My motorcycle accident, and how it changed my life

On the 6 June 2011 I nearly met my maker via way of motorcycle accident. I decided to write up the story of the accident, how it happened, what it did to me, and what I learned from it. It has been very cathartic for me, and I hope you can also take something useful away from it. I learned many lessons from the experience, I got to know myself as well as my friends and family a whole lot better, and saw how an experience like this can change one’s life forever.

It was my last day of work before my leave started and one of the first proper motorcycle trips I would be doing which wasn’t solo. I would be riding that afternoon to the Wacky Wine Festival with Karl, a good friend of mine and also a novice rider. We had arranged that we would meet at the hospital where I was working, and leave on the trip from there. At the time there was a light drizzle outside, and the road surface was wet, Karl, being new to riding at the time, was nervous about this, and after much deliberation, we decided to rather meet up at our place on the farm and leave early the next morning.

Paarl, weather, rain, paarl rock

Paarl – just before I left work on the bike

As soon as I could make a run for it, I did. I jumped on my bike in a very excited, hopped-up mood, my leave had now begun and a motorcycle trip was on the horizon. Instead of taking the quicker route home, which was over a stop-street at quite a dangerous intersection in rush-hour traffic, I opted to go around the block and rather use the traffic-light on the other side, you know… just to be safe (Murphy and damned law). After turning right onto the main road at the traffic light I immediately accelerated to distance myself from the traffic around me, I don’t like being surrounded by SUVs on all sides, all rushing home for the weekend. As I twisted the throttle, I suddenly saw a white car pop out from oncoming traffic and block my entire lane. The SUV in the lane to my left swerved to miss him. I wasn’t so lucky.

Time immediately slowed down, all but stopped, and proceeded to provide me with a frame-by-frame record of me seeing my own arse. I grabbed a fist full of brake, pumped down hard on the brakes with my foot and held on for dear life. Its nearly unbelievable how much time slows down in a situation like this, and how much detail one can take in. I struggle to believe it to this day, but as I hit the car I distinctly remember the passenger window bulge out and shatter in slow motion. The next thing I knew I was flying through the air, I was completely upside down with the car under my head and my feet in the sky. Tiny pieces of shatter-proof glass flew past my face so slowly I can remember seeing the individual blocks. Then there was a bit of a blank, and I came-to lying on the road, with people rushing towards me from all angles.

I am very surprised at the calm way I woke up and realised what had happened. With so much adrenaline, I hadn’t yet felt any pain, I decided to check what systems were still intact, if any. I wiggled my toes, both sides, the ability to do this provided me with much elation. I wiggled my fingers- success! As far as I was concerned, lying on the tarmac in the rain, I was now in the clear. Needing some fresh air I lifted my left thumb to open the visor on my helmet, I could feel my thumb on the tab and could push to open it, but nothing was happening, the visor didn’t budge. My thumb was bending all the way back at the joint, in the wrong direction. Still quite calm, and without pain, I racked this up as the first injury on the list and decided to open the visor with the other thumb. This worked quite well and the visor slid open taking some shatterproof glass cubes with it. At this point my wits started coming back to me and with them, a good measure of pain. This was mainly localised to my right wrist and hand, which then revealed themselves as very definitely broken.

BMW F800GS, Dual sport, adventure bike

Before – what a sexy machine

I also became aware of the people at this point. The first on the scene was a rather large man who obviously thought that my helmet was the main problem and proceeded to try to pull it off with the strap still done up. I violently protested, waving him away with my broken parts. The road to paraplegia is paved with good intentions. There were a number of other people who showed up afterwards, a few that I distinctly remember. One was a hysterical blonde woman shouting ‘Oh my God’ over and over again before moving on to complaining how unacceptably long the ambulances were taking to arrive. Another person to arrive had a massive impact on me, one that I will never forget. He was wearing a high-visibility jacket and carrying a helmet. He immediately told me that he was also a motorcyclist, and in a very caring, sincere, and personal manner he asked my permission to pray over me. I am a very private person when it comes to my religion and beliefs, I generally keep them to myself, try to maintain some faith, but still try to be practical, all the while remaining sceptical of religion in general. I consider myself a Catholic, but don’t attend much mass, I prefer to keep it between me and God.

I gave the motorcyclist permission to pray over me, not thinking much of it. He starts praying for me audibly, asking God to help me heal, to watch over my body and guide those who would be treating me. I was surprisingly moved by this. I think it was the combination of him making me realise that I was actually in quite a serious situation, as well as realising that this person, whom I had never met, and would never see again, genuinely cared about me, my condition, and my future. This made a huge impact on me, and admittedly nearly brought me to tears on the ground in front of everyone at rush hour.

BMW F800GS, Dual sport, accident,

After

I was becoming more lucid as the the level of pain increased. I tried to move to see what my bike looked like and was very quickly reprimanded and told to lie still- sound advice. I was becoming restless waiting for the ambulance and decided to try and clear my own c-spine and remove my own helmet- an idiotic idea in hindsight, but I got the helmet off. With the fresh, cool air and rain came more lucidity and more pain. Before I knew it the pain became overwhelming and I started to swear like a fish wife. The last person to help before the ambulance arrived was a medical student who was working at the hospital at the time, he was the one who, on my instruction, looked down my sleeve, went a bit pale and told me my fracture was open, he could see the bone. Its strange in retrospect, that the only medically trained individual to stop at a motorcycle accident obstructing the whole road, in peak hour traffic, one block from the hospital, when everyone was driving past on their way home after their shifts, was one medical student. It really makes one think.

BMW F800GS, Dual Sport, accident, crash

After again – bike is significantly smaller!

When the ambulance arrived, I was met with surprised paramedics who knew me very well from casualty, where I would see them on a weekly basis. They were fascinated by my Leatt neck brace, having never seen one before, and I instructed them on how to remove it. Finally having received some pain-killers at the hospital down the road from the accident I had to tell the attending doctor which one of my family members they should contact. Obviously I first suggested them to call Megan, my wife and also a doctor, she was not answering her phone. Megan NEVER answers her phone. The doctor then suggested that she call my mother, this made me protest in a panic that filled me with more dread than the actual accident. As we know all know, mothers and motorcycles do not mix. My mother and my grandmother were just starting to come to terms with my two-wheeled pursuits, the news of an accident would cause an explosive situation. I actually expected my mother to fly in immediately from the opposite end of the country, and on arrival, finish what the motorcycle had started. I strongly suggested that the doctor rather call my uncle, he lived in the same small town, and was well known for reckless behavior on motorcycles. He would understand.

My smashed up right wrist and hand

My smashed up right wrist and hand

Noel arrived immediately with his son, my very cute and very inquisitive godson, now with eyes the size of dinner-plates in the ER in a Friday night. He would break the news to the women of the family, something I still am eternally grateful for. My mangled hand was ‘reduced’, a process I was dreading on arrival at the ER. This involves trying to re-align the fractures by manipulating the bones from the outside – lots of pulling, pushing and grinding with blinding pain. The ER doctor was absolutely amazed that my neck was intact, the X-rays and CT scan showed absolutely no fractures or abnormalities. And this was after face-planting on a car roof with my body following above me. The Leatt brace had not only prevented my neck from over-extending, but had taken the brunt of the impact from the side of the car roof. The roof had connected the brace on it’s front lip, squashing most of the carbon fiber in the brace flat, taking all the impact off my sternum and my aorta behind it. This sort of force applied to your sternum (as is often seen in car accidents from the steering wheel) squashes your sternum right up against your spine, destroying everything in-between: i.e. your aorta. This is near-instant death. The brace had not only saved the use of my limbs, but also my life.

This was actually when the reality of my injuries hit me. My right hand and right wrist were in a shambles and my right thumb was also misbehaving quite severely, I had been gearing my whole life towards being a surgeon, and now I was getting scared. This drove me to begging the orthopaedic surgeon pre-op to save my hand the best he can for my future career. This is a very scary request to make, and makes the injury very real very quickly in one’s mind.

I woke up post-op in agony, I was awake the whole night with severe pain, pain that would gradually, but very slowly weaken. It was my new companion for many months to come. So began my very long, very frustrating recovery. I couldn’t wash myself, I couldn’t feed myself, I couldn’t hold a book to read etc. etc. etc. I was, however, able to wipe my own arse through blind determination, I was NOT about to give up on that. I was in a really miserable state that would last a very long time. It is times like these that you learn a lot about those around you. I learned who really cared and who didn’t. And it is never, ever, who you suspect. I had some very close friends who never even called and I had some distant friends I hadn’t seen in years who called me every day and visited me in hospital. It was a real eye opener and caused me to make major changes to my friendship circles, changes which I have never regretted once to this day. Luckily my family were all fantastically supportive and my wife worked selflessly to help me through it, with no complaint or reward, she is an absolute blessing. I have no idea how I would have recovered if it wasn’t for her. The months that came were very difficult, the recovery and rehabilitation were long and slow, and I developed a generous serving of PTSD on top of this whole mess.

I have now recovered, with only a little functional impairment. Three years and five surgeries later I am back on track with my surgical career. My hand will never be perfect, but it has recovered beautifully thanks to the help of Dr. Gerricke and Dr. Stuart, The orthopaedic surgeons which very patiently dealt with my niggles and problems. The PTSD has also completely resolved with the Help of Tanya, a fantastic psychologist in Stellenbosch that I would recommend to absolutely anyone. I am back on the bike, will never commute again on tired, rushed, busy roads, but I am going to spend a year on a bike with my wonderful wife riding from Antarctic to Arctic Circle for charity. All has turned out well.

I took a lot of valuable lessons away from all of this:

  1. My wife is radically awesome and loves me plenty (God only knows why she does sometimes)
  2. My family is also top-notch
  3. I learned who my real friends were, changed my life to include them, and excluded the crappy ones
  4. I will never commute again
  5. Always always ALWAYS wear a Leatt brace and all your gear (ATGATT!)
  6. Your life and safety is not only your concern, people who care for you worry for good reason and out of love
  7. Once again, just because someone is a doctor, it says nothing about their compassion. It doesn’t necessarily mean they’re interested in helping anybody
  8. It gave me valuable insight into what our patients go through, one can become blase or insensitive to this over the years
  9. Dirt > Tar
  10. Opel Kadetts are HARD

Injury count:

  1. Avulsion fracture left thumb
  2. 3 broken left middle phalanges
  3. Compound fracture 1st and 2nd metacarpals on the right
  4. Compound, open, intra-articular fracture of right radius with 10 loose bone fragments in the joint
  5. Right Ulnar styloid fracture
  6. Right radial nerve injury with resultant hand-cuff neuralgia and sensation loss in right thumb
  7. Haematoma right inner thigh
    Some of my wrist-bling

    Some of my wrist-bling

The accident:

Guy with no drivers license and no insurance jumped a stop street with no vision of on-coming traffic. He did not even check to see whether I was alive or dead afterwards and made no attempt to contact me at all to follow-up on the results of the accident.

motorcycle accident

This is (sort-of) how the accident happened, very similar to the one I was in

Thanks for taking the time out to read this. I hope you can take something away from it. Please leave a comment if you have anything to say on the topic or the post, would love to hear from you.

~POODLE

66 Comments

  1. Andre v Vuuren

    April 7, 2014 at 5:17 pm

    Thanks for your letter !! Your experience wil make me think of my own family everytime I get onto my bike !! Plus the neck brace is a must !! I have learned something from your ordeal !! GOD Bless !!!

    • Thanks very much, ride safe!

      • Mukesh Ramnandan

        October 23, 2016 at 9:35 pm

        Dear Matt.
        This is a long read . Hope you and your fellow readers enjoy. Great to hear that you fully recovered. Reading your story brings back bitter sweet memories for me. On a faithful winters day on August 10th 2014 my fellow biker friends and I went on a breakfast run riding the typical route taken by most bikers on the N2 through to hermanus then back through villiersdorp and then onto Franschoek pass. Fate was to play a cruel trick on me that particular day. The forces of darkness come in the most unexpected forms but the power of the almighty always overcomes in the end. Long story short, something as you shall see later, prevented me from meeting up with the group of riders I had planned to ride with (due to miscommunication about where to meet). This was my first warning sign the something was amiss. Quite peeved and ready to head back home, a familiar voice called out my name. It was an old acquaintance and a avid biker also on a group ride. We exchanged pleasantries and I mentioned what had happened. He then invited me to join his group. They were such a friendly and warm group of riders and we enjoyed a beautiful ride to hermanus where we aagreed to stop for breakfast. When we arrived in this beautiful town, 2 riders in their group had unfortunately been eft behind and went to that famous bikers restaurant in Kleinmond. The leader of the group, the acquaintance, decided to change plans and head to Kleinmond to unite with the other 2 riders which I found absurd.There’s always a leader who wants to run the show. This was now a second warning sign to me. We eventually get there and do manage to unite with the other 2 riders. The placed was like a beehive buzzing with bikers and bikes. Not ideal. We found a table and we’re preparing to order when out of the blue, the friend that I had planned to ride with on that day walks right past our table. We were both quite surprised to bump into each other and being an old friend, he asked me to come ride with them. At this point I was starving since we were riding hard all morning and I just wanted to rest and enjoy a nice meal. I might have even told him this. But he insisted that I join them and that we will eat at villiersdorp, a long 1 hour ride away. A third warning sign. I agreed. When we finally set off I realized that apart from my friend, the others in the group were fairly young. It was clear they were not riding but racing. On the stretch from Kleinmond to villiersdorp they were riding at full throttle in excess of speeds well over 250 km/h. I was left behind for dead on my little cbf600. At this point I realised I made a big mistake and thought of turning back. After all how could any true biker leave one of their group behind like this. But obviously, there were forces or as fate would have it, things beyond my control. Being upset and hungry may have also affected my judgement that day. I continued with them to villiersdorp. Now if you’ve ridden that particular road you would know that it is long, winding and hilly. Perhaps the dark forces overpowered me because I decided to challenge them. They were on 1000cc superbike accept one other. Before I knew it I had my bike on maximum speed well over 240 km/h and had left them behind do in the distance. I arrived at villiersdorp a good 5 minutes before them. I must admit it felt rewarding and satisfying having humiliated them. We then stopped to refuel and it was then that I realised how hungry and emaciated I really was. It was now around 12.00 pm and I had been riding under the hot sun in full gear since 8.00 am. I then said to my friend that we agreed that we would stop for drinks and a meal. (Unknown to me, they had already had refreshments in Kleinmond). Guess what? Mr big Boss group leader and friend goes back on his word together with the other riders vote to eat at franschoek while sheepishly reassuring me that’s it’s only just over the Pass a mere half hour away. Warning number four. I relent. Hungry, agitated, thirsty and angry I ride aggressively leaving them from behind impatient to get to my destination.

        I seemed to be carving up the pass and taking corners on my knees to speeds far in excess of my limits and the bikes. I felt confident and in control but all it took was one mistake. 15 minutes into the passI approached one of many blind hairpins at too fast a speed an took the wrong line. It was an increasing radius blind corner. I overshot into the oncoming lane and knowing my mistake, panicked and grabbed my front brake while trying to stay in my lane. The next second I was in the air, in slow motion, flying over the handlebars while staring shown at the instrument cluster. I can still recall saying to my self, ” oh fcuk” and in disbelief. Thereafter I can only recall an almighty bang of my left side against the road. I highsided and landed with all my weight on my left arm. I recall stretching out my arm I stinctively to break my fall. Problem was, I was on a 250kg bike travelling at high speed and it was an incline. My bike slid over the oncoming lane and slammed into the guard rail and wedged under it. I found myself lying in the middle of the oncoming lane. A few metres away was a 200m drop. I recall getting up instinctively which was foolish and retrieving my glove from the road. My left glove had come off. I looked down at my left hand only to find it hanging by its skin on my wrist. The distal ulna joint was poking right through the flesh and the cartillage all torn up. The bone was shattered and ground off. My radius was also broken in half. The bang I heard was my bones breaking. I then ran across the road to where the bike lay. My body was in shock. Blood was gushing out my wrist. The rest of the group arrived within minutes. I was still able to think and reason clearly. My first words where to my friend were, ” I think I just lost my hand”. I was bleeding profusely and none of the riders knew what to do. One had the nerve to walk away saying that he felt squeamish atthe sight of blood a d offered no help. Motorists also stopped offering consoling words. I then lay on the side of the road holding onto my wrist feeling like it was about to fall off. The blood was still gushing out. I then started to feel dizzy and about to black out. Thankfully I managed kept calm and cool …and to be able to think. I called out to the you gest rider in the group and closest one to me who was absolutely traumatised. I still remember saying to him to take my balaclava and tie it tightly around my wrist because I was bleeding out and faint. With trembling hands and the risk of being exposed to my blood, he bravely tied the balaclava as tight as he could. This immediately stopped the bleeding and I regained some strength. I can never thank him enough to this day. He may have very well saved my life. There was no clear cellphone signal being so high up in the mountains so we couldnt call the ambulance. Amazingly within 15 minutes a civilian with first aid experience passing by came to my rescue. He checked my bp and administered a drip. He also put my arm in a make shift tourniquet( small branch). God bless his soul. Managed to get signal and the ambulance only arrived in 45 minutes. Had my injuries been not attended to I would have been a fatality.

        I was then taken to paarl hospital where I spent 5 days. My distal ulna was shattered or communited and could not be saved. It was removed. My radius was also broken but fortunately not shattered. It was joined with a plate and screws. I sustained no other injuries apart from minor bruising. Doctors and staff were amazed at my recovery. Some were sceptical and even though I might lose or not have use of my hand. My radius has fused together nicely but is screwed. My ulnar has healed without any infection
        No nerves were damaged. I have ever full use of my hand but probably 70% strength. It is much weaker than my right hand. I wear a copper band around my left wrist. Thankfully it’s my left hand cos I’m right handed. My stay at the hospital was smooth and the staff were were very efficient accept for one or two. One female doctor of coloured decent couldn’t care less. Dr Mantooth the surgeon and Dr Malan the anaetheist were brilliant and probably saved my hand. I will always be grateful to them.

        My mum and my girlfriend visited and brought things like sweets, underwear and toiletries. None of the group of bikers including my so called friend had come to see me. I wish them well but do not associate nor ride with them anymore. I have continued to ride. Yes initially was difficult. I’ve owned switched to adventure bikes. I’m grateful to be alive and appreciate each day. Life us a gift. I appreciate the simple things. I’ve become wiser and stronger. There are angels amongst us. Thank you and ride safe.

        My bike was fully repaired. There was not much damage weird enough. It seems I took the force of the impact. What have I learnt? Look out for the warning signs and heed them, it might just save you life. I had 4. It’s never too late to turn back, it’s never wrong to say no. Choose your friends carefully.

        • trekgreatamerican@gmail.com

          November 22, 2016 at 2:28 pm

          Thank you Mukesh for sharing your story with us – It made for scary reading! I am glad to hear you are doing well and back on your bike. There is nothing like a serious accident or life-event to highlight who the real friends in our lives are.
          Stay strong and ride safe! All the best

  2. Hi , great lesson ATGATT.I was in a similar accident and still recovering after going 4 years.

  3. There’s been much debate about the Leatt brace with arguments both for and against it. I believe it’s the next level in safety on a motor cycle, and is now being introduced to skiing and other sports as well. It’s interesting to hear the additional protection afforded to your chest cavity, as this was not discussed.
    I’m glad to hear you’re mended up and your career is back on track. I daresay you’re going to be one of those surgeons who gives a damn when people arrive in kit form as you did.
    The angel who prayed for you will get his reward, even if you never get to meet him.
    Happy dirt trails!!

    • Glad to hear you agree on the Leatt, and thanks for the kind words- ride safe!

    • Hi – I was in a bad bike accident in 1968 and I can still reload and replay the complete memory of that accident any time I like. Amazing.

      • Is that the same Dave East that I know ? Matt is the son of my dearest friends and his recovery and fabulous trip are a testament to his and Megan’s strength of character – please let us be in the same town as them when we need help as their compassion is wonderful xx As a Mother I am glad they are not mine on this trip as I surely will not sleep for a year but wish them well a wonderful time and a safe return !!!! Here’s to the Great American Trek !! xx

  4. Thank you for sharing.
    I recently experienced a fatal life changing illness, similar to yours i know that i am truly loved by my wife, those i thought were friends are not really, family are suspect in some areas. I am not fully recovered but never the lessmust make the changes as you have. Excellent advice
    Thank you and good luck

    • Thanks, its a difficult thing to go through, disappointment in some people, but nearly relief as well when you have that clarity afterwards. You are very lucky to have a supportive wife, I wish you all the best with your recovery, good luck to you too-

  5. Thanks for sharing.
    Glad you’ve recovered.
    It could have been a whole lot worse.
    Ride Safe…………
    Britt

  6. Thanks for sharing your accident with us. Just goes to show that there are also massive disadvantages to commuting on a bike. Praise God for your recovery and the support of family and friends.

  7. Leatt brace saved my life the 1st time wore it!!!
    Thanks for your testimony!
    Amazing encouragement!!

  8. Thank you for your letter and I’m so glad you are healing…Growing up in the 40’s and my dad being a professional stunt man, I started riding motorcycles when I was 10 and did so off and on most of my life.. They didn’t have safety equipment to wear like they do now but my dad always impressed on me how important it was to wear a helmet, long pants and jacket. At age 65, I bought a new bike, took the riding class (and learned some new things) and then rode every nice day possible. I have had 3 surgeries (including a knee replacement) on my left leg and surgery on my right foot. I worried about the getting on and off as the bike weighed 600 lbs. I was afraid I would lose my balance and it would fall on my new knee. I know now how much my kids worried about me as my son in now riding a new bike…I pray for him every time he goes out. Most of the time an accident is not your fault but other drivers just don’t see you…I pray for your healing to continue and bless you for being a surgeon and helping others… Remember that old saying ” Ride with the rubber side down and the shiny side up”…LOL

    • Wow! That is an amazing story you have, I think every boy would have loved to have a stunt-man for a dad. Sorry to hear about your injuries, I hope your son rides safe, and always keeps the ‘shiny side up’. Thanks for the kind words.

  9. I am now 72 and finally gave up riding.. Sometimes you just know when to quit and find something else to do..LOL

  10. Hi Matthew,

    I guess we can minimize risk as much as possible but ultimately we roll the dice every time we swing a leg over. I’ve had a few close shaves but thankfully haven’t been down yet, but I’m not sure I could keep as calm and composed as you appear to have been especially with hysterical bystanders around. I recently completed a first person on scene course which involves helmet removal and general accident assessment and treatment, and I would recommend every motorcycle rider to complete a similar course. I sincerely hope I never have to put this skills to use.

    All the best in your continued road to recovery and your travels, or as we say back home ‘lekker trip, bru’ 😉

  11. So glad you shared your story, Poodle. Wreck survivors and loved ones of wreck survivors really do get it, and others say “it could have been so much worse”. True, but it was bad and I’m glad you sought therapy for PTSD. You have worked through so much physically and emotionally, and I am glad you have shared all of that here.
    Your list of injuries is illuminating … most of the damage in one part of your body (your hands / arms). It was the same with me. Most above the neck with mostly contusions, a sprain and lacerations below.
    I’m 5 1/2 months out, have had 13 procedures on my mouth, and feel as if I am finally getting a clear head after the TBI. I think I’m finally ready to get on a bike.
    So glad you are doing so well!!

    • Wow LB! You had a really nasty one! I’m glad you are doing better and ready to ride again, we look forward to meeting up with you when we’re in your neck of the woods. I hope you keep recovering well and recover speedily

  12. Wow, rough get-off. Great write up, though. I’m glad to hear that you shouldn’t suffer any serious long term problems.

    I will have to take a look at the neck brace you were using. Thanks.

  13. Thank you for sharing your story. Three years ago on 20.10.2010 I had a similar accident , was hit frontally by a pick-up truck who made a left turn on a red light while I was passing the intersection straight on a green. I ended up with Broken right arm (wrist) open book (pelvis fracture) broken left tibia, torn left knee ligaments, slight jaw fracture, amnesia for a week due to severe brain haematoma and some minor injuries as well. I was not alone on the bike, my (now) ex wife was with me and we was riding with 43 km. but the guy with the truck was rushing for something
    I list those above to assure you that I totally understand your change and wisdom as I had pass trough one like it my self.
    The moment with the friends and the other conclusions that you listed, I am totally agreed.
    I am glad you are OK now, glad a fellow biker is doing well after that kind of accident and glad that you are on a bike again.
    Best of luck in your life and god speed.

    • Thanks for sharing your injuries too Nikola, that’s a really really rough accident you had, and I’m sorry it had to involve a passenger, I can imagine that it must add a whole other dimension to the trauma. I hope you have recovered well and continue to do so, best of luck to you too.

  14. I had one of these ‘life changers’ too 27 May 2003. I was lane-splitting when a guy decided to change lanes. Right leg, broken femur, left leg, plato fracture of knee, broken tib-fib, and some lacerations on the left foot where a part of the car I hit penetrated my boot. I was in full BMW gear, and had no lacerations anywhere, apart from the foot. A pin, a plate and 11 screws later it took me 3 months to get back to work. My conclusions are so similar to yours. You realize then, how many friends are not friends but merely acquaintances. I also how babdly I treated my real friends. The bike was sold after it was repaired, but in 2012 I was reuntied with two wheels, and undertook a 4500km trip of our country. I will never commute again ( also one of your conclusions ). I hope you heal up nicely, and safe riding to you!

  15. At 16 I had a bike accident!
    3 months hospital, 24 operations and years of PTSD!
    Left with a fused knee and amputated left index finger. I am now a successful horse rider winning against able bodied riders and striving to compete in Paralympics!
    I now have the most amazing life, family and life path!
    It was a long and bumpy road but I am in a magical place in my life that would not have happened if I didn’t have the accident 🙂
    The universe had something special planned for me!!

  16. Sandi Danckwerts

    April 8, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    I am 60 and still riding a Boulevard 800. I find all the comments made here inspirational, it also makes one more aware and responsible. I pray that all of you mend and heal 100%, and that you all travel safe where ever it may be. God love and protect all bikers and their passengers.
    Sandi

  17. Borislav Mitkov

    April 8, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    Glad you are ok, man! I had a very similar crash last year, but with less damage – just a broken collar bone and some minor injuries to my leg. However it took me a month to get well, and what you wrote about friends – you are totally right! It’s an eye-opener all around – makes you understand you are not immortal, and you are very important to many people. God bless you, stay safe!

  18. Luckily, I have not had an accident. I try to be as vigilant as possible, but they call them accidents for a reason. I’m very intrigued by the Leatt brace. Can you tell me which one you were using?

    Thanks for sharing all this. It’s a great insight into what can happen in a flash….

  19. Hi there,

    Just wanted to say I thoroughly enjoy your writing style and can’t wait for Part 2 of the Lesotho story.

  20. Hey Matt, what a hectic story. I’m glad you didn’t let the accident stop your adventure. All the best with the great Trek I’ll be following you guys. All the best from Bianca and me. Cheers

  21. thanks much for your story. i am very new to riding…only 1 week, and i am a little nervous about riding. i just took the moyorcycle safety class and got my endorcement. any advice for the newbee would be great. especially on new pavement. glad your doing very well now. best of luck out there.

    • trekgreatamerican@gmail.com

      August 29, 2014 at 5:30 pm

      Hey Diverbelow,

      Glad to hear you have picked up a bike, you are joining an awesome community of people and are becoming part of a culture which will change your life for the better– Its a good thing to be a bit nervous, it will keep you alert and awake. The difficulty comes with the balance: too nervous and it can be a problem. That being said, if it was were first week on the bike and you weren’t at all nervous it would be a way bigger problem. Having already done a motorcycle safety class is great, I applaud you! You’re definitely on the right track.

      I wouldn’t even know where to start with advice – Its a topic that one can write an entire book on, I should do a post on it – and will quite soon for you. For the meanwhile, the most important things are:

      1. Gear – ATGATT (All the gear all the time) get a proper jacket, pants, boots, helmet, gloves and preferably a Leatt Brace, which I mentioned above.
      2. Stay awake and alert and ride in the right frame of mind: Ride like everyone is TRYING to hit you, don’t take chances. Also (if it can be helped) don’t ride in a rush, and don’t ride angry, upset or distracted.
      3. Take a course – you did this already – fantastic!
      4. Let things go: If someone cuts you off, near-misses you or antagonises you on the road, wusa and zen it out. Don’t lose your temper or try and prove a point, you will come off second best at the end of the day.
      5. Enjoy yourself and don’t worry too much, biking is just the best feeling in the world – SO much fun, keep it that way

      Enjoy your journey into the new way of life and WELCOME TO THE CLUB!
      Keep the shiny side up and the rubber on the road!

  22. Thanks for sharing this. I have been thinking about a neck brace, and now am going to order one right away.

  23. Wow – what a read. I know I am late in finding your blog but I have just started writing about my own accident and came across yours when I did some research on the internet.

    Leatt neck brace – I am so thrilled to hear you were wearing one and how it helped you. So few road riders wear these as they are marketed so much for the motorcross market. Guess what my main injury was when I crashed my motorbike? Yep, you guessed it, broken neck from over extention of the neck. I am one of the lucky ones to have survived an unstable hangmans fracture of the C2. But the long term effects of the injury all could have been avoided if I had one of those braces.

    My crash was just a few months before yours, march 2011. Broken neck, broken back in 7 places, shoulder, shattered wrist, and metalwear in lower leg. Really interesting to read your post and things you learned through your recovery. Congratulations on coming so far and getting back to so much of what you love in life. Full respect knowing just what that level of rehab etc takes. Still healing myself, but have just cycle 200km for Cancer Research myself in New Zealand.

    Go strong and shiny side up.
    Katiepie – Kiwi land

    • trekgreatamerican@gmail.com

      January 14, 2015 at 7:14 pm

      Hey Katiepie-

      Sorry to hear about your accident, sounds like it was a nightmare, your injuries were damned serious! Congrats right back at having such an awesome attitude with your recovery, its one hell of a process. The Leatt brace is a must. Funnily enough, I had a crash 2 days ago in the Atacama whilst watching the Dakar Rally, the bike hit a concealed stone in the fesh fesh and I somersaulted with the bike landing on top of me, once again, the neck brace saved my bacon, I cant stress their importance enough.

      Good luck with the rest of your recovery, and stay positive, you have made it through something crazy. Please feel free to post a link to your story of your accident.

      Regards,
      Matt

  24. Hey Matt,
    Just recently joined this site but have been riding off-road my whole life.
    Great story, thoroughly enjoyed it.
    I also had a life threatening dirtbike accident in July 2000. I ran into a tree at speed and fractured my tracia. Air lifted to a trauma unit where doctors put me back together then recommended a specialist look at me. The specialist with a grim look on his face told me that I need to back to surgery stat and depending on what he found I may never talk again. At that moment the pain in my neck was blocked out by absolute fear that I had never experienced until that moment. I stared at the ceiling that restless night wanting to kick myself for winding up this dire situation. To add insult to injury that next morning the anesthesiologist is wheeling me into pre-op lecturing me about how people like myself waste valuable resources with self inflicted wounds brought on by participating in dangerous activities. No details here about what I wanted to do if I wasn’t so drugged & injured at the moment so insert your own fantasy.
    Long story short I came out in full working order with a different voice and a story to go along with it when people ask if I smoke. The doctor (ENT Ear, Nose, Throat specialist) told me that after I’ve healed I’ll sound like a blues singer who smokes 2pks of Lucky Strikes a day. I’ll take it! Women think it’s sexy. Through the rain the sun will shine.
    So yes, I still ride. We all know that every time we saddle up we can potentially run into some bad luck. But our experiences and love of the sport & adventure is stronger than any bump in the road or snag that may keep us from doing what we love & have passion for.
    Again, loved the story and glad you pulled through!
    Joe

    • trekgreatamerican@gmail.com

      January 17, 2015 at 11:10 am

      Dammit! That sounds like a heavy experience, I am so sorry to hear what an absolute arsehole your anaesthetist was! There is no excusing some people and their behavior. I’m so glad to hear you are still riding and made such a good recovery, and I think having a voice like Tom Waits is an improvement 😉 – Thanks so much for sharing your story, it is a crazy one!

  25. Thanks for sharing at such a personal level. I am six weeks post-op from a closed tib/fib fracture that occurred when I was hit on my 1985 BMW K100 by a car entering traffic on the right attempting a left turn. I was going less than 30mph and was very lucky to come out of it with only the tib/fib. I was wearing all the gear. I always do. I was less than a mile from my house and was out for a brief evening test ride as I was getting ready to put the bike up for sale. I have commuted on my bike into Washington, DC and the surrounding metropolitan area for more than 15 years. I’ve had more than a few close calls and a few drops but never any serious accidents. And yet within sight of my house I am unlucky enough to encounter a distracted or inattentive driver. I believe she claimed she didn’t see me. The BMW was totaled but I have other bikes that I will ride when I am back on feet. It can happen to the best riders so we need to be prepared. Thanks for the information on the neck brace. I have never considered it but will now. My accident would have been much worse if I had not been wearing all my gear. The neck brace will be added to my riding gear.

    • trekgreatamerican@gmail.com

      August 9, 2015 at 1:40 pm

      Thanks for comments Jamie, and sorry to hear about you accident, hope you recovery fast and flawlessly. Really glad to hear you will be getting a neck-brace. Being in a bike accident can be really tough, on a physical, and emotional / mental level, its tough man! Here’s wishing you all the best!

      • I did not understand how difficult the recovery would be, both physically and mentally. My motorcyclist friends who have been through this tried to prepare me. Their support has really helped. It is tough and you need to resign yourself to a long recovery. My accident has changed my life and will continue to in ways that I have yet to realize. I found your post by searching those exact words, “motorcycle accident changed life”. So thanks again for posting it and sharing your experiences. Riding a bike is a passion but it is getting more dangerous as car drivers become more distracted.

  26. Thanks mate for your story, i was in a similar accident in may 2015 bit my case differs in that i was on a motorway bright day light on a Saturday afternoon on a fast lane and the vehicle on my left changed lane into me and hindsighting me in the process and fled the scene. Tumbled across three lanes with heavy traffic and getting caught by other cars. At the end had fractured right ankle,shattered left tibia and a fractured right wrist. Never lost consciousness my pain was instant because i have a high pain threshold so i guess my adrenalin is at its lowest. Luckily for me the ambulance was there within minutes. But eventually spent a month in hospital and another one in a wheel chair. Now on crutches learning to walk again. Again thanks to my wife and kids, they were with me all the way, supported me through n through. I’m hoping to be back on my bike in the next three months with God’s love.

    • trekgreatamerican@gmail.com

      October 6, 2015 at 8:11 pm

      Hi Cyril,
      Sorry to hear about your accident, it sounds really heavy man, glad to hear that you have had good support during this really difficult part of the recovery, it makes all the difference to have a good family behind you. Thank you so much for sharing, wishing you all the best with your recovery – God Bless!

  27. Vincent Trepanier

    November 3, 2015 at 1:06 am

    Had my wife read your post… now i’m getting a brace for xmas 🙂

  28. Rick(Ricardo Blanco) White

    January 18, 2016 at 1:09 am

    Poodle,
    Great article and a reminder that an accident can happen at any moment. I will learn about the Leake brace and pray for your continued safety.
    There are those that have been down and those that will go down, now that you have that out of the way, you don’t have to do it again.
    Great to meet you today at the Daniel Schoenwald museum, continue to go in love.

    • trekgreatamerican@gmail.com

      January 20, 2016 at 5:43 am

      Thanks Rick, great to meet you, too. That accident was definitely something I don’t want to have to experience ever again. Ride safe!

  29. On November 27, 2015, I was also hit by a distracted car driver, and it changed my life, too. It happened during the evening twilight on an empty suburban road while I was riding back from work . The car turned left in front of me thus violating the right-of-way rule. At that moment, I was riding on the main road at 35-40 km per hour. The crash was unavoidable. The bike hit the car at its front bumper, and I was out of the saddle and flying . Miraculously, I was OK after heavy landing on the asphalt surface a few meters away, with only minor injuries to my left hand and right ankle…
    You can imagine the first words of the driver when he approached me – I didn’t see you at all! By the way, I was wearing a reflective, highly visible road-workers vest, and the main light on the bike was on. No other cars or objects were nearby for hundred of meters, which could reduce the visibility of the road…
    Now I am still not riding, partly because of the deep fear created by the accident, partly because my bike is beyond repair. So, for me this is the right moment for contemplation and looking at others experience. This is the moment, when I found your story.
    Thanks for sharing your experience! It helps to get right answers. 🙂
    Ride safe,
    Davis

    • trekgreatamerican@gmail.com

      January 22, 2016 at 5:35 pm

      Thanks for the message Davis, its great hearing from other riders going through a similar experience, and is great to know that the support, advice and commonality is there. I am glad to hear you are ok after your accident. All the best with your recovery, I hope you find some good answers, good luck with with getting back on the bike, that helped me a lot.

      Ride safe!

  30. Hello!

    I will surely look into the neck braces. I’m just wondering what did the guy who hit you get?? with no license, no insurance, I hope he’s in jail thinking about what he did.

    • trekgreatamerican@gmail.com

      February 16, 2016 at 11:49 pm

      Well he has done a runner apparently, they cant get their hands on him and he has defaulted n the money he owes to my insurance, so hopefully he’s having a hard time

  31. A remarkable story! The guy that hit you should really get a serious penalty. Everyone who experiences such an accident should consult a lawyer to not miss out on anything important.

    • trekgreatamerican@gmail.com

      March 7, 2016 at 10:15 pm

      Definitely, if you are in SA you MUST sue the RAF if you are in an accident, you pay tax for it every time you fill up your car / bike

  32. Great article! Very interesting reading. Hope you still enjoy motorcycling. I bought a Leatt GPX 5.5 yesterday, along with a Leatt Adventure body armour.

    Ride safe!

    Trygve Irgens
    Elverum, Norway

  33. After all that awful experience did your family plead with you to no longer ride? Went through something similar and boy did the good friends and family rise to support me. But all I hear is no more riding. Still have the passion but damn only one friend said to think about it and to make my decision once all healed up. Got a huge debate going on in my mind!

    • trekgreatamerican@gmail.com

      May 10, 2016 at 7:34 am

      Hey Brian,
      Its a bloody tough one, sorry to hear you were in an accident. I think that is the best advice, don’t make any decisions now, just focus on healing up, but I think if you still have the passion, I think you should do it, don’t let the accident put you off, if anything just go for a ride again once you’re better to get over the fear and angst that develops following a bad accident. Getting on the bike again did wonders for me and I am so happy I did it, its a great feeling of victory to get back on the horse again. All the best of luck, hope you heal up fast and completely

      Matt

  34. Thank you for this blinding write-up!

    I gained so much from it, and I don’t even have a bike. I’m in fact a cyclist in the busy, narrow streets of London. I’m another who can attest to accidents happening very near home – both my worst road cycling accidents were 1 min pedalling to my home (one my fault, a pure second’s inattention can’t be rolled back). Be careful *door-to-door*, friends.

    I too remember the instant slow-motion. I was rear-ended a while ago whilst driving and I still can’t believe how long the bang and impact seemed, glass cubes actually floating around the car, watching everything loose inside the car hanging in the air, click, click, frame-by-frame, in super-sharp focus just as you said yourself, my girl’s long slow scream throughout (she saw the minivan loom in the side mirror a split before impact). Then, ping, everything returns to normal speed. Similarly, the slow ground-sky-ground views in a MTB offroad crash. So our brains can actually do bullet-time, wow!

    I learnt also from your prayer experience, even though I don’t believe. That guy’s sincerity, respect and warmth hit me hard. Again, excellent writing, you did him justice. Best wishes to that fellow rider, whoever and wherever he be.

    I’m warned, and now appreciate our UK law limiting newbies to a limited 125cc bike. If I do get one, I’m putting the clothing money aside first. All the gear, safety classes, the lot, buying shiny bike lowest priority. Your advice to diverbelow sounds wise.

    The state of your mashed bike is a choker. Damn. No way I’m commuting in London. You helped me realise in the a.m. everyone half-asleep and running late, evening time people tired and impatient to get home. And London roads have no leeway. Bad enough when the aerobatics are your own fault.

    From my own experience, value family, women especially tend to go all out with effort and care at such times of crisis. Give some friends a break though, many men just don’t know how to respond well, so they unfortunately don’t respond at all. They might still be good friends, even if all you get is a nod and “You ok?” when they meet you back in the saddle after recovery. Tell ’em how you felt not seeing them visit. Some men avoid hospitals, just look at male vs female visitors in the corridors. Yet we are more common in the beds…

    Even try to understand the arrogant anaesthesio. He was clearly way out of line and incompassionate, but I imagine it gets old seeing fresh origami-ed people day-in, day-out. Then after all the sweat, skill and care, some don’t make it. And definitely many men take risks. Search squids on YouTube, these his usual customers. Check this guy’s neck brace: http://static.mtbw.rhyndo.org/uploads/2016/11/stupidity.jpg

    Lastly, I am re-evaluating my driving thanks to your words. I’m already aware, as I pedal a racing bike on the streets, some of the problems are similar. “Sorry I didn’t see you” usually means ‘I didn’t look”. I *never* want to be that guy. I have no car of my own. So now I walk round a car and note its corners and check I know any blind spots. Look at the tyres, check all indicators are working and mirrors are spot on for me before I turn key. I’m also thinking twice about hands-free calls, chatting too much, even loud beats in the car. Looking twice, thrice before a manoeuvre.

    I believe legal penalties here are rather too light for a poor remix of someone else’s only issued body through carelessness with two tons of steel.

    Well done recovering. Good vibes from afar to all riders everywhere, but special shout-out to anyone who has gone down, and had to climb back up as a ‘special model’. Safe trips – good trips everyone.

    • trekgreatamerican@gmail.com

      November 29, 2016 at 1:12 pm

      Thanks Ola, that is a really cool message you left us it is very much appreciated. I am so glad to hear that story has hit home with so many people. Good luck out there and stay safe!

  35. I have just had an accident on my motorbike, I am struggling to come to terms with what has happened. Filling out forms for this and that looking at my gear they cut off me. My bike that was 8 weeks old in bit of a state. I am learning who my friends and family are, who cares who doesn’t. I had all the padding on in all the areas needed. I have three operations one of which I am getting over now, the pain is horrendous.
    I keep hearing from people oh she must have been speeding or overtaking she deserves what she got, well in actual fact a car pulled out of a junction in busy traffic and didn’t see my husband and I on our bikes I went straight over the bonnet at 20mph no faster and time moved so slowly I remember everything except for landing, people came running to me including my husband. I wasn’t allowed to move even though my groin was in excruciating pain, my leg and my hand was so painful. 25 mins for an ambulance and the tarmac was cold. The ambulance finally arrived the first thing they checked was for injuries then putting in cannula’s to give me drugs to numb the pain. I still felt my leg pain when they straightened it and I am shouting don’t cut my gear and I could hear my husband shouting just cut it off. I was placed on a spinal board which I believe is standard for motorbike accidents. Taken to the local hospital and had X-rays and CT scan which showed a broken tibia and no other breaks to the leg. I was in hospital 5 days and in that time I couldn’t my leg so they did an MRI scan which revealed a torn LCL, Torn ACL, lots of tissue damage, grade 1 strain injury to MCL and pulled thigh muscle. My thumb is also awaiting op for tendon damage.
    The injuries for me are not the worst it is the phsycholical damage everyday is a reminder.
    I was a very fit and active person before this crash, this is only five weeks on but it feels like a lifetime. Your story has given me hope and to seek help in the right place, thank you so much for writing your story and I hope you are well?

    • trekgreatamerican@gmail.com

      January 17, 2017 at 9:53 am

      Hey Carol,
      So sorry to hear about your accident and your injuries, but really glad that you could share the story, its always really traumatic and sharing the story helps, especially with people who have gone through similar experiences. Stay positive and stay active as soon as you can, but take your time as well– No need to rush anything.
      I am well thanks, its amazing how resilient the human body is sometimes, and the trip has really cemented my recovery, especially psychologically–
      Heal up well, hope the pain improves quick – sending you the best of the healing vibes-
      MAtt

    • Carol,

      Sorry to hear of your accident. My accident was similar with a broken tib/fib. I am now 18 months post op and doing great. I am riding again. Time is a great healer for both physical and psychological wounds. I was also very lucky to have good friends giving me support throughout my ordeal. Once you are clear of pain meds your mind should settle down and things will be easier. I am still quite angry at the person who hit me but I am not letting it ruin my passion for riding. Stay positive and get well.

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