HIGHWAY 2: MOTORCYCLE VS. DEER
I was later told that I landed 230 feet away from where I first hit the highway, leaving a blood trail the entire way.
June 15, 2007 was a beautiful day. It was the kind of calm and sunny day that beckons bikers to be on the road; the perfect recipe for a bike ride and a burger. The surprise ingredients the recipe didnt call for were a deer and an emergency transport.
Tony Rebo and fellow Harley enthusiast, Mark Kroll took advantage of the perfect conditions and headed out for an enjoyable road trip up to the Yaak where they were going to grab a quick burger for dinner before hitting Highway 2 and heading back home.
The perfect ride was cut short in the first 30 minutes. It was on the top of the Yaak hill, less than 100 yards from the turn when Tony swerved to miss a deer that leaped into his path. He made a crucial mistake and locked up his brakes. As his bike hit the pavement, Tony flew over the handlebars at 70 miles per hour. He was later told that it was 230 feet from the place where he first hit the highway to the last spot he landed in an unconscious heap, leaving a blood trail the entire way. Tony wasnt wearing a helmet. He doesnt know how long he lay in the highway, but when he came to, he remembers thinking that he had to get off of the road. I had blood coming out of both ears and I knew I had a bad head injury, and that I had to get out of the middle of the road, stated Rebo. Luckily for me, the first car that arrived on the scene happened to be driven by a trained EMT, and the second car carried a registered nurse from Seattle who was traveling through the area. What are the chances of that?
But Tonys luck didnt stop there. Within 15 minutes of the accident, an ambulance returning from a transport happened to come upon the scene as well. All I can remember thinking was that I didnt want them to cut into my good riding boots and leathers, laughed Rebo. So I took them off and folded them up. I remember at that point looking around for Mark before I got in the back of the ambulance. I didnt know what happened to him, and in my state of confusion I thought that he had wrecked his bike. I know now that Mark was at my side and talking to me the whole time, but I dont remember any of it.
When Tony arrived at St. Johns Lutheran Hospital Dr. Steve Becker, Radiologist and Dr. Shane Hill, Emergency Room Physician, along with Terri Beebe, RN and other department personnel were waiting for him. When I got to the Emergency Department, the EMT was a little shook up because it was me; Im the Manager of the Maintenance Department at the hospital so these are my co-workers who are helping me in the Emergency Department. Terri ended up putting my IV in, and she seemed to have a calming effect on the rest of the personnel. Dr. Hill ordered a CT of my head, and immediately decided that I had to be transported to KRMC. The next thing I remember was the Life Flight nurse yelling at me for not wearing my helmet.
At KRMC, Tony had a CT every 40 minutes to check on the massive swelling in his brain. I remember talking to Dr. Becker after I returned home, and him telling me that I am a walking miracle. He didnt think that I was going to make it because of the way my brain was swelling and all of the pressure that was building inside my skull. The neurosurgeon in Kalispell was preparing to take me into surgery the next morning to relieve some of the pressure. I dont know how it happened, but sometime in the middle of the night, the swelling just stopped.
Tonys head injuries were life threatening, but the list of injuries to the rest of his body were quite extensive as well. Among them were a broken collar bone, broken eye socket, broken ear bones, broken nose and jaw, elbow damage, and two broken ribs - one of which was lodged into his armpit.
There are so many things that I dont remember from the days after the accident, but I do know that timing was everything in my survival because of the swelling in my brain, added Rebo. I cant imagine what the outcome would have been if St. Johns wasnt here or if they didnt have the physicians and equipment to deal with these types of emergency situations. I am convinced that Dr. Becker and Dr. Hills recognition of the extent of my injuries and the quick decision to get me to a neurosurgeon was instrumental in saving my life. We are so fortunate to have a hospital that has a 24/7 physician staffed emergency department. I know that it is expensive to staff this way, but when its your life on the line, the benefit far out-weighs the expense. And Im only one of many who have benefitted from this same service, especially in our rural area.
Tonys near death experience didnt put an end to his love for riding motorcycles. Every year on June 15, Mark and I go back to the Yaak for our annual burger. The only difference is that now I wear my helmet.