Last Friday (yeah.. Friday the 13th) I was taking an all-day motorcycle performance track school down at The Ridge Motorsports park in Shelton, WA.
That morning on the track, on the second 20 minute session, I crashed due to loss of traction on turn 2 which resulted in my taking a low-side fall at somewhere between 50 and 70 MPH (I don’t know the exact speed, but I’m confident that it was quite a bit faster than other times I did that corner and noted the speed
to be around 46-48 MPH) – there was a riding marshal behind me and he agrees I was going a good speed, but he totally thought I had the corner and was good to go.
This is the first time I’ve crashed my motorcycle on the road, and it’s the first time the Daytona 675s shiny bits have touched the ground, it was a huge shock to me when I realized what was happening, I just felt the pegs slide away from me, and my body dropped the 10-20 inches to the ground from where I was leaned over in the corner.
As expected, the left side of my body hit the asphalt first, and I slid (tangentially) ..maybe the 10 or so feet off the outside of the track, and then I was in the (thankfully huge) dirt run-out for another 40-50 feet of sliding, with the bike flying nicely in front of me the whole time. At some point, likely on the asphalt or at the transition to the dirt, my body torqued to the right and slammed my right shoulder/back into the ground. That was the pain shot. I never lost conciousness, and I got up just behind my bike, rotated now with my feet facing the track I had just come from. A marshal came up to me and helped me up, made
sure I could move, etc. and then we got the bike in to the recovery truck (yeah, I helped.)
I was definitely hurting a lot. I’ve never crashed, so I didn’t know what to expect – what’s “normal” or “fine” or what do I go to the hospital for? Once we got back to the pit area and unloaded my bike, I got checked out by the EMTs, on my own accord. They were nice enough, but really didn’t have anything to say unless I thought I needed to go to the hospital. They were two Mason County volunteer EMT Basics, and they work track events like this often.
I skipped the following three riding sessions, but rode the two subsequent ones – and felt great doing so. I skipped the final session of the day as I was feeling pretty fatigued at that point.
Once I got home in Seattle that night, things definitely hurt, the pain was not diminishing. I almost went to the ER, but didn’t for whatever reason. Saturday morning I had brunch with some friends, and by the end of my meal I had to go to the ER, I could hardly hold on to my fork without a huge amount of pain going up my shoulder and in to my neck. I got in to Swedish hospital on Broadway at around 1PM, where I stayed two nights and learned about what I had done to myself.
As it turns out, I broke my neck. Now, that sounds pretty horrible, and sure, it is – but I didn’t break it in the worst way possible at least
The technical name for my fracture is Cervical spinal fracture, C6, right side. That means the little “wing” of the vertebrae on the right side is fractured. It’s a complete fracture, so the end of that bone is just floating in my neck right now. The facet is part of the vertebrae that gives support to toe entire spine, and between each facet there is a nerve from the spinal cord. Spinal cord and nerves, those are the scary words!
Right now, the accident has caused the right-side nerve between my C5 and C6 (maybe something around C7 as well) to either compress or be twisted. This results in some numbness and tingling on my right hand/arm/shoulder. I have full range of motion and almost full strength there however, which is good. There is no damage to the spinal process or the area directly surrounding my spinal cord – a good thing
Additionally, I sustained some compression fractures of the thoracic vertebrae (e.g. the middle back vertebrae got compressed together) – this didn’t seem to concern my neurosurgeon too much, “they’ll heal fine”.
I go in for surgery tomorrow morning (Thursday 19 April, check-in around 0840hrs at Northwest Hospital). Currently the plan is to go in through the back (posterior) of the neck, abrade the vertebrae and screw some plates between the C5 and C6 vertebrae, on both sides to stabilize things. The plates will act to keep the vertebrae together while the bones actually fuse together over the next 3-6 months. So, I’ll have some fused vertebrae on this is all over – not something I had planned for, but sounds like a decent idea right now. They said I should regain full mobility and be at 100%, as I was pre-accident within 6 months.
Sounds like I’ll keep those screws and plates in my neck. They also plan to remove that broken right C6 facet piece entirely, as once the vertebrae are fused it no longer serves a purpose to provide support. I’m going to try and keep it so I can make it in to a necklace
I’ll be in the hospital after surgery for a few days – maybe 2-3, not sure exactly though. And then I’ll be home and continue wearing a neck brace for 6-12 weeks while things are healing. No riding or doing anything too exciting for 6 months I’m told
The doctors are on my case are highly respected neurosurgeons, Dr. James Raisis at Swedish, and Dr. Daniel Lazar at Northwest Hospital/UW. Lazar will be performing the operation, and Raisis plans to be present for it. Raisis was the first doctor on my case, and he referred me to Lazar because of his particular experience in this type of procedure.
If anyone wants to visit after the surgery, the “Totem Poll” building at Northwest Hospital is where you’d want to go, and then I imagine they can direct you to me. You can also get in touch with my friends here who should be able to help out. Facility details: http://www.nwhospital.org/services/surgical_nwhmc.asp
TL;DR: Crashed my bike on the track, fractured part of my neck, surgery tomorrow, doing pretty alright and plan to be rocking it ASAP after the surgery!
Gear I was wearing (and love):
- Alpinestars GP Pro 1-piece leather suit
- Aplinestars Bionic back protector
- Alpinestars SMX-Plus boots
- Schuberth C3 modular helmet
- Spidi Carbo-Six full gauntlet gloves
I have no bruises and only about 3mm of an abrasion on my left pinky finger (small hole in the glove). The suit held up pretty well, the leather did what it’s supposed to, some stitches blew and the breathable fabric on the inside of the left arm is torn, but no skin abrasion/road rash at all.
The bike is fine, scratched left fairing and windshield, bent shift lever, scraped up clutch lever, 3-5mm off the frame slider.