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A dog, a crash, and now, recovery

Posted by on March 14th, 2019 at 10:35 am

Heading down NW Cornell Rd toward Skyline Blvd.
(Photos: Martin Stabler)

This story was written by Martin Stabler

Dog and bike collide. Aaron Edge doesn’t know if the dog is OK; he is definitely not OK. It was a bad bike crash.

(Photo by nurse at Legacy Emanuel Hospital.)

Aaron doesn’t remember much, but a dog, off leash, ran across Skyline Boulevard from the parking lot of the Skyline Restaurant and right into Aaron’s path. The restaurant is at the intersection of Skyline and Cornell Road. He was heading downhill on Skyline, going north. It’s a very common route for cyclists. He’s done it dozens of times.

He said, “I’m told the dog wasn’t in the middle of the road, it was running towards me so there wasn’t a way for me to avoid it.” In his first email to me he told me, “I’m meant to suffer, so it seems, not to actually die… one fractured vertebra (C-7), a broken scapula, two cracked ribs, two broken fingers and a gnarly, memory-reducing concussion. Life is not controllable. I’m at my home, healing, counting blessings, ignoring bad luck, regrouping, recovering.”

The accident happened on Feb 21st I first met Aaron at Western Bikeworks where he works part-time (you might recall when BikePortland featured his custom bikes back in 2015). One day I noticed a display of his photographs. As a photographer, I was curious, so we got to talking and he decided to subscribe to my Daily Sightings email (which included photos and a poem). Periodically he sent me photographs.

He knows his stuff when it comes to bikes and clothing and gear. He’s my go-to guy at Western when I need something for the bike. So when I got that first email it was a like a gut-punch. I replied, asking for details.

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He said it was hard for him to type because multiple sclerosis (MS) affects his hands and he’d broken two fingers in the crash. Instead, he sent an audio file with more details. “I totaled a bunch of bike parts,” including electronic shifters which are easier to use because of his MS. “Rear wheel is completely torn in half.” The steel frame is dented, but intact.

“I ride bikes a lot, and when it comes to crashes, it’s not a matter of if, but when, and you just have to be strong enough to get through them all.”

He was unconscious for 20 minutes. An ambulance brought him to Legacy Emanuel Hospital where he stayed for three days.

Aaron doesn’t remember being in the ER, but he was told he kept asking the staff, “Just let me die.” He told me, “That does sound like something I might say. It’s been a particularly hard winter on me, and this whole experience made it a little more tough.”

Aaron doesn’t remember much about his stay at Emanuel. He knows he had visitors, but can’t recall their visits.

He went on to say, “I ride bikes a lot, and when it comes to crashes, it’s not a matter of if, but when, and you just have to be strong enough to get through them all.”

A day after he sent the audio file he emailed to say, “I’m very depressed about all of this, not reaching out to friends and avoiding visits at this time. I’m just not in a good place. I’m scared for my health and thinking about the bills and bike part replacement is daunting.”

Alarm bells sounded in my head and I replied: “Make me a promise, OK? Promise me you won’t kill yourself. And promise me that if you are seriously thinking of suicide that you contact me or someone who can help.”

He said, “I’ll be OK.” I wanted to hear, “I promise,” but I settled for the “OK.”

Aaron at the scene of the crash.

A few days later I met him at his small studio apartment in the Pearl District. He lives alone and does not have a partner, but he has friends and a group of band-mates (he’s a musician). He showed me his broken bike, as well as three other bikes, then I helped him into my car, and we headed up into the West Hills to take pictures at the crash site.

En route he told me “Everyone who rides a lot has come across dogs or kids in their path… experienced riders know not to over-compensate or brake too hard. I’ve been riding long enough that I feel confident in my skills… I know to lean back on my bike so I don’t slide out, and go as straight as I can.”

Aaron’s had two major accidents in the past; the last one was in 2015 when he broke his back while mountain biking. “Once you’ve had a couple of crashes, it gets a little easier only because you know what to expect.”

But it’s difficult nonetheless. In another audio file he said, “It’s difficult to be in a tough headspace, to be alone, to choose to be alone, to already have chronic pain with the MS, and now broken bones, and not have a clear outlook on what lies ahead. The nerve trouble I have, and the stress, is heightened by the accident. There’s no way to work around that. And to not be active is pretty difficult.”

He’s just made a series of follow-up appointments with physicians and is looking for a PT. Because he doesn’t have a car, he needs all his providers to be within a mile of his apartment. On the drive back he said he doesn’t blame the dog owners — or the dog. I asked if he wanted to seek legal counsel or if he plans to pursue legal action. No. His focus, he said, is on healing — both mental and physical. “I hope I come out of the depression about this, because it’s a pretty significant part of the accident.”

He has not tried to contact the dog owners, nor have they contacted him. Aaron said there was a witness — a woman in a van behind him — but he doesn’t have her contact information. Were there police on the scene? He doesn’t know. “If I was told, I forgot in the fog of pain and drugs while in the hospital.”

I asked about what help he needed. “I have all the help that I need. As soon as I feel ready, I can reach out to friends.” (I learned later that he was having his band-mates over to listen to a new record.)

He doesn’t know how long he’ll be out of work, and understandably, is worried about finances. Hospital bills have begun arriving. (I just learned his band-mates have set a Go-Fund-Me
account: Worst Luck / Best Friends (for Aaron Edge.) What does he want from doing this story? “I want people to know my story. My crash reminds us to be more cautious, to just be mindful of the kinds of accidents that can happen on bicycles.”

As his story ripples through the cycling community, we are reminded, yet again, of the appalling randomness of such crashes. If we haven’t already, we’ll add dogs to our library of threats.

My own take on this is that Aaron does indeed want to share his story. His crash has had a profound effect on him and I think there is something about telling the story that contributes to healing. Telling is connecting. And connecting brings light into the darkness.

— Martin Stabler, martinstabler@gmail.com

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15 Comments
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    David March 14, 2019 at 11:00 am

    Thank you for sharing this story.

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    Jim Lee March 14, 2019 at 11:00 am

    Trials of Job

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    Jon March 14, 2019 at 11:02 am

    I hope Aaron recovers as soon as possible. Crashes are often painful but this is over the top painful.
    The dog owner need to be held accountable. This is negligence by the owner of the dog. Irresponsible dog owners need to be held to account or we are just going to continue to see more uncontrolled dogs hurt people. I know multiple people injured by dogs when riding (broken collarbones, arms, etc.) and my wife has been bitten by an unleashed dog in our neighborhood when we were walking to the store (“I don’t understand, my dog has never done anything like that before”).

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      Eric March 14, 2019 at 11:46 am

      Assuming the dog has an owner. Could just be a stray. Just shit luck all around.

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        Toby Keith March 14, 2019 at 10:31 pm

        No…not bad luck. Bad dog owners are an epidemic among us. Whether you are riding, dining, shopping, or at the airport. It’s almost impossible to avoid annoying pet owners. These people are a health hazard to us all. it’s time to push back.

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          B. Carfree March 16, 2019 at 11:13 pm

          I used to love dogs. I’ve had a few myself and have enjoyed every minute of their lives. However, modern dog owners have soured me on them. I live adjacent to a bike path and most of my errands begin and end on that path. The majority of the dogs I see are off leash and most of the remainder are on those dangerous extendo-leashes. The few owners who bag up their dogs’ waste just toss the loaded plastic bags on the side of the path. Ugh!

          That said, one of the funniest bike path encounters I ever had was with an elderly couple and their two dogs on extendo-leashes. As I overtook them I called out. The old man went left, but his dog went right. The old woman went right, but her dog went left. I stopped and laughed uncontrollably, which led to all three of us having a two minute laughing party.

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    Burk Webb March 14, 2019 at 11:34 am

    So sorry you went down Aaron! I’ve gone screaming through that same section of road a bunch of times too. I’m no expert on this (maybe one will chime in) but I’m thinking maybe you should talk to a layer? If my past bike crashes are anything to go by your medical bills are going be huge and gathering all your potential options seems like a good idea to me. I know your hurting and this is the last thing you want to deal with but getting an expert who can look at this clear eyed and impartially might be a good idea. Just my .02

    Hang in there!

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    Paul Wroblewski March 14, 2019 at 11:39 am

    Aaron is a good friend of mine and a regular riding partner. He’s also one of the kindest souls I have ever known. News of his crash was met with much sadness and shock from his friends at the Saturday ride, and the amount of collective grief is a testament to what he means to so many people in this world.

    Keep your chin up, my friend. You have a crew around you, and we’re here for you as you heal in your own way. Don’t hesitate to reach out, and we’ll find those long climbs in the sunshine again soon. Sans dogs. 🙂

    Together,
    Paul

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    Adam March 14, 2019 at 12:51 pm

    I agree with others – the dog owner needs to be held responsible.

    Preaching goodwill towards its owners is all very well and good until the medical bills start arriving.

    A three day hospital stay without insurance, you could be looking at $7000 perhaps, excluding ambulance ride, tests, and other procedures.

    Thay is not including the months, if not years, of massage, acupuncture, physical and occupational therapy required for te body after any crash. Even with insurance, most providers only offer 12 sessions s year for a co-pay of $25 per session or whatnot.

    And don’t even get me STARTED on off-leash dogs in Forest Park.

    I run with a large fear-reactive dog there four days a week. He is always, always, always on leash. I would say four out of five dogs I come across are OFF-leash, which leads to so many problems. Three weeks ago, a smaller dog off leash came up to my leashed dog, sniffed him in the face, then completely unprovoked, proceeded to bite him in the flank and refuse to let go. My dog is just standing there looking up at me in utter terror. The dog’s owner is all “Oh, I’m so sorry!”. Lady, I don’t want you to tell me you’re sorry. I want you to leash your stupid dog that just bit my dog.

    Least you think any of this rant is off-topic, I should clarify: off-leashed dogs in Forest Park make my blood boil so much because it is so rampant, and dangerous, and appalling for the park’s ecosystem, yet nobody cares.

    But talk about introducing mountain biking into the park, and all the dog owners who hike and run there will trot out the arguments that it’s dangerous, and bad for the park’s ecosystem etc.

    Solution: let’s ban dogs from Forest Park. See how they like that!

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      Middle of the Road Guy March 14, 2019 at 6:33 pm

      I sw at least 7 unleashed dogs in FP last weekend on my ride.

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    Joe Fortino March 14, 2019 at 2:22 pm

    Thanks for sharing this touching story get well dude and know as a whole cycling community
    supports you…. heal good and be well 🙂 all my best to you!

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    Scott Kocher March 14, 2019 at 7:56 pm

    An off leash Boston terrier on Skyline a ways south of there (near Fairview I believe) crashed one of our Lawyer Ride riders recently, as well. She has a fractured hand. Huge bummer to hear of these crashes. Please be strong Aaron. Lots of people are rooting for you.

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    Amy W April 15, 2019 at 12:54 pm

    Can we get an update on Aaron? This story has stuck with me since it was written and I hope he is recovering and getting the help he needs.

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    Aaron Edge April 30, 2019 at 5:22 pm

    Hey everyone, thank you so much for your positive comments and care! I’m healing well and fast… I’m back at work this week (Western Bikeworks) and should be back on the bike saddle as of June 1st. Take care and thank you again.

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    Allen s August 8, 2019 at 3:45 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story. Hits close to home. In March 2019 I had a unleashed come at me from the side snapping my front fork off. Still injured and not sure if I will be able to ride again or return to my career.

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