Preparing for disaster can seem often seems like a crazy idea, or at least one that can be put off — indefinitely.
Last fall, as I mounted my motor scooter for a quick trip to my church office — I needed my minister’s manual for a wedding — I considered leaving the helmet and leather jacket at home. Given the heat and heavy humidity, my ride would be much more pleasant without them.
Fortunately, I opted for protection over comfort. Had I left my helmet and jacket at home, my little minister’s manual might have ended up not at a wedding but at a funeral. My funeral.
I was going about 45 miles an hour on a back road when, as I rounded a corner, five deer bounded out of the woods. I swerved and slammed on my brakes, but there were too many deer and they were too close.
A neighbor living on a nearby hobby farm found me lying semi-conscious in the road and called 911. When the paramedics arrived, I heard my neighbor say: “This guy’s not going to make it.”
They rushed me to nearby Monticello-Big Lake Hospital. My injuries were too severe so severe they put me on a helicopter for North Memorial, a major trauma center just outside of Minneapolis about 30 miles away. It had been less than two hours since I fell off my bike. Any longer and my neighbor would have been right.
I spent nine days in the intensive care unit with five broken ribs, a broken shoulder blade, a damaged left kidney, a bruised heart, a ruptured spleen and severe internal bleeding. That’s a lot of damage, especially for a 74-year-old like me.
I’ve had time to reflect: What if I hadn’t put on my helmet and leather jacket? What if my neighbor hadn’t heard the squeal of my brakes? What if they hadn’t me in the right hands in time?
When the hospital’s trauma team asked me to tell my story at an annual fundraiser, I learned about Minnesota’s trauma system that was able to speed injured people like me into expert hands.
But they also told me that even though trauma systems prevent one in four deaths, only one in four Americans live in areas served by such a system. Trauma experts have urged our elected officials to set up a nationwide system — to no avail.
I left with some troubling questions: Doesn’t every one deserve a chance to survive a terrible crash? Are we ready for the next natural disaster or terrorist attack?
Choosing to go without a nationwide trauma system is like riding a motor scooter without a helmet and jacket.
One shouldn’t tempt fate.