I don't remember Memorial Day 2006, but it's a day I will never forget. My husband John and I were riding in the Cottonwood 200 – an organized bicycle ride from Topeka to Cottonwood Falls and back – over the Memorial Day weekend. On the last day of the ride we were struck by an inattentive driver in a pickup truck going 60 mph.
John sustained a broken hip and broken left arm and wrist that required two surgeries. I was knocked out with a fractured neck vertebrae, multiple breaks in my left arm, broken pelvis, fractured ribs, fractured tibia, a lacerated spleen and severe internal bleeding. I was in a coma for nine days. One of those days was our first wedding anniversary.
We both felt like we were starting our lives over again in 2004 when we met each other and fell in love. Since the accident, we've started over again in a much different way.
I've had extensive rehabilitation in the hospital and as an outpatient for occupational and physical therapy. I relearned how to feed, wash and dress myself. I learned how to do things around the house again. John was doing everything I couldn't do.
I've learned to walk again but sometimes need help walking up or down stairs, especially in unfamiliar surroundings. Reading and writing have been much more difficult. I have a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that has affected my balance, coordination, fine motor skills and eyesight. Everything I do is slower. My TBI also affects my energy level and I fatigue easily. For the past six years I have been in different therapies to get better like neurofeedback, osteopathic manipulation, yoga, ai chi, vision therapy and massage. They have been extremely beneficial.
Every day I wake up and wonder what I will be able to do so I can live my normal life. Before the accident I was a writer and editor. In fact, I had planned to write about our bike ride for KANSAS! magazine, which I had been editing. Because of the damage to my left arm and my eyesight, I don't type well. I use dictation now, but it isn't always accurate. Very frustrating for an editor. My work now is doing everything I can to get better.
This blog is the first thing I have written since the accident. It's difficult to express everything my family and I have been through. It’s hard for me to imagine because I am still piecing together what happened to me. I don't drive anymore and I can't ride a bike.
Bicyclists have the right to ride in a lane, but John and I always rode in the shoulder of the road if we could, trying to be as careful as possible, thinking that motorists would pass us by safely. That didn’t work for us, but if motorists pay attention, maybe it will for the next cyclist.
Nancy Nowick-Kauk is a resident in Topeka