Sunday started out as a beautiful fall day. By the afternoon, it had reached the low 80′s (and this is Minnesota not California!) and I suggested to my hubby that we go rollerblading for fun. Todd is just back from a week fishing with his buddies in the BWCA near Canada, has a ton of work emails to catch up on but says, “sure, sounds great!”

So … off we go to a bike trail that’s been newly resurfaced. The new black top is smooth as glass and we are flying along, skating fast, having a ball. I should mention that this bike trail is an old railroad bed and some of the bridges over the roads are still made of wood (foreshadowing). We’ve skated for about 5 miles (further than we’ve gone on this trail before) and go up a fairly steep slope. No problem – we’re in good shape and it’s great exercise. Now we’re at the top and start down the other side. Half way down (I’m sailing along pretty fast), I notice that the bridge ahead is one of the old wooden ones. Yikes! It’s too late to do anything about it so I think positive, bend my knees a bit and say a prayer. My skates wobble a bit when I hit the wood, I but manage to stay upright. Yeah!

That’s when I hear voices of people on bikes coming towards me yell, “If that guy’s with you, he just took a hard fall on the bridge!” My heart sinks. Todd never falls. I sometimes do, but Todd never falls. My momentary thrill has turned to dread. I slow down, turn around and see Todd laying sideways across the bridge, flat on his back, not moving. I quickly skate back. The people on bikes, our Good Samaritans are already at his side looking at the deep gash on his head. I take Kleenex from my pocket, the only thing I have other than the clothes I’m wearing and apply pressure to the gash on his head to try to slow the flow of blood. Todd ‘comes to’ when he hears my voice which is a big relief. He’s dazed but knows where he is and remembers falling when his skates hit the wood.

I quickly realize that he’s going to need to be seen and stitched at the ER and he’s in no shape to get back to the car under his own power. Mark and Teresa, our Good Samaritans who we’ve never met before, live close by and one of them volunteers to bike home to get ice for Todd’s head and the other one will stay with Todd while I skate back to get the car. The adrenaline is pumping, I’ve skated about 3 miles back to get the car when it dawns on me that Todd has the car keys in his fanny pack. The only thing I carry when we skate is my cell phone. Duh! I call Todd’s cell phone, Teresa answers and assures me that Mark is back, they’re holding ice on Todd’s head and that Mark will bring the car keys to me by bike.

I reach our car about the same time that Mark does with the keys. OK, I tell myself, calm down, everything is going to work out. Mark and I strategize about where I can enter the trail to get to Todd. The bike trail isn’t designed to be ‘driven on’ and the old wooden bridges won’t support the weight of a car. We figure out a place where I can get on the trail that doesn’t require me having to drive over any of the bridges and off I go. I reach the trail, put on my flashers and start driving slowly. The trail, designed for bikes, isn’t very wide and I’m met by quizzical looks from people on bikes who are forced to go around me. I reach Todd, by now he’s attracted quite a crowd of ‘helpers’, we pack him in the car with the ice pack on his head and off we go to the ER. Whew!

Sunday night, we’re told, is the busiest night in the ER. Between Todd’s head CT, x-rays of both hands and right knee, cleaning all the blood out of his hair to see where the gash starts and ends, it takes a long time. This is the Mayo Clinic’s level 1 trauma center, we wait patiently knowing that many people coming in for treatment are worse off. All told, we end up spending 4 hours at the ER. Finally we get to go home. Todd has 8 staples in his scalp, several scrapes, 2 badly sprained fingers but nothing is broken. The ER doc instructs me to wake Todd every 2 hours to make sure that there is no evidence of a concussion. OK, I can do that.

Today, Todd is sore all over but remarkably back to his old self. He won’t be at work or band practice tonight (he’s the drummer) and is moving a little slower but is doing amazingly well considering the fall he took.

We are thankful to the people who immediately stopped to help. They willingly put their plans aside while they came to our aid and went way beyond the ‘call of duty’ to help care for Todd. Will we rollerblade again? You bet, but we’ll stick to the flatter bike trails without the wooden bridges. Life is too short to spend it in the ER.

Beth Gabriel