The motorcyclist’s downshifting and dumping the throttle should have provided ample time to warn the deer to beat its hooves off the pavement, but the blaring roar of the engine echoing off the canyon walls in all directions confused the unsuspecting buck. His massive frame remained fixed with only his large ears twitching and turning in a fruitless effort to locate the direction of the obnoxiously loud noise.
Seconds later, their eyes met—literally. Tones soon followed for our unit to respond to a motorcycle accident. No surprise for us, because it was biker rally weekend, but did it have to happen at the exact moment my bladder weighed heavily on my mind (and pelvic girdle)?
I knew the patient was alert and oriented when the first words out of his mouth were, “How’s my bike?”
I don’t want to be stereotypical here, but I have, in my EMS career, established four classifications of motorcycle riders: those who use their pipes to commute to and from work (sadly, scooters included); those who grip and twist for speed (“crotchrocketeers”); “motorcrossers” who prefer death, dirt and arthritis over asphalt; and lastly, our patient, who belonged to the hog family.
My primary, full-body biker survey revealed a bandana-adorned skull without a ponytail weave; mirrored shades; a bug-burdened grill (teeth) by which the patient could identify species by taste; multiple soft-tissue and cartilaginous ear piercings; 65% total body surface covered in non-washable, viewer-discretional tattoos; healed scar tissue indicative of prior, acute lead poisoning; deeply tanned dorsal hands; no wrist watch (time is of no consequence); a full-length beard—which doesn’t necessarily exclude the patient from being a woman—again ladened with aerodynamic creepy-crawlers; a three-piece suit consisting of chaps, leather vest and leather jacket; a studded belt with a buckle large enough to adequately serve as a small backboard if need be; a lengthy wallet chain capable of towing his bike; denim jeans torn prior to the crash; steel-toed biker boots with shank-encasing holding device; and last, but most important, an identifiable patch signifying this rider as being a member of an organization prohibited by the Geneva Convention.
I quickly started my ABCs (Alert Bikers Clearly) … “I’m not a cop.”
Everyone knows a biker doesn’t want his leathers cut, but when it comes to gang leathers, I always ask permission before the shears reveal themselves. And even then, I loudly ask conscious bikers where I can cut. I say “loudly” because anyone who rides an engine loud enough to cause parked car alarms to go off when they ride by is assumed to have some level of hearing loss.
Our hog man was lucky today. Bambi only caused him to suffer some minor road rash and a broken ankle. His bike wasn’t so lucky, however, and would need to be hoisted onto a flatbed and transported to the motor morgue.
En route to the hospital, the injured rider, Bear, pulled out his wallet to show me a picture, not of his family mind you, but of his bike in its prime. (Note: Many bikers have animal names, and I’m fine with that as long as their surname isn’t Skunk.)
“She was my baby. My life,” he said with neutral expression.
As I drew up the second dose of fentanyl, I’m sure the “seriously?” expression appeared on my face, despite my attempt to remain impartial. As I hid behind the IV bag, which was dangling from the ambulance ceiling, the patient stared at the snapshot, and with an affirming nod, said, “Four wheels move the body; two wheels move the soul.”
“I hear what you’re saying,” I said as convincingly as I could while watching the IV drip chamber work its magic, “but my job is to make sure your soul doesn’t move itself too high off the ground.”
Bear then surprised me by suddenly turning and giving me one of the patches his fellow gang members had cut off his torn leathers immediately following the accident. I’m not sure if that was just his fentanyl talking, but I do remember how much I appreciated the gesture of goodwill, despite my full bladder.
I’ve responded to lots of motorcycle accidents since that one, with many outcomes not as positive. I’m a strong advocate of helmets and protective wear for motorcyclists, but a minute part of me secretly appreciates those skilled riders who thrive on the C9H13NO3 (adrenalin) rush obtained by riding full throttle with the wind in their hair (weave free).
Until next time, always remember there are old motorcyclists, and there are bold motorcyclists. But all old, bold motorcyclists walk real funny. JEMS
This article originally appeared in May 2011 JEMS as “Broken Freedbirds: EMS in hog heaven.”