Keith had already ridden his bike 245 miles and had only five miles to go to complete the organized bicycle ride. He had done dozens of these long distance, unsupported “Randonneur” rides in his years training for Race Across America. He had ridden these same roads in Frederick County many more times than that. Often he had taken this exact same route. His friends, Chris and Michael, doing the same ride, greeted him as they passed by on Bethel Rd. No need to stay together here. Everyone knew the route back and it would only be a few minutes before they would see each other at the finish. A quick climb up the hill on Bethel to the stop sign. A left turn onto Yellow Springs…almost home. Then he was struck from the rear by a hit-and-run motorist.
The next thing Keith remembers is awakening at 10 AM the next day in the Intensive Care Unit of the Washington County Hospital Trauma Center in Hagerstown, MD. He was intubated, had a concussion, a partially collapsed lung, a hip fracture, a torn knee and a severely dislocated shoulder. It had taken three strong men to restore the shoulder, but there was a great deal of nerve damage. He could not use or feel his right hand. He could not speak because of the intubation. He tried to write notes with his left hand. “What happened?” “Where am I?” “Where’s my bike?” Keith’s long journey back had just begun.
What followed was two days in the Intensive Care Unit, two days in the Critical Care Unit, and six days in the Rehabilitation Unit learning how to get around without using his right side. The caring and concern from the doctors, nurses, and physical therapists was overwhelming. The friendliness and courageousness of the other rehab patients was uplifting. Each one had their own story of recovery, many worse off than Keith. His pain was manageable. His hip fracture would heal. And there was hope that the nerves in his shoulder, the brachial plexus, were only stretched, not torn. He was signed off to go home in a wheelchair and told to stay off that right leg or chance hip replacement surgery.
His life at home was different; no stairs allowed so he was confined to the first floor in his wheelchair. Leaving the house for doctor’s appointments was difficult; it was a major challenge to negotiate the three small steps going into and out of the house. All of this was new to Keith. He was used to movement – bicycling, running, or even just going outside. It took three more weeks before he could leave the wheelchair. Then, after weeks of paralysis in his right hand, Keith was finally able to twitch a finger! This was what he had been hoping for; it meant the nerves were still connected and it was possible that some hand function would return. After months and months of daily physical and specialized hand therapy, that hope has been strengthened. A year later hand function has returned – not all of it, but some. It is a race between nerve growth and muscle atrophy. It will take years to see if nerve regeneration wins over muscle atrophy.
Keith Needs Your Help
Uncertainty and questions still remain. The medical issues will be resolved in time. But Keith’s original question, “What happened?” is still unanswered. If you have any information about this hit-and-run, please phone the Tipline at 877-411-1812 or leave your information on the Tip Form. Thank you.