daveheinzel.com  Since 2000
by Dave Heinzel, November 5, 2012

Waking up

Opening my eyes, I saw some batteries scattered on the pavement. They were Duracell AA's. I wondered where they came from. Something about a bike. They must have come from the headlight on my bike. And why was I on the ground? I must have had an accident, and that's what broke the headlight, scattering its batteries on the ground.


When I was visiting my friend Rob in Salt Lake City last month, we watched part of a mountain biking video, Where the Trail Ends. It was incredible. These guys were flying down mountains, getting airs that resembled the early snowboard videos in the nineties. I was in awe. After days of hiking in Colorado and then Utah, this was resonating with the part of me that found hiking just a little too slow. Returning to Springfield, I started looking at terrain a little differently. My bike rides to Washington Park soon took me off the streets and through the woods and up and down various hills. It was a blast.

As I picked up my bike, I straightened up the front wheel, which had been turned back on impact. Keil was there. He looked concerned. The side of my face felt warm. Blood was coming from somewhere around my left ear, and there was a huge bump under my left eye that I could actually see with my eye, which was amusing to me for some reason. I looked around. We were at the Fairgrounds. It was Sunday afternoon. Partly sunny, kind of chilly. But a great day for a ride, which had come to an abrupt end.

The previous couple of weeks Keil and I had been riding every chance we could get. We'd usually meet at Washington Park. We started to name some of our favorite trails. Chevy Pass. Upper and Lower Shasta Gulch. Goose Island. The Big Drop. We were riding faster and with more confidence, despite our complete lack of appropriate bikes. Mine is a hybrid, with wheels better suited for street riding than trails. Neither of us have shocks. Neither of us wear helmets. Neither of us really know what we're doing.

Keil was asking me questions, and I couldn't understand the concern on his face. He asked where I lived. I knew the address right away. And then it hit me. I didn't know what my place actually looked like. I couldn't picture my house or apartment or whatever it was. I had no idea where I really lived. I didn't know if it was nice or sketchy or if I lived alone or if I lived downtown. I remember thinking that I wanted to live downtown. It was an interesting moment, because as I realized that I must live somewhere, I remember wishing it was somewhere nice. I even tried to mentally map my address, which I did have correct. But it wasn't making much sense to me. And then I kind of blacked out again.

I've had two or three notable concussions in my past. One of them wiped out my memory of almost that entire day. With another, I just don't remember the immediate aftermath of the collision. This one was in the middle, although I didn't even realize yet what I was experiencing.

I noticed a hole in my jeans over the right knee, which was a little bloody. My left elbow and shoulder were pretty scraped up, but nothing really hurt. I was in a very interesting mental state that was kind of coming and going, and the pieces that I do remember seem like they happened in a dream.

After realizing I needed to get to the ER, Keil flagged down a passing car that we had seen earlier. There was a young girl learning how to drive, and her anxious mother was in the passenger seat. Keil found a good spot to hide the bikes and loaded us into the car, and the mother drove us to the Memorial ER.

I remember going through a mental checklist of sorts to assess my situation. I knew my name. I knew I had two kids, and I was pretty sure they were in Springfield. I could see their faces. But I still couldn't see my apartment. There was something coming through... a view, from above, of a man sweeping up yard waste on a sidewalk. I didn't understand this, and I let it go. Keil asked what I made for breakfast. I had no idea.

My state of mind was very interesting to me, even at the time. Although I didn't know much that was going on, I knew enough to know that I was going to be ok. I just couldn't process things at the moment. And I can't relate with words how interesting that experience was. Things were just coming and going, as if in a dream. But so much more real than a dream, and yet not even close to reality. I don't know. It was kind of like I was just stepping into the middle of a movie, trying to figure out the plot.

At the ER, I don't remember much other than trying to talk them out of putting me in a wheelchair. Apparently I lost, but seeing how I have no recollection of the wheelchair, perhaps this will have to remain undecided.

Then I was on a table. Sitting up. There were a couple nurses. I seem to remember an argument about my middle name. I didn't know why it was important, but I was pretty sure it was spelled Stephen. People would usually spell it wrong, and I was used to correcting them. It wasn't until later than I realized that it is, in fact, spelled Steven. Wrong side of the argument, but I was close.

They gave me a cat scan. I remember really trying to focus and remember the cat scan, because it was going to be expensive. And I find those machines to be fascinating. But unfortunately, I only remember lying down.

When I returned to the room in the ER, I was finally starting to piece things together. We had been out for a Sunday afternoon bike ride, and we had ridden around the Fairgrounds. There was a small hill that we went down, Keil first. Near the bottom, there was an unexpected dip before a curb. There wasn't enough transition for the bike, and my front wheel stuck, throwing me over. And I could remember that part.A

nd then, slowly, my apartment came back to me. It was downtown. That morning, looking out of the window, I saw a man cleaning up yard waste on the sidewalk below. I saw my stairs. Twenty of them. I mentally followed them up, turned, and there it was in my mind - my apartment. And to my delight, it was nice. I felt a sense of relief.

Breakfast also came back to me. After a road trip to Bloomington the night before, Keil spent the night, and I made pancakes for us.

Everything else came back sooner or later, and I can remember everything from then on. The memories from the accident to that moment in the ER are short sequences that seem to have happened in a dream.

My cat scan results were good, they glued my ear back together and sent me on my way. My Mom took me to her house, where I enjoyed a nice dinner with her and Dad. Keil's sister took him back to the Fairgrounds to retrieve the hidden but unlocked bikes, where were fortunately still there.

Today, I'm sore. I stayed home and rested. I think I'm finally done bleeding, after ruining a pillowcase and some sheets while sleeping. My face, well, it doesn't look so good. Some swelling has gone down on my lip, which I busted open, and the goose egg under my left eye is maybe getting better. My ear is questionable. I have a somewhat open wound on my knee that I'm ignoring.

Lessons learned: the mind is an interesting thing. Nurses are very nice. Keil is a great friend. The people that gave us a ride are awesome. Family is always there for you when you need them. It would help to have a proper mountain bike. And, I suppose I am obligated to say that helmets are most likely a good idea.


I just shake when I read this. I'm your mom - I'm entitled. Two things I agree with - Yes, Keil is a great friend and helmets are not only a good idea but a necessity. And you're a great writer! This story could have been much worse, Dave. I'm so grateful.

Nancy Pike Heinzel
Nov 5, 2012, 9:42 P.M.

Helmets are mostly a good idea? As a dude that has Superman'd over handlebars before (several times), I will let you know that they are a great idea. Even on the road or the trail. Had a friend have a head on collision with another cyclist on the Interurban Trail. Get a helmet, or a couple. Would love to hit the trails with you. Some sweet trails off of Koke Mill Road and a little more advance ones by the lake.

I know not just any helmet will do, so check these out http://www.nutcasehelmets.com/ and get healthy.

Chris Scheufele
Nov 5, 2012, 9:43 P.M.

Thanks for the link, Chris. I'd love to hit some trails. And Chadito's.

Dave Heinzel
Nov 5, 2012, 9:55 P.M.

Thanks, now I will go to bed dreaming of Sanchos and wake up hungry! I'll hit you up next week for lunch.

Chris Scheufele
Nov 5, 2012, 10:04 P.M.

The Lewis Memorial Trail off of Koke Mill is much easier than the trails off of interurban out by the lake, but it is also much more fun. They've added two jumps now, so you can get even more chances to hurt yourself in the future.

Marcus Enrique Rodriguez
Nov 5, 2012, 10:06 P.M.

Ha, thanks Marcus. I'm always looking for the site of my next accident. Will definitely check it out.

Dave Heinzel
Nov 5, 2012, 10:08 P.M.

Concussions are not something you want multiples of. Get a great helmet, please. Nice story, though. The first person mental confusion was superb. Hopefully, you'll not have the occasion to write about it again.

Matt Penning
Nov 5, 2012, 10:09 P.M.

and I thought I'd already given you the story about why people need to wear helmets and obviously you can still write a good story. Let's keep it that way!
Maybe you can do a public service announcement on bike helmets!

Nov 5, 2012, 10:14 P.M.

I have an almost-21-year-old nephew whose life almost abruptly ended at age 15 due to a bike-meets-SUV encounter. I don't recommend it. And after a 43-day stay at the OSF "spa" in P-town + two brain surgeries + the aftermath of what a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) does to the rest of your life, I'm sure Cody will reiterate the same thing: GET A HELMET! Today. Thank you.

Angi Davis
Nov 5, 2012, 10:18 P.M.

Yes, well I have a helmet. And before you assume I'm a total moron for not wearing it, which I may very well be, let me ask you all how often you wear a helmet while driving your cars. There's absolutely no argument that it's safer to not wear one. Yet you don't. And you won't. And that doesn't mean I shouldn't wear one on my bike. But it might help you see it from a different perspective.

Dave Heinzel
Nov 5, 2012, 10:28 P.M.

But that could just be the concussion talking.

Dave Heinzel
Nov 5, 2012, 10:29 P.M.

Man, rough day on the trail for sure. I've had a number of exciting falls while mountain biking, no head injuries though. I do wear a helmet and can say its saved me a few times when being thrown from the bike or falling over. Glad you're ok and hope to go riding with you next time I'm up! Trails are wonderful to explore, and yes the mind is amazing.

Denny Deaton
Nov 5, 2012, 10:46 P.M.

It'd be a blast to ride with you, Denny. I bet you guys have some great trails. Once I get a good bike, I'm coming out for a weekend trip of bike riding and web programming.

Dave Heinzel
Nov 5, 2012, 11:01 P.M.

Great story, Dave...scary but well written. :)

I know you have heard enough already about wearing your helmet and you are obviously a VERY smart guy, so I am sure you will/are/do at times.

My brother used to forgo the helmet. Being the bossy big sister that I am, one day after having seen him earlier riding without one down Monroe at the height of rush hour, I told him, "Look, you have 2 kids now. You do not have the LUXURY to not wear one anymore. Your kids need you whole and intact." He didn't say much and didn't argue with me which is very unusual for him. He went out though and did get that helmet. Wears it all the time now when biking.

You are a wonderfully intelligent, creative person Heinzel. I am sure that you impact many more lives then you realize. The most important two though are those two cuties that are your kids. Keep safe for them if nothing else.

Ok, did I lay enough big sister guilt on you??? LOL!

Julie Hammers
Nov 5, 2012, 11:03 P.M.

Julie, I've used that argument with Dave more times than I can count. Maybe he'll listen to you....and all the rest of you. I hope so.

Nancy Pike Heinzel
Nov 6, 2012, 9:04 A.M.

I learned that 2 bikes will fit in a Honda CRV...helmets are a must have and Keil is the best brother. Glad you are doing better:)

Aimee Isham
Nov 6, 2012, 9:56 A.M.

Wear your helmet! I'd hate for you to lose any ounce of the creativity you have stored up there!!!!!

Jennifer McCue Stapleton
Nov 6, 2012, 11:37 A.M.

Glad you're okay. Get a helmet. And training wheels.

randy heinzel
Nov 6, 2012, 12:16 P.M.

Please never scare me like this again. I know you're not in my life much anymore, but you're so important to me and if anything ever happened to you, I don't know what I would do. Stay safe and I hope you are feeling better.

Nov 6, 2012, 10:24 P.M.

Scary story! Some day you will have to come and ride at Palos Park with Chip and I. We always wear helmets! :)

Nov 10, 2012, 8:38 P.M.

I'd love to. I'm saving up for a mountain bike, and I always wear my helmet now, too. Keil and I have been hitting some local trails. So much fun!

Dave Heinzel
Nov 10, 2012, 8:56 P.M.

nice words, but where are the pics?

dave rock
Nov 16, 2012, 3:44 P.M.