Seven years ago, I was hit by a taxi traveling approximately 50 miles per hour. I'm not dead, obviously, nor am I crippled. My back's not exactly in perfect condition (which may be a good thing; I'd be a sure IV-F if the draft were ever reinstated) but I am, for the most part, healthy. No bones were broken and no internal organs damaged in the collision; and if I hadn't been forcibly strapped to a backboard by emergency medical personnel trying to cover their asses in case of spinal column damage that I knew (and insisted) wasn't there, even the back injury likely wouldn't have been permanent.

The trick to surviving such a potentially disastrous collision is to have something else take most of the impact for you. In my case, that something was a ten-speed Huffy bicycle. I was foolishly trying to cross a major road just beyond the crest of a hill, not realizing at the time that I couldn't see, or be seen by, oncoming traffic for more than about ten yards. Even so, if I had pedaled harder and tried to dart past the cars instead of hesitating and belatedly braking, I probably would have avoided the crash by a slim margin. The same hesitancy that made me a bitter, academically underachieving and socially inept high school student very nearly got me killed.

Maybe my title is a bit deceptive, since the taxi and my body never actually impacted. Its bumper hit the rear wheel of my bike. Nevertheless, there was enough momentum transferred to send 230 pounds of 15-year-old Anark flipping and flying through the air like a slippery salmon from the paws of a clumsy bear. I never lost consciousness. Hitting the ground on my side several yards from the cab, I rolled onto my back, managed to rise to one knee (and to think those paramedics thought I was paralyzed!) and kept trying to stand up. Hesitant and bitter though I may have been, my survival instinct was strong, and it never occurred to me to lie still and wait for help like a good victim should. Unable to see well without my missing glasses, the only thought in my adrenaline-fueled mind was to get to safety at the side of the road.

A crowd gathered. I remember looking up at strange faces, hearing voices asking me who I was, where I was, eventually telling me to put my head there and don't move, we're taking you to the emergency room. I protested. Yes, I'm hurt, but I'm not dying, give me some respect! My protest was ignored, as I was immobilized and placed in the back of an ambulance.

They stuck a needle in my arm and told me I was in shock. To hell with the shock, I thought, as the wrenched muscles of my right lower back convulsed in protest of their forced immobilization in a disadvantageous position. The pain was orders of magnitude greater than anything I'd experienced before. Even as I write this, my attention transferred temporarily to the dull ache that permanently lingers in that region, I remember vividly the agony I experienced that afternoon, exacerbated by the knee-jerk response of the paramedics who were motivated more by fear of malpractice lawsuits than alleviating the pain of the real injury.

Upon arriving at the hospital, I was determined to be out of life-threatening danger. Unfortunately, I was a minor, and without the consent of my parents, they couldn't so much as move me except to save my life. So I lay there in agony, my requests for free movement and pain relief denied by physicians to whom the almighty dollar was more important than the Hippocratic Oath.

Finally, after apparent eons, my mother arrived. I was freed from the bonds of legality, transfered to a gurney and wheeled into another room, and told to roll over onto the table to have x-rays taken. This from the same institution that, ten minutes earlier, had regarded me as "paralyzed until proven otherwise!" The pain was, unfortunately, too great for me to appreciate the irony. I somehow managed to follow their instructions, and after the procedure was sent to yet another room to wait patiently, talking wearily with my mom as the intravenous painkillers did their work.

The results were negative. My spine was fine, as were my kidneys and liver and whatever the hell else they x-rayed. There was only, as they put it, "a lot of soft tissue damage." I sat up (very painfully) and managed, stubbornly, to transfer myself to a wheelchair without assistance. Looking back, I can see that the influence of my mother's Hemingway books that I spent my childhood reading had truly risen to the occasion that day.

I went home that night, but couldn't walk right for about a week. There were no further medical services; the hospital just sent me on my merry way. The next morning, I looked in the mirror and saw that my lower back looked like an iodine-stained biological lab sample. Nearly black in places, and fringed with malevolent-looking reds and blues, it was quite swollen as well. My mom, who had medical training, advised me to put a heat pad on it, since cold wouldn't do any good this late. The discoloration gradually faded after a couple of months, and a few sessions of physical therapy restored muscle function to the point where I was able to run again (a year later, I was lifting 350-pound weights).

My back was working fine again, but the swelling refused to abate. I consulted a surgeon, who diagnosed a massive hematoma and recommended draining it and collapsing the pocket. He also told me what I had suspected before: had the injury received the proper treatment from the beginning, I probably wouldn't have had the occasion to see him. I underwent the surgery and awoke with my back nearly flat once again. It soon began to refill with fluid, though, and the surgery was repeated six months later, this time with a drain installed in my back for two weeks after the operation, and an irritant used to encourage the walls of the cavity to scar together. For the most part, it worked, though my back will never be perfectly symmetric, and will always be painful to some degree.

So, what lesson am I trying to impart with this long-winded tale? Don't be dumb. Non-motorists have to be just as careful in traffic as drivers. And if you must learn things the hard way, a bicycle to shield you from the collision's full impact certainly isn't a bad idea. It probably saved my life. Wait until you're eighteen, also, or else you'll just be fed to the beast of bureaucracy without the right to fight it.

I was never hit by a car, but I sure came quite close.

I was a volunteer deputy sheriff working a detail at a Greek festival in East Pittbsurgh (a suburb of Pittsburgh, PA).

The festival was organized by a Greek Orthodox Church. I worked that detail for many years because I lived on the street where the festival was held, and because both the priest and the members of the church were extremely nice people, so I was happy to protect them.

The festival was across the street from the church, which meant people were constantly crossing the street. This was very dangerous: It was a small town street, but most cars got there from a major highway just several hundred yards away, still feeling it was OK to drive fast.

One of the festival's feature was a Greek music band, as well as Greek dancers dressed in traditional Greek costumes. Truly a wonderful festival (plus, of course, they served delicious Greek food).

My work consisted mostly in traffic control. On one hand you had the drivers coming at high speed off the highway. On the other, you had drivers going on to the highway. These drivers were not speeding, but many weren't looking at the road. Instead, they were looking to their right, watching the dancers. Many of the speeders were not looking at the road either. They were looking left, watching the festival as well.

And, of course, there were the people trying to cross the road, completely ignoring my instructions to wait for me to stop the traffic for them (quite frankly, it gave me special satisfaction to spend one week of each year stopping those inconsiderate speeders on my home street).

Many times, the only way for me to regulate the traffic was by standing in the middle of the road, waving my flashlight, blowing my whistle, and dancing. Not to the music, but dancing to stay safe from incoming traffic that was not watching.

One evening, there was this driver who should have known better (i.e., he was a senior citizen). He was coming from town, moving toward the highway. His windows were unrolled. The car was full of passengers. Everyone in the car, including the driver was looking to their right, watching the dancers, not the road, let alone me.

Worst of all, the car started moving left, straight into the incoming traffic. And right at me who had nowhere to jump. I yelled and screamed, but the driver was so into the dancers and the music he apparently "did not hear me" even though his windows were rolled down.

Finally, I hit his car with my nightstick. That woke the driver up. He looked at me and swung the wheel to safety. I screamed: "Are you trying to kill me, Sir!?" The driver did not reply. Instead, he quickly sped up and drove away.

The man almost hit and killed me. Yet he did not have the decency to at least say he was sorry. He was lucky I did not have a radio on me (since I just walked there directly from my appartment instead of driving downtown and getting a radio). If I did and called for assistance, he would probably have been arrested. Had he stopped and apologized, I would certainly let him go even if I had the radio on me.

I too was hit by a car so, to tell my story and what I learned from it:

This happened last november, the monday right before thanksgiving break. I am a freshman at Cornell, so I was in the middle of the first semester in college!

Amazingly that night I had finished my work (a feat I still have not attained again!), and was bored since everyone else was working. It was a monday night, and we were done on wednesday, so I didn't have much to do.

My friend decided we should get some coffee in college town. Now, since I'm a freshman, I live on north campus at Cornell, which is the furthest away from college town, but I decided yeah, why not. So we walk to Stella's, the coffee shop and get some nice dessert coffee. We're walking back and it's raining, but not that hard.

Right after Thurston Avenue bridge (for those of you who know Cornell's campus) we had to cross a busy street to get to the dorms on north campus. It was about 10:30pm and it was raining, but we were careful. The cars going towards central campus, closest to our side of the road stopped for us so we went across on a crosswalk.

So, apparently this is what happend, I don't know cause I don't remember much. My friend saw headlights and jumped out of the way, but I didn't see anything. Maybe he tried to grab me but I got hit at 30 mph.

I was damn lucky since I didn't break anything -- except their windsheild (I'm proud of that one). Apparently I was hit in the legs, flung onto the hood and cracked the windshield, and bounced back onto the road, stumbled up and fell back down. I actually don't remember being in that much pain, but then again I was in shock. Of course people huddled over me and tried to keep me warm, since I was lying in a puddle.

I do remember being actually hit. It felt like so similar to being knocked down by a huge wave at the beach. I remember seeing the shining dark metal from the rain on the car. Then I was lying on the road calling for help from my friend -- and in pain.

So long story short, I was hauled off to the ERon a back board. Everything I said hurt they took an X-ray of, which took way too long. I was perfectly fine, and knew it, but of course my insistence meant nothing. I did hurt my leg and was on crutches for a while, I messed up my muscle pretty bad and it still hurts... :(

So, what did I learn from all of this? To be very careful, first of all, especially at night and in the rain.

Crutches suck, secondly, and thirdly, pain killers are oh so wonderful!
A wonderful way to get hit by a car is to ride your bicycle on the sidewalk, against traffic on a one-way street. Drivers are generally looking for oncoming motor traffic, and not the people on the sidewalks in the other direction. After the whole ordeal, I caught myself doing the same thing; as you coast into an intersection, you slow down and you're only looking in one direction. Also, sneak out from behind some bushes like I did, and don't wear a helmet. Helps if you haven't ridden a bike in 5 years or so and your skills are a little shaky.

So, as a driver, make a habit of stopping before you get to any crosswalks. As a bicycle rider, you're supposed to follow traffic laws too. Not that that's fair, since the cars are a bigger hazard to you than you are to pedestrians, but the law's the law. And might I suggest, if you ever are in an accident and someone else gets injured, please show sympathy or go to the emergency room or follow up to inquire about the person's health. It greatly reduces chances of a lawsuit if you reduce/eliminate hard feelings by showing you care. If you don't care, at least pretend. The girl Clara and her mother were waiting in the emergency room to find out whether I was alright, and I couldn't even bring myself to ask them to pay the bills, never mind get angry at them.

May '01, 5:15 PM. The day after Mother's Day. I'm riding my bike home from work, against traffic on a one-way street since I live on the one way street. I'm about three blocks from my house, crossing a side street, and out of the corner of my eye I see a car. I was already in the intersection, and pedaling hard because I was going uphill. Oh, they'll see me, I thought.

Duh.

I don't remember impact, I don't remember landing on my head. I probably wouldn't have gotten so hurt if I'd been wearing a helmet. I looked up and the pavement was so warm and pleasant I didn't wanna move. The girl came screaming out of her car Are you ok? Are you ok? Oh my god!

I had no ID, but I did have my cell phone and I was conscious. "Dial 5, enter. Call Jeff. 5, enter." She did; he ended up getting to the emergency room before I did. I was hanging out, having a good time, and then the paramedics got there. They were young men, and very attractive. "Wow, you're cute," I said to one of them. Then giggled. They made me wear a neck brace, and asked me who I was, where I lived, etc. Things began to hurt around then, and I noticed I couldn't see. That's when I started crying. The vision went out right in the center and I couldn't see a thing; it scared me to death. Nobody seemed to care much though, I suppose that must be pretty common since they showed a total lack of concern. I got the backboard treatment (isn't it wretched?) and then I got to take my first ambulance ride.

Those poor cute ambulance boys went to cut my shirt off (my absolute favorite T-shirt, by the way) and when I found out what they were doing I hit one of them and started wailing like a banshee. I never got to apologize. Nor did I get to see what the inside of an ambulance looks like (owing to my lack of vision), a pisser since the ride cost me $257.

I could see pretty well by the time they took me inside the hospital. When the nurse in the ER explained the shirt was already ruined from the road rash, I let her cut it the rest of the way off. I told her rudely "Don't touch my bra with those scissors." Looked like I was growing a garden on my belly, it was so dirty. End result: broken wrist, laceration on the head, big road rash, and bone bruising on my right leg at the point of impact. Jeff had to shampoo my hair twice to get the blood out because I couldn't reach my own head. My treasured $60 Wal-mart bike was trashed. $1000 in medical bills, most of it out-of-pocket. The cast on my wrist bothered me so much I cut it off with a Swiss Army knife; yet another bonehead maneuver. I slept almost non-stop for three days, waking up to eat and groom myself.

It was also the first time I'd had my picture in the newspaper since 7th grade. Was it so bad? Hell no! I'm scarred and arthritic now (in the wrist) but it's more of a fun war-story than anything else. And a rash of lessons learned the hard way.

The best part, probably, was this call, placed in the parking lot of the emergency room:

ring, ring
Hello?
Hi, Mommy!
Hi, sweetie! How are ya?
Pretty good.
What's going on with you?
I got hit by a car today.
.......Excuse me?

Dress in a gaudy costume, wave a raygun, and threaten to hurt a lot of people while standing in a car park in Metropolis. The friendly local superhero will be along to hit you with a car shortly.

Otherwise, be overconfident, and try to pick your way along a foot of uneven kerbstones between a metal railing and the road. Judge the distance slightly wrong, and watch your bar end strike the end of the barrier, and bounce you off into the large white vehicle next to you. Hit the steeply sloped front, thankful you just missed the wingmirror with your head and saved your glasses. Then remember that the surface you just hit was steeply sloped, and that you've been pitched forwards by the van's motion. Watch everything blur as you pick up speed, realising that the van you just hit was moving. Look the driver in the eye as you fall, then stare the radiator grille in the face, then focus on the tire headed straight for your stomach.
Breathe a sigh of relief as you see the van stopping, but have the air knocked out of you as you hit the ground, and then by the sudden sense of loss as you see the wheel of your bike bent sharply by a few tons of weight applied to the rim. 'Oh crap', you think. 'That was the last free one'. Curse yourself for not wearing a helmet, but realise that, again, it would have been no use.
Rest for a few seconds, before trying to get up, staggering like a drunk as the fluid in your ears swirls. Almost fall over. Pick the bike up, stagger away onto the pavement, wave the driver of the van away. You're fine, you can stand, you can still ride, can't you? Try doing just that, then realise the bar end that hit the barrier is gone. Remember that it was loose anyway, and you must have lost grip on it. Wait for the lights you were running to change again, and dart out to grab it. It's crushed, useless, broken. A moment of sadness, before realising you have another set of bar ends in the garage. Elation, before remembering just why those are there. The previous bike, the one given to you by your father after the one you scrimped and saved for all summer was stolen, and how the frame suddenly went 'ping' and broke beyond repair. Stuff the flattened plastic tube in your bag, cross the road since there's still nothing moving, then mount up again. Realise that, yes, the wheel is still bent. And your arm hurts, because you seem to be bleeding. Unsnap the brakes, wheel off to the nearby bike shop, and call your mother because you can't afford a new wheel on your own, and don't feel like cycling home after that.

Later, fit the new wheel, the old bar ends, and then discover the crushed tube while rooting in your bag for the tire levers. Finish up, walk back inside, toss the crushed parts to the floor in disgust and anger.
Even later, smile as the cat bats at the unevenly crushed plastic plug, chasing after it as it skitters unevenly across the floor. Laugh at the 20lb cat acting like a kitten as he plows into the coffeetable, then the TV stand, then the sofa, all in pursuit of something you can't even name as anything other than a 'Thingy'.

Years later, look at the Thingy, and smile at the memories it summons. Of the bike (stolen and replaced), the cat (dead of old age a few days previous, and cremated by the vet), and of the crash it was obtained in.

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