2013 Motorcycle Accident - By Tom Lloyd 

After 50 years of owning and riding motorcycles, my first and last accident occurred Friday the 13th on my like-new 2007 Kawasaki 250R. The Kawasaki Ninja 250R was introduced in 1983, given more fully enclosed bodywork in 1988, which along with continuous engineering upgrades, resulted in it being in production and a leader in its field ever since. It is the safest of by far of my four motorcycles and the one I felt most comfortable riding. 

So, here's what happened. On Saturday, Sept 14th, I woke up in the Hershey Medical Center's Trauma ICU after the accident the previous afternoon, about which I have no memory whatsoever. What we've pieced together from the police and residents who came to the scene within a minute or two is that I was completing a typical 16-mile "after work" ride on a sunny, dry afternoon, coming downhill on Pinch Road into Mt. Gretna when a vehicle pulled out from a side road, Brown Ave., a minor intersection hidden by a curve in front of me. In my attempt to avoid a collision, I braked and turned right, which catapulted me into a stone-filled ravine. The motorcycle crashed and I must have gone through multiple rag-doll airborne tosses, ending up face down on the pavement, some twenty feet from the bike. 

The motorcycle was destroyed, and I would have been killed had I not been wearing the first class Arai helmet my son Aaron had given me a year earlier, an armored jacket, heavy pants, and sturdy boots. A nearby ambulance service rushed me to the Hershey Medical Center where they did all the right things, found that I had two subdural hematomas, spinal fractures at T1 and T8, two cracked ribs, a separation of the A-C joint of my left shoulder, and cuts and bruises all over my body. After discharge from the hospital, I slept 20-22 hours a day for the first week. My loving mate Kimberly took vacation days to take care of me. During week two I slept less, spent much time trying to figure out what drugs and doses worked best, what sleeping positions were least painful, and was fitted with a torso brace. In week three I was allowed to drive short distances and returned to work three or so hours a day. 

Every careful motorcyclist must think about safety and accident prevention every time s/he rides. First of all, intelligent motorcyclists realize that they must, to a large extent, “drive” for both themselves and the operators of other vehicles on the roadways, as well as be super observant of natural obstacles. The Hurt Repot, the only comprehensive study of motorcycle accidents in the US, showed that "two-thirds of motorcycle-car crashes occurred when the car driver failed to see the approaching motorcycle and violated the rider's right-of-way. That's exactly what happened in my case. Lucky for me, I'm alive to tell you about it.

1989. New House Roof - By Tom Lloyd 

As the Emergency Department staff were rolling me on a gurney to a CT scanner, Jerry Glenn, a colleague and one of Penn State’s lead general surgeon’s, walked with us for a bit and said, “Tom, you’re lucky since 50% of falls greater than five feet are mortal for a man your age. ”Two hours earlier, I had been helping the carpenters at my new house install birds-eye maple hardwood flooring. Around 4 PM rain began to fall and pretty quickly a lot of water was splattering on the freshly laid flooring. It wasn’t clear to us if the water was coming down the chimney or between the chimney masonry and the roof. I had the not so brilliant idea to go out in the rain and open my eight-foot step ladder on the deck next to the outside of the chimney. I climbed the ladder in the rain and tried to figure out where the water was coming from. I looked around but couldn't find any obvious reason for the water coming into the front room and decided to get off the roof and out of the rain. 

At eight feet the top of my step ladder was level with the edge of the house roof. When I climbed up the ladder, I had to use the next to last step of the ladder to be able to crawl onto the roof. I thought I could simply reverse these moves for my descent. But now the physics of the situation were different, starting with the fact that rain had lubricated the four points of contact of the bottom of the step ladder with the deck. As soon as I put one foot, and my weight, on the ladder it slid away and I crashed to the deck. I wasn’t knocked out, but I couldn’t breathe. It had been decades since I had had the “breath knocked out of me,” but it had happened often enough in childhood and from falling off the flying rings in the college gym that I knew, or hoped, that my lungs would spontaneously inflate. The carpenters inside heard the crash, came out, looked down at me and said, “Are you all right?” To which I could not answer for twenty or thirty seconds. As my lungs filled and my head cleared, I found I could breathe and move all my limbs, so I rolled over and stood up. It was quitting time, so the workers left and I decided to drive back to my house in Mt. Gretna. 

Over the five minutes of the drive home, I started having more and more trouble breathing. Uh Oh. I knew I needed to get to an ER so I took off my work clothes, put on my work uniform of a blue oxford shirt and khakis and drove the 12 miles to the Hershey Medical Center. By the time I presented myself at the ER registration desk I could only whisper, “I fell off my roof, I need to see a doctor.” It turned out that one of my former students, Eric, was now an ER resident and I was thankful that he took over my case. His examination quickly brought up the question of whether I had internal bleeding or other internal injuries. A CT scan of my torso was ordered and within an hour Eric and Dr. Glenn told me that the scan did not show extensive internal bleeding, but they were concerned that I might have one or more slow bleeds. The way to determine whether I did was to keep me in the hospital overnight, take blood every hour and see if there was any drop in my hematocrit values. This meant keeping me in the step-down unit, which provides a level of care intermediate between Intensive Care Units and general medical-surgical wards. At the Hershey Medical Center, it was a dormitory-like room with half a dozen beds separated by curtains. It was about 8 PM by the time I was rolled into the step-down unit and placed between two beds with very sick patients, both of whom cried out for help every few minutes all night long. An hour or so after I arrived, Aaron, who was in his last year of medical school, stopped by and said, “Dad, I think you are going to be OK, but don’t expect to get much sleep tonight.” No truer words could have been spoken. I was just very very thankful that my hourly hematocrit values remained stable and that I was discharged the next day.

1985, Oswego River Dam 

1985, Oswego River Dam

By Tom Lloyd

I was surprised when my neighbor, Jerry Groff, came over to my house in mid-September and suggested the two of us do a two-day salmon fishing trip the coming weekend on the Oswego river, near Oswego, NY. Jerry was the spitting-image of Santa Claus, father of five kids, and a soon-to-retire high school teacher. He told me he had been told by a fishing buddy that with the recent cold snaps in upstate New York, the salmon and steelhead trout were running from Lake Ontario into the several northwestern New York rivers that drain into Lake Ontario. I had done stream trout fishing for years, and my son, Aaron, and I had done a day of off-shore lake trout fishing with Phil and Shelly Rothermel the year before.Salmon is my favorite dinner fish, so I accepted the invitation and offered to drive, using my 1975 fire-engine-red Dodge window van. Jerry’s buddy said we would need chest waders, a big study fishing net on a long pole, heavy duty spinning tackle ,and a couple big coolers to bring back our catch. Jerry already had his gear and I needed only to get a pair of chest waders, which I picked up the next day at Shyda’s Sporting Shop. 

Jerry had collected the necessary information from his buddy about what motel to stay at, where to get three-day out-of-state fishing licenses, and what part of the Oswego river to fish. We left Mt. Gretna at 8 AM Saturday and by 2 PM we were buying the “right” kind of fish egg bait and paying for our fishing licenses at a little bait shop outside Oswego. One mile upstream from where the Oswego meets Lake Ontario is the Varick hydroelectric dam, and we were told to fish right below the dam. At least 50 other fishermen had been told the same thing, but that was OK because the river was extremely wide. The Varick dam is relatively low but stretches for over 700 feet across the river. Regardless of where fishermen were standing, the river level was generally up to between their knees and mid-thighs because the riverbed is a vast series of limestone shelves, similar to the Suequehanna. From the moment we arrived, we heard guys already in the river calling out, “Fish on, net help please!” so Jerry and I quickly rigged up and waded out. Everyone was hoping to catch 15 –30 pound fish, and you absolutely had to have two guys to land such big ones. Lots of guys were fishing as pairs and everyone had a long handled, large net stuffed down the back of his chest waders. So when a guy got a fish on, his buddy or another nearby fisherman would wade to him, pull the net out of the guy’s waders and help him, hopefully, land the fish. 

Fishermen had accessed the region below the dam from both side and were sprinkled all over the river, which had a swift current. I started wading out and found that the river bottom, like the Suequehanna’s, was a huge mosaic of slippery limestone. You proceeded slowly because where each shelf ended there would be either a drop of a foot or so or a rise in the height of the river’s bottom. I started fishing and over the next half hour slowly moved toward the center of the river. Guys were catching fish and when I was out about 250 feet from shore, I began having strikes too. Soon one of my strikes turned into “fish on” and it was quite a fight. It was clearly a much larger fish than I’d ever hooked before. A nearby fisherman came over, pulled my net from the back of my waders, and was prepared to land the fish. I had it almost to net range and we could see that it was probably a 20-pound steelhead. Then it broke free. So I returned to casting and rebaiting. I had a couple more strikes and had every expectation of catching a big fish. 

As soon as I heard the siren, I realized the river current had increased and the water level was rising. Though no one had told Jerry and me to expect dam releases I was well aware of them from my canoeing experiences. I reeled in my line and started towards shore. The river level was rising quickly, approaching groin level. While I began moving towards shore, I saw I was farther from shore than any of the other fishermen. I immediately realized and processed the danger of my situation. The current had already become fast enough and the water level high enough that were I to stumble, my chest waders would instantly fill with water and I would be swept downriver. The outcome would probably be deadly as I knew it would be impossible to get out of water-filled waters in a fast-moving river. I needed to make it to shore as quickly as possible, making sure I didn’t slip into one of the holes in the river’s limestone bottom. I reached over my shoulder and drew out the long handled fishing net, turned it upside down and began using it as a steadying staff against the push of the current and as a probe to feel for abrupt holes or ledges in the river’s bottom at each new step. I was terrified as the water level cane up past my waist. Since I knew that there was no acceptable Plan B, I focused all my attention on moving as quickly as possible but making sure I didn’t fall. By the time I got to the river bank I was exhausted and shaking. 

I found Jerry back at the van and we were both in wonderment that there was so little warning about the dam release and no warnings along the river edge. A couple of other fishermen who had fished below the dam before said that day’s experience was unusual and that usually there was a loudspeaker announcement of any upcoming dam release followed by a siren, followed by a 15 minute wait period. Other than the siren which sounded as the water was beginning to rise, none of the other warnings were used when I was in the middle of the river. After the death of a fisherman swept away by a dam release in 1990, a series of warning signs were posted along the river and on posts in the river. Then after the deaths of two fishermen at the same place in 2010, the local authorities passed an ordinance requiring fishermen to wear life preservers. 

After I stopped shaking Jerry and I headed to the motel where he'd made a reservation. We cleaned up and went to dinner and I returned to the motel and crashed. Jerry borrowed the van and went bar hopping until the wee hours and I didn’t hear him when he returned. The next day, Sunday, after a pleasant short-order café breakfast, we checked out two other streams that Jerry’s buddy had told him about. Curiously, the runs were long over in those streams so by noon we were on the road and heading back to Mt. Gretna. The next week I placed an ad in the For Sale Classified ads of the Lebanon Daily News,” Men’s Fishing Chest Waders with Anti-Slip Boots, size 11.5. Used one time. $30”   A guy from Palmyra bought them the day after the paper came out. Whew!