Hi, My Name is Jason
I am a lawyer and the CEO of a company I founded with several partners. In addition, I am the father of three children. My oldest, Sarah, is a junior at UF studying nursing. My middle, Kyle, is a freshman at FSU studying business. My youngest, Camille, is a freshman in high school.
I am a son. I am a friend to many. In addition to cycling, I am a fitness freak and enjoy doing exercise classes at the local Y and yoga. In the winter, I try to snow ski 2-3 times out west. I love to travel to new places. I also really enjoy helping other people which is what I do day in and day out at work. In my professional capacity, I see a lot of catastrophic injuries from accidents.
I never dreamed I would suffer that type of injury myself. But I did in August of this year while cycling in Winter Park.
I started cycling at age 13 to rehab from a speed skating injury. I was immediately hooked and began racing shortly thereafter. I raced as a junior all over the U.S. and spent a summer racing in Europe with a group of American cyclists. I qualified for the U.S. National Championships in 1996 and finished in the top 50 after flatting. When I graduated from high school in 1987, I stopped racing competitively and pursued by undergraduate education. I kept cycling for fitness though. I then went on to law school but all the while kept cycling recreationally.
In 2014, after a 27 year layoff, I began racing again in masters. In my very first race as a master, I won the combined masters cat 4/5 and cat 5 road race. I was hooked again. I started structured training and continued to compete moving up to a category 3 racer this past year. During the off-season this past summer I was doing a lot of non-structured training in the form of group rides. My favorite ride was the Tuesday/Thursday B3 rides. In August, I was in the best shape of my life. The unthinkable for me was about to happen and flip my world upside down.
I love cycling because of the feeling of freedom of being on the bike and the opportunity to push past physical barriers that you may have thought impossible to surpass. I also enjoy the friendly competition on group rides and the comradery of the cycling community. One of my favorite times on the bike is when I go out early morning during the week before dawn and ride as the sun comes up. It is a great feeling to see the road rush by underneath your wheels and only hear the wind go by your ears. So in early August of 2016, I would typically ride solo for a little while before meeting up with the B3 group. That leads me to August 2nd of 2016.
On 8/2/16 I got up at 5 am to get ready to ride with my friends on the B3 group ride. It was like every other day I do this before work. When I first get out on the bike as the sun is rising I feel this sense that I can’t explain but I love it. That morning, I felt strong and fast since I was in the best shape of my life. I turned out of Baldwin Park in Orlando onto Lakemont Avenue in Winter Park as I always did. I was lawfully riding north in the bike lane on Lakemont and had the right of way.
As I got to a little plaza where Bagel King is, something happened. I was hit by a pick-up truck out of nowhere. I have flashes of the impact in my brain and yelling “noooooooo”. The driver had made a left turn into the parking lot right in front of me as I was traveling at about 19 mph.
According to the eye witness to the accident, I hit the right front quarter panel and door sending me straight up into the air. He said that when he got to me I was unconscious and my air way was clogged. Thankfully he was a combat medic in the U.S. military and was able to clear my airway.
Soon after the impact, the B3 group who had been behind me came upon the accident scene. Thankfully several members of the group are medical professionals who helped until the ambulance arrived. The ambulance took me to ORMC which is a level one trauma center. My first memories after the accident were waking up in the emergency room. When I woke up, I knew that I was pretty banged up but had no idea how bad it really was or what I was in for. When I was hit, my face impacted the car. I suffered a myriad of injuries including:
- Le Fort III Skull Fracture – basically breaking all of the bones in your face
- Broken nose
- Broken jaw in several places
- Fractured eye orbits
- Zygomatic arch fracture
- Fractures of the bone where my top front teeth attached and traumatic loss of 5 front top teeth
- Displaced fracture of right collarbone
- Deep laceration to my lower lip, chin and gums
On the evening of the accident, I underwent surgery to fix the injuries to my face. As a result, I have plates and screws in my chin from the jaw fracture. My jaw was wired shut during the operation. I was put on a ventilator due to swelling in my upper airway and a feeding tube was inserted into my mouth. The next day, I underwent surgery for my broken collarbone which required plates and screws. Thankfully during all of this I was kept sedated. They kept me sedated from Tuesday of my injury until Saturday of that week.
When I was taken off sedation, I was in excruciating pain from the vent which was going into my mouth and putting pressure on my severely broken jaw. A few days later I had a tracheostomy which I requested and which eased the pain in my jaw.
I spent a total of 20 days in the hospital. 9 of the 20 days were in the ICU.
I can’t even begin to explain the pain and fear I felt post-accident. My jaw was wired shut so I couldn’t talk and I had tubes down my throat to help me breath as well as provide nutrition. It took about a week or so before the staff at ORMC got me out of bed.
As soon as I was mobile, I began to walk multiple times a day in hopes of keeping some semblance of fitness. At first it was tough to walk even one lap of the ICU but very quickly I began to feel much better. Once I was finally released from the hospital, I continued to walk outside for about a week but then began to cycle again on a stationary trainer. Getting back on the bike was difficult since my jaw remained wired shut which made breathing abnormal. Also, my nutrition was limited since I was on a liquid diet.
After 8 weeks, my jaw wires were removed and I got back to cycling on the road. The first morning I went out to meet the B3 group was nerve wracking. I met the group at the scene of my accident in hopes that flooding (psychological therapy) would help. It was a bit surreal being out in the dark waiting in that parking lot right by where I had been hit. Once the group arrived and I started to ride with them, it all felt right again. That isn’t to say I am not worried and don’t think about being hit every day. I do. I have flashbacks. Nightmares. Pain. I am going to require years of dental work to fix the damage that was done my jaw and mouth.
So the impact has been great. For one, I scared the hell out of my family. They thought they might lose me as I looked pretty bad when I was in the ER. I hate that they had to feel that pain and see me that way. I speak for a living so having my jaw wired shut was very problematic. Also, due to the traumatic loss of teeth my speech isn’t back to normal yet. I can only chew food on one side of my mouth. My diet is limited and it has impacted my ability to travel for work. I constantly am going to different doctors which has caused me to lose time in the office. I will require future cosmetic surgery and dental surgery. I have incurred a lot of expenses that were not covered by insurance as a result of the accident. My medical bills to date are approaching half a million dollars. The driver that hit me only had a $10,000 liability policy. Thankfully I had a lot of UM coverage which was “stacked”.
One piece of advice for cyclist, make sure your UM policies are stacked as that will give you the most coverage if something like this happens to you. Also, you can typically buy extra UM coverage with an umbrella policy (something I wish I had known prior to my accident).All of that being said, I am so lucky. I could have had a permanent brain or spinal cord injury. I see that day in and day out with what I do for a living. So it could always be worse. But, for those who drive the roads in Florida, think about those things before driving aggressively around cyclists on the roads. I know most will read this and move on. So be it. I can’t let this die. I don’t want one of my friends to experience this or worse.
I hope that my story continues to raise awareness for vulnerable pedestrians that are on central Florida roads. I plan to help to lobby for the laws to be changed. The driver who hit me didn’t receive even a ticket. Had he violated a car’s right of way, at least he would have been ticketed. Florida law needs to protect pedestrians who are incredibly vulnerable. Drivers don’t realize that even a minor impact can cause both great bodily harm as well as property damage. A car, when it passes close, is like a freight train passing you by. Drivers are encased in metal with little fear beyond a collision with another car. Cyclist and other pedestrians have no protection at all when a collision occurs. The end result when a car versus pedestrian accident happens isn’t pretty as evidenced by my story. The law has to do more to protect us. Being a lawyer and having experienced what I have, I hope to have some good come out of all of this. If I save even one person from the horrors I have experienced, it will be well worth it.
Thankfully I am back to riding and enjoying the friendships of so many that I have cycled with over the years. Every time I go out, I think about the 3 weeks I spent in the hospital wishing I was with my friends out on the roads. I am happy I was able, with counseling, to get back out on the roads. I can’t imagine someone’s careless actions taking away the sport I have loved for so long. Being fit and the cycling culture is a way of life that I can’t even comprehend losing. I have been to, seen so many great places and met amazing people because of cycling. The vast network of people I have come across due to the sport is truly awesome.
Lastly, I want to thank everyone that spent time with me in the hospital and have helped me (including those the day of the accident). My cycling teammates were awesome with support. The friends I ride with were great and encourgaing. I also want to thank David Guttenplan who suffered nearly the same injuries as I did six months before me. He was wonderful and supportive throughout and helped me know what to expect as I progressed with recovery. I also have to thank Ty Turbyfill who is an amazing dental implant surgeon and doctor who also happens to be an avid cyclist. He has helped with my treatment plan and advocated for me when I was in the hospital. My debt to him can’t even be measured. A great example of a friendship that the bond of cycling forges.
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