Crash and Learn
By Frank Gruber as told to Jorge Casuso
My editor is ghostwriting my column this week because it’s difficult for me to type. My left clavicle is broken, my left arm is in a sling, and although I can type if I prop my arm on the table, it’s slow and painful.
Trouble is, I can’t remember what happened. I was returning home at around 6:15 p.m. last Wednesday after picking up drawings at ARB Chair Michael Folonis’ office on Ocean Park Boulevard for a column I wanted to write.
I was travelling westbound on Ocean Park on my bicycle thinking this was the first time I was using the new bike lane and that I should go slowly downhill in the event a car would make a right turn without seeing me. The sun had set and it was dark and the lights on my bike were turned on.
The next thing I remember I was in the ambulance. I do have a vague dream memory of crashing, but I don’t remember what caused it. All I remember is that something flipped.
I have since learned from my wife, Janet, that when I crashed, a passerby picked up my cell phone and found the preset number for our home. He called and told her I had crashed and that they had called 911. He said there were people at the scene and that they would stay with me.
When my wife arrived, she saw the ambulances. I was on a gurney. She was relieved to find that I was conscious, although I don’t remember being conscious. Someone told her I had been out for about three minutes.
Janet got into the ambulance that took me to UCLA Medical Center in Westwood, considered the best place for head injuries. I don’t recall anything, but Janet said I was conscious, although I have no memory of being conscious at the time. She said the sirens were on, and they cleared the traffic on the freeway. She said it was very impressive.
In the ambulance, they asked me questions. Janet said I didn’t remember what month it was. I remember coming to in the ambulance, but I don’t remember arriving at the hospital. All I remember was being questioned by police in the emergency room.
That night was a jumble of things. I was going in and out of consciousness. A CP scan of my head found blood had been unleashed in my brain. The doctors were concerned that maybe a brain aneurysm had caused the accident. But a second scan taken four hours later at midnight showed that was not the case.
I still wasn’t sure what had happened. An officer said a witness told police I had made a turn on 11th Street, which couldn’t have happened. I do know one thing, a neurosurgeon that visited me that night told me that if I hadn’t been wearing my helmet, I’d be dead.
Ever since regaining consciousness, I wondered how the accident took place. The left rear of my helmet has concrete scrapings. My left clavicle is broken and my left knee bruised. My left side took the brunt of everything.
I don’t think I was hit by a car, because my injuries would have been over more of my body, and my bicycle would show signs of having been hit.
The police report confirmed my hunch. I was in a “solo bicycle accident.” There was no other vehicle involved. According to a witness, I ran into the curb, flipped over and passed out, although I don’t remember riding anywhere near the curb.
What I remember, and will never forget, are all those who helped a stranger. I want to say thank you to the man who looked for my phone and called my wife when he found it.
To the group of people that stayed with me at the scene and the paramedics and ambulance staff who rushed me to the hospital.
To the doctors and students at the teaching hospital who saw in my accident a chance to pass on valuable knowledge.
And to the police, who pieced the incident together.
To all of them, Thanks.
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The views expressed in this column are those of Frank Gruber and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of
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