A split second

By Denise Petet
     Saturday, May 26, 2012, I was sitting at home, waiting for my mom to get home from church so we could go to dinner. And then the phone rings and it was a stranger…calling on my mom’s cell phone. She proceeded to tell me that my mom had been in a bike wreck and that AMR was taking her to the hospital. She also said she’d meet me there to give me my mom’s stuff and that they were keeping her bicycle in their back yard until we could come and get it.
     Not surprisingly, I dashed out the door and hurried to the hospital. I met these strangers who gave me my mom’s possessions and then went back to the treatment room, all the time thinking that I was going to see someone frustrated with being transported and generally being a ‘bad patient’…after all, my mom is an RN and everyone knows that nurses and doctors make the worst patients.
     If only it had been that.
     What I saw was my mother, who had always been so strong and self-reliant, lying on a gurney, surrounded by medical personnel.  Right as I got there they took her away for a head CT and she came back in just a few minutes.
     When she was brought back into the room, she didn’t recognize me. She was confused and disoriented. Then the doctor gets the results back and tells me that it was a subdural hematoma and that they’d need to operate immediately.
     About an hour after I got the phone call, we were practically jogging down the hall as I followed the tech getting her to the OR.
     The next time I saw her was in the ICU. Half her head had been shaved and a bandage covered the wound. She had a large incision on her skull and it took 28 surgical staples to close the wound.
     It was Monday morning before she was moved from the ICU to a normal room. Then Wednesday she was transferred to a rehab hospital. Three weeks later she was able to come home, and it was three weeks of little victories. Managing the pain, getting out of bed, proving she could take care of herself like she had before. It was months before she could go back to work and get on her beloved bicycle again. Over a year later, she still deals with minor issues from the wreck.
     All in all, she, and we, were very lucky. She still doesn’t and likely never will remember those few days after the accident.  In fact, the main way we know what happened comes from others. She was bicycling home from church and going down a side street. A lady that was going to a party opened her car door in front of my mom. Natural instinct is to avoid an object and she fell - breaking her collarbone and getting a contrecoup concussion that led to the brain bleed that resulted in the craniotomy procedure that had to be done to save her life.
     Nothing malicious or mean. Nothing deliberate or cruel. Just a person that wasn’t paying attention for the split second it took her to open a car door.  A split second that our family has spent the last year recovering from. A split second that will be part of our lives forever.
     A split second.

Denise Petet is a Media Technician for the Kansas Department of Transportation


  1. Glad to hear your Mom is on the road to recovery and regaining her life back. It was a incident that changed everyone's lives.May you all continue to recover and enjoy being a family.

  2. Denise, I'm so glad your mom has recovered from this very scary accident. This is a great reminder that we all need to be aware of our surroundings and that we share the roadways with less visible vehicles including bicycles and motorcycles.

  3. Anonymous10/02/2013

    Thanks for sharing the tragic story of your Mother's bicycle accident. It is good to hear that she has made significant improvements; and hopefully will make even more. This story needs to be read by all those who ride a bicycle. It certainly makes the point that if you are riding a bicycle or even a motorcycle you need to be alert all the time and not take anything for granted.

  4. Steve Swartz10/03/2013

    Thanks for sharing Denise. Yes, that 'split second' decision/action/lapse you refer to that can't ever be taken back has changed so many lives in so many crashes. You can't say that your mom was lucky, but it could have been much worse. Glad to hear she's getting better.