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Cycling for safety
Accident shows the need for Ride for Awareness
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Betsy Midkiff was severely injured in what was considered an unpreventable accident that shows the dangers faced by bicyclists and the motorists who encounter them. She still is recovering from the accident, which happened last July. (Bulletin photo)

Friday, May 2, 2014

By BEN R. WILLIAMS - Bulletin Staff Writer

The Henry County Bike Club will hold its first Ride for Awareness on Saturday, inspired in part by a local club member who nearly lost her life in July.

The ride, which is planned as an annual event, will begin at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Jack Dalton Park and is open to anyone with a bicycle. Riders will travel about 9 miles and have escorts from the Henry County Sheriff’s Office. The event aims to raise awareness of bicycle safety.

However, one club member will not be taking part in the ride. Betsy Talley Midkiff, 58, was severely injured in what was considered an unpreventable accident that shows the dangers faced by cyclists and the motorists who encounter them.

Midkiff was injured when she was struck by a vehicle on the morning of July 16 while she was cycling through the Patriot Centre at Beaver Creek industrial park. She was on her way to meet a friend for a weekly cycling session and was less than a mile from her home, she said.

Although she has a rearview mirror on her bicycle, Midkiff said, she does not remember seeing a vehicle coming up behind her, nor does she remember being struck. Her first memory after the accident, she said, was seeing the rotating blades of the helicopter that took her to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital.

“I don’t remember anything else until I came out of surgery,” Midkiff said. “I think they said the accident was around 7:10 a.m., and they airlifted me directly from the site, so the helicopter landed right there in the industrial park and picked me up. I think I was in surgery by 8:30 or 9 a.m.”

The vehicle did not strike Midkiff’s bike, she said; it struck her directly. She suffered a broken hip, multiple open pelvic fractures, a broken sacrum (a triangular bone at the base of the spine), compression fractures in her spine, fractured ribs, a broken heel and a broken ankle.

The most life-threatening injury, she said, was that when she was struck, her gluteal artery was severed. She nearly died of blood loss on the side of the road, she said.

In the hospital, Midkiff had roughly a dozen screws inserted into her pelvis to hold it together. She was in a full-body cast for eight weeks.

“I couldn’t believe the seriousness of it,” she said. “Even after I was in the hospital, it was probably several days before my family actually told me that the crash team had been called into the site. They never thought I would make it to Roanoke. I just couldn’t believe it. I’ve ridden all my life. I had on hi-viz (high-visibility) yellow. I always wear a helmet. I think I’m considered a pretty safe bicyclist. It was just an unfortunate thing.”

The motorist who struck Midkiff was not charged, she said, because it was determined that he was blinded by the sun at the time.

Midkiff said she holds no ill will against the man.

“He didn’t mean to hit me,” she said. “He was blinded by the sun, and in his defense, everyone said the sun was fierce that morning in the direction I was headed. I know it’s been hard on him.”

The man — she does not know his name — called her while she was in the hospital.

“He said, ‘You know, I never meant to hit you,’” Midkiff said. “I said, ‘I know you didn’t mean to hit me.’”

Midkiff is a lifelong fitness enthusiast. She ran in college, she said, and when she moved to Martinsville in 1981, she joined the YMCA and began swimming, eventually becoming a swim team coach.

Later, she took up bicycling so she could enter a triathlon.

“The more I biked, I found out I was pretty darn good at it,” she said. “I did bike races. It just became my passion. I’ve done it for years. I guess the last four or five years, I always put in at least 10,000 miles per year on my bike.”

That 10,000 miles per year, she agreed, is more than many people put on their cars, much less their bicycles.

In the hospital following her accident, Midkiff said, she worked her uninjured arms with exercise bands to keep up her physical activity.

“My mornings were consumed with occupational therapy and physical therapy,” she said, “and then after lunch I was blessed with family and friends. In eight weeks, I did not go a single day that I did not have visitors. People would come and they’d bring me lunch, or at the rehab center there was a place we could sit outside on the patio. They would lift me by a sheet into a wheelchair, but I could only raise up 30 degrees. I would sit outside and eat with them.”

Midkiff said that while she was in the hospital and at Richfield Wellness and Rehab in Salem, she didn’t watch much TV — she’s not a TV kind of person — and she couldn’t concentrate enough to read.

“To be honest, I did cry a lot,” she said.

However, while in rehab, “I had a really good experience, if you call that a good experience,” she said. “They were very nice to me. My physical therapy was really good. Following this hip replacement, I’ll go back there for a couple of weeks and see them all again.”

Midkiff is having her hip replaced today. Unfortunately, she said, she will not be able to attend the Ride for Awareness as a result.

“I was doing physical therapy three days a week,” she said, “but as I started trying to work my left side more and more, my hip started hurting more and more. I have a condition called avascular necrosis. It’s a lack of blood supply to the bone, so the bone is dying. That lack of blood is due to the trauma. So now the joint has collapsed.”

Since her accident, she said, she has found other ways of exercising, including weightlifting and swimming at the YMCA.

“They’re like family; they’ve been so supportive and so helpful,” she said. “Not only is it a workout, it’s my social life.”

However, Midkiff isn’t ready to give up her bicycle just yet. She has one bicycle at home mounted on a trainer. With the help of a step stool, she can get on the bike and pedal, she said.

She also has a mountain bike to which she intends to attach training wheels, so that after she heals from her upcoming surgery, she hopefully will be able to bike along gentle trails.

Midkiff said she can’t wait to have the hip surgery.

“I’ve dreamed about getting this over with,” she said. “Once I get rid of that, I think it’s going to be a lot better.”

The ride will take place rain or shine. Helmets are required. For information on the route, visit www.milesinmartinsville.com or www.henrycountybikeclub.com.

 

 
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