Saturday, July 24, 2010

It Just Makes Me Angry...

I saw a flier pinned to a bulletin board the other day for a charity event. It was a motorcycle ride, sponsored by a motorcycle dealership, with a modest entry fee and perhaps some additional revenue-generators like a poker run or something.

The beneficiary was a man in is thirties who recently lost control of his motorcycle in a single-vehicle accident, and as a result, suffered a traumatic brain injury. His prognosis is not good.

He is in a coma, is likely to remain in a coma for some time, and will need intensive medical attention, rehabilitation and therapy—should he be fortunate enough to recover to that point. He has a family, who are probably still struggling to come to terms with the upheaval they have undergone, but apparently no health insurance or means to afford the millions of dollars in medical expenses he has incurred and will likely face for the foreseeable future.

Curmudgeonly misanthrope that I am, I immediately hopped on the interwebz,  and googled the man's name + "motorcycle accident" + (town). Within about two minutes, I found a local news article quoting the State Police report from the incident, and of course, it completely confirmed my prejudices:

"...lost control of his motorcycle...not wearing a helmet."

As Ian Malcolm said, "Boy, do I hate being right all the time."

Man, I feel like I know this poor dumb son-of-a-bitch, because I've surely talked with his ilk enough times. Let me fill in a few more pieces of the puzzle: Probably riding a used Harley he bought from a friend; self-taught rider or learned a few pointers from the P.O. while the title was being signed over; only owned a shorty helmet for ventures into neighboring states with helmet laws (incident occurred, needless to say, in one of those enlightened bastions of liberty that do not require helmets) and probably adorned said helmet with stickers that asserted his individuality, so to speak.

I can also hear the barroom rant (...jeeze, I can almost smell the cheap beer and Jagermeister shots on his breath) about freedom, liberty, let those who ride decide, yadda yadda yadda. I can almost quote verbatim the weird, fatalistically heroic twisted logic—"...An effin' helmet ain't gonna do me any good if I have an accident—I'll be dead meat!" And of course, the libertarian argument about how it's his business if he wears a helmet, not the government's.

But right now, it's really not his business anymore. It's fallen to a cadre of sympathetic fellow-travelers to right the heinous, grievous error in judgment this poor vegetable made. In all likelihood, it will be the government—the big, bad, librul gummit—and his fellow taxpayers—who will foot the bill for his little self-indulgent exercise in freedom and pig-headed liberty. Except, oops, he probably won't be paying any taxes anytime soon, now will he?

Fascinating thing about accidents. Despite (my assumptions about) the uninformed and speculative nature of this poor saps' understanding of motorcycle accidents and head injury, we actually have some...what's that stuff called? Data, yeah...DATA...on accidents. And you know what?

  • Any fall from a standing height—six feet or so—can cause traumatic brain injury. Walking, bicycling, horseback riding, motorcycling. It's all the same; horizontal velocity doesn't enter into the equation unless you run into something. That's why people generally don't get much over six feet tall; it's a natural limit.
  • Motorcycle accidents generally produce a number of non-life-threatening injuries. But add a traumatic brain injury to the mix, and the prognosis gets a whole lot worse. It's the difference between taking pain meds for a week and being on a ventilator. 
  • A single-vehicle accident means he couldn't control his bike, and essentially fell down; there was no other car or truck involved to share the blame. There was no car to be launched airborne over, no truck side to be thrown into. He did something wrong, was thrown through the air some distance, and landed hard on his unprotected head.
  • A helmet—even a stupid shorty bedpan helmet, but preferably a real, live D.O.T. or Snell approved helmet—might have turned this into a "...treated and released..." or a "...held for observation overnight..." instead of a "...long-term rehabilitation..."
I need to muster up an iota of sympathy for this man. I really do. For his family? My heart goes out to them. He really shafted them by his stupid, selfish actions. But for him?

No way. Sorry.
I won't be able to make the benefit ride.
Be safe.

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