Lorry (semi-truck) picked me up, and Uncle Pat, Barry & myself drove through the night, delivering a load of anchors to the Irish Sea, a load up toward Inverness, another load back to the depot etc. Just two Scotsman and myself, hanging out, having fun, quoting lines from the movie "Airplane" listening to country & early rock & roll music, and being stooges. We laughed so hard sometimes, I forgot it was 3am!

Saturday afternoon came, as I got back & asleep at 6am. I met Uncle Pat and his family over at the Connor Household. Sharon made the best lasagna that side of the pond, and we had a great evening, just having fun, shooting the breeze, talking about old times (as if we had any, yet) and slightly more Guinness. We were to go tour the countryside the next day in Uncle Pat's Land Rover, and do a little off-roading.

Sunday came, we all loaded into the Land Rover, and off we went. Barry, Uncle Pat, myself and the two boys, Jack & Jack. We scoured the countryside, small towns, Glasgow, high on the hilltops, went by castles, homes that were hundreds of years old, and finally the grave of one of the most famous Scotsman, Rob Roy McGregor. He is a legend in Scotland for fighting the English. It was when we were leaving, that we met The Mad Scotsman (see pic at end). He lives in the country, and is the purest of Scotsman. It was a rare and special treat to meet this gent. We went out to dinner with the Connor family that evening, and capped off an awesome & exhausting day.

Monday, Barry, Sharon & I hung out. Barry's Mum & Dad stopped by, and believe it or not, the sun came out. Barry & I agreed that we all had a great time, and he learned that morning that he had to go back into the hospital for another procedure.

I left the following day, and it took several days to get my feet back on the ground, per se. The only thing that I would have done different, is stay longer. Barry & Sharon, along with the kids and of course Uncle Pat and family were awesome. I never met a stranger in Scotland. They are some of the kindest, proudest and hardest working people you will ever meet. You would not even need to ask for their shirt off their back, they would recognize it, and give it to you before you even asked.

So, the answer to the question, "How does that work"? It just does. You must be a positive leader & friend to those who are going through a similar situation, whether you know them or not. It is not your choice, it is your duty & responsibility. Barry now bares this responsibility, and I know he will carry this forward when he is able to do so.