Monday, March 2, 2015

The aftermath

A month ago Friday there was an incident on Old River Road near Ukiah. It can't realistically be called an accident.

Several people have asked if I'm related to these people. Well, yes. And no.

I know and have ridden with all 5 cyclists who were hit. Two of them are Danny's brothers. He almost lost them both; it was a close call. But as far as being related to me, that is not at all clear.

When the phone call came, about 5 hours after the collision, Danny's face went still and then it went grey. He listened, asking a few key questions. No one had life-threatening injuries? OK. I waited for him to hang up, then got the story. The brother who called was less seriously injured and already out of the hospital. No doubt in shock, and a ton of pain.

The older brother, the more seriously injured of the two, never did call. There was no request to assist with the shuttling of cars and the crazy logistics that are required when something serious and unexpected happens. Danny's offers of help were refused. We did not go to anyone's house to visit or help out. We did not deliver food. There were no updates, except when Danny reached out.

The accident in Elaine's TBI Story (in 2008), created a rift in Danny's family. Many families go through something similar, but this rift is irregular and unique. For one thing, it is based on avoidance or denial of facts. The person with the most severe injury in the accident becomes the target of anger. The family member who ultimately suffers the most and is hit the hardest, was not in the car at all.

The rift, the reaction of Danny's family to my brain injury, is the last piece of this story. Too long for one post, but the background is here. Pull up a chair, get a cup of tea...

The two brothers and their wives were at the center of the family cluster here in the Bay Area. It  seemed like a happy, close-knit bunch, often getting together and doing fun outdoor stuff like hikes and bike rides. Noisy, joking, plenty of food. Gatherings always happened at one of their houses; ours is really too small.

Over the course of a decade, the older brother and his wife and I often went on bike rides and trips. In fact, we were on our way to a bike trip in San Diego when our car smashed into the stopped cars on I-5. The sister-in-law was at the wheel. Danny's brother was in the front passenger seat, which my head was thrown into.

Then things got weird. There were no visits and the few phone calls that came, more or less had the same theme: what was going on with me? Not exactly how was I doing? but more what was going on? It was hard to tell.

After the accident, it took a while to understand I was hurt. Then it took a long time to get help figuring out what exactly was wrong. That is normal when you have the kind of injury that's tough to diagnose. The insurance company was difficult. They say it's to protect against fraud but I think they behave badly because they can. They're in the middle so they play the parties off each other.

After much wrangling, they offered $5000. Almost nothing. More had already been spent on medical help, and there was no light at the end of the tunnel. Neither I nor anyone else could define what was happening to me and my daily life was spinning out of control. My performance at work was suffering. Two years in, as the legal deadline approached, I filed suit.

In California, there's no way to sue an insurance company. You have to sue the policyholder. Which in this case was the owner of the car, Danny's brother and his wife, the driver at fault. They were never in financial danger but the insurance company no doubt spun them a different story. One that they chose to believe.

Fast forward 4 years. But life does not stop, it goes on. A phone call with serious news. My heart goes to Danny, and my thoughts to the cyclists who were hit. Instinctively, in our own minds, we are part of the family.

After realizing they are more or less OK, the thought comes: I wonder if they will understand? The  broken bones were visible on X-rays. Severe abrasions. A horrible outcome on a beautiful day, a nightmare. But (probably) no brain injuries, nothing truly complicated, nothing you need a neurologist for.

Will they understand?

That is an open question.

1 comment :

  1. I remember when you posted about this before - it's horrifying. Doubly so for you, I imagine, knowing people. I'm glad that no one died, that there's the chance that going forward they will be there to understand. I hope that they will understand.
    And I hope that driver gets everything the law can throw at him.