It was a road Alan Badger had been on dozens of times. He was riding his motorcycle with a group of friends on County Road L34 in Iowa, heading to Beebeetown. His bike slipped on some loose gravel as he made a left-hand turn and he found himself headed toward an embankment.
“I remember thinking ‘Oh no, this can’t be happening,’” he said. “’This is going to hurt.’” He hit the ground and the 700-pound motorcycle bounced off his chest as if hitting a trampoline. The weight broke all but three of his ribs. Sharp fragments punctured his lung and suddenly he wasn’t getting enough oxygen to breathe. His right arm was also detached internally—only skin keeping it in place.
In severe pain, all he could think of was wriggling out of his new $500 motorcycle jacket so medics wouldn’t have to cut it off of him. Today, he’s thankful to one of those medics—who realized the seriousness of Badger’s injuries and called for the Life Net helicopter instead of an ambulance.
“One of the helicopter nurses visited me later and told me I was blue (from lack of oxygen) when they came up on me.” Badger said. “They said it was the worst case they’d seen that made it to the hospital and lived.”
The trauma team at Alegent Creighton Health Creighton University Medical Center stabilized him and transferred him to the intensive care unit. Badger was in a coma for two weeks and in ICU for four. During that time, Justin Siebler, M.D., an orthopaedic traumatologist, went to work on a fractured collarbone and shoulder blade. “He took a huge blow,” Dr. Siebler said. “This is not an uncommon scenario for a motorcycle accident.” Another surgeon fixed Badger’s ribs, using plates to hold the broken bone together.
Badger recently returned to the third floor to thank the ICU professionals who took care of him. “I wouldn’t be here but for the team effort of the doctors and nurses and staff there,” he said. “Without the blessing of God and the prayers of everyone, I really wouldn’t be here today, God created the technology for them to put me back together.”
One nurse, Joyce Taylor, R.N. was his “guardian angel.” Taylor seemed to always be by his side when he woke up. “She made me comfortable. I didn’t want to be left alone. I was freaking out and I loved her bedside manner. When I needed to be straightened out, she straightened me out.” Like the day he yanked out his feeding tube. “I got into quite a bit of trouble for that,” he said with a smile.
After he left CUMC, Badger required a lot of physical therapy. Three times a week he visits the Alegent Creighton Clinic Bellevue to work on his range of motion and to rebuild his muscle mass. Dr. Siebler said Badger is doing well, considering it’s been three only months since the accident. “His arm is functioning and he is using it,” Dr. Siebler said. “He’s very determined to make it better.”
Badger also quit smoking and lost 30 pounds. “I don’t recommend a ‘crash diet’ like that,” he said, grinning at the play on words. “I’m a 212-pound weakling now.”
The six-foot-five rider hopes to be back on a motorcycle a year from now but things will be different. He’ll never ride without a helmet again and will ride slower and be more aware of road conditions. “I’m so lucky I didn’t have anything happen to my head or spine.” And he’ll always ride with others. “If I’d been by myself that day, I wouldn’t be here now.” He knows a lot of riders who have been in motorcycle accidents, including two who died.
There have been other changes in Badger. He said he pays more attention to his wife and six children. “Before it was all about what Alan wanted to do. Someone wanted me to stop and smell the coffee. I was 57 going on 25. Now I’m 57 going on 58.”