Save your brain: wear a helmet
By Dextra Hoffman, Special to the <i>Satellite Flyer</i>
/ Published May 30, 2006
I got a call while I was at work not long ago from a woman I didn't know asking me if I knew Carmelo Baez. I said yes, then wondered why I heard traffic and an ambulance. She told me he's been in a motorcycle accident, and the ambulance was there to take him to the hospital.
I asked how he was. She just said he was not able to talk and that they have to take him to the trauma center, and told me where that was. I yelled to my boss on my way out the door why I was leaving and got to the hospital about two minutes before the ambulance did.
He was fine, aside from looking like roadkill. I saw the paramedics pull him out on a stretcher with the neck brace and all that on, and I nearly freaked out. And then he said "Hey, honey, fancy seein' you here!" as they took him inside.
I wasn't allowed to see him until after they did the x-rays, but they kept me busy with paperwork. One of the paramedics came to give me his wallets and the clothes they had to cut off him—they were shredded anyway.
I asked where his helmet was. He wasn't wearing one.
When I finally got to go see him, he was lying on a board, all scraped and bloody. He was cracking jokes, as I figured he would be—we both handle stress the same way. He had sustained road rash on his arms, knees, and ribs. He had a chunk knocked out of his nose and forehead, and a nasty cut on his head as well.
What happened according to the woman who called me—her name is Lori—was that he was riding at about the speed limit in the center lane. There was a car in front of him and a big produce truck to his left. The car in front of him made a sudden dead stop in the middle of the road in an attempt to cut across lanes, and he tried to stop but couldn't.
He said he put his front brakes on a little too hard, and the next thing he knew, he was flying over the handlebars and straight down to the pavement, face and knees first. Lori said she thought he had hit his head on the produce truck, but he's not so sure. Both the car and the truck took off, and no one apparently got a license plate on either.
It's a miracle he even survived that, much less come out of it without anything broken. And in my own messed-up way, I showed my affection and appreciation for his safety by chewing him out for not wearing his helmet—either of them; he has two.
Or, rather, he did have two. The full-face helmet got busted up when it fell off the back of the bike. It obviously wasn't on his head.
As much as I've gotten on his case about the helmet thing, it took this to finally convince him to swear to wear it from now on. All I had to say was, "What do you think Joey would say if she saw this happen?" CJ is her hero. It would break her heart to know that he got hurt a lot worse than he could have if he'd had his helmet on.
He learned his lesson and got a lot of stern lecturing over the helmet thing. I don't know what I would have done if I'd lost him.