Decided to write down the story of my little incident last week in my own words while I can still remember it. Thought some on here might enjoy reading it. If some of the small details are mixed up, it is because i was in a lot of pain during much of the time and may not of been thinking and remembering straight.
I will do a Part II and Part III if there is any interest.
Warning: It is very long.
Alan Smutz’s Motorcycle Incident – August 2013 Part I
I am writing this to let our friends and family know what happened to me this last week concerning my motorcycle incident and weeklong stay in the hospital. Much of the info given here has already been given out in bits and pieces during our other emails, posts and private messages on ADV Rider. Just trying to put the details on one spot and get them written down before I begin to forget them. This first part will cover my time until I reach the hospital in Weiser.
A few weeks ago, Katy (aka Rocky) and I decided to do a little riding in the area north/west of Weiser ID. Part of that ride consisted of riding up Jenkins Creek road as far as we could go. We ended up getting into some fairly steep and rocky (fun) areas and ended coming out onto Dennett Creek road a couple of miles above the Snake River. We rode down to the Snake River and back along the river and back to Weiser via Rock Creek Road.
Fast-forward to Thursday, August 1. Katy and I decided to go back to the same area to do a little more exploring. Our goal was to ride up Dennett Creek road and see where it went and then go on from there. I had several possible routes programmed into my GPS including the actual tracks from the earlier ride that showed exactly where we rode a couple weeks earlier.
Rode through Weiser and then to the bottom of Dennett Creek road without incident. Rode up past where we had come out onto the road a couple of weeks earlier. Rode the rest of the way up to the top of the mountain and came out at the Gypsum mine. The top part of the road was very steep and rocky, but still very ride-able.
The GPS showed that we were very close (within a mile or so) from where we had been a couple of weeks earlier. Wanting to get a better idea of how all the roads in the area connected and being on a exploring ride, decided to find a route back to Jenkins Creek road near where it enters the National Forest where we had been a couple weeks earlier.
The first route we tried ended at a dead end. Tried a second route and were getting closer. The road we were on soon narrowed down to a single track trail. At this point the GPS showed we were just a little over a half mile away from the road we were on a couple weeks earlier. Despite trail being very rocky and fairly narrow, since we were so close, decided to press on.
The trail we were on was about 18 to 24 inches wide. To the right side there was a nearly straight down drop off several feet high and then the steep side of the hill continues on past the drop off for several hundred feet. There are several trees of various sizes growing on the side of the steep slope. The tread (face of the trail) is mostly dirt with a lot of rocks of various sizes, many of them loose. To the left of the trail is steep uphill.
This next part happened fairly quickly and I could not actually see what happened, however Katy saw it. I am basing this next part on what she told me. My bike flipped up a rock as I rode over it. The rock was large enough that it hit the bottom of my bike and as I moved forward, lifted the rear wheel of my bike off the ground and pushed it off the right side of the trail.
Even though I was moving fairly slowly at the time, once the rear of my bike was flipped off the trail there was nothing I could do to prevent it from tipping over. There was nothing but air for my right foot to try to press on. I was already leaning too far to the right to lean back to the left and successfully stop my fall. Within a split second of my bikes rear end being flipped off the trail, I was free falling off the right side of the trail. About 15 to 20 feet below the level of the trail, but before I had even touched the ground, I grabbed a small tree in attempt to stop my fall. I successfully grabbed the tree and at first it appeared I was stopped from falling further. A second or two later, I was hit by my bike as it was tumbling down the steep slope. It pushed my right leg under the bike and slammed me to the ground so my head was downhill and the bike was on top of me. We slid together down the hill for a short distance further.
Once we stopped sliding, I attempted to push the bike off of me. I was only able to get the bike part way off of myself. By then, Katy was stopped and attempting to make her way down to assist me. It took her several moments as the ground was very steep and she didn’t want to fall herself and either injure herself or fall on top of me and my bike and injure me further. Once she got down to me, she was able to lift the bike enough for me to crawl (slide) out from under the bike. I knew my right leg was broken as it was bending nearly 90 degrees at a spot between my hip and my knee. Legs are not meant to bend in that manner. I am positive my leg was broken when the bike hit me and pinned me under it.
I knew I needed to get my leg straightened out, but was unable to on my own. My lower leg simply would not move on its own below the break. I had Katy grab my boot and straighten my leg the best she could. She also twisted my foot so the toes were pointing up. At this point the pain was bad, but I knew it would soon get much worse as the shock of the break wore off.
Katy found a sturdy branch about 2 to 3 inches in diameter. I had her break if off to about 3 feet long to use as a splint. We used some sturdy zip ties I had to attach the stick to the side of my right boot. Used some nylon straps I had to attach the splint to the leg just below the knee and then to the leg as high as I could get it against my hip. The splint helped with the pain and it kept my leg from moving around so much as every time my leg moved in the smallest amount, severe pain would shoot up and down my leg. With Katy’s assistance, I tried to crawl up the hill to the trail. I tried to crawl with my back facing the ground and my feet pointing downhill. After much effort and pain on my part, I was only able to get approximately 1/3 of the way up to the trail. The ground was too steep and the pain was getting way too much for me to continue further. However, I was now above the bike and could use the bike to press my left foot against to keep me from sliding down the hill every time I moved even just a little.
By now, the pain was very severe and I was not sure how long I could/would remain conscious. By now, I knew we would not be able to get off the mountain without outside assistance. I had Katy get my GPS and I put in a way point so Katy could show someone else exactly where I was at. I directed her to ride the trail back the way we had come to the main road we had just been on. (Turns out that road was Adams Creek road.) Told her to follow it down until she came to another main road or the highway and then on into Weiser where she could get help. We had never been on these roads, but from looking at my maps earlier in the day, I was sure she could get to Weiser without too much trouble.
Katy didn’t really want to leave me up there alone, but also knew we needed assistance and the only way to get it was for her to leave me and go get it. Katy gathered up the water we had left between us and left it with me along with a couple of bottles of pop and two salted nut roll candy bars. She also got out some of the OTC pain pills she had in her first aid kit and gave them to me. Katy then left to go get help. It took her a long time to turn around on the narrow trail and ride out on the single track. I knew she made it out past the difficult part as there was one spot of the road I could see from my position and I saw her riding out.
I had no way of knowing what time it was or how long I had been sitting alone. My watch had come off during my fall and the only other clock was on my GPS which Katy was using. Later, Katy told me it as 2:30 when she first left me to go get help. We estimate my fall happened at approximately 2 pm. I was very uncomfortable and even if I didn’t move my leg, my leg was getting very painful. It was difficult not to move my leg as I kept sliding down hill even while trying to hold my body still. I forced myself (despite the intense pain) to slide up the hill a little more. At this point, I could get a good foot hold for my left leg against the bike to keep me from sliding and was also able to get the heel of my right foot onto the handle bars in a position where my right foot was held fairly steady. By then I was in a fairly stable position and was not moving that much. I had also learned how to use my hand on the top of the stick/splint to reposition my foot as needed to find that magic spot where the pain let up a little. Somewhere along the line, I had to remove the top strap securing my splint as the pain from that strap was too much to bear. As I said, I had no real sense of time and how much time had passed. At times it seemed like Katy had been gone for hours and at other times, I was sure she had only been gone 10 minutes. However, I knew some time was passing as I could see the sun move across the sky and could see a thunder storm approaching.
As I was sitting/laying as still as possible and with my eyes closed I thought I heard a bike in the distance. I was not sure if it was real or wishful thinking on my part. I found that while I was sitting alone, hurt and in pain that I began to imagine all sorts of things. As the sound became more pronounced, I forced myself up into a sitting position so I could watch that portion of the road visible to me. Not sure if it was due to the pain from moving, but I could suddenly no longer hear the bike. I felt very dejected at this point. Just as I was about to slump back in despair, I saw Katy riding back towards me and also could see a maroon colored pickup following her. A minute or so later I saw two more pickups with flashing red and blue lights heading in the same direction. I knew that help was close and thought that I would soon be surrounded by my rescuers. The sight of help nearby was the mental lift I really by then.
Since I figured that my rescuers were only minutes away, I sat up as much as possible and got ready to be moved. After sitting for several more minutes and not hearing or seeing anyone approach me, I then again began to wonder if I had actually saw and heard them on the portion of road visible to me. I was sure I had seen them and not imagined all of it. I had moved around quite a little during this time and was in extreme pain. I really wanted to believe they were just very short distance (1/2 mile or so) away and would soon be by my side. However, if they were actually that close, what were they waiting for? Was I imagining all of this or was help really nearby? I was no longer sure if I was conscious or if I was dreaming all of what I had thought I had seen and heard. Time stood still for me and for the first time since getting hurt, I was afraid I may not survive. I kept asking myself over and over, if they were actually that close to me, what were they waiting for?
In my deep and darkest moments of despair, I thought I heard Katy’s bike coming down the trail towards me. I kept telling myself that it has to be real. It has to be real. I then heard Katy’s voice above me on the trail. She was saying that there were several people nearby wanting to help us. Katy then came down the steep bank and sat down beside me. I felt that this had to be real.
As we talked, I asked what everyone was waiting for? She explained that they were not sure how they were going to able to reach me as the trail was far too narrow for a quad or Gator. I told Katy that if I could just get back up onto the trail, I would walk myself out as it could not be that far. She told me to just relax and that they were in charge of my rescue and they would figure it out. I don’t think Katy or anyone else involved knew how difficult it was for me both mentally and physically to just be sitting there. Katy told me some rescue personal with dirt bikes were suppose on be the way and hopefully would soon be there.
After what seemed like forever, I heard and then saw a couple of bikes approaching in the distance. About this time, the thunder storm I had seen approaching hit in full force and it began to rain really hard. I was concerned that with the heavy rain, the trail would get very slick and Katy may find it really difficult to ride her bike back out. By this time, I was sure this was all real and I was not imagining it and that help was really close by. I told Katy I wanted her to ride back out to where everyone else was before the trail got too slick for her to ride out. Katy agreed to leave ride back out.
Soon after I heard Katy ride away, I heard two strokes headed my way. Two rescuers on bikes soon arrived and begin to try to make me comfortable. They told me their names and I believe one was named Jerry and can’t recall the other’s name but believe it also begins with a J. (I had a hard time remembering any names given to me) A third rescuer on a bike soon arrived. They told me they had plenty of help nearby, but no one could figure out how to actually get to me. I told them that with three of them, if they could help me up to the trail and help me find a good stick I could use for a crutch, that I would try walking out as I was sure it was not that far. One of the guys checked his GPS and told the other two guy that it was only 4 tenths of a mile and that the rest of the rescuers needed to just walk in. I heard one of them talking on the radio saying that to just walk in as it would only take them a few minutes.
Within a few minutes, there was a group of approximately 10 people around me. One EMT told me his name was Matt. During the rescue, Matt went way out of his way to make me as comfortable as possible. Anyway, I was soon loaded onto a gurney and pulled back up to the trail. Due to the efforts of all concerned, this was not near as painful as I figured it would be. Could also be the morphine they gave me was taking effect. I was hand carried out the approximately 4 tenths of a mile out to the waiting Gator. I was loaded onto the Gator. Matt was right there beside me during the whole ride out. The Gator ride was fairly rough but it felt good to finally be moving off of the mountain. After a few miles of riding the Gator, we reached the Weiser Ambulance waiting back on the main road. Matt was my EMT in the back of the ambulance on our way to the Weiser Hospital.
During my Gator ride, a few of the guys including Jerry and the other bike riders returned to where my bike was and got my bike back onto the trail and rode it out to where their bike trailer was waiting. They ultimately hauled my bike down to the Washington County Sherriff’s office where it could be safely stored. A special thank-you goes out for that extra special effort.
During the ambulance ride, Matt mentioned that protocol called for him to fully check out the rest of my body to check for other injuries and that would likely require cutting off my riding gear. However, he didn’t want to cut off my gear and he said it looked fairly new and expensive. I assured him that I only hurt on the upper half of my right leg. He agreed to wait until we got to the hospital before attempting to remove any more of my clothing. I still had on the stick that Katy and I tied to my leg as a splint. Everyone that looked at our stick/splint set up felt it was doing its job as well as anything they could apply in the field to replace it so decided it was better to leave it in place. After arriving at the hospital in Weiser, I was taken into an exam room and there Matt helped me to carefully remove my boots and the rest of my riding gear and my stick/splint. The only article of clothing that was ultimately cut off was my underwear bottoms. I soon begin to miss my stick/splint as I no longer had a way to move my foot by myself and keep it in a semi comfortable position.
I sent Katy home on her bike so she could change and then bring the car back to Weiser and pickup my clothing and riding gear. She had time to return to the Weiser hospital before I was transferred to a different hospital.
A very big thank you goes out to all those that were involved in my rescue. I don’t know for sure who all was involved, but believe I had people from the Washington County Sherriff’s Office, County Search and Recuse, Volunteer Fire Department and Weiser Hospital EMTs. If I missed someone, I am sorry. I am sure many of the people assisting me were volunteers. I felt that everyone involved was really concerned about my well-being and getting me safely off the mountain. Again thank you very much.
This is the end of Part I.