Motorcyclist Hit – No Helmet

Imagine losing a year of your life while you struggle to regain your memory. Doug’s encouraging story of neurologic recovery contains an underlying message for motorcycle enthusiasts: wear your helmet.

On July 7, 2014, 46-year-old Doug Dexter of Battle Creek got on his motorcycle and left home for a quick trip to the hardware store – without his helmet. It’s a day he can no longer remember, so he can’t explain why he skipped the helmet that day. Nor can he remember anything several days prior to the accident. 

On the way to the store, Doug was taking a curve and was struck by a van that pulled into traffic. The collision left Doug head-injured and lying unconscious in the roadway. Traffic was stopped on all sides as first responders arrived from Emmett Township Department of Public Safety and Battle Creek Fire Department.  LifeCare Ambulance personnel, Jennifer Turner, EMT-P, Zachary Mohney, EMT-B, and Garth Prior, EMT-P/field supervisor, arrived and gave Doug sedation and pain control when he became combative.

When Air Care arrived on scene, Doug had been fully immobilized on a spineboard. He was being mask ventilated and his blood pressure was high: 168/106. Within minutes, the air medical crew secured Doug’s airway using the rapid sequence induction (RSI) drugs Fentanyl, Etomidate, and Succinylcholine. This kept Doug’s blood pressure from dangerously increasing which could, in turn, increase the pressure on his already injured brain. After RSI, Doug’s blood pressure remained consistently in a safer range, around 120/80.

The Air Care medical crew noted a large oozing open posterior scalp laceration with a fracture line noted on the skull. No brain tissue was observed and no fluid or blood was observed from the nose or ears. Doug’s pupils were 3 mm, equal and reactive, his chest, abdomen and pelvis showed no signs of obvious trauma. His left ankle and foot were deformed however, with bruising also present.

Doug was quickly loaded into the aircraft and flown to Borgess Medical Center in Kalamazoo, where he and the crew were met on the helipad by trauma surgeon Dr. William Curtiss. The crew provided the details of Doug’s injuries and the trauma resuscitation continued in the Emergency Department. 

While at Borgess in Kalamazoo, Doug has no memory of coming out of a coma and talking to the nurses there, but they later assured him he did! He was transferred to Borgess-Pipp Hospital in Plainwell for rehabilitation and likewise has no memory of the staff there, although on a recent return visit they said they missed his sense of humor. Again, this was disconcerting because Doug couldn’t—and still can’t—remember.  At that time, Doug’s brain was still repairing itself, and he wasn’t able to make memories just yet.

It was at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital that Doug recalls his first memory following the accident. “I remember a voice telling me it could be a week to a year before my mind started working again. I didn’t know where I was or why I was there. Someone told me I was in a motorcycle accident.” Commenting further on his long recovery at Mary Free Bed, Doug says, “The best comfort was when the hospital staff talked to me like a human being, not a patient.”

Doug has maintained a positive and grateful attitude throughout his recovery, which hasn’t been easy. Known as a hard worker, Doug is trying to heal up as he also gets back into a routine. He just had a surgical revision of his foot and plans to have the cast off soon. He enjoys his time with his 16-year-old son and 19-year-old daughter. Doug is a pharmacy technician and hopes to return to his position or a similar one. 

Despite the accident, he is an undeterred motorcycle enthusiast, and even bought another motorcycle although his foot injury has kept him from riding it. Importantly, Doug says he has three helmets to choose from. 

“I have all my fingers and toes,” Doug says. “I’m thankful for what I have. My biggest complaint is my brain. I don’t have all my memories, but it makes me smile when I suddenly remember something.”

Doug greatly appreciates those who helped him recover. To his former caregivers, he remarks “I’m thankful for the job they do and for taking care of me.” 

He also feels more grateful for his life than ever. “The other night I was looking up at the stars and the moon. When you’ve been handed back your life, you appreciate it. It makes you appreciate things a little more. I enjoy every day, even the rain.”

Doug’s Air Medical Team:

  • Dawn Johnston, Flight Nurse
  • Paul Mazurek, Flight Nurse
  • Brian Vanderberg, Pilot in Command
  • Steve Riet Kerk, Communication Specialist

By Dawn Johnston, BSN, CFRN, MBA
Flight Nurse
West Michigan Air Care

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