Remembering ‘the great cow encounter’

The aftermath of a highway accident scene.  This came not from one of the two fatal accidents in Floyd County but from an earlier motorcycle crash involving the author of this article and is used for illustrative purposes (Photo from The Roanoke County Police Department)
The aftermath of my motorcycle crash trying to avoid hitting a cow (Photo from The Roanoke County Police Department)

Two years ago — November 9, 2012 — while traveling on my Harley-Davidson Super Glide from Riverhead High School near Staunton back to Floyd after a first round playoff game for the FCHS Buffaloes, I came up on cattle in the roadway on U.S. 221 at Poague Valley Road just south of Cave Spring.

To avoid a t-bone crash that could have sent me over the handlebars and the steer, I laid the bike down on the highway and lost consciousness after my helmet struck the asphalt.

It would be nearly a month — the morning of December 5 — when I realized I was in the rehab section of Carilion Community Hospital in Roanoke.  I have no memory of special people who cleared my airway at the scene of the accident, the rescue crew or the doctors, nurses and specialists  who put my broken body back together and cared for me in those three-plus weeks.

I do remember the rehab personnel who taught me to walk again, helped rebuild my memory from a traumatic brain injury and taught me to cope with limitations.  Some doctors predicted I would wake up with no memory of who I was and might not remember Amy, who stayed with me day and night during those dark times.

I also remember and cherish the many who visited, sent cards, presents and more during that period.  Many met Amy for the first time but took her under their wing and provided much needed help.

Slate Mountain pastor Jeff Dalton scrapped a planned drip to South Carolina and was by my bedside the morning after.  He, and so many ministers in Floyd, Montgomery, Roanoke and other counties put me on their prayer lists.

I doubt I have ever properly thanked everyone for their help, support and prayers.  I know I never can adequately repay each and everyone as I should.  I can, I hope, be there when they need help in the future.

Two years after that crash, I still have memory loss from the brain injury.  I lose my train of thought in mid-sentence. I sometimes have trouble walking and I’ve had to face the jarring reality that I cannot ever fully recover.   The pain requires doses of medication every six hours.  Pain management specialists at Carilion start work on ways to deal more effectively with some of those issues in December.

But I thank the care and attention of a loving wife who has stuck with me for 34 plus years.  I cherish the help and support that came from so many.  And I thank God.  I have faced death too many times in a life that seems to avoid the odds. Jeff and others have told me that God had a reason that I beat the odds and still walk this earth.  Not sure what that might be.  I apparently have to figure that one out for myself.

As we did on the first anniversary of what Amy and I now call the “great cow encounter,” we remember that night by visiting a steakhouse so I can order, and consume, the largest slice of cow on the menu.

Amy and I thank each of you for helping us make it possible to be together for this night and, hopefully, so many others in a life that grows more and more special every day.

3 Responses to Remembering ‘the great cow encounter’

  1. As I prepare to leave for Mass and facilitate BOTW at OLN, all I can say is that God put each and every person who touched your life that night and through today for a reason. We talked about the negative things that occurred to you – loss of memory, mobility, stamina. But focusing on the positives, you are obviously here today for a reason as well. And Doug, although I may be almost 10 years your junior, there are days I lose my train of thought mid-sentence, can’t grasp a word, misremember something. I don’t handle those occasions too well either.
    Take care my friend, and savor each day with Amy as you have .
    Marc

  2. Doug: David and I are two that visited and saw you at your worst in the hospital and we are so thankful that you have come so far in getting over that tragic night. You not only had an angel with you that night watching over you, but you have one in Amy who has watched over you since. And, yes, it was the first time we had met her and we loved her instantly. I’ll be 69 next month and I tell people all the time that I’m glad I get up on this side of the dirt each day. I enjoy your reporting so much and hope you will doing it for a long time to come. Keep it up and our best to you and Amy.