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Old 01-15-2009, 08:29 PM   #1
mscuddy
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Default My Last Ride

“For no more I'll go waltzing Matilda
Around the green bushes so far and near
For to hump tent and pegs, a man needs two legs
No more waltzing Matilda for me”
(the Pouges, “And the band played Waltzing Matilda” Rum Sodomy & the Lash c1972)


As the last big callous peels off my clutch hand, I have time to reflect on my 35 plus years of motorcycle riding, and the last ride that ended it.

See, I have been infatuated with motorcycles all my life, and I love them all. In fact, in the big scope of things I consider myself a motorcyclist first, closely followed by a human being.

But that all changed one afternoon in late December 2006, when a road rage driver in an SUV rear-ended me on a street close to home. And when I woke up on the ground a few minutes later, with the paramedics cutting my clothes off, I couldn’t feel my legs. Not good. Thankfully I lapsed into unconsciousness.

When I came to at the County USC trauma center a few hours later, the gravity of what had happened to me started to sink in. Even though I had been wearing all the proper riding gear, the impact with the SUV had broken every rib, shattered my left scapula, and caused a burst fracture of my twelfth lumbar vertebrae, severing my spinal cord. I was intubated with a breathing tube as both lungs had collapsed, with two chest tubes sticking out of my sides. I came very close to dying. The trauma surgeon said that if I had gone to any other hospital in Los Angeles, I would be dead. I believed him, and silently wondered if that wouldn’t have been better.

What followed next was a series of nightmarish scenes from being isolated inside a structure that resembled Frankenstein’s castle. After surgery to stabilize my spine, I was transferred to a dingy gray-green room with no windows, where several other patients in various stages of dementia resided. There is a saying about County USC: You want to go there for the trauma services, but you don’t want to recover there. How true. I expected to see a bust of Joseph Stalin in my room, as the place resembled something from the former Soviet Union, a hospital in Minsk circa 1938.

After about two weeks of recovery at County USC, I was transferred to Kaiser’s Sunset Blvd. facility. It was like going from the midnight mission to the Waldorf. The staff at Kaiser’s spinal unit took excellent care of me for a month or so, but soon I had overextended my stay, and the decision of what to do with me next rested on the discharge nurse.

After an examination by the rehab doctor, they concluded my shoulder was still too messed up to go to spinal rehab. So they sent me to a convalescent hospital where I spent another two months. It was a horrible place that reeked of urine and bad vibes. By this time my shoulder was so badly out of line, that a decision was made by Kaiser for surgery. This set my recovery back another 60 days, before I could go to rehab.

So after the shoulder surgery Kaiser sent me back to the convalescent hospital, but this time with a twist; they wouldn’t be paying for it, and they ordered me out of the orthopedic unit within 6 hours. My wife and I were devastated. She quickly made arrangements with the nursing home that I had been staying in, and after paying them $5,100.00, I was sent back to hell.

After two weeks there, with my physical and mental condition deteriorating, my wife decided to take me home. A hospital bed was ordered, and I was sent home in a wheelchair wearing a back brace. It was bittersweet, being home, close to everything I loved, but unable to do anything. I didn’t want to look in the garage, and the seven motorcycles in there. I was bedridden for most of the day, a foley catheter and a bedpan my main companions. The days went by like slow death watching daytime tv, and after about a month it was time to go to rehab.

A month stay at Northridge Community Hospital’s spinal cord rehab center taught me some skills that I needed, to live with paralysis, but it didn’t prepare me for the constant nerve pain, back-to-back infections and the loss of identity one goes through when you lose the lower half of your body. It’s still there, but doesn’t work. I came back home in a chair and went back to work as soon as I could, to get my mind working again.

So where does that leave me now? After having my whole life revolve around two wheels, I have to wonder, what’s next. All my bikes are gone; Sad to see ‘em go, but they are useless to me now, kind of like an F18 fighter jet. Neat to look at, but operating them are out of the question.

So that’s about it, another casualty in the war for the streets. It’s amazing how your life can change in a split second, especially when it’s completely out of your hands. One minute you’re whole, enjoying life and the new XB9SX between your legs, and the next you are fighting for your life, or what’s left of it.

So be careful out there, and remember what can happen. It can all change in an instant.
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Last edited by mscuddy : 05-25-2009 at 10:00 PM.
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Old 01-15-2009, 09:41 PM   #2
sarnali2
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A sad tale indeed my friend. A nightmare in fact, thank God your family stuck by you. Life can definately hand you a sh*tter at times.
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Old 01-16-2009, 06:21 AM   #3
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Nothing anyone can say that can ease the pain there brother. I can say that you still have lots to give to eveyone around you. 2 Wheels are gone, but 3 wheels may be in your future. You had more joy in your years riding than most people would find in 5 lifetimes. I'm sure you will get things moving foreward and find other things to fill that void. If you need anything, you know where to find me. Hang in there and keep those old bike stories coming.
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Old 01-16-2009, 07:13 AM   #4
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Keep the awesome stories coming, I'm still waiting for my autographed coffee-table book of historic motorcycles. Manage the alcohol and opiate intake carefully; it's easy to go overboard on that **** and we don't need to lose you over that. And stay healthy enough to be a candidate for the amazing technologies and treatments that are in the pipeline. God Bless you and your wife; she sounds like the kind of gal I wish I'd met along the way. ...Cuddy may ride again!
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Old 01-16-2009, 02:08 PM   #5
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Hang in there, Matt!

You know all of us are pulling for you, shipmate! Even those who have never heard the term, 'shipmate.'
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Old 01-16-2009, 06:50 PM   #6
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Jeeeeez! What a terrible story. My heart goes out to you. I hope the idiot in the SUV got to experience just a taste of the pain you're going through.

I have to tell you, at the age of 57 and looking to get back on a bike after thirty years of not riding one, your story certainly makes me think twice about that decision.

My best wishes for you and hopes for a recovery.

Jack
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Old 01-19-2009, 05:57 AM   #7
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Hey, Buddy could ya, tell me a story? I would like to hear about, the ride you were on a week before with your cr 500? please. T. Hamilton Albrecht
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Old 01-19-2009, 12:52 PM   #8
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Trace, do you mean that ride at El Mirage with my new dirt riding buddy who has dozens of ancient YZ465's and stuff? Yeah, I think about that ride all the time, seeing as it was my last ride on a dirt bike, and I'm glad it was on an open class two stroke. Why don't you get on your RD and ride it over two blocks and have a beer or something? Jeez...
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Old 01-19-2009, 03:27 PM   #9
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I've got a fused and brittle spine along with other issues. AS, anklosying spondilitis, spelling may be off. I still ride believeing that I am fully aware of what a lesser accident can leave me with. I look to you often as an inspiration and what looks to me to be strength. Hang in there.... I too await your coffee table book.
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Old 04-18-2009, 01:23 PM   #10
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I'm brand new here, and all I know about you is what you have posted . . . this is what I believe . . . your work is not done here. It may take a while for the direction to makes itself apparent to you, but you will find that direction, and I'm confident you will pursue it with the same passion you've applied to the other facets of your life. Keep the faith.
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