To Die For?

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Given the amount of chances I have taken with my life doing the various activities I have done and still do, it is quite remarkable that I have never really had any close calls or brushes with death. There have been many times where I could see that one thing gone wrong would bring me close (such as driving on the highways in Mexico), but I never actually got to the point where I felt like I was on death's door, or even on the sidewalk leading up to the door.

As some see it, such luck doesn't last forever, and eventually the cards won't fall your way. We can do much to prevent situations where poor falling cards can really hurt us, and hopefully we all do. But even the most experienced people in any given field, who take all the precautions, can be victims of a lapse in judgement and a brief foolish moment. Even those who don't fall to such folly might just have enough poor falling cards all at once that all the preparation and precaution in the world doesn't help.

Recently a professional off-road motorcycle racer died during a practice session for an upcoming race. He had taken all the precautions, was wearing all the latest and best safety equipment, and was doing something he had done thousands of times before that had never given him any issues. Yet the cards fell poorly and his accident left a wife and two kids without a husband and father. I didn't know Nathan Woods personally, yet I admired him as a racer and looked up to him, as he was a year or two older than me but doing something I loved, professionally. When I got news of his death I was crushed. It really hit home for me, because he was a professional and did everything right and it still happened to him, but mostly because he was a little bit older than me and in a similar situation in that he provided for his young family, and like me he had a wife and young children. My heart went out to them, how devastated they must have been, and still are. My brother Paul was also shook up about it and we talked about it a lot immediately following. Words really couldn't express how it was affecting me. Little did I know that within a month I would be contemplating my own untimely departure from life and how it would affect my wife and children as I lay struggling for breath alone in the desert surrounding St. George Utah.

The Backstory
I grew up riding motorcycles and have a lot of experience with them. I certainly am not a professional, but I'm a long shot from a greenhorn. I grew up riding with my family, dreaming of racing. The opportunity to race didn't come until I was beyond what is considered racing prime, but I didn't care, I wanted to race, so in 2008 I raced the local desert race series in Utah. Early in 2009 I was laid off of my job (so have put off racing since then, but still ride when I can) in Salt Lake City, but was able to find work in Seattle Washington. I was able to find work there because of someone I had never met. My little sister worked for the same company in Chicago Illinois and was good friends with a coworker Loren who just happened to be good friends with a manager who was moving to Seattle to open a new branch for the company. A few phone calls later and I had an interview where I didn't have any reason to hope for one before. I was and still am very grateful to Loren, because without him I would have been struggling to find work in Salt Lake City with hundreds of other newly laid off employees.

My little sister suggested, and I agreed, that we needed to do something to thank Loren for essentially getting me this job. After talking with him a lot she discovered that he would really like to go dirtbiking in the desert - right up my alley. It took a couple years, but we planned a trip to take him to St. George Utah and show him a good time on President's Day weekend in 2011.

The Players
So on this trip there was me, my little sister Christina, two of my older brothers: Paul and Mike, and finally Loren. Christina would be flying in from Chicago, Loren was in Colorado shredding some epic powder the week prior and would be flying into Las Vegas from there and meeting up with us in Utah, and I would fly in from Seattle.

Mike's bike was a recently purchased brand new 2007 Yamaha WR450F (left over at a dealer from that year). Paul would ride his 2007 KTM 505SXF, a trusty bike he has raced multiple seasons. I would ride Paul's old 2002 Yamaha WR426F, while Christina would ride a 2008 KTM 250XC-W, and Loren a 2008 KTM 250XCF.

The Trip
I grew up in Salt Lake, and our family had been travelling south on President's Day weekend to go riding in the desert for as long as I can remember. Not once had we ever encountered bad weather that I can remember, so it seemed a safe weekend to plan the trip. However this trip we were a little more committed than we would have been in the past, with 3 people flying in for it. As the trip date got closer, the weather report got worse. Had we all lived in Utah I am certain we would have cancelled the trip and waited for better weather. But given that 3 of us were flying in no matter what it was decided we'd go and make the most of it.

There were a couple of bad omens we didn't pay any heed to leading up to the trip. Christina's flight coming in from Chicago had some serious problems with the weather. She was supposed to land at 6 pm on Wednesday night but didn't actually land until 10:30 pm, due to such adverse weather the plane had to land and get gas in Pocatello Idaho unexpectedly. Christina recounts the adventure as pretty sketchy: there were grown men crying as the plane bounced all over in turbulence, people throwing up multiple times and creating a major stink in the plane, and getting a little worried looking out over the wing and noticing the wing bouncing up and down in a good 4 foot swing.

I had a good reason to stay behind and not go staring me in the face at home that for whatever reason I cannot understand I ignored. My pregnant wife was coming down with a pretty major cold that would include a fever that would render her completely unable to care for our 3 children (aged 8, 6, and 2), but to make it worse the oldest of our 3 came down with the same major cold, rendering him a major burden.

I arrived Friday afternoon and we drove straight from there to Zion's National Park to our hotel, and where we would meet up with Loren. The drive down was uneventful, and the weather was great giving us hope the weather reports were wrong and we would have good weather over the weekend and enjoy some great riding. We arrived around 8:30 pm, met up with Loren, got a good meal and made plans for the following day, checking the weather report and hoping it was wrong as it called for rain all day.

We got up early and enjoyed a great breakfast and hit the road to Warner Valley, a spot that Paul knows well and has a lot of variety of riding; in other words a great place to show Loren a good time. It was raining in the morning, and it rained the whole way to Warner Valley, and continued raining when we got there and started unloading the bikes. Loren was excited and ready to rumble so we got suited up and ready to go. As we suited up I picked up my next brace and thought I wouldn't need to wear it since we'd probably be taking it easy due to the weather. But at the last moment I picked it up and put it on anyway. Upon later reflection, this was probably a really good thing to do. I also thought because we likely wouldn't be going far there was no need to bring my backpack or fanny pack, so I didn't bring either. Upon later reflection, this turned out to be a near fatal mistake.

It was raining pretty good but we were prepared with rain gear so we set off. The dirt was actually really good - a couple of spots the main graded roads were a bit slippery, but the washes and trails were all pretty much perfect. Paul and I were pushing hard really having a good time. He had let me ride his KTM, while he rode the WR426, so he could see how it was working as we're trying to get it ready for a pretty major trip in April (more on that in a future post!).

His KTM is unreal with how much power it has. Paul is normally a good deal faster than me, but I felt like with his bike I could stay with him if not pass him and make him look bad. So I was riding right up on him looking for an opportunity to get around him and surprise him. As often happens when you're out in the desert doing this, a turn in the trail will catch you off guard because you're focusing so much on the guy you want to pass. As it happened a hard right turn came up and I blew the corner and stalled the bike in the process.

The problem with this is that in my haste to get going quickly again I drained his battery. The KTM is an electric start only machine, and when hot like it was needs to be started in a particular way, which I didn't do. With a drained battery on an electric start only machine, the only way to start it is to pull start it - get it going fast enough and put it gear and let the compression of the engine fire it back to life (and much like a car once started this way the battery will recharge).

Mike, Loren, and Christina were all doing fine, and we weren't that far from the truck, so we decided they should continue on, while I would go back to the truck on the WR246 and get a tow rope and come back and tow Paul and then we would catch up to them. The way back to the truck wasn't without adventure - the WR426 doesn't like to start and I stalled it on a corner and got myself good and tired trying to start it again. I finally did so and got back to the truck, got the rope, and headed back. On the way back I got a little turned around and found a nice ditch that pitched me over the handlebars. I got going again and got to Paul, hooked him up and towed him a bit and his bike fired right up.

We took off looking for the other 3 and had a great time doing so. The trail was great and traction was perfect and we were going real fast. After a while the trail criss-crossed with many other trails and roads and we started seeing other tracks. This was a bit of a problem because we didn't know which way they had gone. We guessed as best we could where they went and kept following tracks. However the rain hadn't let up and if anything was getting a little heavier. We were getting pretty far from the truck and thought there was little chance they were still going out with the rain as bad as it was. It was after all Loren's first time out on a bike, and there was some moderately difficult terrain we were following. We decided to head back to the truck because we had the keys, and if they had turned around and headed back a different way and got there they'd be stuck waiting for us in the rain.

We got back to the truck and they weren't there. We had parked in a place that had a few trails going around so we decided we would take little 10 minute rides out and back to the truck to make the most of the time while we waited for them to get back. My goggles had been fogging up and were covered in rain so I pulled them off and left them at the truck before heading out. We got out a few miles from the truck and I wasn't able to go too fast because of the rain in my eyes. I was following Paul when I suddenly had the thought I should have left the rope at the truck.

The Rope
Just to remind you, I had been carrying the rope since going back to the truck to get it in the first place. After towing Paul, I carried the rope while we looked for the other 3, and then carried it again back to the truck, and still had it with me at this point. Now is when I want to tell you the manner in which I carried the rope. Normally when I go out for a ride I have a fanny pack or backpack of some kind to carry a few tools in, some water and a snack, things like that, but as mentioned I didn't feel I would need either for this ride.

Name:  Rope Carry.jpg
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This picture demonstrates a great way to carry rope if you're taking a short walk to a rock climbing route or something. This is not a great way to carry rope while on a motorcycle. As I mentioned before, I am no greenhorn, and I definitely knew better than to ride with a rope like this on my person. But as I said people can have lapses in judgment and so it was with me this day, to willfully choose to carry the tow rope in this fashion. This person in the picture does it right with the rope securely knotted properly. The rope I was carrying wasn't tied up like that. One end had a loop in it and the other was loose. I had simply taken the loose end and ran it up through the looped end and put a weak knot there to hold it. I cannot emphasize enough how stupid this was and that I completely knew it at the time, but did it anyway. The other difference between me and this picture is I had the rope under my left arm.

The Incident
Shortly after I had the thought that I should have left the rope at the truck I felt something bang against my side. I instantly knew what it was, and what it meant - the rope had come loose and was falling hanging down to my right. I realized in that same instant that I had to slam on the back brake and lock the back wheel in order to prevent the rope from getting caught in the wheel and ripping me off the bike with the force that would create. Even though I was able to think all of this and knew what to do and was starting to do it, the rope was already there and I could not react fast enough.

Physics took over next as the rope got sucked in to the spokes on the brake side of the wheel. Everything happened so fast but so slow at the same time. I can recall the detail in the order it happened like it was a well ordered play script with different scenes and Acts. Yet it pretty much all happened at once.

The force of the rope tightening around my neck and under my left arm pulled my left hand back off the handlebar. Keep in mind this happened as I was trying to grab the clutch because I had already decided to hit the back brake. Since I was reaching and squeezing at the same moment, the force ripped my arm and hand back causing me to jackknife the steering to the left. This forced my right hand to give a twist of the throttle (an involuntary action that is commonly referred to as "whiskey throttle") which of course only tightened the rope around my neck and arm more. The combination of the rope getting about as tight as it was on my body and wrapped around the wheel multiple times, along with the jackknifed front wheel of the bike is what stopped my forward momentum and caused the crash. The amount of rope wrapped up in the wheel also stopped the wheel from being able to spin, shutting the bike off.

The force of the rope tightening and pulling on me lifted me off the bike. I can distinctly remember watching my right foot come up in front me. My left foot also came up but since the front wheel was turned to the left it got stopped under the handlebars. The rope was pulling me backwards and to my right. So I landed on my back, left leg pinned under the bike, right leg stuck up in the air, and head and neck pulled around looking behind the bike, with my face inches from the exhaust pipe.

I didn't have to stop and think to realize that I was in a lot of trouble. Even though the rope was wrapped under my left arm, the angle that I was trapped and the force of the tightening was very effectively closing off my ability to breath. I had a very fierce initial stage of primal panic where I tried to force my way out of the situation in any way possible, but quickly realized that doing so was only making it worse and forced myself to stop. The thought suddenly came to me that I needed to force myself to calm down, and lower my heart rate and moderate my breathing. With the gasps I was attempting to make, I wasn't going to last long. I was already dry heaving a bit and choking on my saliva with the big heavy breaths I was trying for. I closed my eyes and tried to calm myself and had a little success at doing so.

*Disclaimer: Those of you who know me well know that I am religious, and here is your fair warning that I am going to bring up my beliefs and attribute things that if you do not share my beliefs may offend you. No offense intended, this is just how it is from my perspective.*

On Death's Doorstep
Immediately after calming down somewhat I prayed. I don't recall the exact words, but they were simple, and something to the effect of, "Please tell Paul to stop and turn around right now." Though I had managed to force myself to stop struggling and calm my breathing down a little, it seemed that the rope was somehow still tightening. I thought to myself that if Paul doesn't turn around soon and find me I won't last much longer, I simply wasn't getting enough air, and between that and the amount of saliva building up in my mouth that I couldn't spit out, I was slowly choking to death. At this moment I thought of how Paul and I usually ride together, and how when he is leading (like he was at the time of this) he will go a long time before stopping for me. Then he will wait for me a good long while and only turn around and come back if he's been waiting for so long he suspects a problem. Such a thing rarely happens. At this time I had no reason to believe he would be coming back anytime soon. Certainly not soon enough to help me.

It was after considering this, that I looked at what I could see - a rising hill across the small valley where a graded road was. Some shrubs nearby, the rocks on the trail I was on. I thought to myself that I was totally alone in the desert, and I was going to die. Instantly my life played out in front of me. I remembered things I don't think I've thought of since they occurred. But the majority of my thoughts turned instantly to those I loved. I was concerned for Paul - how would him coming back the trail to find me lying still and dead affect him? Then I was concerned for Christina, how would she feel when she came back to the truck and Paul has to explain to her why I'm not there with him waiting for them. She had planned this trip, would she blame herself for this? I wasn't feeling sorry for myself, as if some misfortune had come my way and I was a victim of circumstance. I knew the predicament I was in was 100 percent my own stupid fault, and I was going to be another needless death in the world. I was worried about the people this would affect, and how I wished there was something I could do to help them deal with it, but knowing there was nothing I could do, and that what I had done in essentially accidentally killing myself was what would cause them pain in the first place.

Though I knew I was alone in the desert, I didn't feel alone. I was strangely okay with the idea of dying. I felt that it was inevitable and worrying about it at this point was pretty pointless. I was alone in the desert, but I felt as though someone, or something, or many someones were there with me, making me feel like it was okay, and I had nothing to fear. I started to wonder what the passage would be like when it actually happened. I was extremely uncomfortable, to use an understatement. I was quite calm now but my breathing was getting more difficult. I was choking on my saliva more often, and small sharp panic breaths would involuntary come - like a baby with croup cough, only much much worse. I simply wasn't getting anywhere near the air I needed.

I thought of my wife. My wife. How stupid I had been in carrying the rope paled in comparison to how stupid I was in leaving her in the first place. There she was, sick, pregnant, fever, with a sick child, and two other children she was too tired to care for. She was in bad shape, and our last words to each other had not been loving and caring. The night before I had been worried about someone helping her out with the kids, and now I found myself thinking of how she was about to become like Nathan Wood's wife. I briefly was mad that I didn't have a huge term life insurance policy that would make sure she had the money to take care of herself and the kids for the rest of her life. I wondered who would take care of her, what she would do, how would she feel? How would she explain this to the kids? My kids. I saw each of their faces one at a time, smiling at me. Tears were now mixed with the saliva that was choking me.

I prayed again, begging God to tell my wife how sorry I was. Sorry that I left her, sorry that I let her down. I threw in another plea to tell Paul to turn around and come back for me.

I suddenly had an urge to fight again, only this time it wasn't a panic-induced primal instinct like had happened at first. My breaths were getting harder and my head was starting to hurt, and there were black spots appearing in my vision. I knew that if I didn't do something to buy Paul more time it may not have mattered if he had got the message and was on his way back. I suddenly felt very strong, in the sense that I simply couldn't let my wife down - not again. It was bad enough that I was here and shouldn't have been, but I wasn't about to let myself go without doing everything I could to make it up to her somehow.

I tried to picture myself from a bird's eye view. I actually got a bit of a chuckle out of it when I realized how silly it must look. The one piece of information I wished I had was exactly how the rope had made its way down to the tire. If I knew that I would have a better idea of how I could improve my situation. Unfortunately I didn't know that information and I knew there was no way I could get it. With my breaths getting shorter and less helpful I found my helmet really stifling. I knew that removing my helmet wouldn't actually help me, but it was a mental thing, and I felt like if I could get it off I would somehow be making progress. I couldn't really move my left arm at all. The tightness of my noose had forced it up in the air and though I could bend my elbow my forearm wasn't long enough to reach where the chin strap of my helmet was.

My right arm was pinned under my side. I experimented with a little movement to see if I could wiggle it around, and found that I could. Based on how I felt the rope had pulled me it made sense to me that if I could somehow push myself more to the rear of the bike it would lessen the pressure I was feeling making it easier to breath and also get my arm loose. I was right that doing so would get my arm loose, but I was wrong that it would make it easier to breath. With my left leg pinned I didn't have much room to play with anyway, but I tried to take the longest draw of breath I could (in case I needed to hold it a bit while I made my attempt) and lifted myself as much as I could and pulled myself rearward. I probably only moved an inch, and the pressure it caused on my neck was excruciating and it ripped the breath out of me. But I got my hand free.

It was still an awkward position, and my first try at getting my hand to my chin strap failed. On my second try I got to it, but found my coordination was lacking and it took some effort to loosen it. After fumbling a great deal I was able to completely undo it and popped my helmet off. I felt a small victory, but wasn't really surprised when I noticed it didn't help my breathing situation at all. I succumbed to a brief panic again but managed to calm myself by repeating over and over that it wasn't helping.

I started entertaining thoughts again that I was going to die. This time I thought about whether or not I was ready to meet God. I decided that I haven't lived the life I know I should have lived, but somehow I wasn't afraid about this...even though there were many things I did that I believed wrong, and knew they were wrong at the time of their doing, I felt a sort of love and mercy that made me not worry about it. This surprised me a great deal. Again I found myself thinking more about those I would be leaving behind.

I then had a bit of a reckoning with Karma. Karma is not an official doctrine of the Mormon Church, but I have found that "karma" happens often enough to be more than mere coincidence. I mention this because recently there was a movie that came out called 127 hours. It is based on the book "Between a Rock and a Hard Place" which details the memoirs of a guy named Aron Ralston and his near death experience he had in Southern Utah when he was pinned and cut off his own arm in order to survive. We had talked about this movie on the way down and I had mentioned that I didn't think much of the guy. I had read his book right after it came out and though his story of survival was incredible I felt that his own actions and behavior had put him in that situation in the first place - he had ignored common wisdom and was one of those guys that seemed of the "it won't happen to me" type. Oh Irony, how you are a cruel mistress! This thought brought a small smile to my face as I realized how I wasn't really any different from the man I had been negative about earlier in the trip.

The dark spots in my vision were getting larger, I was feeling a bit out-of-this-world-ish, and my breathing, despite my efforts, was quite violent, and I was choking. Despite what was happening to me physically my thoughts remained calm and collected. Now that I had my helmet off and had some movement in my arm I decided to see what I could learn by touch about my rope. I reached up and felt along the rope toward the bike and tried to reach around the front as well to see how much was still on me and where which end was, and if they were still connected (I assumed they were because I couldn't think of any other way that it would pull so tight on me). All I really learned was that I still had two lengths of the rope on my neck, but I couldn't tell where the ends were or anything else.

I tested both spots of the rope to see if I could loosen them at all, and suddenly my breath was really short. I was losing this battle and in a few seconds I was going to black out and it would be over. In desperation and with some sort of superhuman finger strength I forced my index finger between one of the ropes and my neck. I could breath again (well, relatively speaking). The second part of the rope was definitely so tight I couldn't get under it and this was the part that was choking me, but the part I was able to get my finger under did give me a little bit of relief (really relatively speaking, but enough to keep me from blacking out).

I thought at this point that I could probably last a while longer, giving me renewed hope that Paul would get back in time. I prayed again that he would be informed to come back (I'll let him tell his side of the story in a comment to this post). I was grateful for the extra time, and started running through memories again, thinking about my kids and my wife. I had a little better field of vision with the helmet off and I looked around again noticing a tree here or a rock there, feeling the rain on my face and suddenly being grateful that I could feel that. I noticed again how utterly alone I was - Mike, Christina, and Loren wouldn't be coming through this area so they wouldn't find me, and even though there was a main road not far away I was in a spot where anyone driving by wouldn't be able to see me. Yet I was surprised how even though I knew I was alone, I didn't feel alone at all. I had got a little bit of hope I would make it until Paul arrived, holding on to my piece of rope with my finger, but I still felt like I was going to die and I was just delaying it, yet I was resolved to delay it as long as I could. I started to wonder what the actual transition of moving from this life to the next would be like, when I suddenly couldn't breath again.

I began choking on my saliva and dry heaving and the breaths just couldn't deliver the air. I wish I knew why it was like this - it's not like anything changed and the rope suddenly got tighter or anything. I tugged on the rope I had my finger under hoping it would loosen and give me some breathing room (pun intended) and it did, just a little. I calmed my breath down and then started to feel tired and wanting to go to sleep.

The Rescue
As I started drifting I thought I heard an engine sound. I perked up and listened intently and sure enough I recognized the pitch of the KTM. I felt relieved and grateful and said a prayer thanking God for bringing Paul back. I don't know how much time passed from the crash to when he got there - it felt like an eternity. It was probably around 3 - 5 minutes, but I think Paul would be a better judge of that because he had seen me last only moments before I crashed.

When he got to me he didn't come rushing up like I expected. I obviously knew how precarious a position I was in but when it didn't seem like he was in any hurry (and maybe he was, I couldn't really see him, it just didn't seem like it at first) I suddenly realized he may not fully understand yet how serious my condition was. He came over to the front of the bike and was about to lift it off me when I hoarsely yelled at him "Don't move the bike! It'll only make it worse!" He seemed puzzled by this and asked what I was talking about, so I calmly replied, "Well when you get to this side of the bike you'll see why." I then had a sudden tightness of breath and choking again and when he came into view and I could see him and then he uttered a few choice words I could see that he knew how bad it was.

My breathing got bad again all the sudden so I said a choice word of my own, but then quickly apologized in a joking way, "Sorry, I shouldn't say things like that. I should probably be repenting because I don't think I have a lot of time left unless you can get me out of this." I'm not sure why I tried to be funny at a time like this, guess that says a lot about who I am.

I think his initial reaction was to unwind the rope from the tire to get me out, but as my choking and coughing fits were happening in shorter intervals he was seeing me choking violently now. I took in a sharp breath and begged him, "Please hurry!" and he dropped what he was doing to get at his tool bag in his fanny pack. The spots that were showing up in my vision had pretty much blocked most of it out and I couldn't really see him anymore and I was only vaguely aware of the presence of the bike I was tied to. I was starting to feel good and sleepy but I knew it wasn't right, and the last thing I said to him was "it's going dark Paul, it's going dark..."

He then found what he was looking for - a pocket razor that he usually carries with him for cutting up tires - and with two quick slashes cut me loose and I was free. The rope was so tight where he cut it that it didn't take any effort from him at all - it basically took one swipe and the next one just snapped it. I rolled over and lay flat on my back, suddenly aware that my right leg was cramped from the position I was in. He pulled the bike up and leaned it against a tree. It felt so amazing to be able to breath again without restriction. He pulled the rope off of me and the bike, and all I could to say was something like, "Sorry I ruined the rope for tying the bikes down to the trailer."

Paul and I have been through a fair amount together, mostly good times. But I am alive now because of him. When I was lying there alone and choking and had the thought "I am going to die" it was very real, and when I thought it, I knew it was true. I was going to die for some stupid mistake and there would be no one at fault but me. But Paul had come through, and though I'm sure he panicked when he realized my predicament he was able to get the job done and cut me free.

I was out of immediate peril but we had to get back to the truck from there. He asked if I could ride and though I was shaken mentally and physically, I felt I had the presence of mind and ability to do so. He had me ride his bike since it didn't require to be kick started. I started heading down the trail to the road and was doing fine in first gear when my left side seemed to sieze up. My head began to get really heavy and I felt like I couldn't keep it up and it was falling toward the handle bars slowly. My right hand lost its ability to squeeze and it was falling off the throttle. I managed to stop the bike to try and figure out what was wrong with me and Paul came up and asked me what was wrong. I tried to explain it to him but I felt the need to just keep going and get back soon in case I simply couldn't do it before long. I forced the bike into gear and let the weight of my right hand steady the throttle. I pretty much made it to the truck when I started to the turn the handle bars and couldn't stop myself. I managed to the hit the brake and just fell over with Paul's bike on top of me. He quickly came and picked up the bike and then helped me up.

I am also pretty sure my neck brace saved me too. The force of the rope tightening might have snapped my neck but the brace would have gotten in the way of that. I'm very glad I chose to wear it at the last minute.

He helped me change into my regular clothes and then put all my gear away, but the day wasn't over for him yet. He asked me if I thought I should go to the hospital. Though I was totally shaken up, and in some pain, I didn't feel like anything serious was going to result from this. Mike, Christina, and Loren weren't back yet, and it was raining hard. They likely would be coming back soon and what would they think if the truck was gone and just the trailer was there? I said I was fine and would just hang out in the truck. He was also worried that something bad had happened to them so after getting me situated in the truck he went out looking for them. Luckily nothing bad happened, they came back, and he came back shortly after.

The Aftermath
It's been four nights since the crash and I've had nightmares about it every night. I'm afraid to go to sleep tonight in case I have another one. When we were packing up from our hotel and I was putting my laptop computer away wrapping up the power cord around my hand caused me to lose my balance and made me very shaky. I forced myself to wrap it up completely but the task was difficult. My first day back at work I was getting ready and just following my routine - I put my tie on and when I slipped it up into place I immediately fell into some kind of relapse and thought I was choking and had to rip the tie off right away and undo my top button before I could control my breathing. I didn't wear a tie that day. The next day I was able to wear my tie, but it was loose and the top button undone. At times I'll just be sitting there with nothing near my neck but I'll suddenly feel like I can't breathe.

If I tell this story verbally, and really even a few times when I was writing it, I get choked up and am at a loss for words. My voice shakes and wavers and tears form up. I can't believe how close to death I was, I was so close that I could feel it. I don't know for sure how close I was, but I was convinced I was there. I believed that I was going to die, and I faced it, to the point where I feel like I know what it feels like to die by accidental strangulation. To believe that you are going to die is at the same time the most surreal feeling while being so totally unnerving. I am still surprised that I felt okay with it, that I didn't feel alone even though I knew there was no one there, and that there was a part of me that was curious about the transition. It's also very surreal after the fact - I find myself almost watching myself from the 3rd person at what I'm doing, thinking, "so this is what it's like to be alive." I am sure my words don't do either justice, but it's all so very different for me now.

I feel God answered my prayers. Paul and I have different views on religion and God, so undoubtedly his perspective about what made him turn around will be different than mine. But I feel God answered my prayer and brought him back to save me. This may not resonate with a lot of people who read this, and many may disagree with it, including Paul. That is fine with me, it is what it is to me, to him, to those who hear or read this story. Paul saved my life, and that's what matters in the end. I owe you one Paul.

I think about this the majority of each day since then. I wonder about how I view life differently. I am so grateful that I am home and can see my children again and my wife. I feel like if this were a movie I'd have a radically different view on life and completely change everything about me, yet I find myself more or less the same person as before, only extremely grateful, but yet different somehow. I do see things differently, and I am thinking about this all the time, and I am behaving slightly different, but maybe that speaks to why I wasn't so concerned about dying in the first place, that I'm comfortable with who I am. I don't know for sure, but I think about it a lot.

I could probably go on and on and not really be saying anything more than I have already said. Thanks for reading this, please learn from my mistake and don't be stupid and go riding motorcycles with a rope wrapped around your neck.
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  1. DiscoDave's Avatar
    That's a pretty screwed up story. I suspect you handled the situation far better than I ever would have. Which is to say, I'd have peed myself and cried like a little bitch. High five to Paul!

  2. Fb.Paul's Avatar
    It's funny how it only happened 5 days ago and how I'm already questioning my memory of the event. I think the total time from the time I left Nathan to the time I came back to his predicament was about 3 minutes but could have been as much as 5. It was not far that I rode, and it was on an easy road so it didn't take long. As soon as I saw he wasn't there, I waited about 15 seconds before heading back. I initially thought he just ate it on the mud and hit his head knocking himself unconcious as he wasn't moving at all.

    Interesting you mention taking the helmet off, as I remember it being on until after I cut the rope. The reason I remember it this way is because I figured you would have burned yourself on the muffler had it not been for the helmet mouth guard. But I can't really say for sure either way now.

    It certainly could have been much worse as it is not uncommon to ride for miles without even looking back to see if the other rider is with me.
  3. midlife's Avatar
  4. FnGeniusshan's Avatar
    Holy crap Nathan,
    I am sincerely glad you are OK. It is funny how when faced with death it doesn't seem that scary. I was thrown from a vehicle at hi-way speed and then the truck landed on me. I thought death was likely but I was at peace the whole time. Your dreams and bad thoughts will get better with time. Later, Shannon
  5. Fb.Nathan's Avatar
    Thanks for the kind words everyone! It's interesting how Paul and mine's recollection are different as we recall the event!

    I appreciate the words of support and encouragement. I seem to be getting better emotionally, less waking up at night for sure. Looking forward to getting on the bike again to get some bike healing.