I just got back from a solo ride out at Hawes in the rain. I thought of a single thing the entire ride: Craig from Durango. He and his wife were riding somewhere ahead of us on the Pemberton trail yesterday afternoon when he took a spill. We had never met Craig or his wife Jan when we rolled up, but instantly got to know them in the worst conditions possible. Craig was in the middle of the trail, was not breathing, was non-responsive and had a weak pulse. I called 911 on Jan's phone, but it was not working; so I had my wife call 911 on her phone. I asked Jan if they had a GPS since I had accidentally left mine at home. Luckily, Craig had a GPS on his waist belt....so I turned it on and relayed the decimal degree coordinates to the 911 operator. Other folks began riding up a few minutes later and began assisting as necessary. All the time, Jan was performing artificial respiration and chest compressions to Craig.
Craig took a spill in the worst possible spot to take a spill; the farthest point away from the trailhead that we could have been. Not that Craig had a choice in the matter. Over the next 30 or so minutes, Jan tried valiantly to give Craig respiration while other folks gave chest compressions to help out Jan. Twice his heart stopped, but after more chest compressions, a pulse was detected. We were all a bunch of strangers, in the desert, trying vainly to save a mans life. We all felt helpless, ignorant and utterly miserable. I can speak for myself....I did not want to be there....and I felt awful for thinking that thought. I realize that Jan did not want to be there either....but there she was. Waiting for the sheriffs helicopter which had to pick up two paramedics, we all took our shirts off and laid them over Craig in an attempt to keep him warm.
I tried out of desperation to see something, anything in Craig's eyes; but only saw something I don't want to see again....nothing. I'm struggling to get Craig's eyes out of my mind right now. I also can't get the look on Jan's face and her screams out of my mind....fear and desperation...but also a strong determination to do what she needed to do to save her husbands life. I can't begin to imagine what thoughts she must have felt for those 1st 5 minutes before we rolled up, alone with her husband who was laying on the trail.
After the pro's showed up, it became clear that Craig had to wait for another helicopter because there was no room in the sheriffs helicopter for Craig who had to be on a back board. We all stood around, helping the paramedics in any way we were told we could. Someone told me they wanted to wait until Craig and Jan were lifted out of there before we left, even though the Sheriffs deputy said there was nothing more we could do. We all resolved to ride out together.
The ride back was the most sober procession I have ever encountered on a ride. We were all shredded from the emotionality of it all. Somehow, riding a bike for fun did not seem so much fun anymore. One of the folks out there yesterday said it was her first day on a mountain bike. I know that this will not be a good memory for her or anyone and it would be trite to say that we must go on, but I needed to ride today for a reason other than fun which brings me back to the rain.
Riding is a time to reflect. Some of those reflections mirror us: petty, vain, and selfish. Other times, those reflections are trivial, non-consequential and otherwise, forgotten. Today, those reflections were much more profound. The last I had heard, Craig had broken his neck and is not breathing on his own. However, the love and dedication his wife and those strangers showed to another human being kept his heart going and will give him a chance. The reflections I saw today in myself are the reflections I saw in Jan and those 5 other people. They are fear, determination and thankfulness.
Fearful that life can take a turn for the worse like a thunderclap, we all left determined to remember that the things we value in life are not to be taken for granted and we should be thankful for them. Even Jan, in the middle of perhaps the worst crisis she has been in, found a second to thank us for helping before boarding the sheriffs helicopter. I'm not sure I would have the presence of mind to do that. So I did what I could and I gave my wife a few more "I love you's" last night than normal...and so did she.
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