Hello, My Name is Rocco

rocco-and-wifeMy name is Rocco Monaco and I’m a local rider here in the Orlando area. On May 29 of this year I was struck from behind by a vehicle moving at an estimated rate of over 40 mph on a Sunday morning around 8am on a 4 lane road. On that particular morning I made a last minute decision to do a solo ride instead of the usual Sunday morning group ride I normally do.

As I rode east bound on SR 434 just past Hayes road in Winter Springs, I was abruptly struck from behind sending me up in the air and slamming to the ground. It happens so fast I had zero time to respond. In fact, I never even heard the vehicle approaching. As I lay on the ground wondering what just happened to me I desperately tried to gather myself.

I noticed a car mirror lying the road then saw a vehicle braking about 100 feet in front of me. I was dazed, confused but then realized I had been struck by this vehicle. As the driver approached me, I believe the first words that come out of his mouth were swerved in front of me. There was no traffic, no obstacles or debris in the road that would have caused me to swerve out on the road, yet I found myself having to defend myself while I was slowly going into shock.

Fortunately, there was a business (Budget Tree) across the street and the employees came out to help. I asked them to make sure the driver did not leave the scene of the accident and to please contact the Police. The Winter Springs Police department and emergency response were there within minutes. I did the usual body check looking for broken collarbones and other injuries.

rocco-and-wife-in-kitWe who cycle tend to have a good pain threshold and my first inclination was to get back on the bike and head back home. But as I used a street sign to get back up to me feet, I immediately realized my bike was damage and my body hurt all over. Fortunately for me, I never hit my head but sustained injuries to by ankle, knee, back and of course my rear end.

The Police officers and emergency responds team were extremely helpful and I’m grateful for their assistance. The gentlemen from budget tree were really lifesavers that morning and I can’t thank them enough. The Driver did apologize to me. I can’t be too mad; he was on his way to church.

After they got me stabilized, I called my wife Carol and explained to her what had happened and ask her to come and pick me up not totally realizing how bad I was really hurt. As I waited for her, the adrenaline was wearing off and the real pain was setting in. As she arrived we got the bike I the car and she pretty much had to put in the passenger seat as well as take me out when we got back to or home. She literally put me in the shower, sat me in a chair and helped clean the road grime and blood off of me.

At that time, we realized I there was significant bruising on both sides of my rear end and back. We went to the hospital and spent the next five hours being treated and X-rayed. As the weeks went by additional injuries began to present themselves and 4 months later, I’m still dealing with the injuries. The injuries sustained were a torn ligament and fracture to my left ankle, torn meniscus to my left knee, herniated discs in my lower lumber region and acute sciatica. There was also severe bruising, cuts and a large hematoma to my right side. I have had x rays. MRI’s, visits to the podiatrist, orthopedic specialists, Neurosurgeon. I’ve have been to the pain clinic for epidurals in my back and have had chiropractic adjustments twice a week since June not to mention the numerous visits to my attorney. I still require surgery on my knee and possibly my back.

group-rideI have lived in pain and discomfort 24-7 since the accident. I can’t even remember when I’ve had a full night’s sleep. Running around town for all these medical appointments is like having a full time job some days. This has affected every aspect of mine and my wife’s life. The simple act of sitting, standing walking, getting dressed, is a daily painful experience. The sciatic nerve pain is constant and is so acute at times it brings me to my knees. I can sit for about 30 minutes at my desk before have to get up to stretch. Driving my car for work or sitting on a flight becomes a major issue due to the sciatic nerve and bruising.

And yes, there’s still internal bruising even after four months. Anyone who knows me would tell you I don’t take medications but Pain Killers, muscle relaxers and Ibuprofen have become part of my pain management.

It’s very possible there may be long term issues that I may have to deal with. I never would have imagined I’d still be dealing with the injuries months later. I often think about the driver who struck me. He received a moving violation and got to drive away that morning. I got to look at my $9,500 bike that was no longer any good while I nursed a bunch of injuries.

We have huge problem in Florida and I’m sure other areas of the country as well. Orlando is growing and the riding areas are slowly being squeezed out. For us roadies, we stick to the road for the most part. The trails are a great addition and have their place but there is always the danger of families with children and pets. We try and respect their safety. Vehicle drivers complain and tell us to ride on the sidewalk. That’s a recipe for disaster. There is no easy solution but it’s important the masses understand that there are laws that protect the riders and whether you agree or not, it is the law! And certainly the riders aren’t always angels out there but like me, these are individuals have families and careers. They’re not a bunch of renegades on a mission to take over the roads. We have been struck by vehicles, run off the road, yelled at, spit at, have had water bottle thrown at us. The list goes on.

We’re just trying to make from point A to point B and get home in one piece. A 16 lbs. bike VS a 3000-pound vehicle. Not much contest there.

Eventually I’ll be back on the bike and hammering down the road again, but will forever have the thought of what may be coming up behind me and just a little fear every time I get on the bike.

rocco-and-wife-mountainsWhy would I get back out there and take a chance again? It’s simple: I absolutely love the sport. It’s in my blood and I’ve been doing it for years. I can’t imagine what life would be without it. I enjoy the camaraderie and have made great friends who are like a second family. Riding is a great way to see the world and is wonderful exercise for the mind and body. It never gets old and I’d like to think I have several years of pedaling left in me. I certainly hope there can be a mutual respect and understanding between the drivers and riders, while Orlando and the rest of Central Florida works on improving the infrastructure for cyclists. The sport is always growing and more riders will take to the roads.

As someone who’s become a victim of a car related accident, I would ask vehicle drivers to proceed with extra caution and please understand that like you, we have families we’re trying to get home to and jobs to go back to. If you take what I’m saying lightly, you might try getting on a bike and going out into traffic. You may actually get a rude awakening of what we go through on pretty much regular basis.